Using Calibre To Track Print Book Purchases - Part II

Welcome to Dear Jane, a weekly column based upon reader mailbag questions on anything relating to e-books. No question is too simple or too mundane. We are all learning together. Send your questions with "Dear Jane" in the subject matter.

This is part two of using Calibre to create a catalog of your paper library (read Part I here.) However, the information below can be useful to those who use Calibre for organization of their digital books. There is a screencast for this which you can find here (full screen) or embedded below. Screencaps and a written version follows.

Once you have the books entered into your library, you can then manipulate the data. This screencast shows you how to edit your metadata and utilize the column features of Calibre to help you search and sort the books in your catalog. Editing your metadata is as simple as selecting a book entry and clicking the edit meta information button. You can also double click within the fields and start typing. The entire text is autoselected for you. A more powerful feature is the "custom column". With Calibre 7, users can create their own columns. Go to Preferences and then interface.

Use the green and red buttons to add and delete user create columns. Here I've created "want" "read", "price", "reader comments". You can define the type of column. Want and Read are Yes/No while Price is an integer and Reader Comments is long form text.

I marked the books that I want to buy under "want" as yes. I've marked books under "Read" as "blank/Yes/No." Blank means "To be read". The yes/no type column actually has three choices. This is important to remember for searching purposes. Also important to remember is the lookup name for the user generated column. The lookup name will be vital for searching.

Now that I have marked my wants, I can create a buy list.

First, I am going to create a custom search. For all my user created columns, I need to use # in front of the lookup name for the column. For "want", I would enter in the "search box."


I am going to save this search by naming it in the "Saved Searches" (Click and start typing). I've named this my "To Buy List" search. Click on the green plus sign. You can double check by clicking on the saved searches drop down box. You can also create a TBR search by


The false means that there is no entry at all (neither yes or no). Enter "TBR" (or whatever you would want to name this list) in the "saved searches" box and then click the green plus sign to save.

So now you have a searchable and sortable list for your wants and your TBRs. You can continue to create as many columns and saved searches as you want. But let's say you want to take your buy list with you. You can create a catalog of these entries or your entire library. Let's say you want to take your buy list to the store. Run your "ToBuyList" search. Select all the books (using command or ctrl +A). Then, click the gray arrow next to "Covert E-Books" and select "create a catalog of books in your calibre library."

You will then be given the option to create four different types of catalogs: CSV, Epub, Mobi, and XML.

You also can choose what information is included in your catalog. For shopping purposes, you probably only need a little bit of information but it's up to you how much or how little you want in your catalog away from the computer.

CSV is short for comma separated values and you can create a word table or excel spreadsheet based on CSV. This might be the easiest for you to take with you. Epub and Mobi catalogs are little books and have hyperlinks for categories. It's pretty cool. You can keep this buy list on your device like a Sony or Kobo Reader or on your Kindle (choose Mobi) or simply print it out and stick it in your purse. That's the nuts and bolts of how to create a user defined column, saved searches, and a printable catalog for your purse.


For more discussion about the Sony, please see RT's Reader Forum: E-book Questions Answered Here.

Have an e-book question? Send it to and your question may be featured in her next column.