Jul 13 2016 2:00pm

How to Organize Your Kindle: Collections, The Cloud, and GoodReads are Your Friend


Source: A. Aleksandravicius/Shuterstock

Do you make mental listicles for your books? Do you organize or categorize them physically, digitally, or at a social media site for readers? I do all of the above; as a lifelong bibliophile, frustrated librarian, and dedicated e-book reader for more than a dozen years, it’s pretty much a necessity. But what is the “best” way to organize them?

In part, the answer depends on how you use your Kindle, and how many e-books you own. If you are a casual Kindle user and read only on one device, create Kindle Collections to your heart’s content, then enjoy your e-books. Know that if you are “Home,” you can sort by the most recent additions to your device, alpha by author or title, or via Collection; sort one way today and another way tomorrow.

For those of you who are casual Kindle users but read across devices (say you use a Kindle and the Kindle app on your iPhone), opt for Kindle Cloud Collections, which allow you to access your Collections from the Cloud rather than bogging down your device with anything but e-books.

This is where it gets tricky. What if you love the notion of storing an entire library in a small physical footprint? What if you need more information than a book’s name and author? Keeping your Kindle nimble while using more of its storage is not as easy as it sounds because for all that it offers, an e-reader is not a supercomputer. Lots and lots of Collections, which I once disastrously advocated (sorry), really only works in theory. In reality it’s a pain in the ass. Better to KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) on the device, and supplement elsewhere. It’s like the “natural look,” which we all know requires a hell of a lot more than rolling out of bed and brushing our teeth. Even “bed-head” hair takes time!

If you want to fill up your Kindle with e-books, you need to be smart about organizing them. What if many of the books you read/have read are part of numbered series? Don’t you want to include that information… even if Amazon doesn’t? Here’s how you can: Use a USB to download the contents of your Kindle to your computer. Create a temporary directory to make a copy. Use Calibre(a freeware e-book management program) to jerry-rig your e-books for series and number placement, then re-upload them to your Kindle.

Source: HeroesandHeartbreakers on Instagram

Here’s the problem: How to get that updated information (contained in an e-book’s metadata) back onto your Kindle in such a way that it becomes part of your Kindle Cloud? For the life of me, I can’t tell you how. USB-uploaded e-books do not become part of your Cloud, and transferring e-books using the “SendKindletoMac” (or “SendKindletoPC”) app does not transfer the metadata.

So it’s a trade-off. Upload via USB and your e-book/metadata remains local to your Kindle or upload via app/email and lose the metadata, in which case, why bother? I chose the USB option because so much of what I read requires reading in order. I need to see “Guild Hunter 3 - Archangel’s Consort,Guild Hunter 3.5 - Angel’s Wolf and Guild Hunter 4 - Archangel's Blade” on my Kindle because just the titles “Archangel’s ConsortAngel’s Wolf and Archangel’s Blade” don’t cut it. After I make my changes, I use Calibre’s Virtual Library System to create mini-libraries on the spot before re-uploading my e-books (because, yeah, I have more than one Kindle).

Kindle Collection Suggestions

In an attempt to organize my e-books in a way that makes the most sense for me, I created Collections (broken out over multiple devices) that remind me of the bookstore where I once worked. Using book type, genre and subgenre, like you see below, is the most logical solution for me, but it isn’t the only solution:

  • (Non-Fict) Bio/Memoir/Travelogue
  • (Non-Fict) Cooking/Foodie
  • (Non-Fict) Hist/Politics
  • (Non-Fict) Cult/Pop Cult
  • (Fict) Chick-Lit/Women’s
  • (Fict) Absurd/Alt Hist
  • (Fict) Hist
  • (Fict) Cont
  • (Fict) Lit
  • (Fict) Myst/Susp
  • (Fict) SF—Includes Steampunk
  • (Fict) Fant—includes Urb Fant
  • (Fict) YA
  • (Rom) Hist
  • (Rom) Trad Reg
  • (Rom) Cat
  • (Rom) Cont
  • (Rom) Susp
  • (Rom) SFF
  • (Rom)Para
  • (Rom) Erot-Cont
  • (Rom) Erot-Para
  • (Rom) Erot-SFF

Using Kindle and Goodreads

Source: Gil C/

The average reader can organize their e-books through Kindle Collections/Kindle Cloud Collections by supplementing with Goodreads on Kindle, which allows you to rate e-books and see those already rated. That said, it cannot sort them, although I wish it would.

