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Old 02-02-2012, 05:40 PM   #1
Webstar
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Why is Calibre so difficult to use?

Can anyone throw any light on this? I have an iphone. You'd think getting books on to an iphone might be one of the commonest tasks, and therefore pretty automated. Wrong. First off, Calibre doesn't accept .doc files as a source. But it doesn't say so straight out. It allows .doc files to be imported, but it won't convert them. (Why reject so common a format?). However, I then found out it accepts .rtf, so that problem was solved. But that was the easy part. How to get the resulting epub file onto the iphone? That took me at least an hour. Eventually I found I could drag it (not from within Calibre, but from the Calibre folder) into the Stanza section on the apps page of my iphone in iTunes. And, yes, I did study the 'help' provided in Calibre. And I did struggle with Stanza on my iphone. But when it comes to entering the IP address of my computer (a matter unknown to me), etc., etc. and some stuff about having Calibre as a server, I more or less have to give up. I know it's a free program, but really - putting an epub file on to an iphone...? Shouldn't that be simple?
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Old 02-02-2012, 05:48 PM   #2
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I suspect the problem is more with Apple and the iPhone than Calibre. I use Calibre all of the time with a Sony reader and have never had any problems converting and syncing to the device. Perhaps you should ask the question in the Calibre section of MR.
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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I use calibre with Apple and PC as well as eReaders and smartphones and have no problems at all... bottom line is simply drag'n'drop and it works, couple of seconds but, yes you will get a better and more detailed response in the calibre sub-forum...
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:07 PM   #4
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Nothing wrong with Calibre.......
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:09 PM   #5
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I believe an app needs to have an agreement with Microsoft to convert .doc files?

I use Calibre with all of my ereaders, no problem. I've used it a couple of times to put a book on my iPad, but I rarely read on my iPad, and rarely read on my iPhone. If I do, I use a native app for the bookstore that I got the ebook from.

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Old 02-02-2012, 06:12 PM   #6
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Mobipocket Creator, which allows conversion from .doc, simply calls Word to save the file as HTML, then converts. You can do that step yourself, if you like, then feed the HTML to Calibre. Filtered HTML usually works well.
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:18 PM   #7
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I love Calibre, but the easiest and simplest way I've found to get epubs on my iPhone is to use Dropbox.
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:22 PM   #8
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Can anyone throw any light on this?
If the iPhone used something called "USB Mass Storage" instead of a proprietary interface forcing you to use iTunes, then you wouldn't have any of these issues.
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:43 PM   #9
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With IOS, Apple wanted to get away from a traditional file system. They thought it was archaic. Their idea was that each application would contain its own files. For example, you would go to iBooks and see all of your books, but only books and no other type of files/data. Consistently, multi-tasking is one of the weakest areas on the iPad (iPhone).

Its improved in IOS 5.x, but just a few months ago if you tried to go to a web page and download a file, you couldn't reopen it in its destination program with a few exceptions. So, if you need to get something onto an IOS device they try to force you through iTunes. Some applications have a back-door through dropbox, but its not universal.

As to Calibre's complexity, yes it is. In other words, it is very full featured. Getting started is simple, but it can do a lot of extra things and understanding how to make it and its plugins do everything they offer may take some time. Especially since each target environment (iPad, Kindle NT, Kindle Touch, ...) supports different things. It is a bit like MS Word being complex. It's pretty simple to open up a page and begin typing. However, the level of complexity increases when you want to use features such as styles, mail-merge, or even macro-programming.

If your only goal with calibre is to transfer doc's to your iDevice, you really don't need calibre. It's strength is in maintaining a library/database of your books, in personalizing your books meta-data (such as titles and tags), and finally in converting between formats. Unfortunately, as you found out .doc files aren't really ebook files and can't be easily converted as such.

Good luck!

p.s. It may seem that some of the folks here reacted a bit strongly. You need to understand that Calibre is donation-ware. That means that a lot of folks offer payback in terms of gratitude for the work. They are more thankful for what it does offer than any upset over any shortcomings. They (we) certainly don't want to de-motivate the developers who (probably) earn much less for all of their efforts than they are worth. Any defensiveness is not directed at you, but is support for all of the work that is done on this excellent tool.
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Old 02-02-2012, 06:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Webstar View Post
Can anyone throw any light on this? I have an iphone. You'd think getting books on to an iphone might be one of the commonest tasks, and therefore pretty automated. Wrong. First off, Calibre doesn't accept .doc files as a source. But it doesn't say so straight out. It allows .doc files to be imported, but it won't convert them. (Why reject so common a format?). However, I then found out it accepts .rtf, so that problem was solved. But that was the easy part. How to get the resulting epub file onto the iphone? That took me at least an hour. Eventually I found I could drag it (not from within Calibre, but from the Calibre folder) into the Stanza section on the apps page of my iphone in iTunes. And, yes, I did study the 'help' provided in Calibre. And I did struggle with Stanza on my iphone. But when it comes to entering the IP address of my computer (a matter unknown to me), etc., etc. and some stuff about having Calibre as a server, I more or less have to give up. I know it's a free program, but really - putting an epub file on to an iphone...? Shouldn't that be simple?
Ok, first up, while you think that it is common putting files onto an iPhone, actually getting it to work is tricky, because Apple doesn't like people leaving their walled garden. They want people to stick to iTunes for transferring stuff back and forth between iPhones and iPods. Apple makes it very difficult sometimes to use their hardware with out their software. I'm a Linux user with ipods and such, so I'm speaking from experience. Even on the hardware front, they made it so only apple authorized accessories will work, so that hardware makers have to pay Apple to make iPhone accessories. When it comes to putting stuff onto any device, you have to have stuff on both sides. Something on the computer to send it to the device, and something to accept it on the device. The stuff on the device side is Apple created, and so, makes the job difficult for anyone who isn't Apple. Hell, to give you an examle of how restrictive Apple is, the books sold by Apple via the iBookstore, can only be read within iBooks. iBooks only runs on iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone. They do not even have a Mac version, so while it is technically based on the ePub format the DRM they use is so restrictive, it is impossible to read books you've legally bought from iBooks on a computer.

