Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The usefulness of Calibre

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I was browsing through a list of adventure stories, and found this entry:

E. Nesbit’s children’s fantasy adventure The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904). Nesbit’s writing is extraordinary, because: she is drily witty, in a way that makes her writing as entertaining to adults as to children; she was politically progressive, so there’s not quite as much to cringe at as we find in her contemporaries’ writing; and her conception of how magic and the everyday world might interact — the brilliant idea that magic has strict rules which need to be puzzled out, painfully — would prove influential on everyone from P.L. Travers to Edward Eager, C.S. Lewis, Diana Wynne Jones, and J.K. Rowling. Here, siblings Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane, whom we first met in Five Children and It (1902), discover a flying carpet and an ancient Phoenix — a magnificent, vain creature which expects to be worshipped by modern Londoners. Over the course of several adventures, the children wear out the carpet’s fabric — which causes it to malfunction, entertainingly. There’s a burglar, a buried treasure, and a church jumble sale that goes entertainingly awry. Will the children figure out the best possible use for the carpet before it’s too late? Fun facts: The final installment in the Psammead series is The Story of the Amulet (1906). I’m also a fan of Nesbit’s Bastable series, her House of Arden series (including 1908’s The House of Arden), and her other children’s novels — including The Railway Children (1906) and The Enchanted Castle (1907).

E. Nesbit’s name rang a bell, as did The Enchanted Castle, which I’m sure I read some decades ago. A quick search took me to a site with the full text, but I wanted to read it on my Kindle, not my computer. I saw that you can download the text in MOBI format, but that download is chapter by chapter, not the entire book. The PDF is the entire book, but that’s not a good format for the Kindle. The EPUB file is the full novel, but Kindle doesn’t do EPUB (nor, for that matter, does it any longer do MOBI — it insists on AZW3).

However, the (free) program Calibre, an ebook management program, can convert files from one format to another, and in particular from EPUB to AZW3. And before you could say “Jack Robinson,” I had the file downloaded, converted, and transferred to my Kindle. (I admit you would have to speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y to still be saying the name when I had finished, but it did take very little time.)

Here’s the process, using Calibre’s menu bar of buttons:

Screen Shot 2020-07-12 at 4.57.11 PM

  1. Download book as PDF.
  2. Use the Add books button to add the PDF book to your Calibre library.
  3. Use the Edit metadata button to correct title and author (since those are displayed)
  4. Use the Convert books button to convert the book from PDF to the format for your ebook reader. For me, that’s AZW3; for you, it might be MOBI or EPUB or some other format — Calibre does them all.
  5. Use the Send to device button to send the converted book to your reader. (Obviously, your reader must be attached to the computer to do this; if it’s not attached, the button doesn’t show.)

I also put this short story on my Kindle. In my browser, I used Edit > Select All; then File > Print, and I printed it as a PDF. The I followed the above steps. Very easy, very quick.

I should note that some PDFs don’t convert so well as the E. Nesbit PDF did. In some PDFs certain letter combinations are coded as ligatures and the conversion problem has problems with those. For example, in some PDFs, “ll” (double lower-case L) is converted by Calibre to ” l” — one lower-case L with a space. For more info, see Read this before Posting PDF Questions, especially the section titled “Various character pairs like ‘ff’, ‘ll’, etc are missing from my conversion.”

I’ve previously pointed out the site Standardebooks.org, from which you can download (for free) excellent books that have been carefully edited. Standard eBooks provides files in various formats, including AZW3 for the Kindle. I have found the best way to get them onto the Kindle is via Calibre: download the file, the used Add book to get it into Calibre, and then use Send to device to put it on your Kindle (or other ebook reader). This automatically cleans up the file titles — and also permits you to check (and correct if needed) the metadata.

An aside on the etymology of the phrase “before you can say ‘Jack Robinson'”?

Uncertain. There is some speculation that this is a reference to Sir John Robinson, a Lieutenant at the Tower of London around 1600, but there is nothing known about him that is associated with speed (Samuel Pepys called him as “a talking bragging bufflehead.”), and the phrase does not appear in print until 1778.

If you read ebooks, Calibre is worth a look.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Books, Software, Technology

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