Reading my Amazon books in epub format on non-Kindle readers

I’ve just completed another Kindle Select giveaway for my book The Earworm Inception (and thank you to everyone who downloaded a copy!)  One of the things that always comes up is that someone asks me if I’m ever going to do something similar for Nook or Kobo or other tablet/e-reader users.  So here’s the solution.  First, a long-winded explanation.

I always feel bad leaving out readers who want to check out my books.  One of the reasons this happens is that in order to enroll your book in the KDP Select program and enable these giveaways, you have to agree to not publish your book on any other platform.  And because the bulk of my book sales come from Amazon, it’s the first target for my releases.  I have released some books using Smashwords, which enables you to buy the book in several formats, including epub, which works on most non-Kindle readers; it also puts books in the book stores for B&N, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and others.  But Smashwords, quite simply, is a huge pain in the ass.  Their formatting engine requires different input than Amazon’s, which means I have to completely redesign the book’s interior and front matter and all of that crap, and I never see enough sales to encourage me to do that.  I have a couple of books there, and I hope to get more proactive about posting more there (hint: lots of sales there would help.)  Check out my smashwords profile here to see what’s available.

Also, Amazon makes it easy to read Kindle books on almost every other platform.  You can get the Kindle software for your Mac or PC, for your iPhone or iPad, for Android phones and tablets, and even for Blackberry or Windows Phone 7 users.  There’s a third-party reader called MobiPocket for Windows Mobile (for DRM-free books.)  And if all else fails (Linux), you can use Amazon’s Cloud Reader and read in your web browser.

But that leaves out people with a Nook, a Kobo, a Sony reader, or any other dedicated reader that isn’t a smartphone and isn’t a Kindle. There is still a relatively easy way to do this, using a piece of software called Calibre.  Here is what you do:

  1. Get Calibre for your PC or Mac here:  It’s also available for Linux, but that’s going to complicate the next step.
  2. Download my book for the Kindle onto your PC or Mac.  This means you’ll need an Amazon account, and you’ll need the Kindle software for your PC or Mac.
  3. You’ll now end up with the book as a .mobi file.  On the Mac, it’s in ~/Documents/My Kindle Content.  It’s probably somewhere similar on the PC.  Note that if you have the Kindle software on your phone and you sync with your computer, you might also be able to get the .mobi file that way.  Like if you have an Android phone and a Linux computer, you might be able to download it in the Android Kindle app, sync, and then search for .mobi files on your Linux machine.
  4. Fire up Calibre, Click Add Books, add the .mobi file, and then you can click Convert books to convert the book to an epub file that will work with your reader.

A Huge Disclaimer

What I have just explained is the equivalent to “if you bought our LP and you want to listen to it in your car, just get a stereo with a record player and a tape recorder, put a blank tape in the recorder, and dub a copy of our record to cassette.”  Obviously, record companies would want you to buy both the record and the tape.  I’m sure there’s something in Amazon’s terms of service that you agreed to without reading that says this behavior is not allowed.  So what I’ve mentioned is not kosher from an Amazon standpoint.  (Note to readers born after 1990: “record” and “tape” were ways that your parents listened to music before the iPod was invented.)

So why am I telling you how to do this?  Because I do not give a shit.  I would rather have you read a book of mine and not make money on it than have you not read it and make no money on it.  All I ask is that if you do this, drop me a line and tell me if you liked the book, or write a review, or mention it on your blog or twitter or facebook or whatever.  I’d also appreciate if you told friends to go buy the book, rather than converting it and posting it on the web or in a torrent for the whole world to get for free.  What I’m basically saying is don’t be a dick about this.

The other caveat on this is that Calibre only works on books with no DRM out of the box.  There exist plugins for Calibre to crack DRM, and there are scripts or programs that do it outside of Calibre.  All of my books except the latest one do not have DRM.  I don’t know why I checked the DRM box when I submitted my last book; it was not on any philosophical grounds, and I wish I could uncheck the box, but Amazon won’t let me without unpublishing and republishing the book, which would suck and would make me lose whatever rankings and reviews I currently have.  (My only explanation on this is that I published my last book during cold season, and I may have been whacked out of my mind on Nyquil when I completed the publishing info.)  I can’t endorse, acknowledge, or explain how to crack DRM, except to say that I don’t have a pro-DRM position, and see the above paragraph about me not giving a shit.

So there you go.  If you are a Nook or a Kobo user and this doesn’t work or it seems too obtuse, please let me know.  The only reason I don’t spend more time releasing epub at the same time as Amazon is because I almost never hear from non-Amazon reader users except when a book of mine goes free.  If more people bitched about it, I’d be more apt to do it, so let me know!


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