Goodreads on Kindle offers a limited experience of Goodreads, so consider supplementing it with Goodreads (the app or .com) or another book-related social media site. You could use a spreadsheet or a hand-written journal (and I have friends who do) for record-keeping, but if you maintain your records in the Cloud, they are easier to access. Regardless of where or how you keep your records—and most dedicated readers I know keep them—you may want more organization than Kindle offers.

One thing I do like about Goodreads on Kindle is that it will track your TBR’s and already-reads, which eliminates the need for a Collection of either on your Kindle. And because Amazon will not sell you the same e-book twice, is there truly a need for a DNF Collection? I say no; rate the book on Goodreads, then delete it from your device. I’m all for a fully-loaded Kindle, but if I trade DNF’s to the UBS, why should I hang onto a digital version of a book I couldn’t finish?

What about Collections for grades A-F or ratings 1-5? That’s another five Collections, which may suit you, but consider curating your Kindle. Because deleting an e-book from a Kindle (after grading it on Goodreads, natch) doesn’t remove it from the Kindle Cloud (or Calibre, a laptop or zip drive, for that matter), I  remove e-books I didn’t like from my Kindle… unless they are part of a series. How could I possibly delete the “C”-graded Kindred in Death from my Kindle when the other 40 books in Robb’s series remain?

As a result, I know that of my already-read e-books, only those I liked/loved are on my Kindle. I could have Collections for Grade A’s and Grade B’s, but instead, I have a Favorites Collection. If an already-read book is not a Favorite, it’s clearly a “like” rather than a “love.” Luckily, though, I’m able to keep it handy because Kindle affords me the space to do so. Yay!

Have Fun with the Collections—Make Them Fit How You Work as a Reader


Creating Kindle Collections based on how my bookstore shelved them may work for me, but there are other ways to organize. Just remember: Keep the total number of Collections manageable, and make sure you have a reasonable number of e-books in any one Collection. If you can’t justify a Collection, don’t create it.

Think about the listicles you’d find most useful in describing your e-book library, the type of heroes and heroines who stand out, emotions evoked or particular times and places.

  • Create a Kleenex Collection if you have a need for cathartic, Me Before You kinds of books;
  • If you enjoy old-school category romances, set up a Harlequin Presents Collection;
  • Consider a Love and Laughter Collection if you adore romances that tickle your funny bone;
  • If you named your first girl Scarlett or love Eve Dallas, Rachel Morgan, Mercy Thompson, or Katniss Everdeen, why not a Kick-Ass Bitch Collection?
  • Create a Hans Solo Collection if you revel in “I love you.” “I know” kinds of heroes;
  • If you enjoy reading about warriors—whether medieval, alien, fantasy, Special-Ops, or futuristic—wielding [metaphorical] weapons, set up a Live and Die by the Sword Collection;
  • Consider a Seven Seas Collection if you collected every single Aubrey/Maturin book or love Viking tales or a good swashbuckler;
  • If you devour romances featuring relatives, friends who went to Eton, or comrades from the Napoleonic Wars, why not go for a Dukes and Earls Collection?
  • Set up a Pioneer Spirit Collection if you love Westerns or other frontier stories;
  • If you gravitate toward paranormal romance and/or urban fantasy fiction, consider an Angels and Demons and Nephilim Collection;
  • Consider Love Bites or Monsters and Mages if you long to be seduced by shapeshifters, vampires, and witches;
  • If you love books like Lamb, Still Life with Woodpecker, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, why not a That’s Absurd Collection?
  • Create Who’s on Top, Him and Him and/or Three’s Not Company Collections if your choice in erotic romance is down-to-Earth;
  • If your tastes in the erotic are more exotic, consider Sexy Aliens, Off-World Erotica, and/or Sex in Magical Realms Collections.

I suggest that you stick to just one approach rather than mixing and matching, and supplement on your favorite book-related social media app/site. Feel free to apply as many Collections as you would like to any particular e-book, but you cannot sort multiples (something else I wish Amazon would get to work on), and the more Collections you create, the more headaches you may encounter as your library grows.

