I was setting up my new laptop this weekend (well, newer) when I realized I hadn’t updated calibre in forever.
Calibre is well known for being the best free app for managing your ebook and ereader collection, but this app can do a lot more than just move ebooks to your ereader or convert them from one format to another. I have been using calibre since long before it was even called calibre (since June 2007, in fact), and I know that I have just scratched the surface for all it can do.
Since I haven’t really looked at calibre in at least a couple years, I decided now was a good time to update and expand this post from 2012.
If you have to support a lot of ereaders or tablets, you’ve probably gotten used to having to plug them all in via USB so you can transfer ebooks and other content. By the time you get your 7th or 8th device this can get a little frustrating, and that’s why I’m glad calibre offers a better option.
It’s called Content Server, and it basically lets calibre act as a file server for any device that can access a local network (wired or wireless) via a web browser – including Kindle, Nook, and some other ereaders. You can edit metadata, upload files, or even read the ebooks in your web browser
You can find this feature by clicking on the Connect/share button and selecting “Start Content Server”. Setup is automatic, but accessing it once it is up and running takes a little work. If you want to visit the content server from another device, you will need to learn how to type the IP address and port number into your web browser.
It will look something like this (don’t forget the colon!): 10.0.0.52: 8080
Metadata is the pivot on which your ebook library turns. Without the proper info on the title, publisher, genre and other important details it is difficult to properly organize your library.
And that’s why it is a very good thing that calibre can download metadata from a dozen or more different sources in a bunch of different languages including Dutch, Portuguese, German, Hungarian, Chinese, and more. You can also download metadata from most of the major ebookstores as well as OverDrive.
You can edit an ebook’s metadata by clicking the button on calibre’s menu bar, but you can also expand the editing options by installing plugins. For example, there’s a plugin that will let you edit MP3 metadata.
Right click on the Preferences button and select “Get plugins to enhance calibre”. You can search the list of available plugins by store, language, or some other important detail.
Merge & Split Epub eBooks
Have you ever bought an omnibus ebook and then regretted the file size? Or have you ever wished you could combine one of your favorite author’s many individually published short stories in a single anthology? There are a couple plugins which can help.
EpubSplit and EpubMerge are a couple plugins for calibre which do pretty much what they say. Once installed, you can select one or more titles listed in the main menu of calibre, right click, and then select either EpubSplit or EpubMerge as an option. A new menu will pop up which will let you combine or divide the files in question.
This option needs to be enabled by installing plugins. Right click on the Preferences button and select “Get plugins to enhance calibre”.
This is a topic that I’ve covered in some detail in other posts, so I won’t repeat it here. But I do like being able to transfer my Kindle, Nook, and other ebooks to which ever device or app I’m using now without having to bother with registration or downloading the content again.
Read the News
Calibre is known as an ebook library tool but it does a lot more. One featured loved by a number of dedicated readers is fetching the news. This lets you set a schedule for calibre to scan and download the contents of news sites and blogs. Calibre has to be running and your computer turned on, but the nice part is that calibre comes pre-configured with over 1300 news sources from all over the globe.
Wiki Reader is a plugin which lets you grab the contents of one or more Wikipedia articles and build them into an ebook. You’ll need to copy and paste the URLs for each article one at a time, so it could get time-consuming, but this is a good way to make your own ebook on a topic.
You can find the plugin over on MobileRead.
Import eBooks from an eReader or Tablet
One feature that I keep forgetting, but is terribly useful, is how calibre can find ebooks on your tablet or ereader and add them to your calibre library ebook collection. This might not happen to you, but I often download ebooks from free ebook sites (Feedbooks, author’s websites, etc) to whichever tablet I am using. I don’t always remember to get a copy later to add to calibre, but that is largely because I don’t have to. All I need to do is plug in my tablet via USB and calibre will copy the ebook files off of it.
This feature is particularly useful for stripping the DRM from Kepub (the Kobo-specific Epub format).
Do you know what’s even cooler than pulling your ebooks off your device and adding them to your calibre library?
Bringing the annotations with the ebooks.
There’s a calibre plugin that will help you import notes, highlights, and other annotations from your Kindle or Kobo ereader. Hardware support is limited to just those two device makers, but it’s still better than a kick in the pants.
Head over to MobileRead to find out more about the plugin.
If you have a well maintained calibre library, and you have an account at Dropbox, you might want to consider combining them in a clever way. While you can always upload your ebooks and download them manually, there is a better option.
Calibre2OPDS is an app for Windows, Linux, and macOS which build an OPDS catalog based on the contents of your calibre ebook library. Upload your ebook library to Dropbox, add the OPDS catalog generated by Calibre2OPDS, and assuming you follow all the steps you will be able to download your ebooks from inside reading apps like Stanza, Moon+ Reader, and others.
The above 5 tricks are some of my preferred ways to use calibre, and I bet I’ve only scratched the surface. How do you use this app? What’s your clever trick? I’d like to hear about it, and I’m my readers would as well.