Friday, 27 January 2012

Getting (almost) anything onto your Kindle

Hey folks, it's time for another of those "I just discovered something that everyone probably knows about but it was news to me" posts. Specifically this is about the Amazon Kindle and how to get non-amazon ebooks onto it. As much as I love my Kindle my one complaint has been having to buy eBooks only from Amazon. Though I think their pricing is pretty good, I've always been uncomfortable with having no choice. Well that problem was solved when I discovered a little downloadable programme called "Calibre".

Marketing itself as the ultimate eBook organiser I watched the short introduction movie and was pleased to see how simple the tool is to use. You simply add your eBooks to Calibre and they are stored with editable meta-data (so if you don't agree with the genre listing you can change it to something else), with the option to add more metadata if you want. The layout is simple but attractive, with a list of your books in the middle and the details about the one you have currently selected shown on the right, front cover and all. When I first added my books to it one of them had no image but this was easily solved with the edit metadata option, which lets you "download a cover". After it searches the inter web it will show you what covers it found and allow you to select one to be shown in your library. Voila! One attractive book cover added.

The reason I sought out Calibre was more to do with buying a lot of books in ePub format for a lot less than they would have cost at Amazon (from Angry Robot, who have some really original Fantasy and Horror titles). But the Kindle only accepts Mobi files, so what's a girl to do? The answer is find a programme that will convert the file into a format the Kindle will accept. Calibre does this, and is super easy to use; you simply add your device to the programme (again this is incredibly easy and intuitive) and you click and drag your book to the device icon. It asks immediately if you want to convert the file and hey presto - one ePub book added to your Kindle. So far this seems to have worked perfectly and all the books I've converted look spot on.

I have to say I've been incredibly impressed with Calibre and am now using it as my eBook back-up system. I'm in the process of adding all my Kindle store purchases to the Calibre library, so I can see them on my Mac, and edit the details to make it easier for me to find things. I particularly like the ability to "tag" your books so I can add whatever phrases make sense to me, rather than having to stick to just dull "Drama", or "Funny" genres. Instead I'll have "Dragons", "Intellectual Stuff", "Slow Builder" and "Brainless Fun" among others. The only downside I can see with Calibre is it doesn't track where you've put your eBooks, but as I'm currently only using one eBook reader I don't think that will be a problem for me, though I could see it causing confusion where multiple devices are used. This is a really minor issue though, and I really recommend Calibre if you need to convert some ePubs or other formats, or even if you just want to have your eBook library stored in one easy to use place.

And the best part of it all? It's entirely free (though they are more than grateful for donations!)

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