Download, View, Convert, Sync E-Books on Mac OS X

In the recent years, e-books have suddenly become immensely popular with the introduction of reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle and the Android-based Nook by Barnes & Noble. Even iOS devices have their own dedicated book store in the form of iBooks, and as an owner of the device I can say that reading books on an iPad is a great experience.

The problem with e-books in their current state is fragmentation. Their is no standard or universal format, books usually include DRM, books purchased from one store are incompatible at other stores or devices, and so on. Also, people are starting to have huge e-book libraries similar to paperback book collections. Organizing and managing all these e-books can become a pain.

calibre is a free and open source, cross-platform e-book management tool. For a Mac user, that is not necessarily good news. The UI has been written in Qt, which is the reason why calibre will stand out in your work environment like a sore thumb. Also, my guess is that its size and use of non-native libraries is the reason why it feels extremely slow on my Mac, and takes quite some time to fully load up. The interface reminds of me some old school Windows apps, which populate the topmost toolbar with huge buttons of commonly used functionality.

While it is established that UI is certainly not a strong point for calibre, but as far as functionality is concerned, calibre is a complete powerhouse. It houses a wide variety of management, conversion, syncing and downloading features. Some of the major ones are:

  • Logical Book Format: A single entry in your library that may correspond to actual e-book files in several formats.
  • Formats:

    calibre supports the conversion of many input formats to many output formats. It can convert every input format in the following list, to every output format.

    Input Formats: CBZ, CBR, CBC, CHM, DJVU, EPUB, FB2, HTML, HTMLZ, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, SNB, TCR, TXT, TXTZ

    Output Formats: EPUB, FB2, OEB, LIT, LRF, MOBI, HTMLZ, PDB, PML, RB, PDF, RTF, SNB, TCR, TXT, TXTZ

  • Device Support:

    At the moment calibre has full support for the SONY PRS line, Barnes & Noble Nook line, Cybook Gen 3/Opus, Amazon Kindle line, Entourage Edge, Longshine ShineBook, Ectaco Jetbook, BeBook/BeBook Mini, Irex Illiad/DR1000, Foxit eSlick, PocketBook line, Italica, eClicto, Iriver Story, Airis dBook, Hanvon N515, Binatone Readme, Teclast K3 and clones, SpringDesign Alex, Kobo Reader, various Android phones and the iPhone/iPad. In addition, using the Connect to folder function you can use it with any ebook reader that exports itself as a USB disk.

Overall, for somebody who has multiple e-book devices with specific format support, calibre is a great and easy way to manage all your books across them and keep them in sync. I, however, would like to see a similar tool built with native Cocoa libraries to get a faster and native experience on Mac OS X.

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