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Cleaning up an ebook library with Calibre

Christopher Breen | Aug. 13, 2013
If you've downloaded countless free ebooks you may find your library jumbled and difficult to deal with. The free Calibre can help, but not always easily.

Reader Susan Erich seeks a bit of organization in her literature. She writes:

I've downloaded hundreds of free ebooks in a variety of formats and I need help organizing them. Some, I guess, are meant for a Kindle and others can be read on my iPad. I think there are duplicate titles and some of the author information is incorrect. Is there an easy way to sort these things out?

I was completely with you until you mentioned "easy." Separating ebook types is a cinch, locating and deleting duplicates isn't terribly difficult, but when you talk about tidying up title and author information (which relies on the book's metadata) you could be looking at a long and tedious process. But let's hope for the best and run through the steps.

Organizing your books

There are multiple ways to organize ebooks. Some people are concerned only with placing their Kindle-compatible files (with the .mobi extension) in one folder and their iBooks-compatible files (epub files) in another. You can do this with a couple of smart folders.

Move to the Finder and choose Finder > New Smart Folder (or Command-Option-N). In the window that appears click on the Plus (+) button near the window's top-right corner so that you see a row of conditions that reads, by default, Kind is Any. Click on the Kind pop-up menu and choose Other. In the sheet that appears enter extension in the Search field. Two matching items will appear--File Extension and File Extension Hidden. Tick the box to the right of File Extension and click OK.

The window's condition will now read File Extension Is. Enter mobi. The window will fill up with ebook files. These are the files compatible with the Kindle. Click Save and in the sheet that appears name the smart folder "Kindle Books," ensure that Add to Sidebar is checked, and click Save.

Repeat this process with a new smart folder, but this time enter epub as the file extension. Save this smart folder as well with a title such as "iBooks Books." You've now created virtual folders for each kind of book.

But you want more. And more is what you'll get.

Using Calibre

Download a copy of the free and open-source Calibre ebook management application. This is a powerful tool, but one that's not entirely intuitive. However, in your case, we can manage what you want without digging into the really obscure stuff.

Create a library: You'll want to start by creating a folder for your books. When you first launch Calibre it will prompt you to do that. By default the library is called Calibre Library and is placed within your user folder, but you can change that location if you like. When you click Next in the setup wizard you'll be asked to choose the kind of device you're using. If you have a Kindle or want to use the Kindle iOS app, choose Amazon. If you have an iOS device, click on Apple. Or you can choose Generic if you like. Then click Finish in the next window and the Calibre library window appears.


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