Friday, September 30, 2011

all about "Get Books"

"Get Books" allows you to search for ebooks online, that you can then
purchase/download to your calibre library. It can simultaneously search over 40 different online stores for books by title and author. The returned list of matches can be sorted by price, allowing you to find the cheapest edition of the book. To access "Get Books", click the icon shown below in the calibre tool bar.




Parallel Searching:
In the latest version of calibre (0.8.21 right now) "Get Books" searches over 40 stores from various countries for ebooks. These stores include ebooks in English, Spanish, German, Russian, Polish, Dutch, French and Italian. The search results only show ebooks and exclude paperbacks, hardbacks etc. However you do not have to search for the ebooks in all the stores. You can choose the stores to be searched by selecting them from the list on the left. In the figure below  as you can see on the left column 3 stores have been selected so "Get Books" searches on those stores.





You can search for a particular ebook by entering the title in the search box or you can search for all ebooks by a particular author by entering the author name in the search box. In the figure above the search has been performed for the title "the naughtiest girl in school". One could enter "Enid Blyton" in the search box to see all ebooks by Enid Blyton available in the selected stores. It is also possible to simultaneously search for an author and title as shown in the figure below (title is "Youth" and author is "Asimov").



Price comparison: It is interesting that the price of the ebook in the
different store varies quite a bit as shown in both figures above. "Get books" allows you to do price comparisons over a very large range of stores when buying ebooks. Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, mobileread.com and Manybooks, between them, carry almost all the public domain ebooks and make them available free. So if you are looking for a public domain ebook like "Youth by Asimov", one of these may be your best option.

DRM status: Price may not be the only thing that determines where you buy your ebook from. "Get Books" also tells you the DRM status of the ebook. A "red lock" icon in the DRM column implies the ebook has DRM. This means it can only be read on particular devices so be careful to check compatibility with your device. A "green open lock" implies the ebook does NOT have DRM so you can get this ebook for any device. Even if the ebook is not available in the format you would like, you can convert it to a format of your choice using calibre. A
"blue question mark" implies the DRM status is not specified by the store and therefore not known. In the figure above Amazon has two versions of the ebook, one is DRM-free and costs $1.49 and the other has DRM and costs $0.99. Barnes and Nobles also has two version of the ebook both for $0.99 but the DRM status on both are unknown. The Project Gutenberg and Feedbooks versions on the other hand are both free and DRM-free.

For more information on DRM visit "about DRM".

Language tip: Typically if you're looking for a book in a specific language then searching for the title in that language is the best way to go about finding it. For example searching for "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" only gives results in English but searching for "Las aventuras de Huckleberry Finn" gives results in Spanish.

Internal browser: As shown in the first figure, if the little box marked "Open in external browser" is not checked then when an entry in the list is clicked on it will take you to the sale or download page in calibre's internal browser. the advantage of using the internal browser is that if you are getting your ebook from Archive.org, Feedbooks, Manybooks or Project Gutenberg,the books downloaded directly from the "Get Books" search dialog into your calibre library; otherwise for every store, except Amazon, the internal browser detects ebook downloads and automatically adds them to the your calibre library. Books from Amazon automatically open in an external
browser.


Affiliate programs: By using "Get Books" you could help support various calibre developers at no cost to you. The various "Get Books" stores were set up by different calibre developers. Some of them have affiliate programs and there are marked with a little red heart as shown in the rightmost column of both figures above. When you buy an ebook from one of these stores with the affiliate program, the developer who set up that store gets a small percentage of your purchase through the stores affiliate program and this is at no
additional cost to you. If you want to know the name of the developer you are supporting just hover your mouse on the heart icon and a little information bubble will tell you the name of the developer. Most of the American stores are courtesy of John Schember while most of the European stores are courtesy of Charles Haley.


Something to keep in mind:
"Get Books" aggregates stores from all over the world and while it may present results this doesn't necessarily mean the store will sell to you. Many stores (pretty much every one employing DRM) have geographical restrictions on who they can/will sell to. Get Books only tells you who has it and for what price; it doesn't tell you if the store is willing to take your money for the book.

I would like to thank calibre developer John Schember for his help with this article and for the instrumental part he has played in the existence of "Get Books".

Friday, September 23, 2011

the calibre viewer

Today we explore the many features of calibres ebook viewer. calibre's ebook viewer allows you to view ebooks in all of the 22 input formats that calibre supports conversion from. These include CBZ, CBR, CBC, CHM, EPUB, FB2, HTML, HTMLZ, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, SNB, TCR, TXT, TXTZ, and no, I did not make that up ;-) They are all existing ebook formats.


However by default only files in EPUB, FB2, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PRC nad RB formats are opened in the calibre internal viewer. This is because for the remaining formats, usually a better result is obtained by viewing in an external viewer; like acroread or okular for PDF. For these other formats calibre will automatically open the files in an external viewer unless you ask it to open in the internal viewer. To choose which formats you would like to view using calibre's internal viewer go to Preferences -> Behavior -> and select the formats you want in the right column.


