Editor’s note: While this post was written based on H&H blogger Laurie Gold’s personal experience with a Kindle, readers using other types of e-readers, including the Nook, should be able to use the tips below to set up a similar system.
As a cheerleader for digital reading for almost a decade—my first ebook reader, the E-Bookwise, was not even wireless!—I’ve collected, nay, curated, some 2,000 ebooks. Finding them once I moved them over to the original Kindle 1 was not particularly easy in that there were precisely two sort options: alpha by author or alpha by title. Try looking for Lady’s Choice by Jayne Ann Krentz with both author and title midway through 1,200 titles. To do it, I had to page down about 60 times because using the search function on my near-to-capacity packed device took forever or caused the screen to freeze, requiring a reboot by removing the back cover and sticking a paperclip into a tiny hole. Also, as a result of a little something called “metadata,” changing the title to reflect a book as part of a series, and which book within that series, was not possible when trying to maintain Kindle format books. Every time I changed a file name on my computer and re-uploaded it to my Kindle, it showed up as it had originally.
Kindle II came and went, but I was still satisfied with my first generation kindle, even though it looked more and more like a flimsy toy in comparison. And then...and then...I filled to capacity my Kindle 1 at roughly the same time as the screen went kerflewy. Note to everyone using an e-ink device: Never put a great deal of pressure on the screen or the e-ink will leave a permanent impression on the screen, rendering it unreadable forever more. When not in use, keep in a cover and always on the top of whatever stack you set it upon. And when you take your child on her college interviews, make sure it’s not crushed by your laptop in your briefcase, even if it’s in a case.
And so...the Kindle III. A device which has so much storage (it holds 3,500 books) that even a devoted bibliophile will probably never fill it up. A device so amazing that you are able to sort it by “most recently first,” alpha by “author,” alpha by “title,” and—holy of holies—by “collection.”
Before getting into the collections, a tiny sidebar, a trick, a hint, a cheat, that I discovered one day by googling: If you want to go straight to Gail Carriger using your Kindle III, make sure you sort by author, then type “c” and press the controller button (it’s the square one). You will have jumped to the letter C. As Carriger is likely near the top of your Author C authors, it will be easy for you to dive into Timeless. If you want to find your Meredith Duran books, I suggest typing “e” rather than “d.” Typing in “d” will require you to go to move past all those Lauren Dane, Theresa Dare, and MaryJanice Davidson titles to get to Meredith Duran. Typing in “e” will bring you to Cynthia Eden, and right atop her titles will likely be Duran’s.
But, let’s go back to collections, and what I consider a necessity to any Kindle III user: the free software program Calibre, which allows you to manipulate that metadata I mentioned earlier so that you can get your library just how you want it. Here’s how I set up mine...
At my Goodreads page, you’ll notice that I have more than fifty bookshelves—AKA collections—for my books, ranging from “absurdist fiction” to “fantasy erotic romance” (not to be confused with “urban fantasy erotic romance”) to “cannot classify.” Those are the same collections I created for my Kindle, along with collections for “read,” “tbr,” “netgalley books” “dnf,” and “grade b+,” “grade b,” etc. Because, you see, you may put any book in as many collections as you want. If I need to find a book I’m reviewing that was provided via netgalley and is absurdist fiction (as was Tom Holt’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages), I could search either collection. If I am in a period where I need to re-read a historical Julie Garwood (and how many of us have been there?), I can open up either my Desert Isle Keeper or Medieval Romance collection.
I advise any reader to become their own librarian when using their Kindle. Think about how you store books in your own library, or how you would like them to be stored, and take advantage of the collections feature. It’s incredibly easy to take an unorganized Kindle and organize it as, after having created a collection, you open it up, scroll through your books, and mark off the titles that fit in that collection.
