capsule review

Calibre 0.7.20

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Calibre

    PCWorld Rating

You've finally bought that Kindle or Nook or Kobo that you've been dreaming about, and in a frenzy of future anticipation, you've purchased dozens of e-book bestsellers. Then, delighting in libraries offering more than 1.5 million free, public domain works--plus thousands of magazines and newspapers--you've loaded your e-reader with the literary goodies you have always meant to read. At the end of the day, your e-reader holds scores or even hundreds of e-books. In time, that could easily grow to thousands. Organizing and searching among that many books, periodicals, and newspapers on your device may require more time and effort than it's worth. That's when you turn to Calibre.

Library management program Calibre v0.7.20 helps catalog your e-book collection. First, it surveys the e-books and other relevant files residing either on your hard drive or your e-reader, and then inserts them into Calibre's main directory. Once that information is in the directory, you can use it to organize, categorize, annotate, search, rate, and save to disk. You can customize or delete any of the data fields Calibre fills in, or add your own.

On the left side are searchable and sortable categories: Authors, Formats, Publishers, Ratings, News, and Tags. For instance, under Authors, Calibre's defaults rank all authors according to how many of their works you own. Click a specific author to display all their books in the library.

To the right of the main fields, a column displays plug-in information on the highlighted e-book or publication: cover art, a list of formats in which the e-book is available, tags (either downloaded or added by the user), and the file path on your PC or e-reader where the work is stored. Beneath the path is the publisher's description or summary of the e-book. Although you can't customize this window, you can specify what plugins to use to automatically download information into it. Scores of plugins are included, and you can add others created by by Calibre users to your plugin lists.

On top of the interface are the commands that transform Calibre from a static directory to an e-book management powerhouse. Every function you can think of for easy access and guaranteed readability is here. You can add books from many different sources, edit and organize information about the author (or anything else you want associated with the work), convert various e-book formats to the one your e-reader uses, and download e-books to your PC or any other device. And then there's Fetch News, a cornucopia of thousands of free newspapers and other periodicals, in dozens of different languages, that you can download directly to your e-reader, as well as regularly schedule daily or weekly downloads. These commands are highly customizable. And because Calibre is open source software with a dynamic community forum, you can add to the list of components, features, and free materials daily.

The down side of Calibre is that not everything works smoothly, and there are gaps in functionality. For example, the directory cannot see e-books stored in your e-reader's archives. If you want to add that information to the library, you must first recall the e-book to your e-reader's active directory. Another problem is that Calibre doesn't keep track of where your e-books are stored, so you don't know if a specific e-book happens to be on your PC, E-reader, smartphone, or whatever. And the user is occasionally faced with a bewildering array of choices and options, without having a clear idea of what to do next, or why.

Even with its quirks, Calibre belongs on every serious e-bookshelf as the best way to manage your electronic library.

Note: This program is donationware. It is free to try, but the author accepts donations towards further development.

--Sally Wiener Grotta & Daniel Grotta

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This Swiss Army-type utility that can archive and organize your growing e-book library.

    Pros

    • Powerful, versatile, customizable interface; Provides extensive list of free periodicals in many different languages; Converts many e-book formats into the one that works with your e-reader

    Cons

    • The veritable array of options can be confusing; It's not always obvious where a specific e-book currently resides
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