Pick an ebook format as your “primary” format.
Thanks to smartphones, tablets and the proliferating number of dedicated ereaders available, there’s a good chance you have more than one reading application on your devices: Kindle, Sony, FB Reader, Adobe Digital Editions, or even the proprietary application that was installed when you bought your device. There are dozens of applications, and each of them read only one or two different formats.
If you catch yourself scratching your head as you try to recall which reader has that book you just remembered you have, then you need to pick a reader and a format as your preferred ebook reading home.
Convert all your other books to your primary format so they’re all in one centralized reader.
Don’t uninstall your other reader programs. They are useful for reading books as soon as you buy them (if you can’t wait/can’t access your usual conversion process), and for opening books that have DRM protection, if you don’t strip your books (a contentious subject we won’t tackle today).
Centralize your books in one location.
Pull all your book files out of the directories of your other readers and dump them all in the library folder for your chosen reader. You can convert as you go. Most readers and applications will “discover” any new books placed in the right folder.
Some readers will not “find” the books, and the book has to be imported or side-loaded through the reader software, which is when an ebook management program comes in useful:
Keep most of your ebooks on your hard-drive/in the cloud, not in your reader.
Don’t use your primary reader as your organizing program, and don’t use it to keep all your books, all the time.
Readers and reading applications are very good for reading. They don’t organize, sort or classify as well as other programs or you can. Titles get lost and buried inside your reader.
Keep all your books in your central location on your hard drive or in the cloud (or both!), and only load your reader with a dozen or so books you intend to read in the next few days/weeks. When you’ve finished with those books, reload your reader with new books.
In this way you’ll never lose track of books you bought months ago.
If you’re maintaining and organizing your central library manually, then it is easy to keep favourites or TBR’s at the top of the folder. Use special characters and numbers to rename the folders holding your books or authors, and even the book files themselves to ensure the ones you don’t want to forget rise to the top of the pile.
For example, the characters !, ~, -, can be used in combination to “pin” folders and files at the top. So a folder called “Wyndham, John” or a file called “Midwich Cuckoos.pdf” can be renamed as “ ~ Wyndham, John ~ ” or “ ! Midwich Cuckoos.pdf” for them to float to the top. Combinations can be used, too: !~XXX~! or –xxx— or other combinations will all lift a file to the top, but they have their own hierarchy, so a file named –xxx– will list itself beneath a file named -xxx-.
Similarly, you can use numbers:
1. TBR bookname
2. TBR book name
3. TBR book name
will list, for example, all your chosen TBR books in the order you want to read them. Once you’re done with the book, you can strip the number and the “TBR” from the file name and the book will refile itself back on the shelf for you.
Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) is arguably the best ebook management application out there. It is a “meta” program – it doesn’t care what devices or readers you use, or how many. It manages all your ebooks from everywhere. It sorts the files in your central library automatically.
Depending on what plug-ins you install and how you set up your preferences, you can use Calibre to automatically import any new books every time it opens, and automatically convert those books to your preferred format, plus load them into your reader application’s directory, or send them to your preferred device.
It can also fetch all the meta-data that belongs to the book, raiding a dozen different sources for the information. You can hook up the book with its blurb and reviews (which many books are missing, so figuring out what older books are all about is a pain in the neck), ratings, ISBN numbers, publisher info, tags and more.
You can also bulk assign categories and tags to books, or assign individual tags to individual books – great for when Calibre imports a dozen at a time.
Calibre will also open any format book in its collection, but it’s not the prettiest reader app around. The reading function is best used for checking contents and title pages as you need to.
Calibre is not the only meta-ebook organizer around, so if you don’t like it, or don’t want to use it, try finding an alternative that suits your preferences. These über organizers take a lot of the pain out of managing your ebooks.
[PS: I do not have any financial interest in plugging Calibre. I just happen to think it rocks.]
Take full advantage of any tagging or categorizing functions
Almost every reader and reading application has some sort of sorting function – tags, categories, folders or subjects that can be assigned to each book and collections. Some of these sorting functions are crude at best – a good excuse to find a more reader-friendly program.
Use to the hilt whatever functionality is provided. Read the help guide or application manual and take the time to sort your books – you will thank yourself later. The first time you do this will take forever, if you’ve got a large collection, but after that, categorizing is a no-time, no-brainer task for each book you acquire.
Don’t think of tags and categories just as genre-sorting devices. You can use any tag. Some useful ones include:
TBR (to be read)
Dud/sucks (if you really want to keep the book in your collection!)
Delete unwanted books immediately
You’ve probably got dozens and dozens of books you’ve picked up on a whim. They were free, or cheap, or you went wild with a gift card and now you can’t remember why you thought buying that book was such a good idea. Two chapters (or two pages!) in, you’re wrinkling your nose and are ready to shoot the author.
Delete these books from your reader or application immediately. Now. You’re still going to hate the book in a week’s time. Clear out your reader as you go. The book itself is not lost if your retailer keeps your books on their servers (usually), and/or you’re centralizing all your books on your hard drive.
Convert-Shelve-Categorize & Store as you purchase
As soon as you buy or acquire a new title, move it out of the reader application if it isn’t your default, and “process” the book for your reading preferences. Don’t wait or let new titles stack up or you’ll be back to square one.
Place the book in your central collection, converted to your preferred format, and with all the meta data included, including any categories or tags the book needs.
Use cloud storage to synchronize your reading devices.
If you’re using a reader that doesn’t automatically synchronize your books across devices, then you can do it yourself. Set up your reader’s preferences so that the main book folder for the reader is a directory of current books (but don’t use the directory where you store your central library) stored in the cloud.
Do this for every device and application you use, and then you only need copy the books you want to read to the folder sitting in the cloud, and your reading devices will all “receive” a copy of those books.