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Old 03-13-2009, 06:00 AM   #1
ChrisZA
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101: iPhone+Stanza+Calibre (the almost-perfect solution)

OK, I spent some time on this (and several other) forums migrating from a working MobiPocket Windows Mobile solution to an iPhone solution (all FREE, no jailbreak required). I thought the following guide might be useful to others; either n00bies to ebooks, else experienced sony/kindle users trying to get into the iPhone platform. This info exists on the forum, but without good guides and 101's around, this should serve as a good kickstart for some. Don't flame me - rather add your thougths and alternatives to the thread

IMHO, the iPhone is a perfect reading device; clear screen, large fonts, night reading, and always with me! I've got it working reasonably well (better than MobiPocket on WindowsMobile I might add) on Windows Vista, but this guide will work for other desktop platforms too.

Software required:
  • Stanza: The reading app on your iPhone. Get it from the appstore, it's free.
  • Calibre: Stanza desktop does not manage your library, and you need to do that if you have more than a few books. Calibre is free, and works on multiple desktop platforms.

Using Calibre (it's not too intuitive I'm afraid):
  • Install (get it here)
  • Use "Add Books from multiple directories" to get it to load your existing eBook collection. Now, it'll handle nearly all formats that I'm aware of, and will pull them all into 1 library. PDF's, LITs and PCRs all mixed and treated the same; you'll see how well this works now...
  • Set your default output to EPUB (button in top right area). This is the standard that Stanza works best with
  • Clean your library up:
    • Set up free ISBNdb.com and LibraryThing.com accounts. Calibre helps with this. It's worth the minor effort; with these u get a very (the best I've seen) intelligent assistant to help you ID your book's ISBN, and from there u can get the cover art
    • For each book, press E to edit metadata, then use button "Fetch metadata from server". You will be given a list of likely matches to your book title and author. If not, you need to check the title and author in this same screen - they may have silly filename characters that need editing. You'll figure it out easily enough
    • Once you have the metadata, click "Fetch cover image from server". Select cover, and close with "OK"
    • Do for all books, and your books will be nicely completed with author, title, publisher, date, cover, and in most cases a synopsis (blurb)!
    • Consider adding tags; if you do this, they will appear as subjects in Stanza iPhone. Nice for separating fiction classes, non-fiction subjects, hobbies & interests, etc. Note that from the above metadata, stanza will automatically group authors so don't tag them.
  • Now you need to covert all your books: Select the lot, make sure you have chosen 'EPUB' as the output, and click "Bulk Convert" button. Just accept the box that comes up as blank. Now, here's where calibre comes into it's own; even tho you had mixed formats, you will end up with all books having both the original format, and the desired EPUB format, BUT your library will still look like a single list. Nice! Gone are the days of storing multiple directories for different devices.

Getting your books into Stanza:
  • This is surprisingly easy. Do not try to open each book in Stanza desktop and then 'share' to your iPhone. Takes time, covers get lost, and some LIT files will not open. Rather:
  • Use settings in Calibre (minute hammer button in top right area) to check the 'Content Server' is started
  • Make sure your iPhone and PC are on the same WiFi network
  • In Stanza iPhone, choose 'Online Catalog', then the '+' button in bottom right
  • Choose 'Add Stanza Catalog', and enter a name (eg My PC library) then
    http://192.168.1.2:8080/stanza
    The red text needs to be the IP of your PC on the wifi network. [add a link sometime on how to find this]
  • Now download each book - 1x1 I'm afraid unless someone can suggest how to do this faster...
  • That's it; a complete library, nicely organised, on an awesome reading device. Forget Kindle, forget WindowsMobile's head start.

Tips/Tricks:
  1. Set stanza to have a black background and white text; you can then read at night without your spouse complaining
  2. For now, I am rating my books by changing the title in Stanza; I put a score of 1-5 at the front. It's not great, but stanza does not rate books, and any ratings you do in calibre do not get carried across to stanza.
  3. This one is more sophisticated, but well worth the effort:
    If you have a large library (ie over 100 books), AND you have them organised with tags so that stanza groups them under the subject button, there is a way to get that stanza grouping benefit without having to download them all 1-by-1. With Calibre2Web from itimpi, you create an online catalog of your books with awesome structuring; drill by author, subject (tag), series, title letters, and even recent additions! Why is that cool; now you actually never need to put the books on you iPhone at all! Your library becomes so accessible and organised, that you can browse online (3G, wifi, etc) and only download books 1 at a time for reading, then delete afterwards. Think it thro a bit; you feel a need to keep books downloaded and with you, but in reality you only need a few wit you at a time, AND the ability to get a few more very easily (for when you are about to go out of coverage). So, here's how:
    • First download Calibre2Web here (you may have to read thro the thread from the bottom to find the latest version)
    • The text file explains how to run it from windows (windows only I'm afraid). It's really rather easy.
    • Now, you have 2 choices, and this is where it gets tricky:
      1. If you have a web site of your own, just copy your entire library structure and the new _CATALOG directory to the server, and follow itimpi's instructions on adding an online stanza catalog to your iPhone.
      2. Otherwise you have to turn your PC into a web server on your wifi network. That requires some savvy; set up a website in IIS mapped to the calibre library directory, disable or open your firewall, find your PC's IP, then do as per itimpi's instructions to add an online stanza catalog to your iPhone. If you know this stuff it's dead easy, but if you don't, rather stick to option 1

Right now, the ONLY thing that prevents this combo from being 100% perfect is that stanza (calibre is not the culprit) does not allow one to rate books. Rating is usually the way to indicate that you've read a book, and in large libraries it becomes tricky to know what you've read and what not. IRL one uses the dog-eared state of the book to determine if you've read it or not - ebook solutions really should not ommit this functionality.

