Managing collections of books (we'll call them "libraries") used to be easier. E-books introduce new complexity. Thanks to competing formats and technologies, e-books that play on one e-reader might not on another, even when it's supposed to be compatible. Calibre Portable is a free e-book manager that not only serves as an e-library but also converts electronic text between various formats. It also handles a wide range of e-readers.
Since it's portable freeware, you can save Calibre Portable's program folder virtually anywhere, though we had to relocate the database folder after saving the program to one disk and running it on another, which could be an issue in some systems. We've seen every style of e-book manager, and many use 3D graphics and game-style functionality to add the "feel" of handling real books. But Calibre's basic Explorer layout is refreshingly familiar, making it very easy to add books from our existing collection, get new titles online, edit metadata, and perform other functions.
The left-side panel numbered and categorized our collection by Authors, Languages, Series, Formats, Publishers, Tags, and other identifiers, and we could sort, match, and manage titles in various ways. Selecting a title in the central list window displayed its metadata and cover image in the right-side panel. The download includes one title, "Calibre Quick-Start Guide" (there's also an excellent manual accessible from the Help button). We were more interested in the "Convert books" button, though. Clicking it with a title selected opened an impressive, comprehensive wizard that not only converts formats but also configures Metadata, Look & Feel, Heuristic Processing, Page Setup, Structure Detection, and other aspects of the program. There's even a Debug feature.
With thousands of free titles available and soaring sales, the e-book market is poised to take off, once it sorts itself out. Until that day comes, e-book lovers will need tools like Calibre Portable to help them get the most out of their collections and accommodate the ever-changing parade of e-reader technology. This sophisticated freeware seems capable of handling whatever books you can throw at it without ducking.