Keeping it simple with Calibre
June 17, 2014 | 2:25 pm
By Joanna Cabot
As a heavy user of the Calibre ebook library program, I have been interested to see my usage evolve over the years. I began with the premise—which I still maintain—that Calibre would be a digital bookshelf for me, the e-version of a physical shelf which one could browse and view. I like being able to turn on cover view and flick through the books!
But I also see the advantages of the electronic filing system. You can sort the books by title, author or genre; you can filter the collection—only unread books, only five-star books, only kids books, however you want. You can add tags and descriptors to help you describe any kind of sub-collection. For a bibliophile like me, it’s a heady feeling!
It is also a huge time suck, though. I think I had romanticized ideas that I had to be able to find any book because one day my future children will want to use my library too, and I over-did the tagging, the sorting and the custom fields. Over the past few months, I have spent some time paring back and simplifying my Calibre library a little. So, what custom fields did I keep? What did I get rid of? How does my Calibre library look now? Read on to find out what changes I have made to my beloved book collection!
1) Genre Tagging
I had two complex custom fields for this. One was a ‘bookshelf field which automatically sent the book to the proper shelf on my Kobo. Since I don’t have the Kobo anymore, I deleted this field. The other was a hierarchical browser which allowed me to put in sub-categories and browse them, tree-style. I decided this was over-kill. I started getting data entry problems when I wanted a book to be listed in more than one field and it was too complex to remember.
No more. I use Calibre’s built-in, non-custom tags now and life is so much easier. If I want to see sub-categories, I can just filter by current search. So if I search for mystery and filter only to that, I can then browse the other tags my mystery books have—historical fiction, romance, paranormal etcetera—and find books that way. No more custom field needed!
2) File Metadata
I used to keep a field for original format, because somehow I thought that was important to keep track of. No more! Firstly, Calibre lets you search and sort by file type all on its own. Second, I convert everything to epub anyway so I can edit out the typos, so it seemed a little superfluous. I do still keep track of where I bought it, so I can see at a glance how many purchased books (vs freebies) remain to be read, and so I can search for DRM-free ones if I want to recommend to some of my friends who care about such things…
I used to have a ‘status’ tag so I could easily mark books I have read, but I have since deleted that because I realized that I only had rated books I read already. So if I want to filter my collection to show only unread books, all I have to do is sort by rating and scroll past all the stars.
3) Special Tags
I do still have a few special custom fields. I have an ‘age level’ tag so that I can filter any kid-friendly books for eventual use by the children of the family. I also have an award-winners field so that I can browse books which have won special awards.
For the most part, though, I have done away with the special tags. I use Calibre’s built-in ones more efficiently, and then I use the filtering tools to work with sub-groups if I need to. I do like having ALL my books in Calibre, being able to look and browse and load onto my various devices all from one central hub. And I do appreciate that Calibre does offer custom fields and other specialized features. But I want to spend more time reading and less time on data entry! So I have simplified my library a lot, and am happy with my growing eBook collection.