If you're anything like me, you probably have some kind of e-book library already, so you'll want to start off by importing what you've got. Because Calibre's library import feature does some destructive rewriting, it's worth creating a backup copy of your library, just in case.
After importing, you're going to have books in your list—maybe a lot of books. And, because most e-book metadata tends to be poor, the books in your list are probably haphazard and not well organized.
Organizing them can be a laborious process, but there are a few ways to make the job less irritating—bulk-editing the metadata is chief among them, as mentioned earlier. For example, if you had 20 titles by the same author, you could select all of them, right-click on one of them, and select Bulk Edit Metadata from the pop-up menu. In the resulting screen, you can set the author, genre tags, publisher tag and most (but not all) other data fields to help with your sort. You also can check a little box that says Swap Author and Title fields. This one is particularly useful, as many poorly tagged e-books are tagged with these fields the wrong way around.
Once the organization is done to your satisfaction, you're good to go.
As shining as the program is in most respects, it comes up short in a couple areas.
The first, and most annoying, is one that is only partly the responsibility of the development team. The USB stack under the most recent versions of the Linux kernel has been occasionally glitchy. As a result, several recent distributions, including one of the ones I run, have had trouble syncing to external devices. The device would show up as a mass storage device, but attempting to access the device's internal database resulted in crashes, nasty core dumps, segfaults and the occasional exploding computer.
In the most recent kernel versions, this seems no longer to be a problem, but if you encounter it and can't upgrade your kernel or distro, you can usually fall back to mass storage mode and hand-sync your books through the Save To Disk button.
My other gripe is that there's only one comment field. The ability to deeply annotate books or keep reviews on books simply isn't there. This will cramp the style of research junkies and avid bookworms alike. Hopefully, this will be remedied in future versions (it's not like there is any shortage of potential metadata fields).
Calibre is the best-of-breed solution currently on offer for any platform, and it is well worth the download if you've got an e-book collection numbering more than a dozen, or if you've been trying to figure out some way to manage things on your Sony, Nook or Kindle without having to boot the Windows image. Enjoy!
Dan Sawyer is the founder of ArtisticWhispers Productions (www.artisticwhispers.com), a small audio/video studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been an enthusiastic advocate for free and open-source software since the late 1990s. He currently is podcasting his science-fiction thriller Antithesis and his short story anthology Sculpting God. He also hosts “The Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour”, a cultural commentary podcast. Author contact information is available at www.jdsawyer.net.