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Using Calibre to Manage E-books and Newspaper RSS Feeds

When traveling, it is sometimes useful to use the down time to do technical or business reading in situations where you really cannot use a laptop. If your reading is keeping up with blogs and web sites, Calibre can help you to create a library of technical books and convert a website RSS feed into an EPUB that is easy to read on a tablet or e-reader. The article that follows will describe what Calibre can do and give you some hints on how to set it up. The article is divided into the following sections:

How to Use Calibre to Prepare for a Trip

Calibre can manage e-reader files for Kindle, Nook and iPad tablets and e-readers. It is a great application to inventory and manage all of the technical manuals for hardware, software–you name it. It can eliminate a lot of paper and more importantly, make sure that you can find a manual quickly when you need it.

Calibre also has a feature where it will download an RSS feed and convert the feed into an EPUB file that can be loaded onto your e-reader. It has pre-configured recipes for most major newspaper feeds; in some cases it will only download the free RSS feeds, but for some publications, if you have a paid subscription and a user ID/password, it will generate an EPUB of the subscriber content. It will keep history of the epub files–a feature that many of the newspaper-provided applications will not do.

To prepare for a trip, you simply connect to Calibre and load the magazines, manuals and newspapers of interest on to your e-reader.

Loading Technical Manuals and Papers

After installing Calibre, the first step is to collect all of the PDF, EPUB and MOBI files for all of the digital magazines, manuals and books that you have. Once you have collected them, start Calibre and choose the Add Books option from the main menu, and load all of your items into the Calibre library. In my case, I have two Calibre servers: one on a server at home that stores everything, and a second on my laptop to pull down newspapers while I am traveling.

Setting up Newspaper Downloads

Once you have set up your library of magazines and manuals, it is time to set up the daily newspaper feed. To to this go to the “Fetch News” menu option and configure the newspapers that you want to download. The newspapers will download manually when you start Calibre each day, or you can configure a batch program to run automatically under cron or some other scheduler.

Installing a Companion Application on Your Tablet

Once you have Calibre working, it is time to set up your tablet or e-reader. On Android, the two options that I have used are Calibre Companion and FBReader with the FBReader Calibre Connection. Which you use really depends upon what e-reader you like. To navigate within the EPUB files that Calibre creates, you will need to touch the middle of the screen. Bluefire and some readers won”t let you do this but FBReader will let you do this. Generally speaking, if you are on Android, try FBReader first and if you do not like it, then purchase Calibre Companion. If you use an iPad, you will need to use the web interface to download books from Calibre.

Downloading Epub Files to Your Tablet

The method that you use to download books to your tablet will depend upon the e-reader that you use. On Android, you will generally communicate through the companion application that you installed. On iPads, you will surf the web to the URL for the Calibre server, and select you books for download through the web interface. For dedicated e-readers that do not have a browser, you can connect the e-reader via USB and the Calibre desktop application will recognize it. You can side-load files over the USB connection.

Summary

Calibre can make keeping track of technical manuals much easier and can also provide a great interface to digital newspaper subscriptions. It also has a number of utilities for creating e-books that will be covered in a future article.

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