Although Amazon would be pleased if you only used the Amazon Kindle Store to put documents on your Kindle, there are many other ways to put content on the popular device. Read on as we show you how.
Don’t get us wrong, Amazon’s content delivery system is speedy and effective. If the price is right for the content they’re offering, delivery is quick and painless. What about when you want to add in content from other sources, though? Whether you have ebooks in incompatible formats, ebooks purchased from other retailers, general documents on your computer, web pages, or even RSS feeds you want transferred to your Kindle, we have a solution for you. Your Kindle doesn’t need to be a books-only-from-Amazon device!
What You Need
For this tutorial you won’t need much and, Kindle aside, it’s all free. To follow along you’ll need:
- A Kindle
- A computer (we’ll be using a mix of web-based, Windows-only, and cross-platform solutions)
- Your Kindle’s free delivery email address (we’ll show you how to find it)
You can use the techniques on the Kindle Fire, but they really shine for the e-ink Kindle models as they have fewer options for accessing mobile content (it’s radically easier, for example, to read web pages on the Kindle Fire and you can actually install a stand alone RSS reader).
Direct File Transfer
The simplest way to put files on your Kindle, outside of the Amazon content delivery system, is to simply copy them over. The Kindle supports the following document types natively: Kindle (.AZW and AZW1), Text (.TXT), Mobipocket (.MOBI and .PRC) and PDF. Note: If the Mobipocket file you have has some sort of Digital Rights Management (DRM) attached, you will not be able to load it on your Kindle without first breaking the DRM in some fashion or checking to see if there is a DRM-free copy available.
If you have a file the Kindle can read all you need to do is plug the Kindle into your computer via the sync cable. The Kindle’s memory will mount just like a flash drive. Navigate to the directory /documents/ off the root directory of the device. Any compatible file you dump in this directory will be available on your Kindle once you safely eject the device from your computer. Note: if you dump a simple file, such as a text document, with no meta-data into the /documents/ folder, all you’ll see when you look at the document list on your Kindle is the file name. If you want cleaner meta-data and more organize experience you’ll want to use a program like Calibre, highlighted below, to ensure your Kindle gets the proper meta-data.
Super Charging Your Direct File Transfers with Calibre
Manually copying files is fine if you’re only copying a file or two. If you’re managing a large ebook collection, however, you really need a more robust solution than simply dragging files around by hand.
As far as robust ebook management solutions go, it doesn’t get much better than Calibre. It’s an open source application available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users that, for lack of a better analogy, works for ebook readers like iTunes works for iOS devices. It supports 22 ebook formats—from MOBI to LIT to EPUB and everything in between—and makes managing a book collection, large or small, a pleasure. Calibre is by no means a Kindle-exclusive tool (you can use it for a Nook, Sony ebook reader, etc.) but it really shines as a tool for extending the reach and utility of your Kindle. Check out our Calibre guide here.
While Calibre is best known for converting ebook formats and managing ebook collections, it has a host of lesser known features including an RSS-to-ebook function. The RSS tool essentially takes chunks of the RSS feed in question and converts them, similar to a digest-style email, into a single ebook document. You can read more about the the RSS functionality here.
Employ Specialized PDF Conversion For Enhanced Kindle Reading
When it comes to PDF files, things either go really well or really poorly on the Kindle. Some PDF files are formatted in such a fashion that they make the leap from a computer screen to a small e-ink screen pretty flawlessly. Other PDF files are formatted in such a fashion that, when scaled, smashed, and otherwise man-handled onto the small Kindle screen the results are a hot mess of tiny fonts and poorly rendered design elements. You can use Calibre to convert PDF files into other formats. If Calibre has trouble with the design and layout of the PDF you can also use K2pdfopt to convert the file without attempting to reflow the design of the document. Check out our PDF conversion guide here for tips on how to use both Calibre and K2pdfopt.
Optimize Comics For The Kindle
Clearly the Kindle Fire is a superior choice, at least in the Kindle family, for reading comic books thanks to its color screen. That said, you can easily convert many comics into a format and resolution friendly with the other Kindles’ e-ink screens. The key is to start with high contrast comics (Manga and other predominantly line-art style comics are great for this)—converting Watchmen for the Kindle’s small black and white screen would yield a less than optimum result. To read more on how you can convert comics using Mangle, check out our full guide here.
