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Freeware of the Week! [Calibre]

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Calibre LogoEven if you don’t have a Kindle or an iPad, you might still enjoy reading e-books. There are a number of readers on the markets, and each of these have their own proprietary format. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could treat your e-book collection the same way as you would your paper library? Moving items from shelf to shelf, organising them according to category, maybe even making a note about the content of a book, like some of us scribble in the margins of a particular tome? Well, now you can!

Calibre is the most comprehensive ebook management program I have come across so far. In addition to indexing your e-book collection, Calibre also comes with its own e-book viewer, online access to your collection, syncing to a number of different e-readers, and a powerful conversion engine that easily switches between the majority of e-book formats.

Calibre is cross-platform, suitable for Windows, Mac or Linux users, and downloading and installing the program is painless. Once installed, the simple layout and intuitive tools available  that are a breeze to get to grips with, meaning that you’ll be getting your librarian groove on in no time at all.  Boooks can be sorted by a number of attributes, including title, author, date published, etc. What is especially helpful is that Calibre can also automatically retrieve extra metadata online, from websites such as Amazon to add extra information to your books using existing information. If you are a stickler for detail, you’ll love this feature.

Another fun feature is the ability to give tags or make comments on the e-books in your collection. If for instance you have a set of recipe books, you could not only label them “Cookery” but go one step farther and label all those dealing with Indian or Thai cuisine as “Asian.” If one of those recipe books had a particularly delectable recipe for prawn curry, you can write a longform comment for that book’s entry, so that you can find it easier. Along the lines of “Coconut prawns, page 178. Maybe don’t use so much fish sauce.” Or, if the book were fiction, you might tag it as “Crime” and write a mini-review in the comments. This makes it much easier to jog your memory about which particular book you’re looking for, and also means that you’ll enhance the quality of results from the already-powerful search function that Calibre provides.

You can also browse your e-book collection while you’re on the move. Calibre has a built-in web server, which means that you can access your e-books from anywhere using a simple web form. It comes with support for mobile devices so you can browse and download books simply and easily. Or if that doesn’t suit you, you can have them delivered by email. And don’t worry about losing control over your library: Calibre’s sycning features are supported for a large number of e-reader devices, with automatic format selection and conversion when necessary.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, Calibre also does news! Yes, Calibre can fetch full articles from sources such as the New York Times, The Guardian and The Economist, convert them into e-book format and deliver them to your e-reader device. There are over 300 news sources currently available, but as this feature is plugin-based, adding new RSS feeds should be a snap.

All in all, if you’re serious about your e-books and you want to keep them under control, you couldn’t ask for a better program than Calibre. Not only is it easy to use, but it is incredibly powerful for a freeware offering and stands up well when compared against its commercial rivals. My library has never looked so neat! Calibre is also developed and run by volunteers, so if you enjoy using the program, consider helping out with development, or at least dropping them a donation to show your appreciation.

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