Haven’t you heard? E-books are all the rage nowadays! The Kindle is selling like wildfire, and remains the best selling product ever on Amazon, whilst Apple’s iPad attempts to close the gap between dedicated reader and all-in-one portable. Of course there are a plethora of other e-book readers on the market as well; the Barnes & Noble Nook is a big hit over in the States, and the Sony Reader is moderately popular closer to home — we did a roundup of the best e-book readers available a few months back, so if you want a closer look at a few more options, you should check that out.
With all these e-books floating around our digital devices, where do we store all of our content? If you buy a book for the Kindle, your purchase is forever linked to your account in the ‘Available downloads’ folder of your device, but what about e-books you have previously owned or recently acquired outside of the Kindle or B&N store? For those books that aren’t stored in a digital locker somewhere, you can use calibre, an open source e-book management system – an iTunes for e-books, if you will – which is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
I’ve tried calibre once before a few months ago, and found it to be quite unstable, but I am relieved to see that the current version seems to be significantly more stable, on my Windows machine at least, and serves as a very capable program.
When you install calibre, it will create a calibre library folder for you, where all of your books will be stored on your hard drive. You can import any of your e-books in a wide array of formats and there’s a good chance that calibre will accept them. If your books already have metadata attached to them, all of this will be retained when the import process is taking place, and once you have created your virtual library you can then read or convert any of the books that you have.
The reading function is fairly basic, and not the smoothest of features on the program – some of the pages have words cut half off at the bottom for example – but it’s a great tool to use when you need to check if a book has been converted correctly from one format to another.
If you want to send any of your books to a device, you can simply attach your e-book reader to the computer, and calibre will detect its presence. Attach your Kindle, for example, and you will be notified that it is plugged in and can choose to send files to the device.
Overall, calibre is a work in progress. The GUI could do with a bit of fine tuning in the future, and it occasionally runs slightly slow to be used for long periods. Despite this, it’s a great, free tool and the best e-book management program available right now for all platforms you could use. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can download it from the official website.