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So What’s The Fuss About Calibre?

There’s a lot of discussion surrounding ebooks at the moment: about how they are going to kill the paperback, how they will revolutionise publishing, how they’ll never be as good as a real book, how they are the future whether we like it or not. Love them or loathe them, ebooks are here to stay.

Calibre (logo) It seems everyone from the tech-savvy to the technophobic now has Kindles, Nooks or various other makes of ebook readers. Whilst many a book lover has touted the virtues of no longer having to lug a suitcase of books away with them every time they go on vacation, there is a general sense that digital formats will never replace a real library (or not until these devices can at least replicate the smell of a book).

As digital book collections have grown, a new set of previously unthought-of problems have arrived for the reader. Do you buy into one technology and risk getting locked in? Do you ensure you only buy ebooks in EPUB format, or given that Amazon seem to have released their Kindle platform for just about every device on the market, do you forsake the choice of being able to choose between multiple EPUB book suppliers for the convenience and deep discounts of Amazon? Or do you mix and match, having to remember which device you can read which book on?

For today’s book lover, digital ebook management can seem like a very daunting process, full of potential pitfalls that have you feeling like your digital library is no longer in your control. There’s been many stories in the press over the years of files being forcibly removed from people’s digital libraries or services being shut down with users having no way to re-download content they had paid for. This is where the Calibre software comes in. Think of it as doing for your ebooks what iTunes does for your collection of MP3s.

Calibre turns your ebook collection into a virtual library, giving you the ability to organise your files by title, author, date added, date published, rating, series and a host of other options. A click of the button can also get Calibre to search on the internet and bring back all sorts of metadata, including synopsises and covers. You can even add your own tags to create your own personalised organisation.

Adding ebooks to Calibre is as simple as adding MP3s to iTunes. Click the “Add Books” button and point it to the ebook file. Calibre can also copy the file into an organised central file structure which makes backing up or migrating your library to a new computer that more hassle-free.
Calibre is designed to support plug-ins and there are a wide range available, from turning recipes from the BBC Good Food website into an ebook format so you can read them on your device right through to one that syncs your calibre library with your Goodreads account.

One of the joys of Calibre is that you can mix and match formats. It doesn’t matter if half your ebooks are in EPUB format and the rest is Kindle’s AZW, Calibre can manage both of them as a single library. Of course, some ebook providers don’t make it so easy to download a copy of the ebook file for you to hold locally out of fears of piracy, but the option is there (although sometimes buried away). A quick Google search will usually tell you how.

What’s great is that for a lot of books, it’s just a couple of clicks to turn an EPUB format ebook for your Nook into a file you can send and read on your Kindle and vice versa. That means you could buy a book for Apple iBooks and potentially read it on your Kindle. Calibre supports and converts between a large number of ebook formats, including some legacy ones.

Some books, however, are protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management) and it’s a grey area (varying from country to country) whether it’s ethical or even legal to break that DRM for your own personal use. But should you wish there are Plug-ins available on the internet that allow Calibre to do so.

Calibre supports a wide range of devices allowing you connect your ebook reader to your computer and send the books you want to the device. Calibre will even automatically decide on the best format for your reader and convert the file if needed.

If you’ve yet to buy yourself an ereader, Calibre even comes with its own built into the software, allowing you to read ebooks on your computer screen. And whether your PC is running Windows, Mac OS or Linux operating systems, there’s a version of Calibre for your machine.

So why not make a late New Year’s Resolution to sort out your digital library and give Calibre a try? You still might prefer physical books to ebooks but that’s no excuse to leave your digital library in disarray.



  1. I’ve used Calibre since I started reading digitally and I really love it. I didn’t even know about all these other things it could do, haha. So thanks for putting it all down here.

  2. Avatar Brent says:

    Calibre is a great tool; I like to put my books on a Kindle when I’m home and on my pocketable Kobo mini for when I’m out, and Calibre makes it simple to put the same books on both devices, even though one uses azw/mobi and the other takes epubs. I highly recommend Calibre; use it and donate to the project if you like it.

    Hopefully more publishers follow the examples of Baen and Tor and get rid of DRM. I don’t like having to choose between gray areas of legality and being able to load my purchases into Calibre. I’ve seen people say they are unwilling to buy books with DRM out of fear that Amazon or their store of choice might one day go out of business and make their purchases void. If DRM was not there, people who worry about that could store and manage their own books in Calibre (without legal sketchiness) and not rely on an external entity to keep their books available and functioning. I’m not personally too worried about Amazon going away, but I’d like to be able to have all my books on either my Kobo or my Kindle without worrying which books are DRMed or which store I bought them from.

  3. Avatar ediFanoB says:

    Calibre is an excellent tool and it would be a nightmare for me to manage my 800+ ebooks without.
    I use it on Linux and Windows based computers.
    Beside that I use GOODREADS to manage my physical books.

  4. Avatar Samantha Stauf says:

    I use Calibre more for converting books. I don’t actually keep all my books in calibre…I have too many, so its just too bulky. I always add my books through calibre because just dropping them into my Kindle does not always flag them as new. Which is a pain since I usually have 800+ books on my kindle at any time.

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