Using Kindle for e-books, effectively

In the same way that I have completely transitioned to electronic movies (via NetFlix, Amazon Instant Video, etc) and music (via XBox music and other MP3’s) – I have also completely given up hard-copy books. I still have physical DVD’s, CD’s, and books – but it’s on my list to get rid of them on www.half.com or donate them. I think I’m ready.

I am only saying that that because I slowly transitioned to going electronic, and I liked it! If you are someone who likes to physically have DVD’s, CD’s, and books, this may not be for you – but for those that are ready to go electronic with e-books, here are some my lessons-learned.

The Case for Amazon, and Amazon Prime:
I will first say I am in no way affiliated with Amazon, but I am a big believer in their business model. As a customer, I really like how they do things. I choose Amazon for my primary source of e-books because Kindle is ubiquitous. You can get a native Kindle reading app for virtually every electronic platform:

  • Windows (desktop)
  • Windows 8 (app)
  • Mac OSX
  • iOS (iPad and iPhone)
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Windows Phone
  • An actual Kindle e-ink reader
  • An actual Kindle Fire tablet (in 7 or 10”)

This means that when you buy an e-book (which are often far less expensive than a physical book), you can read it on any device within a minute or two. If you buy a physical Kindle device (e-ink reader or Fire tablet), you also get a free-trial of Amazon Prime.

If you buy anything online, you’ll almost definitely find it on Amazon and often with a low price. With Prime, you get free two-day shipping on whatever you buy. This even applies for things that would otherwise be expensive to ship. So, if you buy online with any frequency, the $99/year cost of Prime more than pays for itself.

A benefit of Prime for e-books/Kindle is that you can use the Owners Lending Library which lets you borrow many books for free, similar to how a library works. You also have access to many, many public domain books and most of the “classics” – for free.

On top of that, as a Prime member, you also have access to an enormous collection of older and some newer movies, for free – this is via the Amazon Prime Instant Video collection. You can watch these from your PC, tablet, phone, Roku, Xbox, TiVo, and other such devices.

So, that $99/year gives you free 2-day shipping on almost everything, the lending library, the free books, and unlimited access to a pretty large collection of movies.

Getting other e-books from other sources:
So let’s say you are sold on the idea of the Kindle platform (again, even if you don’t buy a physical device). You can buy or borrow e-books and view them (and sync to your latest location) on all your devices.

You’re happy and all is well! Then, you see a good deal on http://www.oreilly.com/ – for example, they have a 60% of all Microsoft Press e-books right now (use coupon code WKFAREW through March 26, 2014, by the way). The O’Reilly site is pretty nice. Once I log in, I can see all the e-books I ever purchased and it lets me download them in various formats.  Or you regularly frequent http://www.manning.com/ – they too, have a page that lets you view all your books and download them in .mobi format, for example.

Kindle (devices and apps) will read a .mobi format.

Here’s what the O’Reilly site shows you:

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But wait a minute, you can only “Send” to actual Kindle devices. What if I want to just have the e-book added to my Amazon library so it’s available to all devices? Amazon DOES distinguish between books you bought from them, and “personal documents”, which could be .mobi books, Word documents, PDF’s, etc.

Uploading other e-books to Amazon:
Well, I was researching that tonight and found there are a few way to do that. See:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle

In my case, I had a handful of books that were all too big for e-mail, so I downloaded the PC app. To put it all together: I downloaded the .mobi format e-books which I book at O’Reilly and Manning Press, and saved those on my computer. I installed the SendToKindle windows app.

Now, when I right-click on a .mobi file, I can “Send to Kindle”:

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and that brings up an app which gives me a few options:

image

Then, within a few minutes, I can seen the books on those devices. But wait, I do NOT see them on Kindle for PC, Windows 8 app, nor Windows Phone app. What gives?

Well, it turns out that that it might be a political thing because this is only the case for Windows devices. So, I assume this might be resolved as time goes on because there doesn’t appear to be any technical reason why they couldn’t support it. In the meantime, how do you fix it?

Here’s what I found after some research. For the Kindle for PC desktop application, the answer is simple. All your content is stored in:

%UserProfile%DocumentsMy Kindle Content

You can actually paste that in your address bar of Windows Explorer or use that path from the command-line, as %UserProfile% is an environment variable which points to wherever your profile is stored.

So, simply copy all of your .mobi files here and restart your Kindle for PC application and you will see all your books! For Windows Phone, I couldn’t find a way to do something similar, and for the Windows 8.x App, you need to massively change permissions for all apps, and I decided not to dig into it.

Bottom Line:
I continue to be a fan of Amazon, Amazon Prime, and the Kindle platform (even if you don’t have a Kindle device). It’s certainly not perfect, but it works for me – I can read any Amazon or .mobi-format book on my iPad or Windows desktop Kindle app. For me, that’s pretty much what I need.

Posted in General, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized, WindowsPhone

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