The Annual Calibre Library Cleanup, and What I Learned This Year

Every year, at around this time, I do a big e-book purge. Something about March Break brings out the spring cleaning demon, and when I need a break from cleaning my physical home, I curl up with my Macbook and tackle my digital one.

My goals in years past have been to clean up metadata and cover art, complete missing series runs and prune out the freebies I really didn’t ever plan to read. My goal this year? Reduce, reduce, reduce!

I simply have too many books in my to-read pile. I don’t remember where all of them came from, and I don’t care. I just want a leaner, meaner collection so that when I am ready for something new to read, I can open up my Calibre library and not be paralyzed with choices!

So, what were my targets this year?

1. Series that never took off

I always re-name alleged series books to include a volume number so I can easily keep track of which ones I’m missing. What I found when I skimmed my to-read list was a large block of books which were number one in a series, but had no other books.

Many of these were from Smashwords; I suspect they came from Read an E-Book Week samplers of the past, and my suspicion is that in many of these cases, an author released the one book and then didn’t get the results they hoped for, and either gave up or moved on to other projects.

I deleted the ones whose blurbs did not impress and then did a quick search on a few that looked interesting, just to see if there were new releases I had missed. There were not, so I let these books go.

I prefer non-fiction and stand-alone novels these days, but when I do go for a series, I want that immersion into a whole, developed world. I don’t want an amateur effort that the author never nurtured the rest of the way. Delete!

2. Series that were missing books in the middle

On the other side of that coin were series which seemed to be missing bits and pieces off the middle. I suspect some of these came from Kindle freebies or deals of the day, where a random book or two was there for the taking and you were expected to go back and buy the rest.

With some of these, I did just that (or plan to). Others were maybe not as compelling a package. If I saw a handful of books with a gap somewhere in the numbering, I took a hard look at the blurb and the first few chapters. Then, I decided: Either I would keep the book, and commit to the series—all of it—or I’d delete the lot of them and read something else.

3. Navel-gazing memoirs

This is another I get a lot in the random Kindle freebies, and it’s a tricky one. I do enjoy a good memoir. A lot of my best reads are non-fiction, and I love getting these glimpses into other people’s interesting lives.

But I really don’t enjoy a bad memoir, and I deleted almost 50 books that fell into this category. Most of them were a little too navel-gazing; they spent too much time exploring parts of the author’s life that really shouldn’t have been part of the story. A few of them also faced the virtual chopping block because the sample chapter smacked of the amateur—typos, poor editing, formatting glitches and so on. I can’t stand that stuff!

4. Anything too error-filled to be enjoyable for me

It wasn’t only memoir books that had this problem. If the book twigged my ‘world’s biggest slushpile’ radar, it was out of there. I can’t stand to leave an error in there, since I often do come back to books later. I can handle fixing a typo or two, but if it starts to look like more of a copy-editing project than a reading project, I am more likely these days to just give up.

There are plenty of other books to read; I am not going to waste my time on something that’s going to be so much work!

5. Books I downloaded for the wrong reasons

Sometimes, a book will cross my path that I wouldn’t otherwise purchase, but it’s free, or discounted, or on special. And then on second thought, I probably won’t read it.

Maybe it’s a genre I don’t generally read, but the book won an award or something, and I’m curious. Maybe it’s nonfiction on a subject that interests me enough to want to read more about it, but on second thought, not enough that the ‘more’ has to be an entire book. Maybe it’s a book that was recommended to me by someone else, and when I try it, it turns out not to be my thing.

When I do my annual purge, these books all go!

It’s not all bad news, though. My big purge this year was of the indie one-hit-wonders who never wrote the second book, but one of my big discoveries has been the ones who are—I know the prolific J.A. Konrath gets a lot of press, but his sometime-partner Blake Crouch is a great suspense author and has dozens of books available. I have been slowly picking up his backlist and am reading some of those.

Simon Haynes has revived his Hal Spacejock series with a new Hal Jr. spin-off I haven’t yet explored. I discovered a Smashwords-based publisher during Read an E-Book Week who is republishing backlists of some noted Canadian authors. I have plenty to read!

5 Comments on The Annual Calibre Library Cleanup, and What I Learned This Year

  1. Oh, you are made of sterner stuff than I. I can clean off my physical book shelves easily (after all I have to dust those books!), but cleaning out my burgeoning digital library? I’d rather give up coffee! HA! Seriously, I figure if I have room on my hd to store them in Calibre, then they can stay, but it makes for a mess when I set up a reading schedule. So I also have lists. One on the computer, and my favorite: handwritten in a special notebook where I can scratch through the title when finished reading. I like the scratching through. It gives me a sense of fulfillment. At least that’s the excuse I give myself. But to dump an ebook? Oh, I just can’t do it. haha (PS: love the graphic at the beginning)

  2. I’ve been cleaning out my Calibre too lately, although a bit at a time. I’ve been adding tags and getting rid of stuff I don’t care about. Seems to be the thing to do this time of year!

  3. I can’t say that I do it annually, but I definitely do some clean up, tagging and deleting. I sort the books by date added, and then look for the recent stuff, since that’s usually the messiest.

    Now that I have an iPad, I don’t download freebies into Calibre anymore until AFTER I’ve read them. They get left on original store’s servers and when I’m looking for something new, I pop open the Kindle, nook, kobo or iBooks for iPad and read until I make a decision of like or dislike. I generally give something 1-2 chapters, or 30-40 pages before I bail and delete, or decided to download and read via my Sony Reader.

    Keeps my Calibre leaner – I only have books I’ve paid for in there.

    My only real challenge has been organizing the children’s books and getting them on to both the iPads – 1 & 2. Seems like one of them is always missing something.

  4. Name (required) // March 29, 2013 at 5:50 am //

    I honestly do not understand.
    Why would you delete a book you might want to read in a distant future?
    You can buy a 3TB external disk for $129. So it is not like you have to save those 50MB that you gain by deleting the files.

    Calibre is packed with features that let you find any book among tens of thousands. Especially if you take care to have a good quality metadata.
    You can simply add a custom rating column and when you feel overwhelmed by a number of books you simply tell Calibre to display only books that have MyRating greater than 3 or whatever. Or move them to another Calibre library. There is no need to delete books. How do you know what will be in 5 years. What if you will be unable to buy new books or one of writers will “make it” and you will have his/her book you downloaded while it was still unknown.

  5. Name (required) — those are hoarder arguments. “Keep it just in case.” “You might be sorry you threw it out.” Keeping stuff is a burden, even if it’s digital. It has to be managed. It makes it harder to choose what you want to read from the morass.

    If you delete one hundred books, you might find later that there was one that you wanted. OK, you can get it again. Buy it if necessary. That’s very little money to spend to gain a clean and uncluttered life.

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