Friday, May 11, 2012

How to read DRM'd ePub books on the Kindle Fire. Amazon makes it doable.

Amazon makes it possible but doesn't make it ultra-easy

The two most popular ePub readers for Android are not made available for the Kindle Fire, as Amazon concentrates on its own books but, as with about 3 million free books available these days for reading on the Kindle and which Amazon points us to on their own pages (re Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, etc., all explained at this blog's Free Kindle Books guide), Amazon doesn't limit your ability to download non-Amazon books (despite the myths propagated by those who may just wish it were so).

With Amazon's new KF8 (Kindle Format using HTML 5) capabilities, there is less reason to go out of one's way to get an ePub version of a book for layouat reasons, but there will always be certain ePub books that Amazon doesn't have, and now those, even if using Adobe DRM, can be read on a Kindle device - the Kindle Fire.

It's an Android-based device, and there are Android apps written to read ePub files and, further more, ADOBE-DRM'd ePub files.

The two most commonly recommended ones are Aldiko and Mantano. You can download the Aldiko app from Aldiko, and there are a number of mostly-reliable places that offer app downloads (LEN EDGERLY recommended one of my favorites,, for the Mantano app -- you also need to sign up with and download its store app to get its apps).

  Off Topic - but something you should know about.  See Len's The Kindle Chronicles, which is now being offered as a Kindle-edition blog subscription too, so you can read it offline, as Len is adding lengthier written pieces as well as his ultra-informative weekly podcasts and summaries.  Tonight's will be an interview with James McQuivey, of Forrester Research, whose interview is likely going to be an antidote to the The Sky is Falling columns by news-site publishers lately, who only a week before had reams of stories on how Amazon is becoming a scary monopoly which must be stopped!
    Kindle sales were down 1st quarter after a huge Christmas with the new launches and as the iPad 3 was being released.   I'm surprised people didn't expect the usual post-season lower sales.  This will be true with any product.  But McQuivey has a good handle on the e-reader scene, so I look forward to what he says and there's a lot more that's happening with e-readers and tablets.  [ Ending Off-Topic]

  So,  BEFORE you install any of these ePub readers, you need to change a default setting on your Kindle Fire "Device" option, to "Allow Installation of Applications from Unknown Sources" - then select the "ON" status and confirm, for the pop-up advisory, that you do want to install apps from unknown sources.  Here are the steps:
  • Lightly tap gear/wheel icon on top right of Kindle Fire
  • Click on "+ or More"
  • Scroll down below "Kindle Keyboard" to get to "Device"
  • Scroll down to "Allow Installation of Applications from Unknown Sources" and change the setting from "OFF" to "ON"
  • Tell the pop-up Yes, you want to allow this
  • Then use the Kindle Fire's web browser to download the file and install it the way you'd install any other app that's downloadable to the device.
  You can always turn this setting Off again after getting a file, so that you can confirm you want to do this each time you decide you want to try an app not available at the Amazon Android Appstore.

REMINDER that you need to use  CAUTION with FILE DOWNLOADS, on computers, tablets, and phones.
  The option to install an app from "an unknown source" is an everyday Android system feature and is one reason Android is considered more 'open' than Apple, but also, the device owner takes responsibility for knowing that an app could be quite buggy, might not be that compatible with your device, or may even may have malware.

   We all know about the latter with our normal computer downloads from file-download sites.   NOTE that Barnes and Noble decided not to allow this 'unknown sources' feature on its Nook Tablet.  With B&N's tablet, you can install only Nookstore apps (a relatively limited set), which is one reason people rush to root it if they can, as it's the only way to take advantage of the regular Android market apps, and it usually needs to be done with each new software update.

  One example:  many of us have used something called Dolphin web browser instead of Amazon's "Silk" default web browser because it allows full-screen view and was more likely to access with fewer problems some television series videos usinsg Flash.
    Recently Amazon added not only the full-screen toggle but added a *really useful and effective* "Reading View" to separate a web article from ads and side-columns surrounding it, and it's beautifully implemented and extremely readable on a small unit.

  As a result, many of us have gone back to the Silk browser (even if we turn OFF "Acceleration" because some of us find our own preferred website locations load faster with that off).  
  Despite a column by CNet's Ed Rhee that Acceleration must be turned on for this to work, thats not true.