Luckily, being minimalistic on Kindle does not require that you follow the KISS principle on Goodreads. Set up shelves for each historical period, from Bronze Age to WWII. Separate spies from warriors and heroines who vamp from contrary chicks like Daria.

Feel free to separate out werewolves from werebears and werecats, use one shelf for time-traveling forward and another for time-traveling backward. You may not as yet be able to access this level of detail using Goodreads on Kindle, but Goodreads is accessible whenever you are online. The app is sufficient, but because I never saw a hair I didn’t want to split, I like the .com even from my iPhone, because it allows me to see and do more.

Remember K.I.S.S. (Unless You Just Really Can’t)

One last word of advice: In our technology-driven world, Keeping It Simple, Stupid, may be a better strategy in general than splitting hairs, and those of us who cannot help ourselves might do better by creating a virtual Meetup to commiserate and get over our organizational hoarding. From tiny houses to spare, modern architecture to the onesies you see everyone wear in futuristic film and television, minimalism is winning the day.

I look forward to hearing your digital library organizing techniques. Are you a frustrated librarian? Do you use multiple devices, are you a multitasker, do you prefer a dedicated e-reader? Are you satisfied with Amazon’s strategies to stay organized, and if not, what else would you have them do?

Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes  
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore  
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins  
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams  






Laurie Gold has been blabbing online about romance novels for years.  When she’s not reading for three different book clubs, she takes extensive “walkabouts” in Portland, her new hometown. She welcomes visitors to her blogand to follow her on Twitteror on Pinterest.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Scarlettleigh
You know I want to do this --- I do, but it sounds so time intensive.

There will be times when I'm writing a blog, and think oh, what books have heroines that fell in love young then broke up and then got back together with their first love. Then I have to look at the titles of my books and try to remember.

I don't want to have numerous place to classify books, and doing something on Kindle and Goodread is too much. . .

I stand in awe how organized you are!
Laurie Gold
2. LaurieGold
I am organized only in certain areas; in others I am a total mess. It's really not that hard to do this, but then, I say that as an always-have-been-book-obsessed person. Ask my daughter. When she was growing up, her punishments involved alphabetizing my books. ;)
Susan White
3. whiskeywhite
Thanks for this, Laurie. Very helpful, but I feel like I got placed into the "Advanced" class when I need "Pre-beginners". I'm worse than @Scarlettleigh -- I not only can't remember what happens in the books, often enough I can't remember if I've read them at all!

So I set up a "Read" collection. OK, it's a start, but what I really need is a "Unread" collection where the books automatically move to "Read" when I'm finished. And for the few books where I have directed "Remove from this device", I'd like the picture to disappear from the "Library" page, but it doesn't.

See what I mean about Beginners? Has somebody written "Kindle for Dummies"?
4. BenidormBabe
I would love to but really couldn't be bothered! I do however have a spreadsheet file with books listed. Title, author, brief description
5. Scarlettleigh
@BenidormBabe -- I do have a spreadsheet, and I even color coordinate! Books for my women's fiction blog; books for First Looks; with places for release dates and publishers -- but that is more have to - than just doing it to be organized.

My life would be so much easier if I classified books like Laurie does. . .

So, maybe I'll will start small and do Goodreads -- it seems easier to put labels on the stories. Maybe. . .
Laurie Gold
6. LaurieGold
There are Kindle for Dummies type books out there; whichever is the yellow "brand" has them, at the very least.

I know a lot of people find this way too intense and intricate; it's really only for those who keep a lot of books on their Kindle and either don't have a system already, like a spreadsheet (which I used to have, but switched to Goodreads less for the social media aspect of it than so I would have access to it if I were at some bookstore in Vermont or something) or a journal. That said, deciding on a simple set of Collections may help you; you just don't need to go all OCD about it like I do.
Lisa Loves Literature
7. Lisa Loves Literature
I really want to do something like this, I have been downloading so many free Kindle books lately. But I don't have the time. I need to organize them somehow though. I am going to bookmark this post so I can refer back to it! Great post!
Lisa Loves Literature
8. JEMSayWhat
Can someone please do this for Nook? I am having a hard time doing this. It drives me nuts!
Anastasia Burina
9. Radda
You know, there are many people who use other e-reading devices and apps that are not Kindle ;)

