If you’ve puttered around the various book blogs, Facebook groups and the forums on Amazon and Goodreads long enough, you are more than likely familiar with the name Calibre. It is a free program that does a whole helluva lot o’ things that makes collating and cataloging your voluminous e-book collection easier. And it also has some rather powerful conversion abilities, so if you have a stray epub file. You may still be able to read it on your Kindle. Obviously, the first step is to download and install the proper version of Calibre for your computer. Next, let’s click the arrow next to “Preferences” on the main screen and opt for “Run the Welcome Wizard”. This will allow you to choose a number of important options about the program, the foremost being the default directory for your e-book library (as created by Calibre) and the default device for what your e-books will be sent to (and the default format for conversions). It’s usually best to chose “Amazon” and “Kindle Touch/1-4”. Unless, of course, you’re one of those unfortunates with a Nook … tsk, tsk… GETTING THINGS ORGANIZED Your first task is to add your current e-books to Calibre, of course, since can’t organize stuff that isn’t ain’t there. This is easily accomplished by pressing “Add Books” and selecting the proper folder and/or whatever books in that folder you want to add. Once you’ve added your first folder of books to your library, your main Calibre screen will look like this: (Naturally this assumes you have e-books saved on your computer. If you have your books only on your e-reader, you can connect up the USB cable and add them from there. You’ll then see a new column on the left side of the listing, titled “On Device”.) Another really easy way to do this is to make sure Calibre is full-screen, open Windows Explorer, and drag-and-drop your e-books from their home directory into the main Calibre window. You have to size the Explorer window just right, so you can see the big list of books in Calibre, but it’s really simple to get used to doing. Quick Look at the Main Screen • Left Hand Side: Sort/show books by authors, formats, publishers, ratings, etc. Clicking the arrow next to each category will bring down a clickable list of all the available options (authors’ names, formats, etc.). Clicking any of those will show the available books in each category in the main section. • Main section: Your library of e-books, showing title, author, date added to library, size and other metadata if available. • Right Hand Side: Cover of the book currently highlighted in the Main section. Also shows the formats you have of available of that book, and a link to where they are on your computer. Clicking any of the format links will open the e-book in whatever program you normally open them in on your computer (Calibre also has an internal e-reader that handles many formats as a default; Double-clicking on a book in the main list will also open it in Calibre’s e-book viewer). The tool bar across the top of the screen has a lot of buttons, many available through right-clicking on a book in the main section, but it has a couple of neat features: • Get Books: Clicking this will bring up a search interface for books on various public domain and commercial websites, showing you the price and formats available for those books, such as Amazon, Manybooks.net, Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks, etc. You can edit the websites that the program tries to search for the books on. Clicking on links will open up your default browser and you can purchase them directly from the websites, or download from the free sites. Note: The locks in the picture indicate a book’s DRM status; red equals DRM, green none, and a question mark just means the status can’t be determined. • Fetch News: This tab allows you to basically make up your own magazines to read, using both freely available and for-pay websites. Currently, there are nearly 1,500 news sources available, including over 430 in English, from the Anchorage Daily News to ZDnet. Just highlight a source, click the box for “Schedule for Download” and after you’re done, click “Save,” then just click the big “Fetch News” button on the tool bar again. You can download it to read within Calibre or send it to your e-reader (if it is connected). • Preferences: This one provides access to the workings on Calibre and many options, add-ons, scripts, etc. We’ll be looking at this a bit more closely in the next post. The Nitty and the Gritty of Organizing You can highlight any e-book in the main section and then click “Edit Metadata” if you would like to change the title, such as adding a series name and/or number, to make it easier to find on your e-reader. If you want your copy of The Deep Blue Goodbye to show up on your Kindle as “Travis McGee 01 The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald” so you can remember to read that first, you can. I know I can never remember which color comes next. This is one of many features you can also access this by highlighting a book (or books) and right-clicking “Edit Metadata Individually/in Bulk”. You can also change information by highlighting a book in the main section and single clicking the field you want to change. Please note that the Edit Metadata function will usually work with any e-book, even those with DRM (Digital Rights Management). There are some exceptions, usually just quirks of the DRM encoding. When you connect your e-reader to your computer with the USB cable, a new column will appear to the left of “title” on the main screen, “On Device”, which will show you a check mark next to any books that are both on your e-reader and in your Calibre Library. Calibre makes it very easy to move your books around on your computer or to back-up memory, as you can easily highlight everything and save it to a folder. You can also choose to save only a particular format or to delete a particular format as well. Try not to get that confused, or you’ll have to go in and use the Convert function to bring back the format you lost. This all makes it quite easy to download all your e-books from your e-reader and save them to your computer or memory stick, that way you have them to read even if Amazon or Barnes & Noble decide to change their rules and deny you access to the books you’ve already bought, a common fear in our materialistic society (and one that’s been proven true a couple of times, what with Amazon’s 1984 debacle). This, of course, just touches the very basic use of Calibre. Next time, we’ll be looking at the basics of e-book conversion with Calibre, and what you should and shouldn’t do afterwards.