  Once the browser identifies an article as the main body of a web page, it'll display a reading-glasses icon at the bottom status line near the Bookmarks icon, although it can take awhile to 'decide' this.
  Just lightly press that to get it going.  Rhee has on that page, though, a good illustration of what a regular web page looks like vs the Reading View of it.

  I do miss this Reading View function when in other web browsers now and haven't seen anything else like this for web browsing on any other small device.  Kudos to Amazon programmers.

  At any rate, Amazon Kindle Fire users have the ability to try apps from other sources, in case they have features that our current app doesn't.  But if they're not in the Amazon store, it means they haven't gone through or passed Amazon's vetting system for its Android appstore. 
  Just before Christmas, I pointed out the following, quoted from a LinuxInsider story,  and it's explains why Amazon can take so long to approve apps and why some may not be approved for the Kindle Fire:
  "LinuxInsider has a story on Dec 20 titled, "Can Amazon Save Android from Malware Hell?"  They point out:
' Simply put, Amazon tests apps to death before letting them into its app store.  Every app submitted undergoes tests for various aspects of its performance.  There are linking tests, stability and functionality tests, tests on content issues and tests on security issues.

Each aspect is tested in several ways.  For example, stability and functionality tests look to see whether an app opens within 15 seconds; whether it is compliant with the major carriers' networks; whether it freezes, has forced closings or exhibits other forms of instability; and how it reacts to phone calls, text messages, and alarms.  

Content issue tests look for missing content, unreadable text and incorrect graphics.   They also ensure the app complies with Amazon's content guidelines on offensive content, copyright infringement, illegal activities and other issues.

Security tests include making sure the app doesn't store passwords without the user's content, doesn't collect data and send it to unknown servers, and doesn't harm existing content on the device. '
Reminder:  Even with Google's official Android Market (now called Google Play), Google was hit with malware a few times.  I tend to let a newly offered file or file update sit for a few days, at least, anywhere, to make sure it doesn't give other people problems, before I download it.

We finally get to Aldiko and Mantano.  Aldiko used to be the one most mentioned, as it may have been more intuitive at first and has good email-attachment handling for downloading of ebooks, but Mantano has features like annotations and bookmarks that for some reason Aldiko doesn't, and that makes a huge difference for most people.   Lynne Connolly at Nate Hoffelder's The Digital Reader added the following to Nate's interesting column on Aldiko:
' I uninstalled Aldiko because it doesn’t have highlighting, note-taking or bookmarking, and because it doesn’t render text properly – no italics! You can tell it to go to publisher defaults but then the fonts are horrible and it will only scroll, not flip.

I’m with you on Cool Reader. I really like it and it’s my second favorite on Android. proper rendering, nice note taking.

My first is Mantano. Note-taking, add your own fonts, proper rendering, italics and all, and the library function is fantastic. You can have your own Collections, like on the Kindle, and there are several views. Mantano is now available in a free version, ad supported, but they’re only on the home page, not in the books. '
Cool Reader is giving Mantano a run for its money though.  At forums, I saw this by jjansen:
' I did quite like Aldiko until I tried Mantano.  Mantano is my favourite so far in terms of finding a book to read. I can list books by genre, tags and something that Aldiko doesn't do - by Series. I really liked scrolling through the list of series and then saying Yes I would like to read a book in the Alex Cross series for example. For now I anticipate having both Mantano and Cool Reader installed with Cool Reader being the program that I use the most often. '
Cool Reader doesn't handle Adobe DRM though! and doesn't read PDFs, while Mantano is said to do a good job with PDFs, but I've liked ezPDF for PDFs, and it's available at Amazon.  Have not looked at it extensively for relative effectiveness of formatting, however.
   The ability of Mantano to do Collections has to be a deal maker though when it goes with annotations and bookmarks as well.  All three of these ePub readers have text to speech.  Scrolling is said to be very good on Cool Reader and it has page-turning animations, a popular feature.  It reads DOC, RTF, TXT also.

  You may have to "sideload" this app - meaning move it from your computer to the Kindle Fire.   Here's a download site that carries Cool Reader app file but even better here's the author's info page with links to downloads (which seem to be to a computer in a zip file).

