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Adding Custom Cover Thumbnails to the Nook

GlowLight with Sigil

Last Updated: 18 Oct. 2016

1 Background

2 Why Add Cover Thumbnails?

3 Why Not Use Calibre Exclusively to Download Covers?

4 Where to Search for Covers?

5 Which Cover to Choose?

5.1 Cover Image Size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


6 Edit Your ePub File with Sigil

6.1 If Cover Is Lacking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2 If Cover Is Present . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


7 Import the Book into Calibre

8 Send the E-book to Your Nook


9 Acknowledgments


This tutorial outlines how to search for custom cover thumbnails

of side-loaded e-books, embed them into ePub files via Sigil, and get
them to display on the Nook GlowLight (E Ink, model BNRV500). This
method also works with the Nook Simple Touch.

Nook Covers Not Showing Up. 21 Aug. 2011.
According to John Nachtimwald, the former lead developer for Sigil and
a contributor to Calibre,1 the Nook Simple Touchand Nook Colorhave
problems with reading covers for sideloaded ePub files; they will only read
covers from the ePub files themselves, not from cover thumbnails. This issue
is caused by Barnes & Noble improperly implementing the ePub specification
in their device.
Although there are a few different methods for fixing this problem,2 I
experimented with the easiest method, which is to use Sigil, an open-source
ePub editor. The instructions provided by Mr. Nachtimwald were very brief,
so I decided to write up more detailed notesincluding screenshots.
The procedure described below works perfectly on my Nook GlowLight
and my Nook Simple Touch (ST). With the addition of the new cover thumbnails, I now find it easier and faster to recognize books in the Nooks My
Library display. Since I dont own a Nook Color, I was unable to test this
method on the device.

Why Add Cover Thumbnails?

If the bulk of your ePub library consists of Project Gutenberg (hereafter

abbreviated PG) titles without covers, you can spice up their appearance
by adding cover images to the ePub files with Sigil.
Most PG e-books have two ePub versions available: with and without
images. I typically download the book without images, to maximize the
Nooks limited storage space for sideloaded books.

Mr. Nachtimwald retired from the Sigil project in June 2015, due to a lack of time. Sigil
is currently maintained by Kevin Hendricks and Doug Massay.
The other method described by Nachtimwald is to use the Microsoft Windows-based
utility called tweak epub to directly edit the metadata elements in the ePubs OPF (Open
Packaging Format) file. I was too intimidated to fiddle with the metadata in the OPF file.
An alternative method mentioned on the MobileRead Forum is to use Calibre, to perform
an ePub to ePub conversion. (The conversion must be done even if the original file is already
an ePub, and even if you have already converted it once with Calibre). Apparently, this type
of conversion does not always succeed.

Why Not Use Calibre Exclusively to Download Covers?

Although Calibre can download book covers for you,3 there might be instances when Calibre cannot find a cover, or when you do not like the cover
retrieved by Calibre.
In this situation, it is often possible to a) find a cover thumbnail via
Google Images, b) manually download it, c) embed it into your ePub file
with Sigil, and then d) import the edited book into your Calibre library.

Where to Search for Covers?

Begin with a Google Image search. Searching by the authors surname plus
the book title usually provides a good starting point.
In the screenshot below, we see partial results for Victor Hugos final
novel, Ninety-Three (Quatrevingt-treize), published in 1874:

Clicking on Images will display image files relevant to our searchsome

of them are cover thumbnails:

This feature can be accessed via the Edit metadata button, then look for the Download
cover button.

Which Cover to Choose?

My Opinion:
You do not have to find a cover which exactly matches the bibliographic characteristics of the ePub edition you have in hand. Simply
choose the cover you like besteven if it is for a different edition
(e.g., Penguin, Dover Thrift Edition) than your PG edition.


Cover Image Size

There is no such thing as a best size for a cover thumbnail. Sizes may
varyfrom 80 x 115 pixels, to 200 x 300 pixels, up to 600 x 800 pixels (or
I have had successful results with medium-sized cover thumbnails, such
as 200 x 300 pixels, or 300 x 400 pixels.

Edit Your ePub File with Sigil

Once you have completed downloading a cover thumbnail for your personal
library, you are ready to begin editing your ePub file with the Sigil program.
Sigil is a free, open-source, multi-platform, WYSIWYG ePub editor. The
current release is 0.9.6; it runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. (The
screenshots here are from the Windows version).


If Cover Is Lacking

After downloading and installing Sigil, open the ePub file which needs
editing. The example below is Hugos Ninety-Three (Quatrevingttreize):

Under the Tools menu > Add Cover will allow us to add the cover
thumbnail which I selected and downloaded.

Click on the Other Files button in the upper right-hand corner of the

Next, using the Windows File Explorer (Windows Explorer), navigate

to the folder where you saved the cover thumbnail and select it:

Click on the Open button at the bottom of the window.

The cover should load and display in Sigil:

In Sigils Book Browser navigation pane (to the left of the main window), look under Images > hugo-93.jpg, and right-click on the file
name. Choose the Rename option:

Rename the image file as cover.jpg:

The Nook requires the book cover name to be cover.jpg. If
your existing filename is different, remember to change it to
cover.jpg, just to be safe.
Make sure that there is a check mark beside the Cover Image option.
(It will likely be checked by default):

You have almost finished with this step. Save the change(s) to your
ePub file by typing Ctrl+S, or via the File > Save menu option.


If Cover Is Present

Some PG e-books have a default cover which resembles an icon for a handheld PDA (personal digital assistant) from the 1990s:

If you encounter this situation, do the following:

Go to the Tools menu > Add Cover.
Click on the Other Files button in the upper right-hand corner of the
Navigate to your downloaded cover thumbnail and select it.
Click on the Open button at the bottom of the window.
Sigil will alert you and ask if you wish to replace the default (generic)
cover with the new cover:

Click the OK button to confirm. The new thumbnail should display.

This example shows Balzacs Lost Illusions:

Rename the cover image file as cover.jpg.

Make sure that there is a check mark beside the Cover Image option.
Save your changes by typing Ctrl+S, or via File > Save.

Import the Book into Calibre

Import the edited ePub file into Calibre, by clicking on the Add books
button on the toolbar. Your cover thumbnail should appear:

You may also wish to verify that the custom cover was embedded in
the ePub file. Open the book with Calibres built-in viewer, by clicking
on the View button.
The cover should appear there:

Send the E-book to Your Nook

Start up Calibre and connect your Nook via its USB cable. The program should automatically recognize that the Nook is mounted.
Select (highlight) the ePub file you want to send to your Nook. Click
on the Send to device button.

Wait a moment, until the file successfully transfers. Calibre has a cogwheel in its lower right-hand corner to indicate file transfer progress.
I always wait a few extra seconds after the wheel stops spinning, to be
sure that the transfer is complete.
Safely eject / unmount your Nook by clicking on Calibres Device > Eject
this device button.
In case your PG e-book was already on your Nook with a generic PDA
cover, you must first remove / delete the e-book from the Nook.
Make sure that Calibre is not running / inactive.
Connect your Nook via its USB cable, put it into USB Mode and
manually delete the ePub title with the generic PDA cover thumbnail.
Congratulations! The new, improved and more attractive cover thumbnails should now appear on your Nook:


I would like to thank all the programmers involved with developing Sigil and
Calibre, especially John Nachtimwald and Kovid Goyal. Their dedication
makes it possible for average users to easily manage, organize and edit
their e-books.