Saturday, September 18, 2010

TIP: Gutenberg E-Books direct to Kindle - repeat + Update

UPDATE2 - 9/18/10 - Original posting was April 2, 2009

In addition to the convenient Magic Catalog for Project Gutenberg, which is available for use on the Kindle for searches, browsing, and direct downloading of its free books to the Kindle (see below), Project Gutenberg recently made a MOBILE-device-oriented version of its website, which will of course work more quickly than the main website, via wireless conection with all Kindles.  The 'go to' address is - but with Kindles it's better not to enter the "http://" part.

UPDATE3 - 9/20/10 for Kindle 3 users (Kindle 2 users experience no problem in this case):
In the comments area, Bart reports that the mobile-device-oriented URL does not recognize input in the search field from a Kindle 3.  It does recognize input from a Kindle 2 or DX.

  However, on the K3, I can successfully go to the main site - - and search & download a "Kindle" format file, but the webpage print is smaller because that fits the regular screen contents into the space of the 6" Kindle screen.  While you can use Archive Mode to view the lists, I would not as it takes too long to gather and display these and it can SEEM to freeze the K3 although it's just taking its time.   Don't choose it for lists...

The Project Gutenberg MAGIC CATALOG for the Kindle
In my wanderings through online columns about the Kindle, I've found that about 95% of those never mention that the 30,000 free books from Project Gutenberg are instantly available to the Kindle at no added cost for direct download to the device.  Instead, most tend to promulgate the fable that you can get books only from Amazon.

  The 30,000 free Project Gutenberg books are laid out well and proof-read.
  This tip allows you to directly download a Project Gutenberg book to the Kindle, although that will work only where 3G whispernet web-browsing is enabled already or via WiFi.

International Kindle users who live outside the U.S. and who do not have 3G web-browsing enabled in their countries (a gray area right now) and who don't have WiFi capability can download these free books to their computers instead (choosing "Kindle" or "mobi" or "prc" format) and then move them to their Kindles with the USB cable that is part of the Kindle power cord.

Originally posted April 2, 2009
TIP OF THE DAY: James Adcock tells us how to download chosen Project Gutenbook books direct to our Kindles.  First, you need to get the catalog on to your Kindle, and you can download it by webbing via your Kindle to
(mucho typing on that Kindle keyboard, however).
  On the Kindle, use this shortcut instead:

After downloading "The Magic Catalog of the Project Gutenberg E-Books (MOBI Edition) to your Kindle (or transferring it from your computer to the Kindle if you don't want to type in the long URL on the Kindle), follow James's instructions which are:
"Use your Kindle's Search Feature to find your favorite Author and/or Title.  Click to go to that page.  Click again on the Author: Title listing and your chosen E-Book will automagically download directly from the Project Gutenberg website to your Kindle..."
Thanks, James!

Added tip from James - How to use's mobigen.exe, to easily convert EPUB books (at the DOS prompt) to MOBI versions.  Downside, any illustrations in a book are not included at this point.

ADDED UPDATE, along with Sept. 18, 2010 update
Also, the 1 million free Google books in ePub: How to get one converted to Kindle
Not only can you convert any of these to a Kindle book via a free tool (with most illustrations intact), there is also a publishing website that offers to do conversions of free-Google-books for you upon request and will give you a link to the completed Kindle-ready copy, on their website, for you and any other interested parties, to download.  See the details here

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  1. Thank you for this awesome link. I got a TinyURL for it that was easier to type in directly on the Kindle:

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi, I hope you saw my appreciation of your cartoons in the entry above this one!

    Here's another link we can use for this with their new nickname capability:

    It's longer but it's also easy to remember.

    James Adcock did something here that I'm thankful for when I browse it on my Kindle. So I was eager to share it.

    Thanks for posting. Love your site at

    - Andrys

  3. Just one problem...I spent all weekend flipping through the catalog and downloading and didn't get any reading done! The Magic Catalog is a must have file/book.

  4. Floyd,
    it really is. I always smile when I see (often) people writing to online newspaper comment areas that they'd never use a Kindle because the user is tied to only Amazon books.

    Hasn't ever been remotely true but Amazon is of course not going to advertise that, and they keep up that huge Amazon forum thread in which customers tell one another how to do it.

