Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Using the Kindle with Calibre e-Books

I travel a lot on business (>150,000 air miles last year, without ever checking a bag) and a Kindle is a great way to carry reading material without getting weighed down. My newspaper subscription, for instance, is on the Kindle, and other than some funky formatting issues, I prefer it to the tree-and-ink version.

The free books available electronically are another great feature. And a free software called Calibre works as an essential middle-man between the source of the book and the Kindle. Go to Calibre and download the version that works on your computer or portable device.

Now you can work with anything published in standard epub format.

Say you want one of the hundreds of excellent books and articles from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Go to their site and track down what you want to read. Let's say it is Leonard Read's classic article I, Pencil, which is free of charge.

Click on it and download it into wherever your downloads go. Open Calibre, and click on the Add Books button. Browse to your Downloads folder, highlight the I, Pencil file and click the Open button. Calibre brings the article and its cover illustration into the Calibre Library on your computer. Then plug in your Kindle and click on the Send to Device button. Keep an eye on the little wheel at the bottom right of your screen...it takes a bit of time to squeeze the book through the wire.

Done. Now you can read the article for free. Plus you can use Calibre to manage the books on your device.


JR said...

Hi again Halfwise,

Wow - 150, 000 miles!! No wonder you dropped the blog.

Calibre certainly looks like a neat product. I've been looking to buy an eBook reader and Kindle is in the mix of course.

I'm currently using Kindle for PC which I have a couple of issues with. It won't allow copy/paste for one; and I can't use it for public library loans (USA only).

I see from an earlier post that you have a hand-held Kindle. Do you have a copy/paste (or any other limitations you don't like)?


Halfwise said...

The upside of the Kindle is the 3G version includes a web browser that uses Amazon's subscription to cellular networks, so you can browse, check web pages and Facebook and so forth for free, at least for now. But the browser itself is pretty clunky, at least on the keypad Kindle that I own.

The second serious upside is battery life: you can read books for a month between charges.

The third upside is screen quality in bright sunlight. It is easier to read when it's bright out, just like a real book.

You can use Explorer or Firefox to check what is on your Kindle, move files around and so forth. I didn't like the standard Kindle screensavers, and used an online-available "jailbreak" script to open it up and change the screensavers. It was a bit like going back to DOS.

Calibre handles all kinds of files and converts them to Kindle-compatible formats.

The grayscale screen is good at emulating books, and you can increase text size, look up words, underline and save sections, all kinds of neat stuff. But it is not an iPad, with the interface that puts a smile on the userface.

JR said...

Thanks for the review. Your 3G Kindle sounds very good. I'll keep it in mind.

Ref my Kindle for PC copy/paste function (lack thereof). I've now been in touch with Amazon tech support and they tell me that the function is restricted to US users only - may be something to do with copyright rules, they thought.

So, I'm thinking that if your Kindle allows copy/paste from eBooks there has to be some reason other than copyright rules.
Would I be right in guessing your reader does allow it?

Halfwise said...

I'd love to give a straight answer to the copy/paste question but right now the cable is packed away someplace on the moving van.

Are you talking about copying from the Kindle to some other file or document? Here is a link that shows how...

JR said...

Well, that's interesting. Who'da thunk? It works really well. It's an awkward, roundabout way to copy text but it sure beats no having no copy at all. Thanks.

So much for the "copyright" theory. It remains a mystery that a direct copy/paste feature is available only for U.S. Kindle-for-PC users.