Using Calibre-64 To Create Your Own eBook Files

These days a lot of books are available as eBooks. In fact, there are a great many books that self-published authors has opted to only publish as eBooks. This means that getting a paperback or hardback copy of that book is impossible. The only way to enjoy that literary work is to download it to your preferred eReader or eReader app like Kindle and dive into that world with the aid of your electronic devices.

So why do some authors opt to only publish their books as eBooks?

Well, firstly, eBooks tend to be cheaper to purchase than their printed siblings. Authors will often choose this route to create the best price point. This is meant to entice more readers to purchase and buy their books who might otherwise thumb their noses at more expensive printed versions.

Secondly, publishing an eBook is typically a little easier than publishing a printed book. With services like Amazon's KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), authors can upload files and let Amazon handle a lot of the rest. This is in stark contrast to creating physical books where you have to provide the printer with art files and more that adhere to strict requirements

So how does one create an eBook?

Like so many other things, there is more than one way to go about creating an eBook. It really all depends on which services you want it distributed on and what formats you think your readers might need. Frankly, you can distribute a standard PDF file as an eBook and generating a PDF is really easy.

But for me, I like to have a variety of services and format options available for distribution and consumption. Not wanting to pay some anonymous Internet person to do the conversion for me with unknown results, I began researching common tools to convert files for eBook conversion.

Enter calibre-64.

calibre-64 is a free eBook generator. You can download from their website. The program is maintained and receives regular updates improve performance, fix bugs, and more.

Now, while I'm sure there a number of features that I don't use and there are other ways to use this application to create eBooks, this blog entry will detail the steps I use. The goal being that if anyone is curious about how to make their own eBooks that this might provide a little insight and guidance that will help you along your way.


When you first open calibre, you'll find an empty window with a lot of buttons and options. Some I use. Some I don't. Don't be overwhelmed by the options.

The top panel are your main controls. These buttons are somewhat self-explanatory if you look at them.But don't worry, we will get into the details of the key buttons I use as we go. The left side shows you various filtering options that will expand and shrink. If you've never used calibre before, this section may be blank until you create your first book. The main window is what I call your "bookshelf". This is where any book that you've added to your calibre will appear. You will be able to select those books to edit them, create new versions of files, convert it to new formats, and more. The right hand side is a summary page for a book that is selected in your bookshelf. Even though I've blanked out my bookshelf in the image, you can still see that I had a book selected in that panel. The right side shows the title of the book, the book's cover (if one's been loaded), the formats that are on file for that book, and other tidbits of information.

To get started, simply click the "Add books" button in the top left of the main ribbon.

This will open the typical browse window that you'll use to navigate to wherever you have your raw manuscript file handy. I tend to use my Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) files that have been returned from my editor, though be sure to turn off any comments or track changes settings before importing.

Once you've selected the desired file, calibre will read various bits of metadata from the file to create an entry in your bookshelf. Oftentimes, it will use the filename as the book's default title but you can edit that in your bookshelf once the file has been imported.

Double-clicking the book in the bookshelf will open the selected book up in a built-in reader. This allows you to kind of see what the finished product will look like as an eBook. But generally there are a few things we need to clean up before worrying about the final product. For instance, we haven't set a cover image. We need to check to make sure it has the correct author information. We need to make sure our ISBN value is listed properly. These are all minor tasks in calibre but critical to the final product.

For me, I like to start by editing the book's metadata. This is where I can fix the title, if needed, set the author or authors, connect the entry to a series, upload cover art, and kinds of other little things. To do this, click the Edit Metadata button from the top ribbon or right-click on the book in the bookshelf and select Edit Metadata from the menu there.

Click this option will open a new window where all of those editable values I mentioned will appear.

The application does also have some simple validation logic too. For example, if I were to change the Title in the top left from "Gary's Blog Example" to "Toby's Online Demo", the Title sort field to the right would turn red (see below) to show that the sort value is no longer valid and would cause issues with most eReaders and eBook listings.

But don't worry. This is an easy fix. There is an arrow ( > ) icon that separates these two fields. Just click that button and the application will automatically fix the Title sort field based on the content in the Title field. Depending on the first word in the Title, it may move some things around. For example, books with titles like The Ascension Legacy are sorted as Ascension Legacy, The. This is common practice since so many titles start with "The".

You can do the same thing with the Author(s) field just below the Title field. Put one or more authors' names that are to be associated with the creation of the book and then click the Arrow icon to let calibre sort the names, usually Last Name, First Name. If the target author(s) already has/have a book in your calibre bookshelf, their names should be in the dropdown box allowing you to select the names rather than type them.

If the book is part of a series, set the series name in the Series field. If this is the first book in that series in your bookshelf, you'll want to just type that series name in that field. But if this is a subsequent entry in a series that already exists in your bookshelf, the series name will be available to select in the dropdown box.

The Number field is for you publication version. If you've previously released this book, say through a vanity publisher or have edited it since initial publication, you should increase this number to equal the number of times the book has been released. For example, The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger was first published by Newman Springs Publishing. Their version of that book is #1 since it was the first release. But now that I've re-released the book under my own name and NSP is no longer connected to that book, the new release is considered #2 since that is the 2nd time the book has been published.