    That catalog is dangerous :-) Beautiful resource. Unfortunately, in Europe and other places without the web browser enabled (at least for now), people will have to download it to their computers first instead of direct to the Kindle but it's easy enough to move it to the Kindle with a USB cable the way Sony customers have done on all their books.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. "Downside, any illustrations in a book are not included at this point."

    It also works only on a Windows machine.

  6. Hi,
    Greetings from Portugal. I received my Kindle yesterday and I can say to you that I am more than happy with it!
    What a great device this is.!
    The screen quality is great, the text to speech works much, much better than I thought it would. Whispernet works very well here in Lisbon! and the latest "gift" from amazon is that we have free access to Wikipedia (English version) using the browser!
    Adding to your idea that the Kindle is able to read books not only from Amazon but from many other sources, I can add that I am reading right now Portuguese (public domain) books, from Project Guttenberg but also mobi books converted from PDF files - Portuguese has many "special characters" like "ó à ç" and they all are correctly displayed. To sum up, great device, excellent reading experience, great buy.
    I thought this could be interesting to you international (and specially European) readers.

  7. Anonymous, is it true that illustrations are missing from ALL Project Gutenberg books? I thought they were changing some of the books.

    I've downloaded Amazon's public domain books (they now have about 18,000) and many of those have the illustrations. Unfortunately, the free books for the U.S. seem to have a charge for them in other countries.

    Mobile Reference books: some are free, some are low-cost -- they tend to have the most editor-attention.

    But also try and ( can go direct to Kindle if one has whispernet enabled by Amazon) to see if they have copies with illustrations.

    Best of luck on finding the better editions, there are so many of them.

  8. JBernard,
    Congratulations on getting yours already and that it's working out well for you.

    I too feel it's a great device. There is so much it does that few reviewers mention most of them.

    I didn't know you could use Wikipedia via the browser in Portugal. That is GREAT news. So far, it's the only e-reader that I have heard of that can do that or that allows it to be done.

    The text to speech was better than I had expected also. Maybe we had not expected much?

    But it is based on a real person's voice.

    See for more info on the person whose voice was used and an example of how it reads out a personal script you write and put into a *.txt file...

    You also mentioned:
    "I can add that I am reading right now Portuguese (public domain) books, from Project Guttenberg but also mobi books converted from PDF files - Portuguese has many "special characters" like "ó à ç" and they all are correctly displayed. To sum up, great device, excellent reading experience, great buy.
    I thought this could be interesting to you international (and specially European) readers."

    I'm sure it will be. Thanks for taking the time to let us know. I will probably quote you in a separate blog article later, when back from vacation probably, as the comments don't show up on the Kindle-edition of this blog.

    Thanks much!

    - Andrys

  9. Does Amazon charge a fee for the wireless download through the magic catalog trick?

  10. Anonymous,
    No, the download is direct from the Gutenberg area to the Kindle and Amazon servers aren't involved.
    They are fast downloads, and unless someone was guzzling huge volumes of them (but the books are often in free format in many online places) I don't think it's considered harmful. Certainly less time-taking than anyone using the free but slow browser looking around...

  11. I tried to download a book yesterday using the Magic Catalog and was unsuccessful ( I was in a car, so I think the cell signal was spotty). So now the book title is on my Home screen but it flashes an error message when I try to open the book and it will not let me delete the book either (well, it SAYS I can delete it, but when I try the file does not go anywhere). So I can't read the book and I can't delete it. Has this happened to anyone else? If so, how did you resolve the problem? (I should point out that I have used the Magic Catalog before and it has worked flawlessly until now.)

  12. Anonymous,
    The download was probably corrupted. I would go into the 'documents' folder with your computer and delete it that way. The Kindle probably has a harder time dealing with a corrupted file.

    No, it hasn't happened to me quite that way but I did get a file that was slow loading and that froze my Kindle due to something in it so I did a reset with the power slider and deleted that and got the book from another online site instead.

    Let me know how it goes when you try to delete via the computer.

  13. Andrys,

    Going to the Documents folder and deleting the file worked like a charm. I re-downloaded the book and now it opens just fine. Thanks for the advice!

  14. Anonymous,
    That's great - thanks for reporting back!

  15. I'm considering purchasing an e-reader, and am deciding between the Nook and the Kindle. My main priority is whether the device can read the (free) ebooks available through public libraries in the U.S., which typically use the PDF or ePUB format. I gather from this blog that the Kindle can do this, if you convert the book to the Kindle-friendly format?

