This was easier when I had actual books on actual shelves.
August 26, 2015 10:13 PM   Subscribe

I need help figuring out an idiotproof way to organise my growing ebook collection. Mild snowflakes inside.

After two international moves, I've realised that ebooks are the way to go. The problem is that I can't seem to figure out a) how to get easily get files from several different places on my computer and b) how to organise them once they're on the iPad.

Complicating this question is that I have ebooks from multiple sources:

a) Books I've bought off
b) PDFs of fanfic downloaded from various sites over the years (the metadata on these things is a nightmare. Is there any way for me to have them display the title and author like for my regular books?)
c) DRM-free epubs/mobis of random shit acquired over the years from who knows where.

What I would like to finally end up with is a library that's as organised as my paper one was. Any help getting there is seriously appreciated.
posted by Tamanna to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The solution I use is to import all books into Calibre. This program is available for Mac or PC, and takes books of all formats and can convert into most other formats. Thus I convert new books to EPUB for my iBooks to sync with iPhone, and have other formats as well. Easy to use, features for organizing books into libraries, searching, managing DRM, etc. The best!
posted by SamFrancisco at 10:25 PM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Calibre has a bit of of a learning curve, but I love it. It will let you clean up the metadata which should help with the ipad-side organization too. I think there are even some ebook reader apps that will integrate with it, but I haven't messed with them.
posted by gennessee at 10:25 PM on August 26, 2015

Response by poster: One thing, and then I'll butt out: for various reasons, I'm pretty set on using the Kindle app for Amazon as a centralised library. I know iBooks exists, but having to figure out two separate apps/libraries is more trouble than I want.
posted by Tamanna at 10:33 PM on August 26, 2015

Calibre is the way to go, as others have mentioned. It will organize your whole ebook collection. It's really customizable, but it also works moderately well out of the box. Expect to do some editing of your metadata, but it'll be worth it.

I also put my favorite ebooks in a Google Drive folder so I can download them again anywhere in the future.
posted by iamfantastikate at 10:46 PM on August 26, 2015

You should be able to use Calibre to edit your metadata, convert ebooks to appropriate formats, and even do some intelligent parsing depending on your commitment, and then open those correctly formatted files in the Kindle app. I did this for fanfic PDF metadata a while ago. A bit after that I switched from my kindle (which broke) to Marvin on my i-devices. I love its flexibility and the way it will compensate for bad device design with good margins. It also works directly with Calibre.
posted by Mizu at 10:48 PM on August 26, 2015

I have been using Calibre since first switching to ebooks and while I haven't done much customisation it is very good. I mainly read on my kindle, and use it for storing books in one place then loading them to one of the three kindles myself and family members use. I will often load pdfs on to the ipad (either kindle app on ipad or a pdf reader) simply because I find that an easier way to read.
Oh, and I have around 10K+ ebooks and calibre has it sorted.
posted by Megami at 11:11 PM on August 26, 2015

Calibre is the one true answer here. I have heard that you can email PDFs to Amazon and they'll convert it to MOBI format, but that won't fix your metadata problem. And if you're going to get calibre to fix the metadata (or convert epub to mobi, I'm not sure whether email-to-Amazon works for that), you may as well use them as your centralized library because it's so much better than any other ebook app.

Caveat is that stripping DRM from Amazon-purchased ebooks requires a bit of Google-fu and messing around to find/install questionably-legal plugins. But you should be able to import the DRM-protected ebooks regardless, you just won't be able to read them within the app or convert the format away from Amazon mobi.
posted by serelliya at 11:57 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was just looking at this in my recent activity and noticed you used the word "idiotproof" in your question. If you're worried about the relative complexity of Calibre, I understand that it can be a little opaque and intimidating seeming, but the program comes with one book already in its library - the instruction manual. Believe it or not, if you just sit down and read through the manual, you'll have a really good understanding of how to use the program for almost everything you've listed here, as well as links to places for more details. One of the best readme's I've ever encountered.
posted by Mizu at 1:43 AM on August 27, 2015

Definitely seconding Marvin - a big part of my 'on device' organization is dropping stuff into specific lists (fanfic, a books I want to read list, specific projects) and Marvin makes it really trivial.

(Other people have already covered the stuff I'd say about Calibre: there's a learning curve, but there's also a lot of good documentation, and it will seriously repay investment in learning it by giving you the control over metadata and format you want.)
posted by modernhypatia at 4:57 AM on August 27, 2015

Here's what I do on my Kindle:
-- for the books I love, "collections" (meaning, folders) by author
-- for the books I liked but didn't love (meaning, I'm not going to be rereading any time soon), collections by theme: historical, children's books, non-fiction, etc.
-- for stuff I truly didn't like, be ruthless about deleting it, just like in real life if I hated a book I'd get rid of it
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:43 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Calibre is great for converting formats and moving files between a drive and a device. I don't like how it copies every file instead of moving it and then controls your folders. There are other options and the one I use right now is Alfa Ebooks Manager. There is a free version and paid ($20?). You can manage your metadata manually, grab some metadata from web sources and move files around in your folders. It will even check for duplicates by almost any file parameter. It is worth the $20 for me. The one thing I have not used it for is copying data to a device.

a) how to get easily get files from several different places on my computer
Alfa will do that. You can make different catalogs for each location or you can import all locations into one catalog.
posted by soelo at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2015

Calibre will also go out and find metadata for you, including cover images, if for some reason you don't have all that information.
posted by suelac at 8:13 AM on August 27, 2015

Is there anything out there that's like Calibre, but for people for whom just looking at the Calibre UI is the worst kind of torture?

and I say that as someone who has programmed in tcl/tk
posted by dmd at 9:27 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Calibre also has a plug-in specifically for fanfiction (FanFicFare), so if you want to search for and re-download your favorites as actual re-flowable ebooks, it can help you with that - and you'll have decent metadata already on them if you do. An amazing number of authors have re-uploaded old stuff to Archive of Our Own, so just because they're old fandoms (PDF is just not nearly as common anymore), doesn't mean you can't find them.

Depending on your fandoms, I might have a few I can send you. Also, Calibre now has an editor, for those of us who must fix all the spelling mistakes, typos, and grammar mistakes in stuff we re-read before they drive us nuts.
posted by timepiece at 12:48 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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