If you have your cover art image ready, click the Browse button to navigate to your art file and select it to set it as this book's cover. The application supports a wide range of image file formats beyond the typical .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .bmp., and .png formats. If you don't have a cover file handy, you can always click the "Generate cover" button to create a very basic cover, but I wouldn't recommend it. The generated covers are very limited in their design options and might only really be suitable for business applications. While I appreciate the team at calibre for giving us this option, it is not one I would use with my fantasy genre books.

Below that is where you can add publishing details. Some of the details you may have and some you may not. These fields are largely optional but the more you can fill in the better off you'll be.

Rating, this is a rating system for the book with 1 to 5 stars available. If I'm an author prepping my book for retail there is no way I would set this to anything less than 5 stars but I'm not sure the impact this field has any final output.

Tags, this is where you can add keyword tags to your book's metadata that can be useful for online listings. Think of these as hashtags for your book for those who hashtag on social media. For web designers, these are like SEO keywords in your HTML markup.

Ids, this is where you would put your ISBN value(s) if you have it/them. Typically, printed books have a different ISBN than eBooks but oftentimes you will find both ISBNs listed in either format.

Date and Published are largely the same thing to me and I'm not 100% sure the difference in the application. Published is clearly the date the book was published. Maybe Date was intended to be the date the file was generated? Honestly, I'm not sure so I just set them both to the same date.

Publisher, is where the eBook's publisher's name goes. If you go through a vanity publisher like NSP, their name would appear here. If you publish on your own, you could either put your own name there or I've seen others do "Independently Published" or "Independent Publisher".

Languages, this is basically, as the label suggests, where you get to set all of the different languages your book is available in. Just know that you will need different input and outputs for each language you want offered. Calibre does not translate your book from one language to another based on this field.

When you're done, click the OK button in the lower right side of the edit window to save your changes and return to the main calibre screen.

At this point, you might be thinking that your book is ready for conversion. And it might be. But I always double check by clicking the "Edit book" icon from the main ribbon or by right-clicking on the title in the bookshelf.

This button will open your book in a new window that lets you see (and edit) the book's raw content.

In here, most chapters or sections are broken down into different html pages. Double clicking on a .html file in the left will expose the raw html content in the middle with a live preview on the right.

Clicking a line of text in the preview window will cause the cursor in the main window to jump to that line of html and highlight it for your convenience. In the main window, you can edit the text, adjust the html code to format the content to your liking, copy/paste to move content around, and do pretty much whatever you could do in an editing program like MS Word. Having some HTML coding knowledge helps to understand what all of the tags mean and how the impact the output but the built-in editing tools at the top should look very familiar to your standard word processing applications. As you make changes, the live preview to the right will update automatically so if you see something you don't like you can fix it.

For me, I use this editing feature to address my pronunciation guides.When my books go to print physical copies, some pages have a footer on them that contain the pronunciation for names like Bjiki or U'gik, names that might be confusing for new readers. But in eBooks, you can't have footers so I have to move those pronunciation keys to be more accessible in this format. By default, they get moved to the end of each chapter but reader feedback is that the end of the chapter is not the best place for that.

When you're done with any changes you may want, click the traditional save icon at the top to save your changes to your bookshelf before clicking the X in the top right corner to close the edit window.

At this point, you might want to double click the title in the bookshelf to open the reader window to see the culmination of your efforts put together. This is a good chance to make sure everything looks good before moving to the final step, producing your eBook output file(s).

To convert your title to one or more popular eBook formats with calibre is really just a click of a button.

Start by making sure the title you want to convert is selected in your bookshelf. Then, click the "Convert books" icon from the ribbon or from the context menu that appears when you right-click on the title in the bookshelf.

This will open the conversion window for the title selected in the bookshelf.

You'll find on the left side a variety of parameters that you can adjust. These settings will be applied to the converted output but default to your base calibre settings and any values already specified in the source title calibre metadata that we edited earlier. I don't usually mess with a lot of these settings at this stage in the process but don't be afraid to look them and maybe experiement with them. Just because some settings may not make sense to my books, they may be useful to yours.

But real key to this window is in the upper right side, the "Output format" field. This is where you select from the dropdown list the target format you want your eBook to be converted to. Popular formats are .epub, .pdf, .azw3 (amazon), and .mobi but there are several others calibre is capable of creating. Just pick the format you want in the dropdown box and click the OK button at the bottom to begin converting your original title into an eBook of the chosen format.

To create additional formats, because sometimes you might need different formats for different distribution channels, just repeat those steps but choose the new output format. Calibre does not limit how many different formats you can convert a title to. You can create as many different output formats for a title as you like. I generally create pdf, azw3, mobi, and epub. Ingram Spark can do eBook distribution for you and they accept eBooks as pdf during the submission phase. My page, where I let readers download my books for free, requires me to upload the various formats for readers to pick from so I'm compelled to use those other formats for that purpose.

And that's all there is to it. If you start with a good input file, the rest falls into place easily and with just a few simple button clicks. Converting a manuscript to an eBook doesn't have to be expensive or hard and with calibre it is free and easy.

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