    I read the bit about Calibre, but was hoping someone could help me by clarifying/confirming the Calibre would work with library ePub books, or whether there are any limitations that would interfere with using a Kindle to read ePubs or PDFs from various sources? For example, I don't really understand how DRM works, but am wondering whether any security/copyright/other issues would limit converting non-Amazon ebooks to read on Kindle?

    This whole format thing and being able to read library books was what sold me (initially) on the Nook, but since it seems Kindle has the advantage in some usability categories, I'd be so happy if it could read library ebooks, too.

  16. Anonymous,
    After I approved this comment for posting yesterday, I forgot to get back to it, as it's to an older posting and harder to find if I don't do it right away.

    The Kindle is not set up to read free ebooks available through public libraries because of the type of key it uses, from what I've read.

    The Nook and Sony can read protected ePub books from the library. So those would be a better bet for you for this.

    As far as ePubs or PDFs from various other sources -- if they are NON-rights-protected, you can read the PDFs direct with no problem.

    The ePubs would have to be converted using free software as described in

    DRM is just "digital rights management" put on the file and differs for the various e-readers. Sony and Nook are using now Adobe's DRM rights process -- but the Nook has to have a change made because the Sony users cannot read Nook books while most Nook owners can read Sony books, depending on the software update they have.

    Kindle has many clear advantages, most of what I've listed in articles in the top right-hand column of the webpage, but it definitely does not do library books at this point. Overdrive (program that handles this for libraries) can be rather meager when it comes to e-books most will want (new bestsellers) in some cities but is very good in New York City. Check to see what you'd be able to get in your city.

    I like the looks of the Nook but it has several disadvantages as an e-book reader, and you can find out about that in the right-hand column articles also.

    Good luck in your quest! The Nook's problems may be worth it to you if you live in a city with a really good supply of interesting e-books available at your library.

    - Andrys

  17. Help please. Just downloaded the new software. I added my new categories, but can't alphabetize them or even edit the titles. When I sort by title, ALL my books are listed alphabetically along with the folders with the categories.

  18. Can anyone help? I've downloaded some books from Gutenberg to kindle for mac but no matter what I do I can't get them onto my Kindle. They have downloaded to the homepage on kindle for mac but it seems that only books stored in Archive seem to appear on my Kindle although I have downloaded books from magic straight to my Kindle and they don't appear on my kindle for mac! Many thanks for any advice.

  19. Steve,
    My blog article says to just use your Kindle.

    Do you have a Kindle 2?

    ON it, just start typing

    When the Kindle gets there, use your 5-way button to choose to download the catalog straight to your Kindle itself.
    That's important.

    Then open the catalog and browse or search for a book. When you decide on one you just click on the screen to download it to your Kindle direct.

    As for getting a file from the Project Gutenberg website with your Mac computer, that would need to then be moved to the "documents" folder of your Mac.

    But I don't understand -- if a book is on your Kindle homepage, how is it you can't click on it to open it?

    As for your Kindle for Mac, it reads non-amazon books only if you put them in the Mac's Kindle for Mac folder if you know where that is. (I don't own a Mac though I used one for 6 years until 3 years ago.)

    Let us know.

  20. Thanks Andrys Sorry i didn't explain myself clearly enough. The books I have downloaded through are ok and I can read them but specifically I downloaded The Compleat Angler from Gutenberg using mobipocket to my Kindle for Mac (This book isn't on the magic list). It appears on my home page but can't be copied to anywhere from there. If I move it from 'downloads' to my kindle it still doesn't show on my Kindle at all. I emailed kindle about this and their reply is below but it doesn't sound as if I can do it without 'paying a small fee' one pdf document cost me $1.98. Non US users seem to be really penalized by amazon someone in the US for instance gets English newspapers such as The Times far cheaper than an UK user:


    Since you purchased the books from Gutenberg, it's not possible to move them to your Archive list. The books you purchase from will be automatically backed up on When you remove a book from your Kindle, it appears in your Archived Items.

    This is the reason why books purchased from other websites can't be archived.

