It can be a bit of a nightmare trying to manage a Kindle with a large ebook collection. You can organize them into categories on the device, but that’s frustratingly slow. You could use the official Kindle app, but that’ll only cover you for Amazon-purchased ebooks.
Enter Scida, a new app for organizing your ebooks and putting them on your Kindle(s). It makes managing Kindle ebooks a breeze, but this initial release is a bit light on features. Let’s take a look.
Scida’s easy to set up and get running. Just tell it where to find your ebooks and it’ll sort through for the three formats it supports — MOBI, AZW, PRC. When you plug a supported Kindle in for the first time, it prompts you to give it a name and import an books on the device to your library.
Scida automatically recognizes your Kindle when you connect it to your computer. Supported devices are the Kindle Keyboard, Kindle 4, Kindle Touch, Kindle Black, and Kindle Paperwhite.
From there you’re faced with a management interface that should be like second nature to navigate if you’ve ever used iPhoto, iTunes, or any of their ilk. A panel on the left lets you move between the main library, your collections, and — if it’s connected — your Kindle. The main area is split between a list of ebooks and information about the selected book.
You can also get great at-a-glance information about the contents of your Kindle, similar to the Summary tab on each iOS device in iTunes. This is probably my favorite part of the app, even if it is mostly aesthetic.
Check out your Kindle’s stats, storage, and supported document formats at a glance.
Creating new collections gets tedious quickly, since there’s no way to auto-populate a collection with titles by particular authors, and the app doesn’t grab any metadata beyond title and author. You can sort the list of all books by author or title, and filter it by a search term, at least, which should make the process of selecting ebooks and popping them into categories slightly less painful.
Only title and author can be modified, too. If you’re hoping to import cover art, you’re out of luck — unless you do a bit of hacking around outside the app.
Here you can see the full extent of Scida’s editing options.
To add your own cover art, you’ll need to navigate into the bowels of OS X’s Library folder. Your local repository of Scida books is stored at ~/Library/Containers/com.clapsol.scida/Data/Documents/Scida Library. Each book is in a folder according to its author’s name. In that folder, you need to place a .jiff file with the same name as the book. To create a .jiff, just take a JPEG file and change its extension under the Get Info Finder command.
Where’s the Functionality?
Scida does just three things well — copying books from your library to your Kindle, importing your Kindle books to your library, and looking nice. Everywhere else, it falls short. Besides title and author (and occasionally cover art), it neither displays nor allows you to edit metadata — which means no publisher, publish date, or tags.
Calibre, a free open-source alternative, handles all this and more automatically — provided you’re willing to put up with its awful interface. Without touching a thing, I had it showing tags, publisher, correct cover art, and publish date for the majority of my books — including even the ones that I made from web pages with the Push to Kindle browser plugin.
Scida enters a field dominated by the ugly workhorse Calibre, which is really a fantastic app once you get used to it.
Scida doesn’t need to replicate even half of Calibre’s features to be great for Kindle ebook management, but it would do well to appropriate the parts that are relevant to its vision as a sort of iPhoto for ebooks.
If you want to organize your books into collections, and have those collections synced across devices, you’re in for some headaches. There is no syncing at all. To reproduce your library’s collections on your Kindle, you have to create them again, then select the source collection, select all of the books, and finally drag them onto the relevant Kindle collection label.
If you’re really OCD about your organization and you have a large library, the whole process could take hours. Why can’t you drag the collection labels between library and devices, at least? Why does right-clicking on a book in the list not bring up a contextual menu for that book, rather than whatever was last selected? The longer I used Scida, the more I questioned its design. What seems on first impression to be intuitive turns out to be far from it.
You may find that some behaviors of Scida don’t fit your established mental models — like this issue with right-clicking not bring up a menu for the last-selected item rather than the one right beneath the cursor.
I hope future updates not only add the features you’d expect, but also fixes these odd interface issues.
A Promising Start
Scida just came out. For a version 1.0 release, it’s showing great potential. The app is snappy, beautiful, and — aside from those few aforementioned interface quirks — easy to use. But this beauty has yet to blossom into a great tool.
It lacks syncing, metadata (beyond the absolute basics), custom cover art, other Kindle-supported file types (PDF, plain text), and reading/previewing ebooks, among other things. And I’d hesitate to call it ready for most users.
What it does offer is a clean, simple design, coupled with the right ideas for a killer ebook management app. Keep your eye on Scida; it’s destined for greatness. It’s just recently been released, and the developers have told us that they have a number of new features planned in the future, including potentially adding the option to read eBooks directly in the app. That’d make it a nice eBook library for the Mac itself, too. For now, though, it’s a nice app for managing your Kindle, and little more.