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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

More about ebook conversions

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

A Kindle

After my piece about converting ePub books into a Kindle-friendly format Monday, I got some feedback from people who use different methods to move their ebooks around from place to place.

Serenity Caldwell pointed me to Kindle Previewer, an app that’s intended to preview how ebooks look across Kindle devices. This was very useful for her when she was in charge of our ebooks back in the Macworld days, but it does convert epub files to Kindle-friendly formats, something Send to Kindle for Mac won’t do.

Unfortunately, when I tried Kindle Previewer, it just quit (repeatedly) on launch. This did not fill me with enthusiasm, and since I already have a pretty good solution in Calibre, I didn’t spend time trying to figure out why the app wouldn’t launch.1

I also had the command-line app kindlegen recommended to me. If you are someone who is comfortable with running Terminal commands, kindlegen will give you epub-to-kindle conversion power without the ornaments of a graphical interface. However, while it did convert some of the Hugo Award nominee epub files I have on my disk, it failed to convert the MacStories ebook I download yesterday. And Calibre succeeded. So… more points to Calibre.

A reader who uses the excellent automation utility Keyboard Maestro suggested building a workflow in that app, which is way beyond my skill level as a user of that utility but points out just how powerful and flexible it can be.

And another reader asked me, as a follow-up, if there’s an easy way to save web pages to the Kindle for later reading. Amazon offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox to do this (alas, not Safari), and you can also email a web page to a send-to-kindle email address tied to your particular device.

As for me, I use Instapaper, which offers an “instant send” feature for paid subscribers, and otherwise bundles up articles you’ve added to Instapaper and ships them to you daily. I do a lot of my “read later” reading by adding articles to Instapaper and then reading them at my leisure when I open my Kindle.

Finally, I heard from a few people who asked about converting ebooks bought from Apple’s iBookstore to other formats. Not all books sold via iBooks are wrapped in copy protection, but most are. These books are protected by Apple’s FairPlay DRM, and it’s beyond Calibre’s powers to unwrap FairPlay. There are some apps out there in the shady parts of the Internet that will do it, but I’m not really comfortable recommending them.

Happy reading!

  1. Reader Fernando reports that the Kindle team has a workaround

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