How To: Setup Your eBook Library in Calibre and Access it From Anywhere
eBooks are exploding in popularity at the moment, in much the same way as the similar mp3 explosion a decade ago, with the arrival of portable mp3 players such as the iPod. The eBook landscape is a little more complex than the mp3 one, however - there are more competing devices on the market (the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad - to name just the big ones), and each favours a different file format. This makes organising an eBook library challenging at times, and is a potential nightmare for obsessive compulsives.
Calibre has been built to simplify the process of managing an eBook library comprised of titles in different formats. It looks like iTunes, but is far more flexible, acting as a management utility, eBook file conversion tool and online server, so you can access your personal library from anywhere. Calibre is also free and open source. If you are an eBook fan who wants to access titles on the move, using different devices, read on.
Access the related download link for this article and grab the installer file for Calibre. Once this has finished downloading, locate the file in your downloads folder and run it to start the installation process. Follow the on-screen prompts throughout installation. Note: Calibre is also available for OS X and Linux on the official download page.
Launch Calibre using the shortcut on the desktop. Specify the location on your hard drive for your Calibre library and click Next.
Specify your reader device using the dropdown menu (if you have one). This sets the default output format used by Calibre when you convert eBooks (e.g. Calibre ensure compatibility with your reader by ensuring the file format, screen size and DRM settings are correct). If your device is either an iPhone or iPad, you are given the option to enable the Calibre content server. Select Yes if you wish to be able to access your Calibre library from anywhere.
The next step is to begin adding your books to your empty Calibre library. Click Add Books on the left hand side of the main toolbar and locate a folder on your hard drive containing eBooks, of any file format. If you do not currently have any eBooks on your hard drive, there are a number of resources online such as Project Gutenberg .
Calibre should automatically read the metadata for each title you import, meaning you will be able to search for titles in your library (when it is large enough) by title, author, genre, etc using the Search bar at the top of the Calibre interface. Not all eBooks have metadata associated with them, however, but Calibre allows you to manually add this to any title in your library. Simply click the title you wish to edit and then select Edit Meta Information. If the book has an ISBN number, enter this into the ISBN field and click Fetch Metadata From Server. You can find the ISBN for a book using one of the big online retailers such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
To transfer an eBook from your Calibre library to a non-Apple reader device (e.g. the Kindle, Sony or Nook), connect the reader to your computer, then select the titles in your library you wish to transfer. Click Send to Device and the titles are automatically synced to your reader.
For the iPhone or iPad, the process is a little different due to the Apple restrictions with syncing files locally via the desktop. Ensure your Calibre content server is switched on (click Preferences and choose Content Server), then access the iTunes store using the device. You will need to download and install an eBook application that allows you to connect to an online eBook repository, such as Stanza or readMe.
In the configuration menu for the eBook application, enter the static IP address of your desktop computer as the location of your eBook library. This will enable the application to connect to Calibre and access the titles in your library. Note: your desktop computer where Calibre is running must be left on and connected to the internet for this to work.
Tips & Advice
- You can also access your Calibre library using any web-browser, if you have enabled the online content server. Just enter the static IP address of your desktop computer into the address bar of the browser.
- Calibre comes with a powerful eBook conversion utility, which is very useful if you happen to change devices, or own more than one eReader. Select the title(s) in your library to convert and click the Convert button on the Calibre toolbar to open the converter dialog. There are a multitude of different conversion options to choose from (all of which are very useful for owners of multiple devices with very different specifications) but generally all you need to do is select an output format using the dropdown list on the top right hand corner of the convert dialog, then click the OK button. The file is output into the library in the new format, and can be viewed by clicking the original title, choosing View and then View Specific Format.