Digital Libraries

Calibre is the best management software for your e-book library.

One of the pleasures of retirement consists in finally having the time for unrestrained reading. I’ve never been one for television, and apart from the occasional nightly series binge and some documentaries I mostly stay away from videos.

On the other hand, I’ve used the opportunity of having to dismantle my university office where I kept most of my physical books to finally migrate my library from paper to digital.

Now I live and work with a bipartite repository. Most of the academic books I’ve kept are PDF files, and I use the almighty reference management software Zotero for keeping track of books, papers and other media relating to academic work.

For other nonfiction and for the fictional literature I prefer the more flexible EPUB format which allows me to configure my own page layout, typography and font size. I manage this part of my library in Kovid Goyal’s powerful software Calibre, which serves for quality and metadata maintenance and as central hub for the different portable gadgets and apps I use for reading: On my Android phone it’s Moon+ Reader, on the iPad MapleRead. Both apps are feature-rich and well-maintained and provide a very pleasant reading experience.

But the best of all is my Pocketbook Inkpad 4, a sizable eInk device with sufficient memory, a fantastic screen and even speakers if I want to listen to audiobooks. Pocketbook’s native software is not so great, so I’ve installed the very good free Koreader app which allows for various additional functions and configurations.

Over the years, my EPUB library has grown to more than 2000 titles, probably much more than I’d be able to read for the rest of my life. But like with a physical library I love to move around surrounded by books. It’s like living in a big, cultivated city with in-built time travel, being able to consult the most interesting people of all times whenever you feel like it.

And if anybody tells you that this is not possible with only ‘virtual’ books, don’t believe them. I don’t miss the pompous and clumsy wall decoration. To the contrary, I’m greatly looking forward to a near future when artificial intelligence will allow me to semantically search within my library, connect the dots and even interact with my books as through a comprehensively read, benevolent librarian.

So I admit that, notwithstanding my limited lifespan, I’m adding to my library on a nearly daily basis, making use of additions to the public domain at Delphi Classics, MobileRead or Standard E-Books, and regularly scanning the big E-Book-Stores for special offers.