Playing with Kindle, Automator and Calibre

As well-known fact, Kindle do not support EPUB formatted e-books. That’s part of the politics in Amazon and I’m not here to judge them for that. All I concern is that how find handy way to convert a small collection of EPUB books into .mobi which is working just fine on Kindle.

The most popular solution so far seems to be Calibre, free and open source e-book management application. On the one hand it really works – converts documents and books from one format to another, finds my Kindle and all that kind of things. But on the other hand it is one of the most ugliest piece of software I’ve ever used. You even don’t have to download it to be convinced, check the screenshots right here.

That was the reason I panically started to search an alternative for Calibre. Short googing and I found command line tool KindleGen, provided by Amazon to build ebooks that can be sold through Kindle platform. Unfortunately it’s not the ideal solution in situation where all the books that are waiting to converting are not in standard EPUB format and in some cases are even PDF files.

It seemed that I’m not the only one who is or has been looking similar solution. Oddly most of them turned back to Calibre but this time using the command line method. It turned out that after applying command-line tools from Preferences pane users are able to insert short command

ebook-convert eBookName.epub .mobi

and its there.

My next thought – there should be an app for that. Or at least simple Automator application to where you are able to drag your EPUB file. I found that Kris Johnson has covered that topic on his blog post, although with creating the service not application. But basically this applies to application as well.

Save it and use it. Basically you are free to convert all the formats that are supported by Calibre. Just drag and drop the file on the application icon and wait patiently for few seconds or a bit more and ready made *.mobi book should be waiting you in the same directory as original file.

Intuitive equals familiar

Steeling is wrong but I can guarantee that all I took was an heading from Jef Raskin article. As he is discussing on meaning of “intuitive”, he finally suggests that:

… we (should) replace the word “intuitive” with the word “familiar” (or sometimes “old hat”) in informal HCI discourse…

Why? Because

… it is clear that a user interface feature is “intuitive” insofar as it resembles or is identical to something the user has already learned. In short, “intuitive” in this context is an almost exact synonym of “familiar.”

I received my new toy this morning, latest Kindle e-book reader. Ordered directly from Amazon, shipped via UPS and did cost me around 140 EUR (including all taxes and shipping).

Very first thoughts while unpacking were positive – minimal package, light user guide or more like quick start guide, USB cable and device itself. Battery was already almost charged, after first boot it did demonstrate that it was already connected to my Amazon account. And it’s light. Really, I mean without cover (sold separately) it doesn’t weight much more than 200 gr. But all other technical details are remaining to some further blog post.

Kindle & iPad

Few words on user experience after few hours of using.

As I’m familiar with iOS platform and devices that are using it my first impression was – this thing is naked and I’m loving it! I’ve felt similar feeling after long working day filled with meetings and chatting and people. And same moment I open front door of my home all those distractions will be behind and for couple of hours I’ll be able to manage my time and doings. Although my personal iPhone is the best phone I’ve ever had, iPad is reminding me my most horrible and busiest days at work*. Even if it’s on bookself or on the table and stand-by, it’s constantly shouting “use me, do something with me, I can play, I can anything you like!”. Really.

Kindle is quiet. It’s screen is still clean thanks to physical controls on top of the device. Black & white screen is really eye-friendly. Page turning, opening menus and confirming settings is fast. It even can handle web pages thanks to “experimental” web browser. And what’s really nice, you are actually able to read one column PDF files on its screen.

Finally I figured out why I already love it – it is intuitive / familiar. It is the most closest digital device which reading experience could compete with physical books. As soon we are realising that e-books are similar pieces of digital media as music and video that we are consuming from day to day. Though books in their nature are thousands of years old and it’s very hard to think of them as something not very physical.

* I love my work!