Last edited by ChrisZA; 03-14-2009 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 03-13-2009, 07:01 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisZA View Post
....Don't flame me - rather add your thougths and alternatives to the thread
...
Now, why would anyone flame you for this excellent 101 (bookmarked for use later on)? Why, the mod's would zoom over here quicker than you can say "My hovercraft is full of eels", to turn their jetboot flames on the googly-bits of the offenders.

Seriously, nice work, Chris. Clear, succinct...if there are any alternatives or further thoughts offered by others, I'm looking forward to them being put in a similarly helpful light. Good stuff.

Cheers,
Marc
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Old 03-13-2009, 07:45 AM   #3
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Aww shucks...thanks.
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Old 03-13-2009, 01:02 PM   #4
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I've added a link to your post from the calibre FAQ, thanks for writing it.
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:42 AM   #5
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I've added a link to your post from the calibre FAQ, thanks for writing it.
Hell, it was nothing: thanks for calibre
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Old 03-14-2009, 08:33 AM   #6
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Added tip/trick #3 to my top post. Well worth reading!
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:28 PM   #7
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Awesome guide (lol, don't need it, though). Good work!
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Old 03-15-2009, 03:10 PM   #8
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Thank you! Excellent guide

For anyone who finds that port 8080 is not available change it to 8005. Provided that port is free all should work at the next computer reboot.
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Old 03-15-2009, 09:49 PM   #9
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For anyone who finds that port 8080 is not available change it to 8005. Provided that port is free all should work at the next computer reboot.
Changing ports on the Calibre server doesn't really require a computer reboot. All you need to do is to stop and restart the server from within the Calibre configuration.
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Old 03-16-2009, 05:42 AM   #10
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I should note that thanks to some help from Marc @ Lexcycle the next release of calibre will support Bonjour so you will no longer have to manually enter the IP address in your iPhone. Now all that remains is support for search and categories
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Old 03-16-2009, 09:45 AM   #11
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Question for those who have no wireless modem.
Is it possible to use some sort of USB transfer too?

I mean, if one can find the directory structure on an iphone just copy paste with explorer or other browser would not work?

I'm just interested to see if one could upload books to the iphone via USB as well!

If port 8080 isn't free,usually port 80 is the next on the list.

It all depends on the modem/router, but 8080 and 80 are http and https ports.
Technically with a home network that doesn't block ports you can use almost any port,as long as it isn't used.

I just don't know if the iPhone supports all ports (upto 65.000...something).

Last edited by ProDigit; 03-16-2009 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 03-16-2009, 01:28 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ilovejedd View Post
Changing ports on the Calibre server doesn't really require a computer reboot. All you need to do is to stop and restart the server from within the Calibre configuration.
I wasn't sure but just in case it happens to others - I couldn't get the server to start as 8080 wasn't available and changing the port only took effect after a reboot.

kovidgoyal

I'm really looking forward to that addition! Thanks.

John
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Old 03-16-2009, 01:39 PM   #13
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Question for those who have no wireless modem.
Is it possible to use some sort of USB transfer too?

I mean, if one can find the directory structure on an iphone just copy paste with explorer or other browser would not work?

I'm just interested to see if one could upload books to the iphone via USB as well!

If port 8080 isn't free,usually port 80 is the next on the list.

It all depends on the modem/router, but 8080 and 80 are http and https ports.
Technically with a home network that doesn't block ports you can use almost any port,as long as it isn't used.

I just don't know if the iPhone supports all ports (upto 65.000...something).
As far as I know, the current wireless only limitation is because Apple doesn't allow other apps to interface via USB. It'll be a nice feature to have, though...

If you only need to access Calibre via a fairly secure home network, then yes, ports 80 and 8080 are fine. If you're planning on accessing from the internet (e.g. via EDGE or 3G), then I suggest you use other less commonly used ports (at least for whatever external port you'll be port-forwarding from your router). For one, most ISPs block inbound port 80. Another, lots of bots ping commonly used ports (80, 21, etc) and I'm not sure how hardened the built-in Calibre http server is against an attack.

As for the iPhone supporting all ports, I've tried using a port 40,000+ and it worked fine.
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Old 03-16-2009, 05:54 PM   #14
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I would just like to add that besides Stanza I've had very good reading experiences with the eReader and Bookshelf apps on the iPhone - both also available in the app store. eReader has better navigation options, color themes and better selection of fonts than Stanza, and it's easy to get books downloaded from the eReader/Fictionwise web site. It is limited to Palm eReader format books but much better than Stanza for reading Palm-format books. Bookshelf has good navigation, color and fonts, and supports a lot of different non-DRM'd formats. It's drawback is cost: $9.95 where everything else is free. And I've found it more difficult to use the "Shelfserver" to install books on the iPhone for Bookshelf than either Stanza or eReader. This is all very subjective of course, we all have our favorites when it come to the look and feel of the reading experience. But all in all I have found the iPhone to be very acceptable for reading my ebooks. Cheers!
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Old 03-17-2009, 11:51 AM   #15
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Thanks Chris for the instructions. Worked well. ipconfig from the command prompt will give most folks their ip address. And many thanks to Kovid for add this feature to Calibre.

cheers
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