How to Organise and Convert Your Ebooks with Calibre

If you’re reading this blog then you’ve probably got an interest in ebooks. If you do, then you may have already heard about Calibre. Calibre is a free, open source, cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux) ebook reader, organiser and converter. If you’ve ever listened to music you downloaded from the internet, then you’ll probably be familiar with iTunes. Calibre is just like iTunes, but for ebooks, and not owned, locked in and operated by Apple. Did I mention it’s free? Download it here.

It’s a pretty big download, so it might take a while. Also, if you’re trying to install it on your work computer, you’ll probably want to get in touch with your IT department, because you need admin privileges to install it. If you’re at home, then fire away.

 

Installed? Great. The first step you’ll be confronted with once Calibre is installed and you open it for the first time is the wizard.

This is not the wizard you’re looking for.

This is the wizard

You’ll be asked to find a place on your computer to store your ebook files, and to determine what kind of e-reader device you use. Calibre supports a broad variety of e-readers, including the Kindle, Sony and iPad. If you use more than one kind of device, then don’t worry – Calibre supports more than one.

Look! It’s John Birmingham’s latest book: After America

The next window should be relatively familiar to anyone who has used iTunes. It has a library where you can filter your ebooks by author, title, series, publisher or rating. You can also search for keywords. All of those search functions will be pretty useless to you right now, though, because you haven’t added any books.

To add a book, hit the ‘add’ button, and find your ebook file. Calibre supports virtually every format you can imagine for an ebook, though you should keep in mind that if you bought that ebook from a store (like Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or even Booku) it’s likely it will be protected by DRM (digital rights management), which will stop you messing around with it. Never fear, though! Calibre still allows you to import books with DRM, organise them and load them quickly and easily onto your ebook reader (you just can’t convert it to another format or read it from within Calibre).

Also, strangely, Calibre does not support Microsoft Word format – so if you want to read something you only have as a Word file, open that sucker up in Word first and save it as RTF. Then add it.

There are plenty of places you can buy ebooks from that don’t have DRM, and there are plenty of places you can download ebooks from for free as well. You can find a few of them in the resources at Booku. For those ebooks, Calibre really comes into its own.

Calibre can automatically download the cover, publisher, publication date and blurb for your ebooks from the internet. You can save ratings and tag your books for easier searching.

Calibre will also convert your non-DRM ebooks from one format to another. Say you have a free ePub book, but you want to read it on your Kindle. By hitting ‘convert e-books’ in Calibre, you can easily and automatically convert your ebooks from ePub to Kindle’s Mobi format. Then to send it to your Kindle, all you need to do is hit ‘Send to Device’, and Calibre will automatically email the file to your Kindle (though you will need to tell Calibre your Kindle’s email address in ‘Settings’ first). If you want to send a book to your Sony reader, just plug it in and Calibre will automatically copy the book you select onto your reader. Calibre will even send your book via iTunes (or email) to your iPad or iPhone. It’s very versatile, and once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to use.

Calibre can do a lot more than convert and organise your ebooks. It can automatically download news from your favourite blogs and news outlets, package them up and send them to your e-reader. If you’re a self-published author trying to convert your own ebook, it can pull apart ebook files so you can iron out the bugs. And it can do much much more. But those are topics for another blog post, and you don’t need to be interested in any of that to get some use out of Calibre. If you have any questions about Calibre, or any of the topics raised in this post, feel free to post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The Wisdom of Crowds

The inimitable Cory Doctorow‘s latest project, With a Little Help, is a self-conscious attempt at creating a book that not only bends the traditional rules of publishing and distribution, but of editing, marketing, sales and just about every other aspect of book publishing you can think of. Like a few of Doctorow’s other books, With a Little Help will be available as an ebook in various formats from his website for free (you can download it for free or buy a paper copy here). What’s different about this one, though, is that it is the author’s first foray into self-publishing. There’ll be a low-price print-on-demand paperback version, a special high-price limited edition hard cover, an electronic audio edition for free, and a low-price CD audio edition.

There are a lot of very interesting things to be learned from this project, and I could go on about it for hours, but what I’d like to concentrate on right now is one of the ways Doctorow was able to put the project together, which is laid out in the title of the collection: with a little help. But he didn’t just get help from his friends – he opened up donations in time, money and expertise to the open web in a way that is usually described as crowdsourcing.