Next up, Calibre is for ebooks, and Word documents aren't ebooks. Plus, it is a proprietary format, and while Microsoft within the past few years released the spec to the public, it is very incomplete. Basically, think of it as having a roadmap that only showed interstates, and you had to use it to find some backwoods podunk town about 30 miles from the interstate. On top of that, if you attempt to work with the format anyway, you're still under restriction from MS on how you can use it. Plus, the restrictions MS has in place also causes complications legally speaking since it doesn't totally jive with the GPLv3 (an extremely popular software license for open source code, which Calibre uses).

Long and the short of it, Calibre is being restricted by two corporate giants, and to do what you want would open up a legal can of worms, as well as just be a complicated mess. Yes, it is technically possible for Calibre to reverse engineer how Apple handles ebook transfer, and then mimic it. And yes, it is technically possible for Calibre to add support for the Doc or Docx formats. The problem is, it would be a crap ton of work, and they could get sued. Is it really worth the hassle for them? Plus the format itself is largely problematic. Way too bloated and complicated.

All that considered, Calibre is a ebook manager, meant for communicating with dedicated ebook readers. The file format you want to convert from isn't an ebook format (trust me, there are some pretty big technical differences), and the device you want to put the ebooks on is not an ebook reader. With that in mind, it makes the hassle even less worth while. If you want someone to blame for Calibre being "difficult", blame Apple and Microsoft. Those of us who live outside their walled gardens find Calibre to be extremely simple to use.
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:33 PM   #11
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All good explanations but I'm not sure I agree with Word documents (DOC or DOCX) being so far from "ebooks." With proper use of Styles and embedded graphics why is it THAT different from, say, epub?
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:59 PM   #12
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All good explanations but I'm not sure I agree with Word documents (DOC or DOCX) being so far from "ebooks." With proper use of Styles and embedded graphics why is it THAT different from, say, epub?
It's from a large for-profit corporation (Microsoft), it's useful, and it's proprietary. Ergo it is "defective" and eeee-vile.

A bit less sarcastically: .doc evolution is tied to MS Office evolution (for obvious reasons) and both change faster than outside forces can reverse engineer it. Since it can't be readily copied by would-be competitors, it isn't broadly supported by those that value open-ness.

Strictly speaking, .doc is an *editable* Document format. And as such is no more an ebook format than .pdf or .xls.

Proper ebook formats are intended for viewing but not for editing so they are primarily concerned about formatting and presentation.

As a result of these different missions, a lot of the .doc functions for comments, annotations, collaboration, and revision tracking can't be mapped to epub. And that is before you get to embedded objects and other active elements in Word docs.

Totally different creatures; think of it as the difference between hammers and pliers. You can hammer nails with a big set of pliers but it's not the best use for that tool.

Last edited by fjtorres; 02-02-2012 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:04 AM   #13
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All good explanations but I'm not sure I agree with Word documents (DOC or DOCX) being so far from "ebooks." With proper use of Styles and embedded graphics why is it THAT different from, say, epub?
I don't know about any technical issues, but there is the supply/demand issue. .doc just isn't a common format for e-books. The incentive isn't high to build a quality conversion system because its not needed very often. The standards are epub and mobi. Quite a few things are in pdf. Very few are word, although I have seen a few.

How would an ebook get into word anyway? An author who writes in word is unlikely to distribute it that way, because, even if they are willing to distribute it DRM-free, they aren't likely to want to offer it in an editable format. If not from the author, then who else would put it into word? My guess is someone who has scanned and OCR'd a paper book. However, if they are meticulous enough to produce a high quality OCR then I'd guess they also would want to output in a standard ebook format.

I don't doubt that you have word ebooks, and no doubt you are fine with them. My point is that they aren't common enough to drive the need for an automated workflow through a system like calibre. As you said, there is always the rtf work-around for the rare needs.
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:33 AM   #14
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Calibre might not be able to send books to iphone directly but it can send files to itunes that is the software that you are supposed to use with your iDevice.

1.) So why are you complaining about calibre instead of Itunes or your iDevice.
2.) Needing to convert a format to read on your device shows the limitations of your device and format choice.
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Old 02-03-2012, 01:41 AM   #15
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Calibre questions belong in the Calibre forum. Moved.
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