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Computer Tips and Tricks
eBook Management for Cruisers
Last Updated: 04/24/2016

Got a Kindle, got an iPad, got a Brand-X e-reader?  Get Calibre.
Got Mac, got a PC, got a Linux box?  Get Calibre!

With Calibre you can...

  1. Stuff books into your Kindle or your iPad with the USB interface

  2. Convert one eBook format into another

  3. Remove the Kindle DRM so you can read your Kindle-purchased books on your iPad (without hooking to the internet)

  4. Manage multiple libraries

  5. Find eBooks from many internet sources

  6. Download book covers and descriptions for ebooks you may already have

I have no financial interest in Calibre.  It is donation-ware... download it, try it, donate to the author!

How I manage my Calibre library:  I was gifted a large e-book library from another cruiser.  But it was very disorganized and also was 75% sci-fi, which I don't read that much of.

So I finally sorted my library into the following libraries, with different types of books:

  • General Fiction

  • General Non-Fiction

  • Reference

  • Fantasy

  • Horror

  • Science Fiction

  • Boat Reference

It is easy to switch libraries in Calibre, and this means that I can share sub-sets of my library with others easily.  I also keep a "New Imports" library which is where any new books go first--from there I can move them into the appropriate library--after I've made sure the metadata (information about the book) is cleaned up.

Sometimes, it is difficult to decide which library a book belongs in, as Non-Fiction and Reference sometimes overlap, and Fantasy and Sci-Fi and Horror and Fantasy.  Especially when you have no idea what the book is about.  I open it, and peek at the Forward and Table of Contents, and read a few excerpts from the book.  If it's about dragons and fairies and stuff, it goes into 'Fantasy'.  If it's about vampires and zombies (horrible or not), it goes into Horror.  If it's about planets, and space, and future, it goes into Sci-Fi.

My system isn't perfect, but it works for me!

Putting eBooks on a Kindle Using Calibre

When I purchase ebooks from Amazon, they are automatically downloaded directly into my Kindle.  To "back up" these books in Calibre, see the next section.

For ebooks that I get by thumbdrive from a friend, I first import them into Calibre, then plug in my Kindle with Calibre up, and then use the "right click" method to "Send to Device".  If the books are in another format, Calibre will automatically convert them to the Kindle format.

Getting eBooks from your Kindle into Calibre

This is really simple.  Plug your Kindle in, make sure you've configured Calibre to know what kind of Kindle you have, and there should be a new "Device" icon in the toolbar.  Click on that, and it will show you all the books in your device. 

Right Click on a book in your device, and select (upload to Calibre?).  Device view and the library view helpfully indicate which books in your library are on your device (or not) and which books in your device are in your library (or not).

The hard part, however, is that Kindle books have "digital rights management" (aka DRM).  That means these books are locked so you can't view them except in the Kindle they were bought for (or the associated Kindle app on your computer).  Someone has made a plugin for Calibre that will let you unlock your Kindle books so you can read them on your computer, or move them to a non-Kindle device, such as your iPad.  Check this link out: or directly:

Calibre Plugins - the Simplest Option for Removing Most eBook DRM

Putting eBooks and PDF files on a iPad Using Calibre

First, (if not already done) import the PDF file to Calibre. Clean up as necessary.  For example, when I import SSCA Bulletins into Calibre, I rename them and re-author them. They are renamed YYYY-MM SSCA Bulletin and reauthored from Barb Theison to SSCA. If I know what's in the bulletin, I'll also add tags (usually cruising locations), so it can be searched later.

In Calibre, click Connect/Share and Connect to iTunes
This will open iTunes and iTunes becomes the "Device" that Calibre will send eBooks to.  This takes a few minutes.  You know it is complete when you see a new Device icon in the toolbar.

Right Click on any ebook and say "Send to Device (send to main memory)"
This will copy the ebook(s) to iTunes

You should see a "Jobs" active in the lower right corner of the Calibre screen. This is Calibre converting and sending the ebook to iTunes. If it is a PDF file, no conversion is necessary, but a Kindle book (for example) will require conversion to the iPad ebook format.

Once that completes you can shut down Calibre if you want to (but don't have to).

Now plug in your iPad. As normal, sync your iPad. This will put both PDF files and other ebooks into iBooks. The books go into the Books collection and the PDF files go into the PDF collection. From here, on the iPad, you can organize them into different collections (ie SSCA 2013 is one of my collections).