Kindle and other Ebook Readers

The Kindle was not the first ebook reader (the Sony ebook reader came out years before but was virtually nonfunctional). And the Kindle certainly is not the only ebook reader. In addition, there are now many different models of the Kindle, not including the Kindle Fire which does not have e-ink and is more of a multifunctional android-based tablet platform (7" and 8.9") media consumption device. However, even with supposed competition in the form of Nook (dying) and Kobo (growing quickly), the Kindle is attached to one of the largest selections of English language content collections. Therefore, it remains the most popular ebook reader.

What follows is a discussion of the Kindle and how to manage it and content on it using various software.

Kindle paperwhite and keyboard

When to not choose a Kindle

There are two main reasons I see to select a non-Kindle ebook reading device:

  • If the Kobo ecosystem better serves ones needs (for content, hardware, services). Note I am bullish on Kobo, but have had problems getting them to respond to requests for partnering.
  • If a third kind of emerging device becomes available, such as the hybrid two-screen Yotaphone.

Which Kindle Device

Here there are basically two choices, one that is back-lit (or side-lit), and one that is not. The side-lit kindle paperwhite is great in terms of visibility in various illumination scenarios. It is also fairly quick on page turning.

The Kindle Keyboard has the additional advantage of having a speaker (it can play audiobooks, read books (using a computer voice), and also play music that is copied to the device. The Kindle Keyboard model also has a cover that includes an additional battery and a lamp. This works well though the cover adds size and weight.

The Kindle Keyboard is longer and slightly wider, but the Paperwhite is thicker and feels heavier (though apparently it is not). There are other options such as the Kindle Touch (sort of a shorter Keyboard version). I own both the Kindle Keyboard and the Paperwhite, and use the Paperwhite almost exclusively, though having the kindle keyboard can be handy (and there is enough of a difference in the display that I need it to test new ebooks).

Kindle keyboard with external lamp

To Root or Not to Root

I have rooted in the past, and it was fun, especially since basically it is Linux underneath, and I could customize the screen saver (replacing the images from the rather banal default images). However an OTA update wiped out root, twice, and I've not bothered since.

Essential Kindle Software

For the Kindle there are three pieces of software which make it complete. All are free.

  • Calibre is basically an ebook library tool. The interface is painfully bad, but it works better than anything else and so we overlook the warts.

  • DeDRM is a tool that allows for stripping the DRM from a Kindle ebook upon importing. So the best approach is remove all Kindle ebooks from Calibre. Make sure they are all on the Kindle. Then install the DeDRM plugin into Calibre, and import all Kindle ebooks into Calibre. For every Kindle device, the serial number will need to be entered into the DeDRM plugin or tool. Note: This tool allows people to back up what they have purchased (not avoid purchasing books).

Note that Requiem is software that can remove DRM from all iTunes store content (including music and ebooks).

  • Kindle Application for Windows and OSX. For Linux users it is possible to run the Windows version of Kindle under WINE. This is used in the process of decrypting the file (both for sharing and for storage). Kindle as a software app for the desktop/laptop is a nice addition, along with Android/iOS apps.

  • The DeDRM tool can be used with Adobe Digital Editions encrypted content on the Kobo store.

Create an Ebook

To create an ebook, Sigil mentioned above can do it in a manual way. There are several other systems for ebook creation. Unfortunately, it is not optimal to create one ebook version and upload to all platforms. Therefore the most effective approach (in terms of formatting) is not the most time efficient, and requires several manual steps and processes. This will be more thoroughly discussed in a future article on ebooks and digital content.