The Kindle’s great for reading the latest (or oldest) releases.
However, as many people find after using it for awhile, it’s also a really good reading experience. If you have long documents from work, or you are working on the Great American Novel, it’s convenient to put them on the Kindle. That way, you have the search features…and if you have a Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, the text-to-speech (which can let you take advantage of the commute times in your car to catch up on that oh-so-important work communication).
Your Kindle has a documents folder, and things you put in there yourself are called Personal Documents by Amazon. They could be a lot of different things: your travel itinerary; that brilliant big idea memo from work; even a book you get from a source other than Amazon.
There are a couple of major factors to consider in putting personal documents on your Kindle: how can you make your files so the Kindle can read it; and how can you get the file on your Kindle.
How to prepare your file for the Kindle
The first question is format. You can usually tell what format a file is by the three letter (on PCs) extension at the end of the file following the period.
The Kindle will read the following formats without conversion:
Any Kindle any time:
.txt (text files…these are very simple files, and can not contain Digital Rights Management…see below)
Any Kindle, if the file is not “protected”
.mbp (MobiPocket…a company bought by Amazon in 2005. It’s believed that .azw is a slightly different version of .mbp). Note: when most files are opened on your Kindle, you get an .mbp file that has the same name as the book and contains the associated information (highlighting, bookmarks) for that book.
.prc (essentially the same as .mbp above)
A specific Kindle, when the file is purchased from the Kindle store:
.azw (the most common file format Amazon uses for books from the Kindle store…the rumor is that it stands for “Amazon Whispernet)
.azw1, .tpz (the other file format Amazon uses. These are both a format called Topaz. If you get the file wirelessly, it will have the .azw1 extension. If you download it to the computer, it will say .tpz)
The Kindle DX alone of the three Kindles can also read .pdf formats without conversion (Portable Document File, a popular format from Adobe). Like a .txt, a .pdf is not keyed for a specifc device. Note: not all .pdfs work. Security can prevent it from working.
Formats Amazon will convert for you for free:
You can send a variety of formats to Amazon, and they’ll send them back to you Kindle ready. Even though these are sent to you from Amazon, they are not keyed for one Kindle: you can share them with other Kindles.
The conversions are not always perfect (especially with .pdfs), but are usually pretty good.
The way it works is that you e-mail the file from an authorized e-mail address to your Kindle’s free address. You can both authorize sending e-mail addresses and find your Kindle’s address on your Manage Your Kindle page.
It’s important to note that the address you’ll see for your Kindle is not the free address, you have to make a change.
If your Kindle address is Sherlock.Holmes@kindle.com, you need to send it to Sherlock.Holmes@free.kindle.com. Otherwise, it will be sent directly to your Kindle, and you’ll be charged for the Whispernet use to do it (that’s the only time, currently, you are charged for Whispernet use). More on that later.
What will happen is that Amazon will convert it and send it back to your e-mail address…not your Kindle’s, but yours. You’ll get something in your e-mail that looks something like this:
In the real e-mail, the e-mail that sent it will be a link, the document will be a link (blue and underlined). Click on the document title, and you’ll see something like this:
Click Save, and save it some place you can find it again. :) Your desktop is okay. If you already have your Kindle connected to your computer (I’ll explain that later), you can save it to your Kindle’s documents folder.
You can do this with the following file types:
.doc (specifically, Microsoft Word)
.htm or .html (Hypertext Markup Language, commonly used to create websites and such)
.rtf (Rich Text Format…it’s pretty universal: not quite as easy for computers as .txt, but allows for additional formatting, like bold and centering)
On the K1 and the K2, you can also send in .pdfs for conversion. Interestingly, if you send a .pdf into a Kindle DX’s e-mail address, it does not get converted. It doesn’t need to be converted to be read on a KDX, but you can’t interact it with it very well. Some people use a different method to convert their pdfs for their KDXs. For example, if you have a K2 and a KDX on your account, you can send it for conversion to the K2’s e-mail address, and then use that file on the KDX. That’s a really important point:
Files converted by Amazon are not keyed to a single device like books you buy from the Kindle store. You can put them on another Kindle and read them.
