Using Calibre and Other Cool Technology

I discovered Calibre, this handy tool, at Gutenberg Australia because they do not digitize their eBooks, and they have lots of books in their public domain that are not available in the States. So, is it "legal" to read their books if you live in the USA? Well, . . . whatever. You decide. In any case, by downloading Calibre, it takes just seconds to convert a text file to the eBook format of your choice. There is a special version for those of us still using XP; (you will NOT want to update that) and it works just fine.

Even if you are completely computer-stupid, you can do this. Calibre comes with a tutorial, and you can go as fancy as you like. The product will search the web for book covers and ratings—whatever you need. Or you can go ultra-simple, which is what I'm doing. Just click the "Add books" button, and you will be able to browse your desktop, documents, or wherever you have the file located you wish to convert. The book will show up on the program, then click the "Convert books" button. You will be able to add the author's name and customize your book any way you wish. Click OK at the bottom, and your Kindle or EPUB file will be deposited into your Documents and Settings (or whatever comparable folder) in a folder generated by Calibre.

At that point, you can choose what you want to do with it. Since I deal with SO many eBooks from Project Gutenberg, I have my own method. I open the folder, then pull out the file onto my desktop. I usually rename it, then it's ready to be loaded onto my tablet, which I talk about below. But here's a bit more info about Calibre and conversions.

I actually started using this program, not because of Gutenberg Australia files, but because of my frustration with not being able to find digitized versions of Kate Chopin's short stories. However, I did find a source for many of them to read online. But I don't like reading online. I'd rather sit on my porch or curl up on my couch to read. Plus, I wanted to have them in my own possession with all my other eBooks, safely saved on a flash drive, you know, in case the internet goes down . . ..

I do not believe there is a way to digitize a page on the internet, so what I did was to copy and paste each story onto my Word program. After editing and tidying up, conversion was easy. However, since I tend to be a perfectionist, I wanted to have a Table of Contents that was clickable, so I ended up converting them all to code. OK, that's a little more complicated, and obviously you need to know how to write code to do that, but you can still create nice eBooks from a Word Document. Incidentally, if you are a code writer, here are a couple tips I discovered. Don't set a width, Allow that to be "auto" and that goes for margins and padding, too. It will look terrible on your browser, but you're not writing for a browser. Your reading device will display it correctly. Also, I found that in copying/pasting the online document, italicized words had to be re-italicized. Just little annoying and time-consuming stuff, but if you're aware of them, corrections are a breeze. You may read reviews of my conversions and access their original source on the eBooks Index. From there you can convert them yourself, if you wish. At least at this point, I will not be making my conversions available to the public.

So, how do you get the book file onto your reader? I explain that in my newsletter My NEXT Step in Technology, which I wrote when I bought my Nextbook tablet. But what if you have an ornery computer and/or Android device who don't like each other and refuse to communicate? That's the situation I'm in now, but it is NOT A PROBLEM! There's a handy little USB cable called "On-the-Go" that's only a few inches long, costs about six bucks and plugs into the charger port of your Android device. On the other end, you can plug in anything with a USB connector: a flash drive, or even a keyboard or mouse. (See image below.)

On-the-Go cable with Nextbook Tablet and Flash Drive

OK, so I did that, but I still wasn't able to copy and paste (because you cannot drag and drop, obviously), files from my flash drive onto my readers. So I needed one more tool and I found one that is awesome! It is called ES File Explorer and is a free app. from Google Play. You can download it from here. There are a number of different file explorers listed, but this one is the most popular and it is first on the list. I highly recommend it for any Android device. It took me just a short while to learn how to use it, but I don't own a cell phone, nor do I use my tablet for anything but a reader. (I don't have Wi-Fi, so I had to go to the library to download it.) So I'm a bit Android-slow.

Anyways, once you get the hang of it, it's very easy and handy. You can open any folders or apps. to see what's there, then move files around, delete them, copy them, put them in a new folder—whatever you need. When you add the flash drive, you will be able to open both windows, (your Android storage and the contents of your flash drive), and swipe back and forth.

No doubt it will be a little different on each device, but on my Nextbook, I simply long-tap the file on my flash drive I want to move. "Copy" will show up at the bottom menu. Then I swipe to the window showing my Android files. I tap open "Kindle" or "Nook"—whichever one my book will be going to. Then I tap "paste," and there it is, on my tablet.

In my particular case, since my tablet came with Nook installed (and I use it more often because Nook files are so much smaller than Kindle), a message will pop up asking me if I want to open the file with Nook, and I tap OK. My new book then opens.

With Kindle, after I download a file, I have to go back to my app. page, and manually open Kindle to my library page. Then I am able to open my new book. It's all very, very easy.

The hardest part for me was to get the copy/paste hang of it. Occasionally, when I tap copy or paste, the word will show up in an oval in the middle bottom of the page, sort of re-confirming that's what I want to do. In that case, I simply tap the word on the menu at the bottom again.

One other point is that, if I have just installed a book, then I try to, say, delete a different one, I have to go back to my app. page, or my device will keep trying to open it rather than delete it. Just a little quirk.

Since I am an extremely organized person, I have created my own folders to arrange and manage my books. I create them on my desktop, then transfer them over onto my tablet. I have a folder for the books I have finished, so when I am done with a book, I can easily move it to that folder by using ES File Explorer. If I need to go back at some point and open it again, though it does not show up in my library, I can open the folder with ES, then tap the book I want to read, and it will reappear in my library list. This little tool is a gem and makes my Android life much easier.

So there, I think I've covered quite a bit, but no doubt I will at some point discover more, and will update this newsletter, or write a new one. Technology is easy and fun, and beneficial when used for purposes of expanding one's mind. If an old Crow like me can learn it, you can, too!

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