Calibre and Kindle


I recently received a Kindle Touch as a gift. This is something that I would never have purchased for myself.


  • The Kindle’s e-ink  display works extremely well in a wide variety of light conditions.
  • The Kindle has reasonable battery life, way better than my phone.
  • The Kindle is about the size of a paperback book, slightly larger with the case included.
  • The case includes an LED light, powered from the Kindle’s battery.
  • Every book is large print if you need it, which also helps when the publisher chooses an absurdly small default font size.


  • The screen updates are very inconsistent: some times the screen flashes black then white and then the new content appears, at other times there is a flash-less transition. The flashes are very irritating. Given that flash-less is possible, why would you not always use this kind of transition?
  • The “collections” feature is not available over USB, so grouping books by author must be done manually. The Kindle can hold thousands of books, but without automatic collections, it is not possible to scroll to the middle of the title list before you die of hunger. Apparently, other Kindle models expose this feature via USB, why doesn’t the Touch?

Overall, I like the Kindle Touch, but I only keep a few books on it, updating the list when I finish one. There are some features, like “text to speech” and “music in the background” that I have yet to try.



It is necessary to have something to manage your book collection, particularly as the Kindle Touch’s collection feature is so disappointing. The open source Calibre program works brilliantly.


  • Automatically groups by author or genre or series.
  • You can add your own columns, and group that way, too.
  • It can convert between e-book formats, so if you search and download a book you want, but it is in the wrong format, you can convert easily. Depending on the input format, the results vary from brilliant (epub, prc) to only-just-readable (txt, ps, pdf).
  • Transfers to the Kindle are completely painless.


  • The user interface is very modal, editing attributes works in some windows but not in others where the attributes are visible.
  • The meta-data on most e-books is dreadful. (This isn’t Calibre’s fault.) It can take longer to fix the meta-data than it took to download the book.  Calibre has numerous tools for fixing meta-data.



There are numerous sites from which you can download e-books.

  • Amazon Kindle Store
  • Project Gutenberg is fabulous
  • Try the Baen Free Library for DRM-free e-books.
  • Using Google to search for “author torrent”, or even “title torrent” frequently yields useful results.
  • If you are into SF or Fantasy, using Google to search for “sff-update torrent” can produce more than you imagine.