Useful info for Kindle owners
(and other eReaders)

Formats used by Kindles

The e-ink Kindles (Kindle Keyboard, Kindle and Kindle Touch) can display books in four eBook formats: DRM-free mobi and prc, and DRM-encumbered AZW (which is just mobi under the hood) and Topaz. They can also display plain text (TXT) and PDF files.

However, the Kindle cannot display eBooks in the de facto 'standard' ePub format, nor in Sony's LIT format.

The Kindle Keyboard can play audio files, e.g. music or audio books, in MP3 format, however, none of the Kindles produced after this will.

The Kindle Fire range of tablet computers running modified versions of Google's Android, run the Kindle ebook reading app, and those from other manufacturers. With suitable apps installed, it can also act as a music or audiobook device and will play video files.

Kindle backup

Kindles are quite robust, especially when kept in a case. (Don't feel forced to buy the 'official' case, much cheaper, but just as effective clones can be found on sites like eBay!) However, it's still worthwhile keeping a backup of your data.

Since they just appear as USB mass storage, when plugged into a computer, this is easy. Just make a copy of the 'Documents' folder.

The collections structure is stored in the file /system/collections.json and this can also be backed up.

In the unfortunate event that your Kindle does expire, however, you can recover your books in a number of ways. If you buy a new Kindle or use one of the apps on your smartphone, tablet or computer, the contents of your library will be available as soon as you sign in. Alternatively, try my guide to recovering your books from the Amazon website.

Adding other content

Music files or audio books and eBooks can be added from a computer, over USB, by dragging and dropping into the apropriate folder, or downloaded in a compatible format directly from the internet using the 'experimental' browser.

Folder structure can be used, however the Kindle ignores this.

You can email stuff in a number of formats (unprotected Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI) to your Kindle using the <identifier> and <identifier> addresses. The first will cost money, but can be collected over 3G, while the second, as the name suggests, is free but will only be delivered when you're using a wi-fi connection.

You can configure your Kindle email address on the Amazon website, and also which addresses can send to it and set a maximum amount you're happy to pay for content to be delivered over 3G. The current email address for your device is also listed on the second page of the settings.

Amazon's Send to Kindle options include browser plugins for Firefox and Chrome, desktop apps for Windows and Mac OS and an Android app.

Internet access from your Kindle

The Kindle ships with an 'experimental' browser which can be used to access the internet over wi-fi or 3G. For Kindles equiped with 3G access (Kindle Keyboard and later), the range of sites available varies depending both on the country in which the Kindle is registered and the country in which the Kindle is physically located at the time.

More details of available access levels have been collated at the KindleWorld blog.

Protecting your Kindle

If you happen to like reading in the bath (or on the beach, near other water, etc), Aquapac do a superb waterproof case, or you can try a ziploc bag.

If you fancy making your Kindle stand out from the crowd, Nuvango (formerly GelaSkins) is a Canadian company producing skins for a range of devices including the Kindle. Other skin companies include DecalGirl and Stickerboy as well as many others.

Managing collections

Collections are usually managed on the Kindle itself, but if you add a large amount of content at once, you may find the interface clunky.

Collections can be managed on a computer, while the Kindle is connected, but at the cost of requiring a full reboot of the device. (See also Kindelabra and this Calibre plugin)

Managing your Kindle

You can manage a number of settings and the books you have bought from Amazon from your account page on the Amazon website. However, due to some foolishness somewhere, it initially appears that this is not possible if you are using Opera as your browser.

This appears to be an issue with Amazon's browser detection code, and there is a workaround available in Opera.

  1. Go to any page on the Amazon website, e.g. the Manage My Kindle page.
  2. Hit F12.
  3. From the menu, choose Edit site properties...
  4. On the Network tab, in the Browser Identification option, choose Masquarade as Firefox.
  5. Hit F5 to reload the page, or navigate to the Manage My Kindle page, and you will now find that the widget completes loading.


Amazon will convert many formats to Kindle compatible ones and deliver them to a Kindle device, using email.

Desktop conversion can be done using Calibre, a multi-platform book management and conversion application. Calibre includes output templates for various devices and can convert between all major formats.

Plain text, RTF, Word and other forms of formatted text tend to convert quite well to eBook formats. Conversion between eBook formats is usually good, too, as they are generally variations on the theme of packaged and compressed HTML, CSS and images. (Topaz is a notable exception to this.)

Handling PDF

Conversion of PDF to eBook formats tends to be fraught and often produces poor results, due to the nature of PDF itself and the difference in approach between a strongly page based layout and the more flow oriented nature of eBooks. Calibre can be used, and there are options to use regular expressions to strip out repeating content such as page headers and numbers. For Windows, commercial software such as PDFtoEPUB provides a friendlier interface to the conversion process.However, neither are entirely foolproof, and the resulting file may require substantial re-editing.

Alternatively, it is possible to leave the PDF in its native format and apply transformations to improve the display on the Kindle. Software to do this includes:

Creation and Editing

Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG ePub editor, which can be used in concert with Calibre to improve the formatting of eBooks.

Edited, and converted, files can be previewed using the Kindle Previewer, which will run in WINE under Linux.

Files to read on Kindles can also be created with Amazon's own KindleGen, MobiPocket Creator or other software.

MobiPocket Creator is now very long in the tooth and should be avoided. However, both KindleGen and the Kindle Previewer have been upgraded in Jan 2012 to support the new KF8 version of the mobi format, which extends the supported formatting capabilities with HTML5 and CSS3, in order to take advantage of the extended capabilities of the Kindle Fire.

Amazon have announced that all 'latest generation' Kindle devices will be upgraded to support KF8 ebooks. This has been clarified to cover the Kindle Keyboard ('3rd generation' Kindle) and all of the more recent e-ink Kindles.

Free books

Lending/Borrowing Kindle books

Book matches people with Kindle books to lend with people who'd like to borrow them. (Currently only works if you're set up as a US Kindle user.)

Online reading social networks

Digital Rights Management

A discussion of DRM and eBooks, and useful software, can be found here.

And finally...

Some stuff I don't have a better home for, yet:

Found the information helpful? Think there's something missing?

You can contact me via email: kindle-info@geah. org

My Amazon Wish List or send me a gift card, since it's not possible to buy ebooks for other people's Kindles, yet.