Calibre: a single place to view, tag, and manage your ebook collection


Last week Amazon announced that its sales of ebooks, in units, have exceeded its sales of hardback books. Further proof, of course, that the age of the ebook is upon us, and all the more reason for you to check out Calibre, a free, multiplatform ebook management software that is simply best in class.

Calibre can manage all aspects of maintaining and using an ebook library. It can view ebooks of virtually every conceivable type, convert across different formats, download and tag ebooks with metadata (including cover artwork), and upload ebooks to various hardware ebook readers and mobile devices, including the iPhone.

Calibre even has a built in server that can provide online access to your ebook collection remotely.

Calibre is an ebook manager that is designed in a similar style to today’s media managers: thumbnail view, automatic downloading of metadata, a star-rating system., even ebook browsing via an iTunes style thumbnail carousel.

But what is even more impressive about this program is the sheer range of ebook formats that it supports, which, as a consequence, enables it to be the only ebook reader/ebook management software you will need. Here are more notes on this program:

  • Tagging: downloading metadata and cover art is one of the most gratifying and value added experiences that can turn a bunch of scattered ebook files into an organized library. Calibre delivers beautifully on this front.
  • Conversion: can convert a wide range of input and output formats. In the world of ebooks, conversion is an essential function because many devices are picky about what formats they read. You may lose some formatting, etc. depending on your input or output formats, but you get the sense that the program did “all it could” given the situation. I converted a CBR comic book to ePub and remarkably, Calibre handled it beautifully.
  • Input formats: CBZ, CBR, CBC, EPUB, FB2, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, TCR, and TXT
  • Output Formats: EPUB, FB2, OEB, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PML, RB, PDF, TCR, and TXT
  • Ebook viewing: while the internal ebook viewer is a very competent one and can view all supported “input formats” above, Calibre does not force you to use its internal viewer. Double clicking on a PDF ebook in the carousel, for example, would open that title in your default PDF viewer. Alternately you can associate ebook formats with Calibre if you do not have a preference to use an alternate program.
  • Downloading news: Calibre can download news from the internet and convert to an ebook format, allowing for offline reading on your device later on. I did not try this function myslef, as I figure it will at some point no longer be necessary as more and more reading devices become WIFI and 3G enabled.
  • Ebook server: I was able to use Calibre’s server to upload ebooks via WIFI on my iPhone (using the Stanza free ebook reader app). Was thrilled that iTunes did not need to be involved (although Calibre can work with iTunes to upload books to Apple devices).

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: Calibre is an excellent program that deserves a permanent spot on your PC. If you have a lot of unorganized ebooks it will be a godsend; if you have a mobile device of some sort it is simply a must. Try it you will not be disappointed.

[Thanks go to reader Roger for mentioning Calibre in the comments section of my “Top 30 Freeware” article]

Version Tested: 0.710

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Mac; Linux.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 30 megs).

  • hasit

    Amazon selling more ebooks than paper books? That is unbelievable!
    Nice app by the way.

  • Samer

    @ hasit: not more ebooks than paper books; more ebooks than hardbacks.
    Typically a book will come in two flavors, a hard cover and soft cover (paperback). They are selling more ebooks than hardbacks; paperbacks are the most popular kind of books, and are not included.

  • Brian

    How does Calibre store the metadata?
    Is it stored in the comments field of the files own metadata (this could be lost if moved from an NTFS drive) or is it stored in the program and identified by the file path (which would mean the metadata would be lost if the file was moved)?

  • Samer

    @ Brian: it seems to store it in its own database.

    Also, what I should have mentioned but didn’t: it will move your files and re-organize them into folders bearing the author’s last name. You will lose any organization that you have had previously.

    The upside of this is that (a) you can tell Calibre where you want the new folder structure to be generally (e.g I moved it to D:\ebooks), and (b) once the ebooks are in the database, you can use the tag field to re-impose your own structure that way, using the searchbox to retrieve.

  • Brian

    I downloaded an gave it a try.

    I set the default location for ebooks to a folder that already contained some.

    Unfortunately it didn’t give the option to scan this folder for books and populate the db.

    When I added them manually, it didn’t move. It copied them! So it created duplicates of the files within the ebook folder.

    A strange default behaviour.

    Other than that, it looks like a good program.

  • Chris

    I’ve been using this one for a while and it is (insistence on creating it’s own file structure aside) a must have app for anyone who owns an ereader or likes to read on other devices. (phones, netbooks, etc.)

  • I have been using this tool for a while now, mostly to fetch news from my Read it later list …
    The purpose of it is to read your articles off-line,for the full procedure just head over here :

    • Samer

      @ Vonbrucken: awesome, thanks for the tip!

  • Cornflower

    I’d been having continual problems with the Sony eReader Library software when I discovered Calibre a couple months ago. I have never looked back. Continual updates, including new and updated news sources (over 300 news sources in English alone are configured). It is stable, converts well. Kudos to Koval Goyim et al

  • Cornflower

    Just to add, yes, it demands its own file structure, so now, any new books or articles I download and want to add, I drag from the download directory to Calibre, then simply delete from download. Becaue of the metadata, you do have to use the software to organize your books, but with multiple tags as options (and the ability to create fields) this is easily done.

    Next is to try the server.

  • A friend of mine told me two very interesting things:

    1) Statues should be made of Kovid Goyal in every town and city. To which I completely agree.
    2) Placing the folder for Calibre’s library inside your Dropbox folder is very useful. I think it’s a brilliant idea and as soon as Callibre fixes the issue that Brian says on comment #5, I’ll reinstall Calibre that way.

  • voidoid

    I have a sony reader that I hardly used partly because I didn’t like struggling with the sony software. I have been using Calibre for a few weeks now and it is fantastic. Very intuitive — does everything that I wanted the sony software to do but which it wouldn’t. Plus you get free news — brilliant. HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.