Converting ebooks with Calibre

You see an ebook you want but it’s not in the format for your device. With Calibre you can easily convert that ebook to a variety of popular formats with one click.

Calibre is a free ebook management program which will run on Windows, Apple, or Linux operating systems. If you don’t already have it, get it here. Download will open in new tab or window.

This is the main page of Calibre:

Calibre main page

Calibre main page

At the top of the window are a series of buttons, some of which are shown below:

Calibre buttons

When you first install Calibre you need to have Calibre recognize your ebooks, so you use the “Add books” button.

The following is copied from the Calibre User Manual:

The Add books action has five variations, accessed by the clicking the down arrow on the right side of the button.

  1. Add books from a single directory: Opens a file chooser dialog and allows you to specify which books in a directory should be added. This action is context sensitive, i.e. it depends on which catalog you have selected. If you have selected the Library, books will be added to the library. If you have selected the ebook reader device, the books will be uploaded to the device, and so on.
  2. Add books from directories, including sub-directories (One book per directory, assumes every ebook file is the same book in a different format): Allows you to choose a directory. The directory and all its sub-directories are scanned recursively and any ebooks found are added to the library. The algorithm assumes that each directory contains a single book. All ebook files in a directory are assumedto be the same book in different formats. This action is the inverse of the Save to disk action, i.e. you can Save to disk, delete the books and re-add them with no lost information (except date).
  3. Add books directories, including sub-directories (Multiple books per directory, assumes every ebook file is a different book): Allows you to choose a directory. The directory and all its sub-directories are scanned recursively and any ebooks found are added to the library. The algorithm assumes that each directory contains many books. All ebook files with the same name in a directory are assumed to be the same book in different formats. Ebooks with different names are added as different books. This action is the inverse of the Save to disk action, i.e. you can Save to disk, delete the books and re-add them with no lost information (except date).
  4. Add empty book. (Book Entry with blank formats): Allows you to create a blank book record. This can be used to then manually fill out the information about a book that you may not have yet in your collection.
  5. Add by ISBN: Allows you to add one or more books by entering just their ISBN into a list or pasting the list of ISBNs from your clipboard.

The Add books action can read metadata from a wide variety of e-book formats. In addition it tries to guess metadata from the filename. See the Guessing metadata from file names section, to learn how to configure this.

Once Calibre has found and listed your ebooks, they will be displayed in the main window.

To convert one of your ebooks you first highlight the ebook by clicking on it, as shown in the first picture “Calibre main page”. I selected “Doug’s Big Idea”, one of my picture coloring books for children.

Clicking on the brown”Convert books” button opens this window:

convert main page

At the top left of the convert window is an “Input format:” button to tell Calibre the conversion format of the original ebook, the one you’ve highlighted:

Input button

Input button

The default input format is format of your ebook.

The button in the picture has an arrow pointing down, indicating I have added “Doug’s Big Idea” in another format other than EPUB.

If I didn’t want to use the EPUB format for conversion, then I would click on the down arrow and choose another format.

At the top right of the convert window is an “Output format:” dropdown button:

Output format

output format

Calibre has a large selection of conversion formats, one of which will suit your needs.

Click on the format you wish your ebook to be when you’ve finished converting it.

On the left side of the convert window is a list of options. In most cases you don’t need to use any of these options, but I’ll briefly describe the “Page Setup” option.

Page Setup option

Arrow pointing to the Page Setup option

Below is the “Setup Options” screen:

Page setup screen

page setup screen

Here you can define the Output and Input profiles to match your particular ebook reader device:

Input/Output options

Input/Output options

Clicking on the Output Profile for your particular ereader device will tailor the output for that device.

Click on the OK button at the bottom right of the window to start the conversion process.

When the process is finished you see the converted format, along with the original format, listed on the right side of the main window just below the cover picture:


file formats after conversion

You can see that the there are two formats, the EPUB and the PDF.

Clicking on EPUB opens your ebook in Calibre’s epub viewer. Clicking on PDF opens your ebook in Adobe Acrobat Reader, if you have it installed on your computer.

I love Calibre and use it quite often. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to experience a wide range of material available in different ebook formats.

More about Calibre

Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features divided into the following main categories:

  • Library Management

    calibre manages your e-book collection for you. It is designed around the concept of the logical book, i.e., a single entry in your library that may correspond to actual e-book files in several formats.

    calibre can sort the books in your library by: Title, Author, Date added, Date published, Size, Rating, Series, etc.

    In addition, it supports extra searchable metadata:

    • Tags: A flexible system for categorizing your collection however you like
    • Comments: A long form entry that you can use for book description, notes, reviews, etc.

    You can easily search your book collection for a particular book. calibre supports searching any and all of the fields mentioned above. You can construct advanced search queries by clicking the helpful “Advanced search” button to the left of the search bar.

    You can export arbitrary subsets of your collection to your hard disk arranged in a fully customizable folder structure.

    Finally, calibre will even go out onto the internet to find book metadata based on existing title/author or ISBN information. It can download various types of metadata and covers for your books, automatically. The metadata system is written using plugins so that different types of metadata sources can be supported in the future.

  • E-book conversion

    calibre can convert from a huge number of formats to a huge number of formats. It supports all the major e-book formats. The full list of formats can be found here.

    The conversion engine has lots of powerful features. It can rescale all font sizes, ensuring the output e-book is readable no matter what font sizes the input document uses. It can automatically detect/create book structure, like chapters and Table of Contents. It can insert the book metadata into a “Book Jacket” at the start of the book.

  • Syncing to e-book reader devices

    calibre has a modular device driver design that makes adding support for different e-reader devices easy. At the moment, it has support for a large number of devices, the complete list of which is here. Syncing supports updating metadata on the device from metadata in the library and creation of collections on the device based on the tags defined in the library. If a book has more than one format available, calibre automatically chooses the best format when uploading to the device. If none of the formats is suitable, calibre will automatically convert the e-book to a format suitable for the device before sending it.

  • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form

    calibre can automatically fetch news from websites or RSS feeds, format the news into a ebook and upload to a connected device. The ebooks include the full versions of the articles, not just the summaries. Examples of supported news sites include:

    • The New York Times
    • The Wall Street Journal
    • The Economist
    • Time
    • Newsweek
    • The Guardian
    • ESPN
    • and many, many more…

    calibre has over three hundred news sources and the news system is plugin based, allowing users to easily create and contribute new sources to calibre. As a result the collection of news sources keeps on growing!

    If you are interested in adding support for a news site, read the User Manual. Once you have successfully created a new recipe, you can share it with other users by posting it in the calibre forum or sending it to the calibre developers for inclusion in calibre.

  • Comprehensive e-book viewer

    calibre has a built-in ebook viewer that can display all the major ebook formats. It has full support for Table of Contents, bookmarks, CSS, a reference mode, printing, searching, copying, customizing the rendering via a user style sheet, embedded fonts, etc.

  • Content server for online access to your book collection

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