"SIDELOADING" APP FILES IF NECESSARY For apps not directly downloadable to the Kindle Fire for some reason, see "How to Sideload non-Amazon Apps" when necessary.

Current Kindle Models for reference, plus free-ebook search links.
NOTES on newer Kindles.
Updated Kindle Fire Basic  7" tablet - $159
Kindle Fire HD 7" 16/32GB - $199/$249
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 16/32GB - $299/$369
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G 32/64GB - $499/$599
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $69/$89
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi - $119/$139
Kindle Paperwhite, 3G - $179/$199
Kindle Keybd 3G - $139/$159, Free but slow web
Kindle DX - $379 $299, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £69
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi
Kindle Paperwhite 3G, UK
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $89
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

Boutique Kindle
Deutschland - Kindle Store
Italia - Kindle Store
Spain - Kindle Store

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. More from David Pogue on the conversion issues:

    Happily, DRM still works to protect the copyright owners.

    1. David is quite retro on this and spreading inaccuracies galore with the certainty that's a basic part of him. It's the 'expert' problem - sometimes they can't step back and realize they're not the expert on everything. And in this area, he's really not at all.

      First, when users BUY a copy of a Kindle book and want to read it on their NookColor, say, they can do so with a simple, automated DRM-remover that's based on your having PURCHASED the book, giving you access to the procdure, and if you move it to a NoonColor to read it (it's like bringing your purchased book into another room to read it with lighting that can let you see the colors in the book you bought), you'll be reading it on an ereader you probably bought. A device. We're not talking about thieves who take e-readers.

      Yes, you buy the license to read it on a Kindle but there is such a thing as COMMON basic sense, and publishers will disappear if they are completely closed to this. Few of us will purchase a book of any kind that we can't read when we want.

      Fair Use conditions are described for good reasons. In the automated case described, you must give the DRM information for the NookColor reader also. This is completely Kosher unless someone has the mindset of a publisher who'd see you reading a purchased printed book on the subway and would advise you it was meant only for the home and for a certain room in the home.

      Now, how DRM protection applies to the blog article I wrote here, I don't know.

      I hope (strongly) that you don't think I'm recommending some kind of skirting of DRM protections. Both readers use ADOBE DRM procedures to make it possible to read ePub via an Android app on an Android device. Period.

      Please understand, David's a smart guy but he does not understand this area or what is being done with the processes involved. He is COMPLETELY wrong in the overarching statements he makes. It's a new age, and he's still 2 years behind. And this is not at all about removing DRM to let someone else read a book - it's to allow a purchaser to read the purchased book on any device that is capable of it. Android apps of the type I mention are fully legal and legally used.

      And, for other methods, I have a Nook app for my Kindle Fire and a Kindle app + Nook app for my Samsung Android tablet. TOTALLY legal. VERY common.

    2. I'll add that publishers should be happy that 1) we buy their books, 2) we want to read them anywhere we can and 3) that we actually carry the books around with the intent to READ what the author wrote and the publisher put together.

      The focus gets too fuzzy here and not on what should be the real concern - being read and revenue received for it. Fear overrides. Fear of the reading audience.

  2. "when users BUY a copy of a Kindle book and want to read it on their NookColor, say, they can do so with a simple, automated DRM-remover that's based on your having PURCHASED the book..."

    Andrys: can you give me a link to this DRM remover?



    1. Sure, though I don't do that unless it's requested. The premise is that you own a Kindle book after purchasing it, with the DRM intact. It's in your Kindle app for PC. See a key automated version to remove it from something you purchased so you can read it on another device of yours.

      One other such device is a Nook e-Ink reader or a NookColor, for example. To get things working you must give the program your credit card # that provides the DRM for B&N version of Adobe.

      It's from Wired and was written by Charlie Sorrel.

  3. "The focus gets too fuzzy here and not on what should be the real concern - being read and revenue received for it. Fear overrides. Fear of the reading audience."

    The fear is that both publishers and authors will be wiped out by rampant copying. We don't want to follow the example of the music business.

    How do you propose to guarantee "revenue" if there are no barriers to copying books? Pogue's point, that it's still much too complicated for the average reader, may be overstated, but most people don't expect to copy eBooks at will--nor should they.

