How to Use Dropbox to store all your ebooks in the cloud

Previously, we looked at how to read your old ebooks (i.e. LIT, MOBI, PDB, RTF) on iBooks, Apple’s e-reader app. It involved converting them into ePubs, the only ebook format supported by iBooks, and uploading them via iTunes. Well we’re going to show you today a far superior method — one utilizing Calibre and Dropbox — for storing your ebook collection and transferring books to your iPhone, iPod Touch and/or iPad even if you’re far away from home, without access to your home computer.

Many of you have likely heard of Dropbox already, and are perhaps even using it on a day-to-day basis. For those you not familiar, Dropbox is a free web-based service that allows users to store their photos, files and other documents “in the cloud”. They’re then synced across any computer (Mac, Windows, Linux) or Mobile OS (Android, iOS, Blackberry etc) with Dropbox installed and can easily be shared with friends and family. So if you add or edit a file on one computer, all other PCs/Macs/iDevices at your disposal will also have the exact same file uploaded – often seconds later. The idea behind it is very much like Apple’s own iCloud that was introduced with iOS 5, though in many ways, iCloud’s lot more restrictive in the sense that you can’t simply upload/download individual files like you can with Dropbox. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how we can use both Calibre and Dropbox to effectively manage your ebooks, as well as be able to retrieve them no matter where you are.

Note: If you are already using Dropbox, skip down to step 6

1) First thing you’ll need to do is register for a free Dropbox account. Please note this is a referral link, meaning you will receive an additional 250MB of free space on your free account after you’ve successfully installed Dropbox..which brings us to..

2) Download and Install Dropbox on your PC, Mac or Linux

3) One of the initial setup screens will ask if you already have a Dropbox account. New users can create an account by filling out their name, email and password. Existing Dropbox users setting up the install on a new computer can simply link up to their account by providing the email address associated with Dropbox and password.

4) Dropbox is completely Free to use (you get 2GB of storage to start with), though you can upgrade to 50GB for $9.99/month and 100GB for $19.99/month. Unless you’re planning on uploading large files like videos and MP3s, 2GB should be more than sufficient – especially for storing ebooks. You can always upgrade at a later time if you feel you require more space. And keep in mind that as you invite friends and family to use Dropbox, you’ll get an extra 250MB of space for each person refered, up to a total of 8GB.

5) You can then take the brief 5 step tutorial highlighting the basics of Dropbox, as well as choose where the Dropbox folder will be located.

6) Locate the newly installed Dropbox folder on your computer and create a new folder called ‘eBooks’ (or something similar). You can do this by right clicking anywhere within the Dropbox folder and select “New Folder”. Or you can simply hit Cmd+Shift+N on a Mac or Ctrl+Shift+N on Windows.

7) Next, we’ll need to setup Calibre on your PC, Linux or Mac. For those of you not familiar, Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application that allows you to manage your entire eBooks collection (rate, tag, sort, download metadata and covers etc.). It can also accept a wide range of ebook formats for conversion – great for turning those old Lit, Mobi and other ebook files into ePub. Just think of Calibre as the iTunes for eBooks.

8) Download and install Calibre for your Operating System. The setup wizard will initially ask you to choose a location for your books. Change it so that Calibre is pointing to the ebooks folder you’ve just created in Dropbox (see above screenshot). This step here allows Calibre to directly add/edit ebooks stored in your Dropbox account.

9) Assuming you’ll be reading your ebooks on an iPhone/iPad, select Apple –> iPad or iPhone/iPhone/Touch when asked to choose your ebook device. This ensures that any conversions made are tailored to your ereader.

10) With Calibre installed, you can begin adding ebooks into the software by either clicking on the “Add Books” icon located in the top left corner, pressing “A” on the keyboard, or simply dragging and dropping ebook files into the center and main panel. Note that once you add any new books or make any changes via Calibre, your Dropbox account will instantly be updated as well. Basically, if you add an ebook on your iMac/PC via Calibre, all other desktops, laptops and mobile devices with Dropbox installed will also receive the file. How cool (and handy) is that? Also, if you are planning on reading your ebooks on the iDevice, make sure that you convert them into ePub beforehand – apps like iBooks and Stanza (and most others) only accept this format. For converting and adding metadata/covers, refer to steps 4 and 5 in our previous post.

11) Now it’s time to download and install Dropbox on your iPhone, iPod Touch and/or iPad. Using the Dropbox app, we’ll be able to access all your ebooks from the cloud and import them into iBooks and other e-reading apps from the App Store.