I used to try to organize my books but quickly realized that I just do digital equivalent of shoving them in drawers in the back of a closet, never to be opened again. Now I just keep them in a couple of folders and do some labeling on Goodreads. I'm picky about books, so it's not an endless hoard anyway.
Lisa Loves Literature
10. Christy in NC
Really, what is needed is for Kindle's software to make it easier to organize books. I would LOVE to be able to sort by read/unread. I have tons of cheap/free books on my Kindle and I can't remember which I've read, which I've tried and abandoned and which I haven't started yet.
Lisa Loves Literature
11. CaroleTO
I read books from Kindle but also other epubs on my Kobo Arc7, so I convert all my Kindle Books to Epubs and organize those across my various computers and ereaders. The only organization system I use and highly recommend is the Calibre ebook library system - I can set whichever columns I want, eg., Series names and Volume #s, #Stars, Heat Rating, a notation whether I have read something or if I have Toasted an Ebook, comments, etc. I organize by topic or shelf similar to your list. This system is great to do searches, particularly when I am offered a free book and I can then do a quick check in my Calibre Library to see if I already own it, and get a feel for whether I have read an author before and want to buy additional books by them. Between my Calibre Library (10,000 books) and my Goodreads list, I feel less overwhelmed by the size of my ebook library and can do my searches quickly and easily.
Lisa Loves Literature
12. bsalf5
I have a nook that is so full of books and books and books it is a mess to find them on there, could someone please do this same thing for a Nook for me???
Lisa Loves Literature
13. JEMSayWhat
Ideal for me:
If when I finish an ebook on my Nook, I could bring up a screen where I can mark the book as read and mark it to move to my archive the next time I turn on the WiFi. What is so hard about that? Of course I would like to organize books by genre, etc. too, but this simple addition would be an enourmous start.
Heather Fowler
14. hafowler
Oh, this sounds so good in theory! I have e-books from a dozen sources (I've been reading and writing int he digital medium since before there was an Amazon!). Using Calibre has even gotten to be painful, because the metadata from so many non-Kindle books comes out wrong.

Sometimes I miss book-books. Okay, a lot of times I miss book-books.
Karin Anderson
15. AquarianDancer
One thing I'd really like is the ability to edit the info for the Documents. I send things to my kindle all the time and they come in with my email as the author. I know you can edit these things before sending it to the Cloud, but if I could just edit them IN the cloud it would be so much easier!
Lisa Loves Literature
16. Jeanie Jackson
I like Calibre but when you put the books back into the Kindle do they go to the main collection or do they go in as sidecars? I am using the 7" Fire so I don't have much memory.
Lisa Loves Literature
17. cherish
Calibre is my solution. My salvation.
I have over 30,000 ebooks from multiple sources (yeah, I'm a librarian who can no longer hold a book)...and in the digital world, novellas and short stories often are published in anthologies and separately as well, so I can enter records for each title within each anthology or book bundle/set to avoid duplicates.
Hit a button, and Calibre will pull metadata for a title from Amazon, Google etc for you to choose from, and then you can edit all of the metadata for the book so that plot summaries, covers, series, ratings, publisher etc. are correct and useful. I add tags to classify each title as I buy it. I tag with genre and descriptors, but also with source/software, ie. drm titles (epub or pdf), kindle, non-drm epubs, etc., and to highlight incomplete metadata where I still need to locate summaries or enter the detail records in a set of books. Click on a tag and all of the books with that tag are displayed, or put together an advanced search for several tags or fields at once (eg. books with tags: romance, western, historical, or paranormal, humorous, shifter ). Once I've read a book, I assign a rating and tag it as read. I sometimes add notes to the description/summary too, about reissues, alternate titles, related books that aren't in the series, etc.

Basically, Calibre is a database that you can search, display and manipulate in a ton of ways. I'm no technowizard and want a minimum of fuss, but a few minutes importing a title to Calibre and fixing up the metadata plus adding a couple of tags (trust me, this is easy or I couldn't do it) is worth it later on when I need to find something to read or check to see if I have a title.
It's quality software that is regularly improved, has a good manual plus tons of forums and support out there, and it's free. Don't know what I would do without it.
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