Sunday, October 30, 2011

calibre resources

calibre is a free and open source community driven project. The software has many layers. The most commonly used functions like format conversion, metadata editing, news fetching etc have big clear icons and are very easy to use. Yet calibre is very powerful and offers a lot of flexibility by way of customization options through "Preferences". Some customization options were discussed in earlier blog posts and a lot more will be discussed in the future. For the more advanced users who know how to use regular expressions, create custom style sheets, and/or have some minimum knowledge of python, calibre offers even more flexibility. So calibre, although accessible to anyone for basic functionality, is a very versatile and powerful program.

For those who want to learn to exploit the more advanced or subtle features of calibre, a lot of help is available. I hope this article makes you aware of various resources associated with calibre so you can make the most of it.

Mobileread: calibre was originally developed with the support of the mobileread community. There is a dedicated calibre forum on this site.  Kovid himself as well as a lot of long time calibre users and developers are members of this forum. The members of this forum are very friendly and responsive to help requests and questions. Many of them have a lot of experience with using the various subtle features of calibre and some are technically proficient as well. The best way to contact Kovid is to post your questions here. Also if your questions are detailed or technical in nature, this is the best place to get help.

The calibre mobileread forum was divided into a number of sub forums a few months ago. The sub forums are (see figure below):

  • Recipes: Here you can post requests for news sources. If you have made a news recipe for some source that is not already included in calibre we would appreciate it if you shared it here. Little contributions from a lot of people is what makes calibre such a versatile software. You should put your name in the author name section of the recipe for credit and it has to be licensed GPLv3. You can also post improvements to existing recipes here. If some existing recipe has stopped working make a post about it and the author of the recipe or somebody who has time will look into it and fix it as soon as possible.
  • Devices: This sub forum deals with device specific issues. You can ask for support for new devices here. So if your question or problem concerns a particular device like the Kindle or iPhone, this is the place to post it. Those of you who use apple devices may want to check out this sticky.
  • Catalogs: If you have questions about creating a catalog or list of ebooks in your calibre library, this is the place to post. calibre allows you to format your catalog and make it suitable to be printed as well as read on e-readers. There are a number of settings that you can find out about here.
  • Conversion: calibre's conversion engine is sophisticated and has many features you may not have encountered yet. This is the place to get help on ways to customize the conversion process.
  • Library Management: calibre allows you to play around with the ebooks metadata and present it in various ways. Any questions about downloading metadata, editing it, or exporting it can be asked here. You can also ask about the tag browser and managing and viewing your ebooks.
  • Plugins: A lot of calibre's features are implemented by way of plugins. These are for less commonly used features that may be useful to specific subsections of people. This system makes calibre versatile, yet simple to use. This sub forum is for requesting new plugins or for getting help with existing plugins.
  • Development: This is for those of you who want to work on calibre and add to its capabilities. You can get help from Kovid and other developers to smooth the way for you. calibre relies on inputs from various developers who have made small and large code contributions over the years. Some of them have found working on calibre to be a fulfilling experience. One thing to remember is that although you have full credit for your code  patch all code submitted to calibre must be licensed GPLv3 and cannot be proprietary.

The screen names of the calibre mobileread moderators are Starson17, kovidgoyal, Piper_, GRiker, theducks, Manichean, kiwidude, ldolse, dwanthny, chaley, user_none. Many of them have made code and recipe contributions to calibre in addition to the help they provide by way of answering questions.

Mobileread also has a number of other forums for various book devices and ebooks and authors that you may find useful.

Facebook: For those of you with facebook accounts, calibre has a facebook fanpage which we use as a help forum. You can post any questions concerns or feedback you have for calibre. It will be addressed there or you will be directed to a more appropriate place for help. The facebook fanpage is managed by Krittika Goyal (me). I answer most of the questions so please be patient with me because sometimes I may be busy and wont get to a question for a few days. Also I may not know the answer to some questions and it takes me a while to find out.

Twitter: For those of you who tweet, calibre has a twitter page called "calibreforum", run by Kovid's father Niraj Goyal. However if you have a detailed question opt for one of the other help forums because the 140 character limit on twitter makes answering difficult.

Help forum etiquette: The volunteers in the various calibre help forums are very friendly. They are happy to help with questions of all kinds from the trivial to the very technical. However please be polite in your questions and patient with those helping you. This is the quickest way to get your questions answered. Please do not vent your frustrations on those who are volunteering their time to help you.

Self help: calibre has been well documented both for the benifit of it's developers as well as it's users. There is an extensive FAQ as well as detailed user manual. When you encounter a problem first check out the FAQ. If your question has been adressed in the FAQ you have a quick solution and you will save some time for the volunteers at the help forums.  There are also a number of helpful demos and video tutorials to be found here. With time we hope this blog will also contain useful articles that you can use as a reference.

Open Books: calibre is an open source software and we firmly believe in the open source philosophy. Digital Rights Management (DRM), in addition to being a source of inconvenience to users, is one of the roadblocks to exploiting all the features of calibre. While we don't believe in breaking the law, we do believe it needs to be changed. In our efforts to eradicate DRM, we have started "Open Books", a catalog of DRM free ebooks. The idea is to give publicity to DRM free ebooks and their authors as well as to provide calibre users with a large list of DRM free ebooks to choose from so they can truly use calibre to it's full potential without breaking any laws.

Open Books, a site for easy browsing of DRM-free e-books that are not in the public domain. Most public domain ebooks are available DRM free at the Project Gutenberg site. Open Books is a compilation DRM free e-books from various sources linked to enable readers to browse and download them.
Open Books now lists over 2730 books from over 30 stores and features over 1020 authors.

I hope you will make use of these resources to improve your calibre experience and some day become an active member of the calibre community contributing help at one of these forums. This article has been a digression from our usual format of tips and tricks but I hope you find it useful. Next week we will be back with a more usual article. Have a good week!

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