Third party conversion
So, there are files you can put directly on your Kindle. There are files that Amazon will convert for you. The third option is to convert it yourself, using another program. Why do it that way? Well, you may not want to send it to Amazon, maybe because you don’t have internet access at that moment, or you are concerned about how long it will take. I usually get things back in a minute or so, but it has taken longer. Some people worry about Amazon seeing the content…not something I worry about, but hey, who am I to say anything? ;)
Change the extension from .htm to .txt
This is a strange little trick. Right-click (in Windows) on a file that ends in .htm or .html, choose rename, and change that part of the name (the extension) to .txt. You can now put it on the Kindle, and it will read it. Not only that, but the hyperlinks will still be active. I’ve tried it: it works. I haven’t tried it with images or tables or anything…let me know if that works. :)
Calibre is a free and popular e-book management tool. It deserves its own post, and I’ll do that later. One of the things it does is convert files into different formats. It isn’t perfect: in particular, just like with Amazon, your pdf files may have some problems. At time of writing, they list these formats:
Notice that this will convert an EPUB file to a .mobi file. Google and Sony are using EPUB, and there is a group that has been pushing it as a standard. However, not everybody likes it.
Some of these file types may also sometimes have protection that will prevent their conversion to .mobi by Calibre.
.mobi will generally be the best output format for your Kindle from Calibre.
The website is here.
This is another free program. It’s from MobiPocket, which is owned by Amazon. Again, like Calibre, it does a number of things. One is to convert .htm, .txt, .pdf, and .doc (Microsoft Word, specifically) files to .mobi, which can be read on your Kindle.
You can download it here.
There are other types of conversion software out there (including Mobi2Mobi).
Putting the personal documents on your Kindle
Once the file is in the proper format, you need to get it into your Kindle’s documents folder. There are two main ways to do this.
Send it via Whispernet
Here’s the up-front warning: Amazon is going to charge you for this. They’ll charge you fifteen cents a megabyte, rounded up. That charge is not for the conversion, it’s for the Whispernet use. UPDATE: US customers using the wireless abroad for personal documents with the new Kindle International will pay ninety-nine cents per megabyte rounded up.
However, this is the easy way. You send it to your Kindle’s regular e-mail address from an authorized address. Simply attach the file to an e-mail. You’ll be stuck with the file name you use, pretty much, and your e-mail address will show as the author.
There also are a few rules, according to Amazon:
- Each document “should” be under 50 megabytes
- There should be less than 100 attachments to the e-mail
- The e-mail can go to more than one Kindle, but should not go to more than fourteen
Transfer the file using your USB (Universal Serial Bus) cord
Your Kindle came with a USB cord. On the K1, it is it’s own cord. On the K2 and KDX, it’s the same as the power cord for the wall…the part that plugs into the wall slides off.
Note: these instructions are for Windows.
1. Find the file on your computer
2. Connect the big end of the USB cord that came with your Kindle to the computer, with the diagram side (the “Vulcan fork”) facing up
3. Connect the small end of the USB cord to your Kindle, again, Vulcan fork side up. Your Kindle should go into “USB mode”. It will show the Vulcan fork on the screen
4. Go into your Windows Explorer on your computer (These instructions assume you are using a PC, not a Mac). You can use the Windows button (four wavy squares next to your alt key next to your spacebar usually) + E. If you don’t see that key (it’s possible you don’t have it), you can right-click on the Start menu and choose Explore
5. You should see your Kindle as a “drive” (it normally says Kindle). Drag the file from where you saved it into your Kindle’s documents folder. If you don’t see the documents folder, click the little “plus box” next to your Kindle drive
6. “Safely remove” your Kindle. In the bottom right corner of your computer screen (near the clock), you will typically see a grey rectangle with a green arrow. You might need to click a right facing chevron (like an arrowhead without the stick) to see it. You may see a choice for a USB storage device. After you click on that one, it should show you a choice for the Kindle. If it tells you the Kindle can not be stopped at this time, don’t disconnect it. If it won’t let you safely remove, you can shut down the computer. When the Kindle shows you the regular screen, it is safe to disconnect.
7. Your Kindle should come out of USB mode (and show you a normal screen). If it’s a K2 or KDX, it will be charging
8. You should see the title in your homescreen
9. Disconnect the small end of the USB cord from your Kindle
10. Disconnect the large end of the USB cord from your computer
Removing personal documents from your Kindle
Amazon does not back up your personal documents in your archives, the way it does with books you purchase from the Kindle store. You can go back to the e-mail you got and download it again, so they do store it somewhere. You can back it up yourself, though…just keep a copy on your computer or other digital storage device (like an SD card or flash drive). Go to your homescreen. Get to the title you want. On the Kindle 2, Kindle International, and Kindle DX, flick left. You’ll see a choice to delete the file. On the Kindle 1, hit the backspace key: you’ll also see the choice to delete.
There you go. :) Your Kindle has real value, even if you never shop at the Kindle store for books. It has some great business uses: you could send a document to your salesperson in many places where they don’t have access to wi fi; you can take advantage of the comparatively long battery life; you can send documents to your customers (if they authorize your e-mail address); and many more…if you come up with something creative, let me know!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.