how to · Pay It Forward · Tips · Writing

Share-It Saturday: How To Navigate Calibre

Calibre is a fantastic tool, whether you’re a reader or a writer. For readers, it can let you download those awkward file types that don’t fit with your reading device, without having to miss out on a good book. For authors, it can help you convert your word file into a mobi/pdf or various other files, to read yourself for editing, to format and hand to beta/alpha readers.

There is so much it can do, and this post is *hopefully* going to show you how to utilise it properly.

First, you need to download it – Calibre


Once you have Calibre on your computer, we can get started. Here is the home-interface.

You see that red arrow? That’s what the desktop icon looks like. You’ll see I have it pinned to my taskbar, because it’s just so useful for everything! I use it to convert epubs to mobi, to convert books from Netgalley into a format my e-reader can understand, my own books into mobi for editing, and to format mobi ARCs for my advance-readers.

📌 Please remember that Calibre is a converter for YOUR OWN use. DO NOT use it to convert someone else’s work into various formats for you to resell or share. THAT IS ILLEGAL. It is a violation of intellectual property. I am saying this, because there will be one person out there who will inevitably say that because the tool was available to do it, it must have been okay. It’s not. And I want to make that clear before we start. Okay? Good. Moving on.

Let’s take a look at the buttons, because – I’ll be honest – there are a lot of them.

First…I’m going to start simple, by adding some books I’ve been given to review using the Add Books button. This will show you how good it is for readers, to catalogue your books. I know some people much prefer to keep all their books filed and organised with Calibre, rather than something like Goodreads.

You can see that they’ve been instantly organised by Title, have automatically loaded the Title, Author, Tags and Publisher. I haven’t inputted any of this information. This is all instant, the minute you upload the book. Now, not all books will do this. But, it shows you that most books will add this information for you. But, if it hasn’t been added, YOU can add it yourself.

I’m going to remove these books, to upload one of my own. All you do is highlight all the books here (ctl + A will do it) and click Remove Books.

This ^ is what you’ll see. It’s a simple and easy process, so we’ll move on. Using “Add Books” I’ve uploaded my own book The Boys Who Didn’t Love Me, which I’ve used for all my editing posts this month. All you do is click the Add button, choose the file from your folder and Voila!

Now, let’s click the Edit Metadata button. This is what comes up.

The big blue image is the cover placeholder. You have two options – 1) add your own. This is the preference if you’re an author and you have one designed already, using something like Canva. You can see how do that here. This is also ideal if it’s a published book you bought, and you can upload the “official” cover. As you’ll see, most bought books auto-upload the cover, as above.

I’ve got a cover for The Boys, but let’s take a look at that “generate cover” button first. It offers various options, about 6 of them, so that you can choose whichever one suits you. They’re all generic, but here’s an example below.

If the book is purchased, you can use the Download Cover option. This means that you can find the book online, as below. Obviously, because The Boys is my book and currently not published, it can’t find anything, but this would work for a purchased book that Amazon can find.

So, now I’m going to upload a cover I’ve made for The Boys, using the Browse button.

Now that we have the cover, with the uploaded book, we’re one step closer.

If you want to change the inside of the book, you’re best including the images in the ORIGINAL document. That way, when you upload it, the images are already in place and all you have to do is resize them.

OK” the cover and check the “Convert Books” button. We want to convert this one to AZW3 – that will allow us to format it in Calibre.

Here, you’ll see that it lists 1 Job, showing you that it’s processing the request. Once it’s done, the Job returns to 0, and where it says ODT it now adds AZW3, showing you all the formats available.

Now that we have it in AZW3 format, we want to click the Edit Book button in the top right corner. We’re going to add some chapter headings. For now, this is your Edit Book homepage. You’ll see from the red arrow I’ve added that this opens in a new window. It does not open as a pop-up INSIDE Calibre. It opens separately.

Here, you’ll see that if you double-click on any of the items in the sidebar, you’ll get to see your work in live preview on the right side.

Now, you want to minimise the Text and Styles list (as show below) and concentrate on the images within the document. You only need to double-click on one of the images listed to view it in the preview box.

Now that we’ve highlighted one of the images – the cover, which sticks out in the list provided – we can start adjusting the size of the images. For example, double-click the first image listed to get a previous. This is a Chapter Heading. Once it’s double-clicked we’re going to resize it.

After some experimentation (off-blog) I’ve found that about 300×248 (keeping the aspect ratio) is a good size for the heading images.

If you want, you can do a trial and error test. All you have to do is adjust the size, click the floppy disk image to save it, close the minimise window, and return to the main Calibre window.

Now, here is where it gets tricky. You CAN’T just convert to mobi, from here. You need to go to the folder where the files are stored. Usually Documents > Calibre Library. Then each book will have its own folder. Click the AZW3 file and MOVE it into the main Calibre Library folder.

Then, upload it back into Calibre. It seems fiddly, but your saved changes won’t show up otherwise. So, let’s do that now. (Make sure when you re-open Calibre, you REMOVE the original book so that it doesn’t clash with the one you’re about to upload)

Now, you can see the AZM3 format only. This is when you CAN convert it. So, click Convert and convert it to a mobi format. Then, it will list mobi under the formats list below the cover image. Once it does, click on it and it will open the mobi file for you to view. It will appear in a pop-up window.

Now that you can see the cover in the mobi version, let’s scroll down to check the size of that Chapter Heading. Because I only did one, as an example, I’ll show you the Chapter Heading for the Contents page (size unchanged) and the Chapter Heading I did change (Chapter 48).

See the difference? Now, it still looks a little big, but let’s take a look at it on the Kindle before we decide if this is the right size or not, before we change ALL the images to this size.

First, let’s take a peek at the size of the Chapter Divider’s I had in my file. I changed their size to 150 px, which is about half the size of the Chapter Heading. This may still be too big, but that’s why I always trial and error first.

Luckily, because the Chapter Divider images are ALL the same, throughout, Calibre only showed me ONE listing. When I adjusted the size to that ONE listing, it adjusted the size of ALL Chapter Dividers. Because they are, in essence, the same file.

Unfortunately, the Chapter Headings can’t do the same, because each file is different. When you place the original files into the document originally, the divider is the same file simply copied into various places, but each Chapter Heading – due to the name, creation date, the text involved in the image – each has been saved at different times and under different names. This is why Calibre can’t adjust all of them at the same time. But, it DOES recognise that there is only ONE divider file, so it saves you a lot of time.

Now that we can see it clearly, I’m going to go into my e-mail and attach the mobi format to a new e-mail and send it to my Kindle. Then I’ll open it there and show you how it looks.

As you can see, now that we can see it on the Kindle-sized screen, these sizes are actually perfect! They’re easy on the eye, not too large, not too imposing, and add a little beauty to your hard work.

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