Tech

Calibre is a Swiss Army ebook tool

Friday FOSS Fest In this week’s edition of our column on free and open-source software, El Reg takes a look at Calibre, which converts almost any file type into almost any other file type, so you can read whatever you want, wherever you want, no matter what format it’s in.

It’s free and runs on Windows, Linux and Mac.

There’s more to ebooks than the Kindle, of course, with devices such as the Kobo, Nook, and Onyx Boox. The author’s own Sony Reader still worked fine when I gave it to a friend a year ago.

Buying consumable content online for immediate consumption is wonderfully convenient, but the trouble is that you can lose it again just as easily, or the company can shut down its store. It’s worth learning how to download your digital content – and once you have it on a computer, what you can do with it suddenly expands.

This doesn’t apply just to print books, either: although Comixology is being subsumed into the Bezos behemoth, don’t despair. There are other ways to get stuff out of the cloud and onto e-paper.

If you’re an Amazon buyer, for instance, hover over the “Account & Lists” button and you should see “Manage your Content and Devices.” (This may not work for other countries’ Amazon pages, but for the UK, it’s here.) For each one, under “More actions” you should find a link to download it to your computer.

Once you have local copies of your ebooks, you can load them into Calibre. The most charitable thing to say about the app’s user interface is that it is quirkily distinctive, but it works and it’s pretty easy. The first button in the toolbar lets you add new books, either individually, by the folder, or direct from compressed archives.

Once they are in Calibre, you can convert between formats and save them. If you connect your ebook reader by USB, Calibre will detect most models and a new toolbar button should let you send them straight to the device in a format it can display. If your reader has expandable memory, you can choose where it should go.

Calibre is extensible with plugins, and a popular option is DRM removal. DeDRM is one such plugin, available from Github, as are comprehensive instructions. There are others, such as the commercial Epubor.

We tried it on a protected Comixology title, and for now, it didn’t work – but the option to download Comixology titles from Amazon is quite new. We suspect support may be added in time. Currently, Calibre can import and convert between several different unprotected comics formats such as CBR and CBZ.

Obviously, you shouldn’t share this stuff, but this functionality has perfectly legal uses. For instance, it allows easy extraction of the text from ebooks, make it easier to read them using a screen-reader for people with visual impairments. Not everyone likes the slow speed of audiobooks. ®


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