Just a few examples: he offered one reader or group of readers the opportunity to commission one particular story for the collection (for the princely sum of $10,000), fans from other languages or who use unusual ereaders can translate or convert his books and have them posted up alongside the official versions, he crowdsourced proofreading (giving typo-spotters a shout out in the endnotes of the book), web design, cover design (there are multiple covers) and even book packaging (he’s using discarded burlap coffee sacks to cushion the high-end hardcovers en route!).

What I love about this project is the sheer audacity of it. There are so many moving parts, so many different levers and buttons that Doctorow decided to press for the hell of it along the way that will make it a very interesting prospect to track as it makes its way into the marketplace. The crowdsourcing aspect means that all of his readers and helpers are all sharing a little in the outcome of the book (though not, it is to be assumed, in the financial outcome – if there is one). It is a grand experiment – the kind of thing that a major publishing company should be able to do, but usually doesn’t. My question for everyone today is this: what do you think of all this crowdsourcing? Is it inevitable that the quality of the book will slip? Would you proofread a book for free if you got a credit at the end for any typos you found? What do you love or hate about this project? Let loose in the comments.

Aussiecon 4

Aussiecon 4 is coming soon and I can hardly wait! “What is it?” I hear you ask. Aussiecon 4 is the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon, for short). And it’s going to be in Melbourne. To say that I am excited, is an understatement.

Today, I’ve invited long-time Worldcon attendee, Laurie Mann, to tell you a little bit about this amazing annual event.

When the Worldcon comes to your neck of the world…
by Laurie Mann, longtime science fiction fan

For the fourth time since 1975, the World Science Fiction Convention is coming to Melbourne. Aussiecon 4 will be held at the futuristic Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from September 2-6. If you love science fiction and fantasy, especially SF and fantasy books, this is the convention for you.

Aussiecon 4 has renowned guests of honour:  writer Kim Stanley Robinson and artist Shaun Tan, as well as fan Robin Johnson. [Note from George: Conventions like these have a long-standing tradition of inviting a fan guest of honour — someone who has contributed a great deal to the science fiction community, involving themselves in the running of conventions, clubs, etc.] Young adult author Garth Nix will serve as the MC for the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Worldcon is an annual get-together of fans, writers, artists and publishers from all over the world. Worldcon members have the chance to choose from hundreds of panel discussions, readings and autograph sessions. You’ll be able to visit an Art Show with hundreds of pieces of original art, and a Dealers’ Room where you can buy, amongst other things, books, jewellery, DVDs, and T-shirts. You can attend a big event every night, including the Hugo Awards, a Masquerade and a gathering of horror writers.

Aside from the planned events, one of the great things about a Worldcon is the unplanned events: having a long discussion with other fans at a party about the current trend in dystopic fiction; running into your favourite author in a bar and buying him/her a drink; meeting a fan from Orlando, Florida who grew up down the street from you in Sydney.

Aussiecon 4 will attract a few thousand people from all over the world, including writers like Paul Cornell, Cory Doctorow, Ellen Kushner, George RR Martin, Sean McMullen, Robert Silverberg, Melinda Snodgrass and Ian Tregillis, and editors including Ginger Buchanan, Ellen Datlow and Jonathan Strahan.  Science fiction is often called the “literature of ideas”; at Worldcon, you’ll hear all kind of ideas discussed at great length.

Jim and Laurie Mann

I’ve been going to Worldcon since 1976, and this will be my first Australian Worldcon. Despite the fact that I’ve never been to Australia, I’ll probably know a couple of hundred of the attendees. That’s one of the great things about Worldcons; once you start going to them, you’ll always know people to hang out with, go to panels with, volunteer with…

George’s bit at the end

If you’d like to know more about Aussiecon 4, check out their website.

I’ll be attending Aussiecon 4 in a triple capacity. Firstly as a long-time reader of science fiction and fantasy, eager to meet fellow readers and to hear some of my favourite authors speak. Secondly as an author myself, to speak on panels, do a reading or two and participate in book signings. Thirdly as a Boomerang Books blogger, to report on the event for those of you who can’t make it.

Thanks, Laurie, for stopping by Literary Clutter. I look forward to meeting you at Aussiecon 4.

Aussiecon 4 will be my third Worldcon. Has anyone else out there been to a Worldcon? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Tune in next time to hear me ramble on about how much I love short stories.

Catch ya later,  George