12) Upon launching the app, tap on “I’m Already a Dropbox User” and enter your login email and password.

13) Once you link the app to your Dropbox account, all your folders and files will appear on your iDevice. Find the eBooks folder you created earlier on your desktop and select it. Assuming you’ve already added books via Calibre, your eBooks folder within the Dropbox app will have all your books neatly organized by Author.

 14) Locate an ebook (the actual ePub file) and open it. After downloading the book from the cloud, you’ll immediately see a “Unable to view file” screen. This is perfectly normal as Dropbox doesn’t support the viewing of this file format. Simply tap the “action” button on the bottom right of the screen and you’ll see a list of apps installed on your device that you can send the ePub to.

15) Choose an e-reader from the list (i.e. iBooks, Stanza, Kobo or others) and your ebook will be opened within that particular app. You can still send your ePub to the likes of Evernote, GoodReader or other file managers, but you won’t be able to actually read the ebook – they’ll simply save and store it like any other document.

16) One other thing you can do with the Dropbox app is save these ebooks/epubs right on your device, which gives you access to them even if you don’t have an internet connection. This way, you can transfer certain books over to various e-reader apps anytime you want. To do this, simply tap on the Star (center bottom) after you’ve opened a file (if it’s an epub, it’ll be the “Unable to view file screen”. Now whenever you go into the “Favorites” section, all the ebooks/files you’ve starred will be waiting for offline use.

Well there you have it folks. Once you get everything set up and use it a few times, you’ll find that the combination of Dropbox and Calibre will make managing your ebooks a whole lot easier, especially when it comes to transferring them into your iPhone or iPad. Take a look at the video below made by Kovid Goyal – creator of Calibre – as he highlights some of the advanced features and UI tips of the powerful eBook management software.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this tutorial, please feel free to leave a comment below.

  • Jdnewsome

    is it possible to transfer an ebook from me in new york to a cousin in las vegas, and if so, how?  thank you

  • Louis

    If you’re talking about transferring a file file via Dropbox, you can do it one of 2 ways (assuming the ebook is free and legal to share of course)

    Using the iPhone/iPad Dropbox app, locate the file you want to send. Tap the link icon (bottom left on iPhone, top right on iPad) and choose email link option. Type in your cousin’s email and send the generated Dropbox link. The other way is to actually share your Dropbox folder with him/her. You’ll need to log into your Dropbox account via a desktop, find folder you wish to share, right click on it and select “Invite to folder..”. With this method though, I believe the other person must have a Dropbox account as well.

    Hope that helps.   

  • Anonymous

    Very cool– this is something I will definitely use to keep my phone and tablet space free. Thanks for sharing it. 

  • Nelde

    Sounds good. Just positive comment: Calibre is also in portable version.

  • Dawnsly

    How can I get my drop box contents to be shared with a friend? And from there get the ePub files onto their Kobo?

  • Louis

    For that you can go to Dropbox.com on your desktop/laptop, login and located the folder you’d like to share with a friend. Right click on folder and choose “Invite to Folder” option. Enter their email address(es) and they should get a notification soon after that the folder has been shared.

    To get the the epubs onto their Kobo, they can either use the method found in above tutorial – using desktop/calibre and plugging in their Kobo – or directly on their Kobo. With this second method, go to dropbox.com on Kobo browser, select desktop version on the page, login and find the folder that you’d shared with them. Locate epub file and download it onto reader from there. Haven’t tried this in ages but it should still work.

  • gilt

    Is it possible to move an ebook (epub or pdf) I have read, from my ipad reader application (eg Bluefire, Goodreader, etc) to Dropbox for storage to be able to delete it then and make room on the iPad?

  • Louis

    If you’re using Goodreader, you can send your pdf (or whatever file) to your Dropbox (you must have dropbox app installed) by tapping “Action” –> select file(s) –> open in… –> Dropbox app. Once you do that, it’ll bring you to Dropbox app and you can choose Save.

    With Bluefire, I don’t think there’s an Open In…option like w/ Goodreader. That said, there’s a workaround by emailing epub/pdf file to your dropbox. For this you can use a free service called https://sendtodropbox.com/. Never tried this but it should work.

    Of course, you can just make sure that you upload your ebooks to Dropbox first before choosing your ereader app if possible. This way, you’ll always have a copy of the file(s) in the cloud and not have to worry about deleting them from your iDevice.

  • http://ikenj.net/ Ike Norris Jr.

    This is very interesting! However, if you delete a book from the device, does it also delete all highlights & notes as well? If re-added, will you have to start over?

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