For the love of reading (e)books

For the love of reading (e)books

.. for the love of reading books, it was always a delight for me to check my bookshelf and see this amazing collection of books that I had maintained over the years. There was always something unusual about this feeling, when I look at this collection of books that have impacted my life in a positive way and changed the course of my life for the better. Which of course, got less frequent when I bought a new Kindle and started reading books digitally (eBooks). It was really an ecstasy for a minimalist/technophile like me to just carry all my books in one device. However, it took away that delightful feeling of looking at those books and being able to pause and ponder. So this blog post is just about the quest that eventually took me to calibre-web which is an amazing eBook management tool.

Why not just buy books in Kindle store?

Yeah, I could. But when you buy books in the kindle store, you don’t really “own” those books. What kindle offers you, is the reading rights for those books. Which means, you are heavily tied into Amazon Ecosystem and there is no way you could migrate those books anywhere else. They are protected by the Amazon DRM. Therefore, They will stay in your kindle and Kindle only! Which is a big No-No for me. When I pay for books, I want to own them. So I buy eBooks in other eBook stores, that sell you the eBook, not just its reading rights. Checkout Gutenberg Project for example.

Okay, But how do you get it into Kindle?

I’m glad you asked. This is a very easy process to be honest. There is this tool called Calibre which is the de-facto standard for anything eBooks. And it also has support for kindle devices where you can connect the kindle to your computer and the Calibre service running in the computer can convert eBooks from epub (standard ebook extension) to mobi (extension supported by kindle) and send those books to kindle via USB. So this way I can just buy and own eBooks and then also send it to my favorite eReader and read as much as I want.

Okay, So Problem Solved, right?

Um, not really. Sending books to kindle is sufficient. But the heart wants more! And for a perfectionist-techie like me, sometimes its a boon and a curse. The boon is that, I always keep looking for something that satisfies my hunger for the perfect setup and workflow. So that leads me to new discoveries and some amazing things. The curse is that, it takes a lot of effort, time and energy to get there. But I’m glad that one of these efforts led me to discover Calibre Web. Calibre solves all the eBook problems, but in terms of showing the books in a user friendlier way, it sucks! It doesn’t have a good User Interface and for good reasons. Calibre was meant to be performant, not be User Friendly. And it does what it does best. So no complaints. So this is where Calibre-Web comes in.

Calibre-Web takes the already existing Calibre database (metadata.db), and all the existing books and shows them in a nice, user friendlier way. I was running Calibre + Calibre-Web in parallel. But then I discovered that I don’t need Calibre after-all. Calibre-web has an inbuilt ebook converter (which is a part of Calibre) which can convert books and also an upload mechanism where I can directly upload eBooks. Therefore, Calibre-Web is sufficient for my needs and my quest for the better eBook management led me to this point. Calibre-Web is self-hostable which is a bonus. Currently, I have it hosted on my self hosted server with all my owned books.

Yes! Solved.

So now all I can do is, configure my mail server in Calibre-Web. Once the SMTP connection is working, I can upload my owned eBooks to my Calibre-Web dashboard. When I really want to read a book, I can just press “send eBook to Kindle” button in Calibre-Web and it e-mails the book to my kindle library and then kindle can download the book from there automagically. So, the initial process of downloading, converting and then sending the books by USB has been reduced to just one click of a button. I’m really happy with this setup. Hopefully this makes me apply more focus on reading the books than managing them 🙂

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