How many times have you stared at the vast collection of ebooks that you have and wondered if there was a better way to keep track of them? I certainly have. Time and time again I sift through my ebooks as I attempt to locate one that I knew I had somewhere. I knew that there must be a better way and finally I found it!
Calibre is a “one stop solution to all your ebook needs”. The site wasn’t lying. This handy application is a free, open-source, cross-platform (Windows, Linux, OS X) ebook library that offers incredible value and useful features.
In this walkthrough, we’ll look at installing Calibre in Windows and check out some of the basic features.
As I mentioned, Calibre comes in many flavours including Windows, Linux, and OS X. With that kind of selection, it’s appealing to a broad range of users. Visit their download site to get your copy and get started.
As with many installations on Windows Vista, the UAC will prompt you to make sure you actually want to install the software that has started installing. Click Run and continue to the installation wizard.
The wizard for Calibre is very straight-forward and much like many of the other applications I’ve shown you, I chose to use mainly the default settings. The only thing that I changed is the install location. I have a second drive in my main system that I install all of the applications to. This makes it easier for recovery if I have to reinstall the operating system. Simply follow the prompts to navigate through the wizard.
Once you click Finish on the final screen, Calibre will prompt you for a location for your ebook library. This is not the location where the books are, but rather the location for the database of information that Calibre will store. Your Documents folder (or My Documents) will suffice.
Once the storage directory is selected, Calibre opens up to the main window. At this point there is nothing in the library, so you’ll need to go ahead and add some ebooks. Click the little arrow next to the Add books icon on the toolbar. In the dropdown, select the most appriate option. I chose to add books from directories, including sub-directories.
After selecting the way you want to add ebooks, you will br prompted so select the location where the ebooks that you wish to add are located. After selecting the folder, Calibre will begin sifting through the files in the directory (and sub-directories) searching for ebooks.
Just a small note, I did have one ebook that Calibre could not read. Every time it attempted to read it, the whole app would hang. Eventually I removed the offending publication, but I have no idea why it wouldn’t process. If this happens to you, simply open the task manager and terminate the application, then start it up again.
For this example, I only added a small handful of my ebooks. All of them were in .PDF format and all of them were missing some meta data. In the image below you can see that all of the authors are Unknown. That’s ok though, you can add the meta data to the ebook if you have that sort of ambition.
Clicking on an ebook and clicking the View toolbar icon will open the ebook in it’s native viewer. In my case it was Adobe Reader.
There are no shortage of features in this ebook library management application. For example, you can click on the arrow icon in the lower right corner of the window and your library will switch to a graphical selection window. Sadly, none of my ebooks had a cover graphic with them, however I did notice that you could attach one to it in the meta data editor.
There is an option to fetch the title image from the Internet, however the ISBN appears to be needed to make that work. I didn’t have much luck with it. Even though I had the ISBN, I was prompted for a username and password for a site called LibraryThing.com and I don’t happen to have an account. Registration is apparently free though, so go ahead and give it a try.
Maybe a future release will be improved so that it automatically pulls the image from a web service much like iTunes or Windows Media Player does for album art.
I mentioned the ability to edit the meta data for an ebook and it couldn’t be easier. Check out the screenshot below. Here you can see all of the fields that you can edit. Things like Title, Author, Publisher, and ISBN are all fields that you can update.
You can also give the book a rating out of 5 stars and add tags to it. The tags can be quite handy if you use the tag searcher to locate certain types of books. Best of all, you can fetch the information from the Internet based on the ISBN or the title/author.
There is also an option to bulk edit the data on multiple books. This saves valuable time when updating collections with similar attributes.
Another one of the features that I really liked about Calibre is the extensibility that the program offers. From the Preferences window, you can select Plugins and you’ll be given the option of viewing your current set of plugins, customizing them, or adding new ones.
As you can see, Calibre is an action-packed, open-source freeware application that is a must have for anyone with an ebook collection. It doesn’t matter if you have 5 books, or 500 books, Calibre can simplify the management of that library and free up some valuable time.
If you use a different free ebook manager, let us know in the comments. We’d love to compare!