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How To Use Calibre To Correctly Order Your Ebook Series

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Trying to remember, based on the titles alone, what order a series of books goes in can be quite frustrating. Read on as we show you how to annotate and sort your book titles as they’re transferred to your ebook reader for frustration-free reading.

Here’s a common situation: you’ve transferred a series of books to your ebook reader and, once on the reader, there is no easy way to tell the books apart. Does The Mysterious Ranch come before The Mysterious Mid-Century Modern? You could go through the enormous hassle of renaming every series book you have to include the series and series number in the title, but there’s no need to do that. Thanks to a very handy function in the popular ebook management application Calibre, all it takes is a few minutes of tweaking to enjoy automatically renamed and properly numbered books on your ebook reader.

What Do I Need?

For this tutorial you’ll only need your ebook reader and free tools. Here’s what we’re using:

  • Calibre (a free and open-source ebook manager).
  • A Kindle (this trick works with Nooks and other ebook readers, too).
  • An ebook series.

If you’ve never used Calibre before, we’d recommend checking out our guide to organizing your ebook collection with Calibre to familiarize yourself with the application.

Getting Started

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The most important thing is that you have the book series in Calibre. For the purposes of this tutorial we created a set of ebook files by a fabricated author—our apologies to those readers who are dying to know what happens in The Mysterious Mid-Century Modern.

The second most important thing is that you’ve correctly labeled the series in Calibre using the Series meta-data tag. If you don’t have it done already, we promise this will be the most labor intensive (and thankfully one-time) part of the tutorial.

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An easy way to quickly tag all the books in a series is to highlight the books, right click on the highlighted group, and select Edit metadata individually. In the Edit Metadata menu you can enter the Series name and Number at the top of the screen. If you need help figuring out the order of the books in the series you’re editing, we highly recommend you visit the helpful website FictFact—there you can browse by author name and book series.

You’ve got your books? You’ve tagged them with the correct Series and number? Now it’s time to tie it all together.

Setting Up a Calibre Plugboard

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Calibre has an awesome feature known as a Plugboard. The plugboard exists exclusively to allow you to, on-the-fly, edit ebook metadata during the send-to-device and save-to-disk operations. Thanks to the magic of the plugboard you don’t have to do annoying and time consuming things like hand edit book titles in order to insert the series name/number or otherwise resolve formatting and ordering issues on various ebook devices.

Currently our series, MysteryHouse, contains 6 books:

  • The Mysterious House
  • The Mysterious Palace
  • The Mysterious Mansion
  • The Mysterious Bungalow
  • The Mysterious Mid-Century Modern

If we were to simply transfer them to our Kindle, there would be no indication which book came first or last in the series. A simple plugboard can solve that problem by, as the books are copied to the Kindle, editing the title/metadata so that we can, at a glance, see which book is which.

To create your plugboard, click on Preferences –> Metadata plugboards (located in the Import/Export section). You’ll be presented with a blank plugboard, like so:

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The first order of business is to select the format and device. While you could run it wide-open with “any format” and “any device” selected, it’s wiser to set up specific plugboards for specific devices. We’re going to be setting one up for a Kindle 3 (now known as the Kindle Keyboard). For the Format, we’ll select MOBI and for the Device we’ll select Kindle2 (the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 use the same metadata formatting).

Under the Source template you insert the the naming string you’d like to use for the books. Although you can make your own by reading this Calibre manual entry on the subject, we’ll save you the trouble and share a few basic ones here. Our examples are arranged with the string first and the example output second.

{series}{series_index:0>2s| #| –  }{title}

MysteryHouse #01 – The Mysterious House

{series}{series_index:0>2s| – | – }{title}

MysteryHouse – 01 – The Mysterious House

{series:|| }{series_index:0>2s|[|] }{title}

MysteryHouse [01] The Mysterious House

Once you’ve selected the naming string you’d like to use, paste the code into the Source template slot and then select “Title” in the Destination field. We’re using the second one in the list for this tutorial. Click Save plugboard. The plugboard will appear in the Existing plugboards box like so:

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If you need to tweak the plugboard in the future, simply select it and click it and the variables for that plugboard will automatically load into the menu for editing.

Now that we have the plugboard set up, it’s time to test it out. Click Apply in the upper left hand corner to exit the plugboard menu and apply your work. Close the preferences screen and return to the main Calibre menu.

Make sure your device is plugged into your computer and then highlight the books in the series you wish to send to your device. Right click and select Send to device—pick the storage option on the device you normally use, in our case “main memory”.

Dismount your device and power it up. If everything went as planned you should see the book series neatly named and organized like so:

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Success! No more wondering whether the The Mysterious Palace precedes The Mysterious Mansion! Any time you add more devices to your stable of gizmos, you can hope back into the plugboard menu and create a new plugboard script for the device. You’ll never be left trying to remember what order your books go in again.


Have a sweet Calibre or ebook reader trick to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/15/12

Comments (6)

  1. Ty Margheim

    Or you can use an ereader that uses the Series and Number tags to create collections.

    Sony ereaders do this by default.

    Moon+ for Android will also do this

    I was amazed the first time I used a Kindle and it didn’t have this option. I couldn’t understand how anyone could stand having to create the collections manually.

  2. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Ty: Kindle collections are ridiculously clunky. =/

  3. Anita

    Very helpful. I love calibre, but did not know about this feature. Thanks!

  4. LadyFitzgerald

    I know this is picky but, per the developer, calibre is always spelled with a lower case “c”. Also, it is pronounced the same as “caliber.”

  5. Megan

    Does this work on the Nook as well? Also, can this be used for eBooks you do yourself?

  6. Karen

    Without a doubt, this is the most confusing ‘tutorial’ I have ever read on this website.

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