Posted in Daily Prompts, Kindle

How an Indian Developed A Top Notch FOSS For Readers Across The World

Necessity is the mother of all inventions.

sony e reader
Sony E-Readers

If I were to ask you to name one device to read books right now, your answer would be Amazon Kindle or Kobo. But little do we all know that way before Amazon came and dominated the e-Reader market, Sony was the pioneer in it.

Sony ruled the e-reader market with its flagship products like Sony PRS T1, T2, RS350 etc. In fact, Sony was the first company in the world to launch the world’s first commercial e-reader back in 2006.

They called their cute e-readers as PRS [Portable Reader System]. These devices had to be loaded with books purchased by Sony eBook library available in countries like US, UK, Japan, Germany etc. These devices were still evolving and were a far fetched dream for Indians who were sniffing books on the roadside second hand book-wallah’s or visiting prestigious book stores in their cities to buy heavy paperbacks. I too was one amongst them. I still have vague memories of visiting those narrow lanes of Avenue Road in Bangalore to buy all those Indie Novels at half-price. Imagining the thought of having a personal library of my own, with racks and racks of books stacked one against another was just a daydream. It was only in 2018, after reading in actual Kindle Oasis borrowed from my good old friend Krishnan, I was able to finally decide on purchase of a device which was purely meant only for reading.

Almost everyone who has had Kindle App on their iPads or phones or ones who have actually gone ahead and bought an actual e-Reader all go through one common problem. The device supporting only specific formats of books only for reading. A pdf, or.docx document can be easily read on iPad or laptop but try that on an e-Reader, the small grey-scale screen turns you off. This restricts any reader from consuming a ton of books every month. Not everyone can afford every book from e-book stores. To solve this million-dollar problem, a guy who was studying at the California Institute of Technology [CalTech] wrote a small software called libprs500. The objective of this software was to convert the existing file into a readable format for an e-Reader. This young man by the name Kovid Goyal went a step ahead and created a graphical user interface for this software which is now being called Calibre. The word “libre” in Calibre stands for freedom.

Readers who had hundred of e-books on their computers now found a new way to transfer them to their expensive e-Readers and start reading them just like any other e-Book. All that was made possible by Calibre – the new open-source e-book management suite free for all to modify and convert all sorts of e-book formats to files which were compatible with their respective e-reading devices. Thousands of people who now have books downloaded from Telegram and other DRM free portals are now able to convert the books and read seamlessly on their reading devices. Kovid’s contribution has benefited readers across the world and it is now one of the top 50 must-have Softwares for all book-readers.

How can a person who consumes digital books benefit from Calibre?

Calibre nearly does everything that an ordinary reader would want to extract the last bit of their expensive e-readers.

  1. Helps you manage your dozens of books that you had shoved in your small e-reader [We all know how clumsy it becomes to start dragging and removing books one by one on any e-reader]
  2. The software can be used offline as well.
  3. Calibre can be used to fetch news from over 1500 authentic news sources which include more than 10 National News dailies from India and several hundred from across the world. This is very helpful for someone who wants their papers to be delivered to their Kindle every day at 6AM.
  4. It’s a one-stop software which will help view any e-book in pdf, kpx, .mobi, .epub and many more formats.
  5. Not just newspapers, you can also download content from magazines available on the net. Quite relieving if you are willing to consume as much content as possible without spending much money.
  6. You can even collate all the important RSS syndications, make your own recipe and schedule it every day for a particular time to be delivered to your Kindle.
  7. You can edit metadata of books in your collection and be a librarian yourself.

What started as a project during his free-time in Caltech has now completed ten long years. By far, everyone who has used Calibre agrees to the fact that the UI sucks but it is one of the top-notch Free or Open Source Software [FOSS] available in the market.

No wonder, the software has won hearts from more than 200+ countries. Out of 236 countries where Calibre is available, Spain, USA and Germany are the top three consumers of this software.

The Economist, The Hindu, NewYorker Magazine are the top three custom news sources accessed by readers across the world via Calibre. Being open-source software, one can easily modify the software as per their needs. For a market like e-books, where huge corporations like Amazon, Barnes & Noble monopolized the purchase rates of books, Kovid’s Calibre broke the monopoly.

He freed readers to access whatever they like and read however they wish to. Calibre had something for every kind of reader. Even for non-book savvy, it made a customized wizard which let them configure news and make it automated to be sent to their devices every day.

If you connect your Kindle email address to Calibre, then rest assured that you will get all the news updated regularly on a daily basis delivered to your Kindle at the desired time.

Even while commuting or standing in a long queue, this feature makes your life sorted as you are constantly accompanied by information wherever you go.

Isn’t it time to take a minute to appreciate the inventor of this brilliant software created by an Indian? Some might still grumble that the UI sucks and the website still follow the old-school methodology of presenting its manual. But who cares? As long as you are able to manage your e-books in whatever format seamlessly without tampering your private information, it’s okay. Calibre is known to be very transparent and the software does not store any of your personal data.

In a world full of money-making, greedy, publisher friendly market, Calibre has surely become a boon. It has opened doors to all those readers who want to read anywhere and anyhow. I have seen hundreds of students who are now using Calibre to consume knowledge every day without even spending a single penny. Knowledge is available across the world, but are the corporations making it accessible to common readers was a big debate for many years. We are glad someone like Kovid came forward to address this issue.

To know more about Kovid Goyal and his other projects you may visit his old website.

To download Calibre for your systems or mobile phones you may click here.

Header Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


Motorcycles and Books constitute my life!


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