Of course, if you read genre fiction, you’ll also want an easy way to access all the titles in, say, Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series, and if you’re a backlist reader, you’ll want an easy way to find book three in that series. Here is how you do it:
Download Calibre to your pc or mac. Plug your Kindle into your computer via the USB cord that came with your device. You will see it shows up as a drive unto itself, perhaps as Drive D. Create a “Kindle” file on your computer, then open the Kindle file from drive D and copy all five files, pasting them into the Kindle file you just created on your computer. At this point, disconnect your Kindle from your computer. Do not attempt to make any changes while the actual Kindle is plugged into your computer. It’ll confuse the hell out of you.
Always work from an updated Kindle file on your computer. That’s just a given. The first time you use Calibre you will need to import your files into a new Calibre library. You do this by pressing the library button, the one that looks like a shelf of books in the toolbar of this screenshot. This points Calibre to your computer’s Kindle file, and those files will then magically appear on your Calibre screen. Once you’ve associated that file location with Calibre, you won’t need to do it again unless you move to another computer. If you need to move, follow the same process. But remember, every time you plan to update books using Calibre, first plug in your Kindle. Then download your files to your computer using the same folder you originally created, and then disconnect the device.
Okay, so now we’re ready to sort by author, and go to all of Briggs’ books. Use Fantastic Fiction, the author’s website, or some other way to determine the order of titles in the series, then click Calibre’s metadata button—it’s that round blue “i” second on the toolbar—choose “edit metadata individually,” and replace “Moon Called” with “Mercy Thompson 1 - Moon Called,” “Blood Bound’ with “Mercy Thompson 2 - Blood Bound,” etc.
After you’ve organized the series in Calibre, plug your Kindle back into your computer, then upload the Mercy Thompson books back onto it. Disconnect your Kindle from Calibre, and delete the originals from your Kindle, If the titles were never put into a collection, now’s the time to stick them into the “urban fantasy” collection. If the originals were already organized, the collection information from the original books should transfer over to the newly uploaded versions. Go ahead and check, it’s kinda magical.
What you’ve accomplished as a result is an easy way to organize the series. When you are ready to access the series on your Kindle, you can either use the title sort, then type in “M” for “Mercy Thompson” or go into the “urban fantasy” collection, sort it within the collection by title, and in either instance, the entire series will appear, in order of “Mercy Thompson 1,” “Mercy Thompson 2,” etc. The combination of Calibre and Kindle collections gives you a variety of options you would not otherwise have.
Of course, this is how I organized my library, and my logic might not be yours. It’s just that, for me, organizing by series is what I need since so many of my books are parts of series. If you read a lot of romance, urban fantasy, fantasy, or mystery novels, you probably do as well. Just think of how much easier it’ll be to find the eight Bridgerton books and/or six epilogues in order, or all those In Death novels and short stories (which I designate as .5 in-between full length books—ie, “In Death 7- Holiday in Death,” “In Death 7.5 - Midnight in Death,” “In Death 8 - Conspiracy in Death.”). The longer the series, the more helpful this process.
If your digital library is enormous, do what I did and approach it as a long-term project. Tackle all authors with the last name “B” or perhaps all “Mary Balogh” books in a night. That’s what I did while watching TV in the evening with my husband over a period of weeks. Though it took some time, it was well worth it. Obviously it’ll go more quickly if you are new to digital reading and don’t have a couple of thousand books to work on, but even if you have a large library, it’s a simple enough process that you can easily watch the latest episode of Mad Men while organizing a large group of books.
You may also use Calibre’s metadata function to fix errant author names, and if you have multiple titles by any author, you can use the “bulk convert” function. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may have a book (let’s use Mary Balogh again) that alpha by author sorts as M rather than B. Go into the metadata function and look for “authors” and “author sort.” Make sure both are entered as “Balogh, Mary,” then upload to your Kindle.
I have never played around with a Kindle Fire, so I don’t know if what goes for a Kindle III also goes for a Kindle Fire. If it’s not exactly the same, I’m guessing it’s close. If not, please share your comments and help your fellow readers. Oh, hell...however you organize books on your Kindle, share your method with us.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.