Calibre Companion on Kindle Fire HD

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Calibre Companion (CC) is an android app that can be used with the Calibre book library program on your PC.  The app provides for:

  • wireless transfers of books from PC to android device,
  • indexing of books by author, title, tags or other metadata,
  • comprehensive book metadata synced between devices and
  • cover or list browsing for books.

The app requires that the main Calibre program be running on your computer in order to do wireless transfers or sync metadata.  Also, metadata and tags can only be edited in the main Calibre program (not on your android device).  The CC app is available in the Amazon App Store for $2.99.

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The screenshot at the left shows the main browsing window of the app running on my Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (1st gen), with the books sorted by author.

Tap a book cover and the screen changes to show the book and metadata page.

Long-press a book cover and the app opens a reader app on the Kindle Fire HD to read the book.

The first time you select to read a book it will ask what reader app you want and does include the native Kindle reader app as a choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This screen shows the book details view.  The command bar at the top changes to let you “Read” or “Delete” this book from this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A book “List” view with the grouping slider pane open, shows how to use tags to filter the display of books in the library.  This is a very handy feature if you have a large library of books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to do a wireless transfer.

In the CC app go to Settings>>Wireless Device Connection.  I have IP address and port set to “Automatic” and it works with my home Wi-Fi.

However, it didn’t work the first time I tried to connect from Calibre on my PC.  Eventually, I realized my firewall was blocking Calibre from making the connection.  In my firewall program I had to find Calibre.exe, which was listed as “The main Calibre program” in the “T” portion of the list, not in the “C’s” where I expected it.  Once I set it to “Allowed” all worked as advertised.

CMenuInside Calibre on my computer, I added the “Connect/share” choice to the main toolbar.  Now I can use it to “Start a wireless device connection” and press the “Connect” button in the CC app running on the Kindle Fire HD.  If it’s successful the Kindle shows up as an active device in Calibre and I can use the regular “Send to Device” commands to send books or see books on the Kindle without a wired connection.  This feature and the library off-line sorting and browsing make the Calibre Companion app worth the money.

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Syncing ‘Last Page Read’ on Kindles for non-Amazon Books

If you buy an e-book from the Amazon.com store and send it to multiple reading devices, chances are good that they will remember the last page read for that book between devices.  This feature (sometimes referred to as “syncing”) doesn’t work if you “sideload” (directly copy a file from another device) a non-Amazon book.  For instance, if I copy an e-book file from my computer to both my Kindle Keyboard and my Kindle Fire HD via the USB cable that book will not remember the last page read between those Kindles.  So what is the solution?  I know two ways to make this work.

Send to Kindle for PC

The first is using the “Send to Kindle” program provided by Amazon.  You can download the program Send to Kindle for PC from the Amazon.com site.  Once it is installed, and you register with your Amazon.com account information, it can be called up by right-clicking a file (formats: DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PDF or MOBI) on your PC.

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Choose which devices to send to and be sure that the “Archive documents..” box is checked.  Once this window is opened you can also drag-and-drop multiple files on it.  “Send to Kindle” will also appear as a new printer in your Print menu, but if you choose this option it will always send a PDF document to your device(s).

To specifically use this to sync last page read on your books they need to be in one of the acceptable formats (MOBI, for example, will work fine).  Just use the program to send a MOBI-formatted book file to your devices with the “Archive document in your Kindle Library” box checked.  As a pop-up says, it may take several minutes for it to be delivered by Wi-Fi.

Calibre

The other way to sync your e-books is to use the Calibre e-book management program on your PC to convert your file to MOBI format.  Even if you obtained the file already in MOBI format, use Calibre to re-convert it before sending to your devices.  Also, if you are a long-time Calibre user and converted your files with a version of Calibre prior to 7.44 you need to re-convert those files with a newer version of Calibre.

To get the e-books to sync using Calibre just send the MOBI format file to your devices through a USB cable.

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Summary

Both methods require installing and using a PC application.  With “Send to Kindle” you don’t need to hook your devices to your PC with a USB cable and you can sync more formats.  However, the books do pass through the Amazon cloud server.  With Calibre, only the MOBI format will sync properly and the files are transferred directly to the devices via cable — by-passing Amazon.com entirely.

 

Rainmeter: Books Skin (book cover display)

I created this skin to show book covers as a kind of slideshow on my desktop.  I use Calibre to organize my ebook collection and as part of building the Calibre library I have downloaded book cover pictures for each book.  I am displaying these pictures using this skin on my desktop.  But you don’t have to use Calibre, as this skin will display any cover pictures from any folder containing the .jpg files (It looks in the sub-folders, too.).   Once installed, you will need to edit the UserVariables.inc file to give the path to your folder of choice.  A new cover is displayed about every 20 seconds.  Of course, you need Rainmeter installed to use this file.