    Everyone realizes that you can do what you like with a paper book, but if you propose to copy and sell it, your costs will be very high and you would be in violation of well established copyright law. An eBook doesn't work the same way as a paper book; you can read it on six devices simultaneously. To do that with a paper book, you'd need to buy six copies. You can't duplicate an electronic product like Photoshop (beyond your "office group") without paying for a new copy. If Adobe didn't enforce this condition they would quickly go out of business.

    1. Gordon, your focus is on a subject NOT mentioned in the subject article above whatsoever.
      This article was NOT about removing DRM or about conversions of ebooks.
      It's about USING THE ADOBE DRM APPROVAL METHOD TO CONFIRM book ownership and to allow a person to read the *EPUB* version!


      It takes an ePub book and PRESENTS it for reading on an operating system that cooperates, and if there is ADOBE DRM put on the ebook, it USES that ADOBE DRM procedure BEFORE it ALLOWS THE BOOK TO BE READ. This is the intended use of DRM on books.

      The Pogue article had nothing to do with any of what I wrote. The tip was about readability of an ebook format, as is.

      What I said about Pogue's article was to your own focus on DRM "happily" still working to protect the copyright owners and you wanted me to know that. But Why?

      This is about a legal way to make a PDF book *readable* on an Android device, and if there is DRM by Adobe in connection with that book, it then makes sure, using Adobe DRM procedures *as intended* when ANYone opens a rights-protected book on a device with software that can read the ebook WITHOUT conversion and without DRM removal.

      Even the Kindle books are read by a Kindle App that, on an Android device, lets the person read the Kindle book as published and with DRM.

      Re Pogue's idea that you brought here that buying Amazon books locks you into Amazon forever, that's not true. THIS article is, in fact, about one proper way that 'unlocks' it (as intended). And it mentions OTHER ways -- Kindle apps for EVERYthing. Nook apps for EVERYthing.

      Apple does not make an app to have its own iBooks read on any other device but it does brag in marketing that IT can read other rights-protected books. YES, because Amazon and B&N programmed this. The DRM is still there, but it's being "processed," to protect publishers. iPads allow them to be read. Android devices allow them to be read.

      As for the philosophy of it all, you should talk with O'Reilly Publishers, whose Amazon books do not carry DRM and who sell their books on their own site, without DRM and in EVERY format that's popular.

      Maybe some will think that O'Reilly Publishers have nothing to worry about with their books. I'd say they probably sell more books than most of the smaller publishers who are very concerned. So, they're the ones to ask -- how are they doing with their determination to use no DRM. WHY do they trust that the consumers who buy their books will not be distributing them to one and all (and I do believe that the pirates who mass produce (especially fast with DRM'd books) should be caught and sentences served for theft.

      The actual problem, since you've brought up the topic, is that the *criminals* =already= remove DRM easily and they reproduce and distribute them everywhere.
      ALL bestsellers can be had for free easily via sites using torrents, and very few people would approve of that.

      DRM we have today does not prevent this from being done. The people I know prefer to buy books legitimately or get them at lower cost or even free in promos from Amazon and from B&N (less so from Sony which does not highlight its store much).

      The DRM doesn't stop the criminals. It takes a day to get the distributions out.
      The DRM just frustrates the everyday consumer who BUYS the books and wants to read them on more than one device the way a normal printed book can be read no matter WHAT covers a publisher might put over it (unless a publisher decides to lock the cover and make a special key for it).

      But I never started to argue the idea of its removal because it's not been a topic of this blog, until you brought it up, tho' in a situation where it wasn't even an idea. I corrected the idea that you introduced through Pogue's article, that people are 'locked into' Amazon forever.

  4. Would you prefer that readers refrain from disagreeing with you?

    1. This is it though. Just what were you "disagreeing with" from my article. It didn't touch on the article's info at all. It didn't apply.

      That's at the core of what I was trying to say. Please do go ahead and name what you were in disagreement with out of that entire blog article.

      You weren't in disagreement. You injected Pogues' thoughts about another aspect of DRM and it seemed that you meant it to reflect on something said in the blog article. But I'm trying to say, the article says not one thing about removing DRM or doing any file conversion.

      We disagree on what you brought up as a SIDE note though, because it wasn't related to the article. And that disagreement's printed here. But my disagreements and yours are direct and honest. And they remain here.

  5. David Pogue replies: (updated)


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