Using Calibre on a Chromebook for Indie Publishing

In a previous post, I talked about my love for Chrome OS and Chromebooks in general. This past week, I completed my move onto 100% Chrome OS for my self-publishing pipeline. The last barrier to doing this was a reliable and controllable way to generate .mobi files for Amazon’s Kindle platform. The feature isn’t generally available just yet, but if you’re interested in doing this, here’s a brief tutorial on how to make it happen early!

  1. You need a supported Chromebook. Right now, it’s only on the Pixelbook. This is expected to change as support is expanded. Most likely, these instructions will stay the same for new supported devices.
  2. Switch to the DEV channel on your Chromebook:
    1. Go to Chrome’s Settings panel, hit the upper-left hamburger menu and choose “About Chrome OS” at the bottom.
    2. Click “Detailed build information”.
    3. Click the “CHANGE CHANNEL” button in the “Channel” item.
    4. Choose “Developer – Unstable” from the Channel dialog and confirm your choice.
    5. Back on the “About Chrome OS” panel, there will be a button to “RESTART” your Chromebook. Once it downloads the DEV channel update, it will restart.
    6. Doing this will NOT wipe your Chromebook 😀 So no worries there!
  3. Tell your Chromebook to enable the experimental feature:
    1. Navigate to this URL chrome://flags/#enable-experimental-crostini-ui
    2. Find the flag called “Experimental Crostini UI”
    3. Change the setting to the right of it from Default to Enabled
    4. Once again, you’ll have to restart your Chromebook
  4. Launch the Linux environment:
    1. Go into Chrome Settings
    2. There should be a “Linux (Beta)”section. Turn it on. It will do a download, then launch a terminal window. This is your new full Linux terminal!
  5. Install and run Calibre. Calibre’s website recommends a direct download and install, so we’ll do that.
    1. You’ll need the “wget” utility first. To install it, type:
      sudo apt-get install wget
    2. Calibre’s website has a command line to do its installation, but I found it didn’t work perfectly. Here’s one that worked for me:
      sudo wget -nv -O- https://download.calibre-ebook.com/linux-installer.sh | sudo sh /dev/stdin
    3. A bunch of stuff will download and install. When it’s finished, you can run it by simply typing calibre on the command line
    4. Calibre should make an application window, and you’re good to go!

In order to make files accessible to Linux applications (at least for now), there’s a new item in Chrome’s file browser called “Linux”. It shows up next to the “Downloads” and “Drive” entries. You can drag and drop your files there, and they will end up in the default directory that your Linux apps can access. This part is a little clunky, and I expect that it will change in the future for a smoother user experience.

Kudos to the Linux-on-Chrome OS team — this is a great feature. As someone who went from Windows to desktop Linux to Mac then to Chrome OS, this is an exciting development.

Cheers

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

ChromeOS, Linux Applications, and Indie Writers

I’ve been using ChromeOS for years (i.e. Chromebooks). In January I bought a Pixelbook, and it is easily the nicest computer of any variety (laptop, mobile, etc.) that I’ve ever personally owned. Until last month, I still had to have a Mac around to do a few things, but I believe those days are over. Google has announced that they are rolling out support on Chromebooks for Linux applications.

For the independent writer and publisher, this is an amazing advance. One of the most critical tools that we need during the publication process is a way to curate the creation of .mobi files — Amazon Kindle’s native publication format. Amazon will do it for you, but their auto-conversion leaves a lot to be desired. The main tool that indie writers use to control this themselves is called Calibre. It’s an open source document converter that creates .mobi files, and provides a really nice tool set for dealing them.

You need a Mac, Windows and Linux machine to run it. But now, you can do it right on a Chromebook. I just got it working on my Pixelbook yesterday and produced a beta-reader .mobi of A Walk in the Park, With Monsters. It’s great to know that I can now use ChromeOS for my entire publication pipeline!

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

Pittsburgh: The Denizens of the Shallows

Pittsburgh has a fleet of boats that do cruises on the Three Rivers. If you’ve ever taken one, you’ll remember these mildly horrid things. As you cross the access way to the pier area of the fleet, the water is fairly shallow and these carp cluster there, hoping that passersby will feed them.

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

Beautiful firearm: the Whitney Wolverine

The Whitney Wolverine was produced from 1956-1958. They only made about 15,000 of them. According to the company, only 500 were nickel-plated like this one. It looks amazing.

It’s a single action .22 LR. They originally cost $40 and $45, respectively. Today — if you can even find one — the non-nickel ones go for $1,000 at auction. Olympic Arms made did a revival of the gun several years ago, but the design lost its elegance in my opinion.

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

Progress update: first revision pass

My first revision pass went a lot more quickly than I expected. As I worked through the first draft of the book, I kept a list of things that I needed to “backtrack” when I was finished, i.e. write back into earlier parts of the book so that everything holds together better. It turns out that the themes and items I’d noted to backtrack were already there, for the most part.

Having just read through the book over the last week, I’m pretty happy with it.

The next step is distribution to my “local” beta readers, and then looking for a more widespread beta audience. I’ll post here, and to a couple of other places when the beta program is ready.

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)