Life with Calibre

Calibre is undisputedly the number one when it comes to e-book management. It’s HUGE. It’s got a plethora of functions.

And it’s got quirks, design decisions which may not suit to your workflow. Certainly a lot of them don’t suit to mine.

  • Calibres own space. Every document imported into the library ends up copied into some private directory of calibre, and named according to some /Author/Title/Title scheme. The way I cope with this, is import into calibre, and save-to-disk again.
  • Metadata on the filesystem Metadata is stored not within the file, but in some database, and apparently in some opf-file with the book as well. Luckily, calibre tries to put metadata into the file when saving to disk. So the solution here is the same as above.
  • Name like Yoda, A When writing files, it misnames them to some library sort order, with the article appended at the end. To fix this, there’s a parameter in “Preferences” -> “Tweaks” -> “Control Formatting of Title and Series when used in Templates”, called save_template_title_series_sorting which needs to be set to strictly_alphabetic
  • No such Character There’s a set of characters Calibre does not want in file names. They are the same on all platforms, and while it’s not wise to use asterisks and such on unix filesystems, because they would wreak havoc on shell-processing, they would still work. The only character really not allowed is the “/”. But Calibre also replaces various ballast from Windows, like desirable critters like “:” and “+”. The way to fix this is to edit
    /usr/lib/calibre/calibre/ and have them removed from _filename_sanitize_unicode.
  • Publishing by the Month Before the advent of the e-books, publishing dates are by definition expressed in years. Copyright law also uses the year only. To get rid of the ridiculous month in the publishing date, go to “Preferences” -> “Tweaks” -> “Control how dates are displayed” and set gui_pubdate_display_format to yyyy
  • Not unique As librarians know, in the absence of ISBN, books are identified by author, title, publishing year and publisher. Now when saving pdf files, Calibre neither puts in an ISBN, nor the publishing year, nor the publisher. Apparently, this is a problem of podofo, which does not know these. Speaking of which:
  • podofail Sometimes podofo also fails to write some tags. It’s not quite clear when this happens, as all my pdf files do not have any encryption, and exiftool can write metadata to them without problems.

Over time, I’ve written a slew of scripts to read and set metadata, these are:

  • epub-meta (c) — A very fast EPUB metadata-viewer based on ebook-tools’ libepub from Ely Levy.
  • epub-rename (perl) — A script to rename epub-files according to the EPUB’s metadata. Needs epub-meta and ebook-meta (from calibre).
  • exif-rename (perl) — A script to rename files according to their EXIF-tags. Tested with PDF, DJVU, M4V, OGM, MKV and MP3
  • exif-meta (perl) — A script to set EXIF/XMP-metatags according to the filename.
  • exif-info (perl) — Displays metadata and textual content of PDF files. Thought as filter for Midnight Commander

For further technical information and rants, you might want to read How to Enter EPUB Metadata Display EPUB metadata and rename EPUB files accordingly and Your name is “Windows User” and your scientific Paper is called “Microsoft Word – Untitled1″, also on this blog.

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