Calibre And Project Gutenberg: Liberate Your eReader!


I’ve Been Around The Block

Now, I’m no stranger to ebooks.  Long before the release of the first generation Amazon Kindle, I read Dracula on a Handspring Visor.  Once I moved into the world of smart-phones with the Palm Treo, I read many great books with the excellent offline reader Plucker.  In fact, I’ve been dissing paper quite vocally since as early as 1999.  That said, I love reading on my Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch.

A world without paper is not one without flaws.  I’ll start by saying that I am not a book pirate and I have purchased over 50 books from the Barnes and Noble store over the past 2 years.  Two of those books were The Time Machine and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.  I enjoyed both thoroughly though after reading I was left with thoughts such as “why did I pay for works in the public domain” and “I’d pay $6.99 for both of these if they were new, but they aren’t”.  I got that same itch a few days ago when I almost pulled the trigger on a Barnes & Noble edition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.  Suddenly I remembered Project Gutenberg.

If you’re a copyright expert like me (yeah, right), then you know that when an author has been dead for a while their copyrighted works become works of the public domain.  Project Gutenberg attempts to catalog everything in the public domain and even offers some audio-books!  Now, how do you get these onto your Nook or Kindle?

Calibre: Manage Your Books Like Your Music

Calibre, in many ways is not not the future, and softwares like this will never proliferated in the cloud that we are all living in.  What it does achieve is freedom.  As I said above, I’ve purchased 50 ebooks from Barnes & Noble.  Everytime I make a purchasse from them I do nothing but support DRM and what I like to call the “permanent rental”.  Calibre allows me to take any format ebook and transfer it a many different readers.  Maybe you have an Amazon Kindle and the book that you want to read is of the .epub variety.  Calibre will convert the file into something the Kindle can manage.

Now I’d like to show you how easy it is to download a book from Project Gutenberg– in this case The Idiot– and transfer it to the Nook.  If you have a Kindle, the process is no different, I’m sure.

I’m assuming that you have installed Calibre by now, since it is available for Mac, Windows & Linux.  Everyone can play!  So, open it up and let’s go…

First, click on “Add Books”.

Now, select the book that you downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

 Great!  Now you’ve added your first book to Calibre.  Now, plug in your device.  In this case, a Nook Simple Touch.  Once you do, Calibre will detect the device.  You’ll get an icon that looks like this…

This book didn’t come with a cover.  I want to make it look nice amongst by other ebooks on the Nook, so I’ll add a cover.  For this purpose, I found a rather nice looking one on Google image search.

Right-click on the title in your library and select “Show Book Details”.  You’ll get a window that looks like the one below.  All you have to do here is simply drag the picture you downloaded inside the book cover portion of the window.

 There is only one step left.  Close this window and from your catalog, highlight the book that you want to send to the device and then simply click “Send To Device”.  If your book is in a format that is different from what device supports, Calibre with automatically convert the file for you.

And that’s a wrap!  Go give Gutenberg a shot!  There is no sense in spending $0.99 to $3.99 on a digital copy of something that is freely available, and Calibre can help.

Support freedom, and end DRM once and for all.

About Dean Howell

Aside from being a huge Sega fan, Dean is an LPIC certified Linux professional with over a decade experience. In addition to spending his free time burning through the classics from Sega and evangelizing open source, he's also the editor-in-cheif of The Powerbase.
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  • Nicolas Fanget

    Ironically, although the book is out of copyright the image you sued for the cover might well be copyrighted…

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  • SergioUlises

    I wonder what the author of all those magnificent pieces of work in the Gutenberg project would have to say about DRM and copyright. Personally I think intellectual property must not be permanent, and the expiration date should be the same for all countries. And I am an intellectual creator my self

    • Fuxy

      I think any intelectual property should fall automatically in the public domain the moment the author dies there’s no reason for it to still be around if its not supporting the author to make more awsome content and it should still have an expiration date.

  • Don Jackson

    I buy many technical eBooks from O’Reilly, Manning, Apress, Packt, etc. All are DRM-free, and I use Calibre to manage then, and load them onto my IPad. Also PDFs of product manuals. Calibre FTW!

    • david

      Just to add to the list of of DRM-free publishers: CRC Press seems to be DRM free, too. Somebody should publish a list, so we know where to look when shopping around for technical literature.

  • BookFusion

    Hi Dean,

    Great article. As you mentioned in your article there is relatively no freedom when reading ebooks. Users like myself are often tied/restricted to a specific device, but Calibre solves this problem by allowing you to convert your ebooks.

    We are currently doing a startup that will allow users to host their ebooks in the cloud regardless of the format. Ebook readers will be able to read on any device, pick up where they left out and much more. Our goal is to make reading ebooks fun, social and engaging.

    When you have some time please check us out at Would like to hear your opinion