Calibre/Ebooks Organization, How do you Organize?
November 9, 2018 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a massive ebook collection from multiple platforms (3000+). I currently use Calibre to store them, but it's impossible to sort through unless I know the exact title. How do you people organize efficiently?

Some background: I mostly use the Amazon Kindle app on the iPad mini. As much as I like e-ink readers, a lot of them tend to cap at 4gb in size (I guess the new Oasis doesn't?) and I have much more than that - I read a lot of manga and comics as well so my Kindle app in the mini takes up something, like, 40gb (whoops, just checked, 51gb). This is of books I haven't read yet. My kindle algorithm is "Have I read this yet? Yes? I will delete it from the Kindle. No? It stays on." This has mostly worked for me. Is there any better way to organize books on the Kindle app at the moment? As far as I can tell, Collections can't really be synced across different versions of Kindle (e.g., desktop app, ipad app, ereader, etc).

I like to keep backups of all my books, however, because Amazon (US) isn't actually the only platform I use (that and I don't trust them to keep my books, would like to reread, would like to strip DRM, etc). I currently use Calibre on a desktop to back up almost every ebook I've ever bought across multiple accounts - Amazon,,, Kobo, Nook, Comixology, etc. As far as I can tell, it does not support some genre specific platforms (e.g., Bookwalker). I also don't know how to handle certain Kindle books that will not download to the Kindle app for the desktop (yes, I have 3 of these!), so I have no idea how to backup those without needing to purchase a paperwhite or something to do it.

I'm not particularly a fan of the Calibre UI, but I'm also not a power user - I just kind of load up the books into a big list. But with 3,000+ books in here, I just don't know where to begin. How do you guys organize your ebook collections efficiently, or is it all a manual horror? Is there any way to flag read books without literally marking it off one by one in Calibre (can I sync somehow to Goodreads??) How do you sync with multiple platforms? A very specific question for anyone who organizes Japanese ebooks: is there any way/plugin for Calibre to display Japanese ebooks without it being a horror show (sideways and poorly formatted?).

I'm not wedded to Calibre, so if there are any alternates to Calibre that suits massive collections across multiple platforms, I'd be happy to try them. Tell me how you organize your ebook collections! I'd love to hear many viewpoints on this.
posted by crankytalking to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely interested in the result, because I also don't have any organizational method, but 50k+ titles.

For some series, I've got them tagged with the series title, but manually fixing stuff isn't super fun. At least I find things like that much easier from the command line ; I can CD to the author's dir, do an ls , and the book title as the ID in it, and from there I can run a command to change meta data for the series in bulk with the Id's that are there.

There's some value in just looking at the most recently added volumes. But beyond searching for word/phrases which might be in book descriptions, randomly attempting to browse a caliber collection is painful to me. Made worse by how poorly calibre scales with large collections.

I have a web frontend COPS (Calibre OPDS Php Server) which is immensly faster for simple searches/downloads to devices.
posted by nobeagle at 10:38 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also hoping someone has a better solution than mine, which is to create multiple Calibre libraries broken down by genre. This was originally because Calibre's performance with large libraries (10k+) was terrible, although that has since improved.

But generally I know at least the genre of a particular book that I'm looking for, which makes searching through them a bit easier.

Also if you use Calibre's metadata-downloading plugins (to grab book data from Goodreads or Amazon or wherever it comes from), that will give you more searchable fields. Sometimes keywords in the book description are useful for later searching, even if you never care about actually reading the Publishers' Digest plot summary.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2018

I import the metadata and update tags as necessary. I also add a tag for when I've read the book, so I can sort those out. Mostly though, I scroll through what I last imported.
posted by vivzan at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2018

You can add columns of metadata to Calibre - not just the standard ones, but customized ones (I think it takes a plugin), so you could tag them by source. You can also group them by series, genre, and so on.

I am too lazy to organize my books in Calibre. I throw them in there, and search by title or author when I need to. However, I suspect that organizing a large collection would only take a ton of effort at the beginning - after, each book would need to be added to categories, but that only takes a few moments after you've developed a system. Unfortunately, nobody can tell you what "the good system" is, because your reading habits are unique.

(F'rex, I will happily mix mainstream romance, m/m erotica, and fanfic slash, but I don't mix slash with scifi or even the original source material - I consider those different genres, at least in the sense of, "I need to be in a different mood to read these.")

If you don't get the answers you need here, you might post in Mobileread's forums; they're the Calibre experts, and there may be people who have nice efficient categorization systems that just need tweaking to work for you.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

crankytalking: "As much as I like e-ink readers, a lot of them tend to cap at 4gb in size (I guess the new Oasis doesn't?) and I have much more than that - I read a lot of manga and comics as well so my Kindle app in the mini takes up something, like, 40gb (whoops, just checked, 51gb)."

If you really want e-ink a lot of the kobo devices can have their internal memory increased to 64 or 128GB because the internal memory is physically just a micro SD card and one can swap it out for something larger (you also have to clone the old card on to the new).

Not that that helps with organization.
posted by Mitheral at 7:27 PM on November 9, 2018

I have a huge collection in Calibre and I use tags a lot. I also search the metadata for particular words to build a set of books, and then apply a made-up tag like “wanttoread.” That way I can load up my Kindle with a full load of cook oos or fiction or whatever.

COPS is awesome, by the way: my Synology runs it so everyone in the house can browse my collection.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2018

Also, for books that are balky, convert them to a non-Amazon format (like epub).
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2018

Calibre lets you add additional fields to the database (basically columns, at least on the UI; I don't know how they're represented internally).

I have one, a Boolean, for "Want to Read". Due to the way Calibre handles Booleans, it can actually be one of three values: true, false, or unset. Most books are unset, which is the default; books I want to read have the flag set to True; once I've read a book I set it to False. It works reasonably well. I use the presence of the flag to load books onto my Kindle when I'm going on a trip or something.

This has the limitation of not dealing well with books that I don't want to read, but I think those are handled well via the delete button.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:13 PM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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