Use Your Kindle Without Amazon – It’s Easier Than You’d Think

Recently I announced that OCR is Not the Only Font had become available for free in Amazon’s Kindle store. If you own a Kindle and fancy stocking it with some of my flash fiction, that’s likely the easiest way to do it. However, it’s not the only way, despite what Amazon would have you think.

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This guide focuses on books downloaded from Smashwords, but the information is equally relevant no matter where you’re getting them. Project Gutenberg, Unbound and the Humble Book Bundle are also excellent places to get Kindle books outside of Amazon, but these are not your only options. The important thing is that you seek out ebooks in the mobi format, which is what the Kindle uses. Virtually all other e-readers use the much more common epub format (but more on that at the end). Any mobi file can be transferred to your Kindle using one of the following methods:

For simplicity’s sake, here’s a direct link to the mobi files for Red Herring and Bionic Punchline, flash fiction anthologies that I’ve made available free on Smashwords. These are the Kindle versions of those particular books, so feel free to test the process out with them (and if you enjoy my stories, please consider leaving a review!).

Method One:

  1. Use your Kindle’s web browser to download the mobi (Kindle) book from Smashwords. This should be very easy if you’re using a Kindle Fire (which is really more of a tablet computer than a dedicated e-reader), but may still be possible even if you’re using one of the more book-focused devices. My decade-old Kindle Keyboard includes an “experimental” web browser which I’ve used to download books this way in the past. Simply search for the book on smashwords.com (or follow one of the links above if you’re reading this on your Kindle right now) and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the mobi file to download direct to your device.

Method Two:

  1. Use another device to download the mobi (Kindle) book from Smashwords. Whatever you’re using to read this should be quite capable of doing the job.
  2. Email the mobi file to your Kindle email address as an attachment. Instructions on how to do this are available on Amazon. Note that you’ll have to add the address you’re using to send the email list of approved ones before the Kindle will accept files from it. (Your Kindle will also need an internet connection in order to receive it.)

Method Three:

  1. Use another device to download the mobi (Kindle) book from Smashwords. Ideally a desktop or laptop.
  2. Plug your Kindle into that device using a USB cable. Using the other device, you should be able to see everything stored on your Kindle exactly as if it were an external hard drive. (If your Kindle is password-protected, you may need to enter the password on the Kindle before its contents will be revealed.)
  3. Transfer the mobi (Kindle) book to your Kindle over USB. Again, this is exactly like moving a file to a USB stick or external hard drive. You may need to make sure that you place the file in a folder on your Kindle labelled either “Documents” or “Books” (depending on the model). A more comprehensive guide is available on Humble Bundle, which is a great place to get DRM-free books while funding worthwhile charities.

I’ve arranged these methods from “very simple but may not work for everyone” to “more complicated but basically foolproof.” Personally I opt for Method Three because it’s very easy to transfer a whole bunch of books at once. But if you just want the one and your Kindle can cope, downloading it directly might be your fastest option (with email being fairly snappy if that doesn’t work).

One final note on ebook formats:

A lot of the ebooks you’ll find outside of Amazon will be epub rather than mobi. This is not a massive problem. There’s a fantastic piece of software called Calibre that’ll let you convert between the two (and many other formats) with ease. Alternatively, there are any number of places online that’ll convert epub to mobi without you having to install a thing: just upload the epub you want to convert and then download the mobi it produces.

Fundamentally, ebooks are text: there’s not much to them. Amazon doesn’t like to draw attention to the fact that it’s not the only game in town, but there’s no technological reason why you can’t use their (really rather good) reading device to enjoy books made available anywhere else.

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3 comments

  1. Pingback: OCR is Not the Only Font – Free in Kindle Store | Damon L. Wakes
  2. Pingback: Blunderball Ebook Now Available! | Damon L. Wakes
  3. Pingback: I Can Pirate Every Book You Write | Damon L. Wakes

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