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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Calibre: How I put epub books on my Kindle

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

I like reading books on my Kindle, but one of the drawbacks of the Kindle platform is that it doesn’t support the epub book format. Instead, Kindle supports the Mobipocket format and its Kindle-specific AZW successors. So when I get an epub book I’d like to read, I need to convert that book before I can load it on my Kindle.

For this (and many other ebook related tasks), I use the free tool Calibre. It’s a program that’s hard to love, because it’s a cross-platform open-source project and it really shows in the interface. While Calibre fancies itself a sort of iTunes for ebooks, I don’t use it as a catalog. Instead, I use it to convert books into different formats.

You can add a book to the Calibre library by dragging it in. Converting is a multi-step process: First select the book in the Calibre library window, then click on the Convert Books item in the app’s toolbar, choose a new output format from the pop-up menu in the top right corner (I choose MOBI), and click OK. (From this window, you can also apply changes to the book’s settings—for example, you can force text to be aligned left rather than justified, and the Kindle will honor this choice!)

Calibre will begin converting the book, and you’ll see a spinning circle in the bottom-right corner of the window next to the “Jobs” label. Once that wheel stops spinning, your book has been converted. To open the book in the Finder, right-click on the book in the Library and choose Open Containing Folder.

At this point, I open Amazon’s Send to Kindle app, which lets me add files to any of my registered Kindles and store them in Amazon’s cloud library for future access. For example, the hardcover of Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Cryoburn comes with a CD full of epub versions of past novels in the series. I was able to convert those files and upload them to Amazon, and then download them and read them at my leisure. When I get the voter packet for the Hugo Awards every year, it tends to include some epub versions of nominated novels. Federico Viticci’s Club MacStories offers long articles in epub format as well.

Also, if you’re not a fan of DRM on ebooks, you might be interested to know that there’s a plug-in for Calibre that lets you remove the DRM from books and then convert them to other formats. I maintain a DRM-free backup of most of my Kindle books, so if I ever want to abandon the platform altogether, the books I bought will come with me to wherever is next. Piracy is bad, people, and authors deserve to get paid—but if I buy a book, I’m going to feel free to load it on any device I wish.

Whether you bought something on Kindle that you’d like to have on iBooks or downloaded an epub and wish you could load it on a Kindle, Calibre is the tool for the job. I don’t love it, but I use it, and I’d be sad if I didn’t have it around.

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