The buttons

The top left corner of the viewer gives you a location as a decimal number. This does not change when you change the viewer window size or the font size. So you can always use that number to refer back to a particular part of the book. The buttons in the ebook viewer have been labelled in the figure below. We will go through the functionality of each.




Back and forward buttons: These buttons will only be functional if your ebook has links in it that take you to other parts of the ebook or if you click on an entry in the table of contents (discussed next). Once you click on a link you can use the back button to take to the place you were before you clicked the link. These buttons are similar to back and forward buttons on a browser.

Table of Contents (TOC): Clicking this button opens up a TOC as shown in the figure below. You can navigate through the chapters of the book by clicking on the entries of the TOC. The figure shows that when the entry "ABSENT TREATMENT" is clicked in the TOC the viewer takes you to that chapter. Clicking on the TOC button again will make the TOC disappear.



Previous and Next page: These buttons should be used to navigate pages. Not the back and forward buttons which become activated only when a link is clicked or the TOC is used.

Bookmark: When this button is clicked a window opens that allows you to choose a helpful name for the bookmark so you can refer to it easily later.

Reference mode:
When this button is clicked and the mouse is hovered over any text, a unique number referring to the paragraph to which the text belongs is displayed. This number is independent of viewer window size or font size and can be used to refer to the paragraph.

Preferences: Clicking on this button opens a new window with three tabs. The first tab is "General" and here you can choose the default font you would like in each font family as well as the font family. You can also choose some window and mouse settings to suit your convenience.
The next tab is "Keyboard Shortcuts". The calibre has a default set of shortcuts for taking you to different sections of the ebook or for scrolling. For example by default the viewer uses the "J" or "Down arrow" key to scroll down the document, however if you dont like this choice you can double click on it. Initially "Default" is selected, but you can select "Custom" and it will let you choose upto 2 keyboard shortcuts.

The third tab is "User Style Sheet". Here you can customize the background colour, indentation, relative font sizes of section titles or chapter names etc. To do this you have to create a custom style sheet (CSS).  Here is an example:

body {color:black !important;
background-color:rgb(228,200,200) !important;
text-align:justify !important;
text-indent:3em !important;}
h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6
{color:red !important;
text-align:center !important;
font-style:italic !important;
font-weight:bold !important;}

The first line sets the text color to black. On the second line is a command for the background color in RGB. The particular values chosen here generate the pink background in the following figure. The third line ensures the text ends at the same position on the right end of the viewer (compare figure below with figure above). The fourth line specifies the indentation at the beginning of each paragraph. The lower set of commands sets the text style for headings (hi, h2 ... , h6) to have color red, aligned center, in italics and bold. So even if you don't know how to create a CSS all on your own just copy an example CSS and tweak the values to get the colors alignment and indentation you want. Notice the "!important" in every line of the CSS. That is required to override the style already specified in the epub book. To see the effect of each of these elements of the style sheet compare the figure below which uses the above CSS with the one above (no CSS). The TOC was removed in the figure below by just clicking on the TOC button.




CSS allows you to make many other powerful stylistic changes. For help with writing CSS or for some more examples visit the CSS thread on calibre's library management forum on mobileread.




Metadata: Clicking on this button displays the metadata of the book on the viewer screen. See figure below


Hope you found this useful. Please feel free to comment. See you in about a week.

Friday, September 16, 2011

welcome to calibre's blog

Welcome to calibre's blog on tips and tricks, that make calibre an indispensable tool to all you enthusiastic ebook users. This blog will have regular (of the order of weekly) posts on various obscure and not so obscure features of calibre with details on how and where to use them. 

The posts will sometimes focus on Open Books, the catalogue of DRM-free ebooks maintained by calibre, as well as on issues such as DRM that strongly affect ebook users. 

We will begin with a simple, yet often overlooked, feature in calibre, i.e., the "Create Catalog" feature. 

Feature description: calibre allows you to generate a simple CSV (comma separated values) file of all the titles in your calibre library. This file can be opened as either a spread sheet or in a text editor. It contains the titles of the ebooks and the corresponding author names. This list can then be printed or emailed to friends. The list is stored under the title "My Books" in the calibre library and when you recreate the catalogue the old catalogue is replaced by the new up to date one.

Instead of creating the catalogue in the CSV format you could choose to create it in some other format like EPUB or MOBI. That way you can transfer the catalogue to your reader and conveniently view it there.  

You can have the the list of books include other information such as tags, series name, publisher name etc.

Using the feature: Using this feature is very easy. Click on the little down arrow next to the "Convert Books" button in the top tool bar in the main calibre window.  A drop down menu appears. Select the option "Create a catalog of books in your calibre library". Now a new window will open. Here you can choose the format you want for your list.

Suppose you choose CSV, then then the next tab in the same window will be called "CSV/XML" options. Click on it to choose the fields you want to include in your list. On the right column will be a set you fields you can choose including author, title, tags, series, publisher etc


Suppose you choose EPUB (or MOBI) , then then the next tab in the same window will be called "E-book options" options. Click on it to choose how you want the ebooks sorted. The options are by author, title, series, genre, recently added and descriptions and any combinations there of. Here you can also choose to exclude listing of certain tags themselves or books with particular tags.



Hope you found this useful. See you in about a week.