There are at least two dozen Baen free e-book CDs on Joe Buckley’s Fifth Imperium Baen CD repository, which represents a wealth of free SF and fantasy e-books available for reading in iBooks (or your other EPUB-reading app or device of choice). The problem is, they’re each located in their own separate directories on each disk, and dragging them individually into iTunes could be quite an undertaking. Plus, there are so many duplicates, and a lot of the CDs don’t even have the books in EPUB format yet! How do you deal with that?
Here’s how I did it, using an unzip program, the Calibre e-book organizer and converter, and the Windows search tool. (Note: I’m going to describe the procedure I used in Windows. But if you use some other OS, you’re probably technically savvy enough to figure out how to translate it.)
Step One: Download the CD zips
The easiest way to work with the files is going to be to download the “one big zip” version of each CD from the Fifth Imperium site. (Forego the ISO; you’d just have to either burn it and copy back or use special software to open it.) I’d suggest getting them one at a time, because your computer is probably going to devote as much bandwidth as it has to downloading each file. If you download two huge files at once, you only get both of them half as fast.
Grab the last few CDs first—starting with the most recent, going all the way back to number 20, Torch of Freedom. These CDs come with EPUB files included, so all you need to do with them is extract the EPUB files from each zip and you’re done. The rest of the CDs, from before Baen started using EPUB, will take a little more effort.
Step Two: Extract the files
Before you unzip the files, create a new folder—on your desktop, in your documents directory, wherever—and open an Explorer window in that folder. This is where you’ll hold the e-book files you extract from the CD zips until you can run them through Calibre.
Hot tip: don’t just unzip the files using Windows’s standard zipped folder view. Extracting every single file in the zips when you only want one type is going to take a lot of unnecessary time. Instead, use something that can sort the zips by file type so you can just extract the file type you want. For the latest disc through disc 20, that will be EPUB. For the rest, it will be LIT. (You could use the Mobipocket files instead, but I’ve had a lot better luck converting from LIT to EPUB with Calibre; LIT’s metadata is better.)
For Windows, I use a program called 7-Zip, rather than Windows’s native zip file navigation. When 7-Zip is installed, it adds itself to the right-click context menu, so all you have to do to open the file is right-click the zip file and select “7-Zip”.
Once the file is open in 7-Zip, click on the “View” menu and choose “Type” (or just hit Ctrl+F4) and then scroll down the file list until you find the EPUB files. Then select them all, and drag them out of the window into that new folder window you created. After it finishes extracting, close that archive and go on to the next one.
Note that once you’ve done a CD or two, you’re going to start getting some duplicate file notices. That’s fine: just tell it to skip the duplicate files—or just copy over them, since they’re going to be exactly the same anyway. After you’re done, you’ll end up with just one copy of each file, the Windows file copy procedure having eliminated the duplicates.
After you’ve done the first five discs with EPUBs, do the same for the rest with LITs. You may wish to do those in a different directory, or else just skip to step three after you finish the EPUBs and come back and do the LITs later.
Step Three: Import to Calibre
You may be thinking that you could just take these EPUBs and drag them directly into iTunes and load them into iBooks. However, to avoid duplication across the books from the other CDs that are still in LIT format, you’re going to need to load everything into Calibre. So you might as well do that first.
Loading the EPUBs into Calibre is going to be as simple as just marking all the files you unzipped into that folder, then dragging and dropping them into the Calibre window. (Or you can use Calibre’s “Add books” toolbar button, of course.) Calibre will read the metadata associated with the files and import them into your Calibre library. And of course you’ll be doing the same thing with the LIT files, too—it’s just that you’ll have to convert them afterward.
Of course, you’ll already know that there are going to be a lot of duplicate titles between the EPUBs from the later CDs and LITs from the earlier ones, even after the EPUB to EPUB and LIT to LIT duplicates are weeded out by copying. You can delete LIT titles that are obviously ones you already have on file, but that could take a long time.
But that’s where Calibre comes in. If you try to add a title to your library that’s already there, even in another file format, Calibre will tell you that it already has a book by that title, and ask if you want to add it anyway. So just click “No” and it will only add the ones that aren’t duplicates.
(Note: Calibre seems to get really slow, and sometimes even crash, if you try to import too many books at once. You may want to add just a couple dozen at a time.)
Step Four: Convert the LIT files
Next, you will want to convert the LIT files into EPUBs so that iBooks can read them. To do this, it will be easiest if you convert them all at once. A great way to do this is to click on the “Date” header in Calibre to sort them in the order in which you added them, then just select all the ones you added after the EPUBs.
Right-click, choose Convert Books and then Bulk Convert, and make whatever option settings changes are necessary. Make sure that “Output format” in the upper right corner is set to “EPUB”. Then click “OK” and Calibre will begin to churn away, converting all the LIT files to EPUBs. This will probably take a considerable amount of time.
Step Five: Add the EPUBs to iTunes
After Calibre has finished its conversion, open your Calibre library directory in Windows Explorer. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on a random book and choose “Open containing folder”. then navigate up to the “Calibre” directory in the Explorer window that opens.
Once you’re there, hit Ctrl+F to open the “Find” dialogue, and type “EPUB” as your search term. Windows will search the entire Calibre library to find every EPUB file in it. Once it has, you can then select them all, then drag and drop them into your iTunes window. iTunes will add all the EPUBs, and then you can sync them to your iOS device.
Step Six: Repeat as necessary
The nice thing about this method is that you can use it whenever a new Baen CD comes out: download the zip, extract just the EPUBs, drag them all to Calibre, and let Calibre kick out duplicates. Then you can sort your file find by date modified, and add only the EPUBs modified “today” to iTunes. Plus you’ll have them all handy in your Calibre library for ease of conversion or export to other devices/apps.