Email Documents To Amazon For Conversion
So far we’ve focused on techniques that require you to use the sync cable in order to transfer files from your computer directly to your device. You can email your document to Amazon’s servers where it is converted into a Kindle-friendly format and shuttled to your Kindle wirelessly.
Note: there are two forms of wireless delivery, Whispernet and Wi-Fi. If you use Whispernet (Amazon’s 3G content delivery solution) to deliver your document conversions, you pay $0.15 per MB in the US and $0.99 per MB outside the US. If you, instead, opt for Wi-Fi delivery, you pay no service charge. Since we’re in no hurry to pay a premium for content that we can get converted and delivered for free, we’re going to show you how to use the free method.
In order to get content converted and delivered for free you need to know the free-content email address for your Kindle. Login to your Amazon.com account and then go to the Manage Your Kindle –> Manage Devices page. On that page you’ll see the email address for each of your Kindles (only physical Kindles have one, not Kindle apps). You should see an email address that looks something like YourName@kindle.com. Simply append @free. to that email, to make it YourName@free.kindle.com in order to have your converted documents send for free via Wi-Fi instead of the pricier Whispernet.
Before you begin using the service, you need to authorize your personal email to send content to your Kindle. If your email is Someone@SomeISP.com, for example, you’ll need to tell Amazon.com that it’s really you at that address. To do so, go to Manage Your Kindle –> Personal Document Settings. Click on “Add a new approved e-mail address” at the bottom of the Personal Documents Settings sub-menu to add your address.
To use the service you just need to send an email to YourName@free.kindle.com with the document you want converted attached to the email and “convert” as the subject line of the email. Amazon will convert the document and, the next time you’re in range of a Wi-Fi access point, it will sync the document to your device.
Send To Kindle For PC Sends Documents From Windows Explorer
If you’re on a Windows machine, Amazon recently released an application called Send to Kindle for PC. Essentially it’s just a syncing tool integrated into the context menu of Windows Explorer. You simply highlight the files, right click, and hit “Send to Kindle” to fire them off. Send to Kindle supports Microsoft Word (.DOC and DOCX), .TXT, .RTF, .JPG/JPEG, .PNG, .BMP, and .PDF.
Shuttle Web Pages and RSS Feeds to Your Kindle With Third Party Tools
The @free.kindle.com email address we highlighted earlier is also extremely useful for allowing third parties to send you free content. One of the best ways to take advantage of this is to set up a bookmarklet tool or authorize your favorite read-it-later type web app to access your Kindle.
If you want to easily shuttle a web page you’re reading to your Kindle, there are several services that offer one-click bookmarklets for doing so.
- Tinderizer (formerly Kindlebility) offers clean conversion and formatting from a single-click bookmarklet.
- Readability offers that clean formatting made famous by it’s web-scrubbing bookmarklet in a Send to Kindle format.
- ReKindleIT offers similar single-click functionality.
- SENDtoREADER also offers a single-click bookmarklet but, as an added value, also had a service called SENDtoReader Periodicals that converts RSS feeds into digests. SENDtoREADER Periodicals gives you a high degree of control over the process—you can select how often an RSS feed is converted, how many items per feed are selects, and adjust other variables to create a custom news digest.
- Instapaper offers free Kindle integration (once logged into your Instapaper account, check out the Kindle support page).
Each service will have you repeat the simple email authorization we performed in the “Email Documents to Amazon for Conversion” step earlier in this guide. You’ll only have to authorize each service once. Also, if you have more than one Kindle, it’s pretty neat to set up a bookmarklet for each Kindle. I, for example, have a Tinderizer bookmarklet for my Kindle and for my wife’s Kindle. This way if I find an interesting article I want to share with her, I can easily send it to her Kindle with a single click.
Whether you’re using the sync cable, your Amazon email address to manually direct conversions, or enjoying nearly instant click-to-send web site to Kindle transfers via bookmarklet, you’ll never be left struggling to get a document on your Kindle.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 02/7/12