There are two variants of this skin:

  1. Books.ini: which displays a large, slightly rotated book (suitable for pictures >320 pixels in width), and
  2. Books-Mini.ini: which is half the size and not rotated.

Books
Books.ini

Books-mini
Books-Mini.ini

Download the Books.rmskin file from here.

Manage Kindle Collections with Calibre

Install a Calibre Plug-in

I’m using Calibre version 0.8.6 with a Kindle 3 and the “Kindle Collections” plugin version 1.70.  The plugin link has a link to download and instructions on how to install the plugin in Calibre (requires Calibre version 0.8.6 or higher).  There is also some brief description of how to use it.  Once installed (choosing to put the plugin in “the main toolbar when device is connected”), and after restarting Calibre, this is what appears when your Kindle is plugged in.

Calibre

The version 0.8.6 of Calibre has a new feature to add or manage plug-ins from which you can install this collections manager.  Look for it under the “Preferences/Get plugins to enhance Calibre” toolbar selection.

Check Your Kindle Files

The first thing that I tried was the “View report of Kindle collections and books” option.  This gave me a text file display showing my books and collections and also warning me of 6 books that the Kindle could not read, 2 sets of duplicate books, 2 corrupted .mobi files and a list of about 20 .png and .jpg image files that the Kindle could not display.  I used Windows Explorer to search for and delete these files from my Kindle documents folder.

Create Collections Automatically

Next, I wanted to see if I could add book series as collections in the Kindle.  To do this you need to have “Series” as one of your Calibre columns (with appropriate info filled in, of course), then you first choose the “Customize collections to create from Calibre…” option.  In the pop-up window you have a table and some check box items.  Look for “Series” in the Calibre Source column and set it to “Create” in the Action column.  Move over to the Minimum column and set it to 3 (I don’t want a collection if there are less than 3 books).  Make sure the option “Preserve existing Kindle-only collections” is checked.  At the upper right is a link “Preview without saving collections” click this to get a report of what collections will be created with your current settings.

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If the report is OK, go ahead and click the “OK” button to add the collections to your Kindle.  As you can tell from the picture above there are many other options for automatically creating collections.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble of setting up your series or tags or user categories then you can always use the “edit Kindle collections manually…” option.

Organizing my Kindle (using Calibre)

Get past a few dozen books in your Kindle and you start to feel the need for some organization.

I have hundreds of ebooks, which I’ve collected over the years, primarily for reading on my computers.  When I bought a Kindle (3rd edition) last year, I started to convert my ebooks into Kindle-friendly formats (prc, mobi, azw).  My first attempts used Mobipocket Creator to (mostly) convert pdf files to prc format [Yes, I am aware that the Kindle 3 can handle pdf files – you just need a magnifying glass to read some of them.].  This was usually successful, but some pdf files gave prc files with broken paragraphs, sentences and even words.  Some dialog formatting made it difficult to tell when the speaker had changed.

Then I tried Calibre to see if I could get better file conversions.  Not only did I get better conversion results, but Calibre proved to be a much more feature-filled program than I expected.  It creates a database of your ebook files complete with info, tags, cover images and plot summaries.  It includes a communication link to your USB-attached Kindle – marking the books in your collection that are currently loaded on the Kindle.  It can convert from and to many formats and it allows you to customize the conversion options.  You can convert one book file at a time or use bulk conversion for all selected books.  It can download files/feeds from dozens of news sources in Kindle compatible Article format.  It can send books to, or receive books from your Kindle.  The program creator (Kovid Goyal) seems to be releasing updates about once every week or two.  As donation ware it is a surprisingly full-featured application.

With my ebook files in a Calibre database on my computer (and backed up on my network) I don’t need to have all of my books on the Kindle.  However, I still have over 100 files on the Kindle, giving me about 12 home pages worth.  My scheme to organize them is to use the collections feature.  So far I have just four collections:

1 Reference
2 Books to re-read
3 Books finished reading
4 News and feeds

I put the Kindle manual and dictionaries in the “Reference” collection.  When I finish a book I move it into the “finished reading” collection.  I set the Kindle to “organize by collections”.

When I want to add books from my big collection, I start up Calibre and convert (usually from epub or pdf to mobi format) and transfer into the Kindle.  While I’m hooked up, I take the opportunity to download news articles (they automatically transfer to the Kindle).

Organizing the big collection in Calibre is most easily done using the “Tags” feature of the program.  If you used the “get metadata” download to get the book information (plot summary, publisher, series, etc.), then you most likely already have tags for the books.  Using the tags to filter books displays only those books with the tag.   The built-in help describes a method of using tags to create sub-categories (like “History/Military”) for a further level of organization. These tags or other book information can be used with a Calibre plugin to create and manage Kindle collections.  But that’s a story best told in its own post.

If you are like me and have ebooks on your computer or in various formats, then I highly recommend using Calibre with your Kindle.