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Calibre Revisited

In a previous ProfHacker post, Amy introduced Calibre, a free and open-source program, which allows users to manage their e-book libraries.  As Amy pointed out, Calibre allows you to convert content from various internet sources such as Project Gutenberg into the appropriate format for your e-reader, whether it is a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony, or something else.

One of my favorite features of Calibre its ability to download content from various news sources and RSS feeds.  Basically, this program not only allows you to convert an e-book formatted for one proprietary device to another, but it will also grab material from an incredible number of web-based news sources and download it to your e-reader free of charge.  For example, you might opt to download the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, The New Yorker, The Huffington Post, The Onion, or even the Yakima Herald-Republic.  There are more than 300 options to choose from in English, and these are complimented by additional offering in languages other than English including Chinese, Japanese, Czech, German, French and many others (and additional sources in English from countries outside of the United States).

This feature can be terrific if you have a daily commute to work but don’t want to have to manage a newspaper, or if you’d like to load up your e-reader with current news to read on an airplane.  Another benefit of the news feature is that users can schedule a regular download of their favorite feeds.  There is just one catch: you need to keep the program running for the schedule feature to work.  If you close Calibre, the scheduling feature is de-activated.  Assuming that you keep the program open on your computer, however, you could schedule caliber to download a daily edition of the Washington Post to your computer.

When Calibre has fetched your favorite news, all you need to do is connect your e-reader to your computer.  The program detects the e-reader and automatically downloads new content to the device.

Once the news content is on your e-reader, it will show up in the table of contents along with all of your other content.  Selecting the New York Review of Books will bring up the first article in the publication, but readers also have the option of selecting the table of contents for the feed and then choosing the articles that interest them.

Finally, if there is a news source that you would like to have included, there are easy instructions on how to create a “recipe” for adding it to the Calibre repertoire as long as the source has an RSS feed.  In fact, I was able to create a custom recipe for ProfHacker in just a few minutes.

For the more tech-savvy among us, the user guide also includes more complicated instructions for creating more sophisticated recipes that can customize the feeds in different ways.  Be warned, however, that these instructions involve tapping into the recipe framework and getting your hands dirty with coding (Calibre recipes use Python).

In short, if you have an e-reader (or a SmartPhone with an e-reader app) and haven’t tried Calibre, it’s worth checking out.

[Creative-Commons licensed image from Flickr user cdsessums].

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