How to use Calibre to access your ebook collection online

Calibre is one of the most powerful ebook managers available. But did you know that Calibre has a built in server that allows you to access your library from a web browser? In this how-to, Jack Wallen shows you how to set up Calibre to serve up your book library.

I have been in near-saturation mode with ebooks lately, due to the publishing of my own works of fiction (find them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords). For many indie writers/publishers and readers of ebooks the challenge of managing a vast collection of works can be a bit overwhelming (thanks to the ereaders' insufficient built-in book management tools). Thankfully there are tools available for the PC to help you manage those collections.

Naturally Linux is not left out of this mix. The Calibre ebook manager is one of the best tools of the trade I have found for managing ebooks. And for administrators looking for ways to convert and add books, PDFs, howtos, etc. to an ereader for portable reading, Calibre is exactly the tool you need. Let's take a look at this tool and how you can benefit from using it.


Calibre offers the following features:

  • Library Management
  • E-book conversion
  • Syncing to e-book reader devices
  • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
  • Comprehensive e-book viewer
  • Content server for online access to your book collection
  • Cross platform (Available for Linux, Windows, and Mac)

As you can see, Calibre will be a much more usable tool than what your ereader came with. Of the features above, the only one that might give you a bit of trouble is the Content server. Calibre uses a built-in web server so you do not have to install anything separately. The server uses port 8080 (by default, this can be changed) and is actually simple to set up. Once you have this set up, you can then point your browser to the IP Address (or domain) that has Calibre installed (and running) and read your books online. Let's examine this setup .

Calibre setup

Figure A

Open up Calibre and then go into the preferences window. From within the Preferences window, click on the Sharing Over The Net button to reveal the sharing setup window (see Figure A). In this screen you will want to adjust the port settings (should it be necessary), as well as give your Library a password (should you want). Once you have all of the settings done, make sure you click Apply before you click the Start Server button, or else the server will start with the default settings.

I had trouble on a Ubuntu 10.10 desktop with Calibre binding to port 8080, so I switched the port to 8787 and all went swimmingly. I would highly recommend, if you change the port, to actually save the settings, close Calibre, and restart Calibre. For some reason even applying the changes did not allow the Stanza server to connect to the correct port until I restarted Calibre. I would also recommend you checking the box for starting the server when Calibre starts. That way you won't have to remember, every time, to start the Calibre server.

Figure B

When Calibre is back up and running, open up your web browser, and point the browser to http://ADDRESS_OF_SERVER:PORT_FOR_CALIBRE. When the Calibre page opens it will resemble that shown in Figure B. When you browse your library and see a book you want to read, click on the Get button and the book will be downloaded. You can then open that book in the local reader.

The future of books

It's pretty obvious that the book industry is under a fairly significant shift. Thanks to very powerful (and user-friendly) ebook readers, the future of books is in a very exciting place. Having tools like Calibre available to you makes the world of reading (and using books) even more exciting.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....