Calibre, With Coverflow?

July 3, 2010

Kindle, Technology

Over the past year, I have slowly (but inexorably) become more and more excited by e-books.  I think the real turning point came when my wife gave me a Kindle for Christmas (and my mother-in-law gave me a generous gift certificate at Amazon).  This post won’t be about e-books, e-book formats or even portable readers, per se.  Instead, I want to focus on a PC-based management tool: Calibre.

The Calibre team bill their product as a complete e-book manager.  But it is far more than that.  For me, it is the Swiss Army knife for digital books.  I started using this tool when I needed to convert some books from one format into another.  Specifically, I wanted to convert a bunch of Mobipocket books (obtained from the Internet) into EPUB format.  While I like Mobi, I am beginning to think that EPUB will drive the market a little faster (due to Apple’s adoption of EPUB).  [Note: For a complete comparison of digital book formats, take a look at the Wikipedia entry here.]  So I’ve used Calibre for certain specific needs.  But that may be about to change.

I discovered a curious new feature of Calibre when I loaded the latest version (v0.7.7).  Specifically, Calibre provides a visual browser experience that is decidedly familiar: it looks just like CoverFlow.  [Note: This feature actually appeared in Calibre with v0.5.1]  Of course, this kind of browsing paradigm is not just limited to iTunes.  It has shown up in other music products – most notably, it can be found in the Songbird player.

But is this a copyright or DMCA infringement?  I have no idea.  [Note: There is an excellent discussion on this subject here.]  But it is a welcome addition to my toolbox for digital books.  Does it provide a feature that I really need?  Not really.  But it is so cool to see it.  And it may very well herald an increasing need for metadata management tools.

I look forward to even more metadata editors for my e-book collection.  And I really welcome a universally adopted e-book stadard.  For music, the MP3 ID3 tag system was the least common denominator.  So who will step up and create the cool product that will necessitate the standardization of metadata for e-books?  Some people are betting that it will be Apple.  But I think that it just may be Kovid Goyal (the author of Calibre).

So here is my final question: which e-book vendors is Monsieur Goyal currently talking to?  For my money, I would love to see someone incorporate Monsieur Goyal’s designs into a more broadly accepted reader.  For me, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new Kindle for PC incorporates these kinds of features.




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