    Regarding the transferring the books to your Kindle:

    I'm sorry you can't transfer the books directly from your Kindle for Mac application to you Kindle. As an alternative, your Kindle recognizes the following file types:

    — (.AA)
    — Kindle (.AZW or .TPZ)
    — Mobi (.MOBI, .PRC)
    — MP3 music format (.MP3)

    Kindle's Personal Document Service (via Whispernet) allows you to e-mail compatible files to your Kindle's e-mail address. Then, Amazon can download the file(s) wirelessly in a Kindle-compatible format to the device(s) for a small fee. Here's a list of the compatible file formats that can be e-mailed to and viewed on Kindle: Microsoft Word .DOC, Structured HTML .HTML, .HTM, .JPEG, .JPG, .GIF, .PDF, .PNG, .BMP, .RTF.

    If you prefer to have your personal PDF document converted to the Kindle format, type "Convert" in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your address.

    Kindle supports Microsoft Word .DOCX conversion experimentally. PDF files are supported natively by Kindle (6" Display) and Kindle DX devices, allowing PDFs to be displayed in their original layout.

    For more information, please consult the User's Guide for your Kindle. You can download a copy and find additional instructions on our Help pages here:

    I hope this helps. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Did I solve your problem?

    If yes, please click here:

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    Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.

  21. Steve,
    Re your:
    "...specifically I downloaded The Compleat Angler from Gutenberg using mobipocket to my Kindle for Mac (This book isn't on the magic list). It appears on my home page but can't be copied to anywhere from there."

    I don't understand what your "home page" is on your Kindle for Mac. I guess it's your opening screen and where you are if you press Home... You can't copy a book from there.

    Find out where your downloaded book is on your Mac.

    Use the file manager. Is it 'fileminder'? I can't remember.

    Go into the folder where the Kindle books are (and in this case it will be a '.mobi' or '.prc' book).

    You should be able to move the file with fileminder or the file manager TO the Kindle itself BUT you have to put it into the "documents" folder of the Kindle.

    I don't know how 'archives' folder got in there but, yes, that stores only books that you bought from Amazon that are currently not on your Kindle or other device.

    As for the complaint about the pricing, it's a U.S. company and the wireless cost to Amazon and to people living in many other countries is more expensive than it is in the U.S. and they'd rather offer the feature but not lose money from it so the pricing will be higher as the newspapers are delivered of the country's more expensive wireless.

    Worse, the images are usually not included. So it's a compromise. I wouldn't pay for it unless I REALLY wanted the text on Kindle each day.

    I hope what I recommended you do, works.

    You can just download the file again from Project Gutenberg onto your computer rather than putting it into your Kindle for Mac.

    But if you know where the books for that app are, you'll find your file and can just move it the ordinary way to the Kindle.

    Good luck.

  22. Thank you so much! This is truly a magic catalog. I'm in China, and I got books via wireless FASTER than I normally get a book from Amazon. LOVE this!

  23. Jimmie,
    Glad that helped! Are you using WiFi there? Or 3G wireless? Actually, I don't think they have wireless contracs there... but I may be ultra wrong :-)

  24. Certainly ultra wrong in the spelling of "contracts" ;-)

  25. It always surprises me how excited people get about Gutenberg, but Internet Archive rarely gets much attention. IA has over 2 million books, compared to PG's 30,000 or so. IA books are in native PDF format, with original fonts, page layout, pictures, covers etc.. most of them were printed using hand-made printing technologies, back in the day, and are gorgeous luxurious reading experiences that you'd spend 100s of dollars to replicate today in the fine art book market. Of course this means you'll need a DX since PDF doesn't do well on the normal Kindle, but assuming you have a DX, IA is the single best source on the Internet for out of copyright books.

  26. Yes, I did an article on Internet Archive's text stuff (which now unfortunately seems to include the million Google books, some say, many of which are not properly proof-read and full of errors. It must, since my blog entry had it at 1.5 to 1.8 million and now it's at 2.8 million or so.

    I also include it on equal terms with Gutenberg's more-proofed but much more limited collection, at a link I attach to the end of each and every article post on this blog in the last 3-4 months.

    It has the IA in two places, and I'm doing a blog entry on the company in a day or two.

    Take a look at it.

    Why be surprised though? Proj Gutenberg has the books so many students are asked to read and we used to get them at low cost in book stores and now they're free and usually proofed and formatted fairly well. They make things easy to find and download.

    Internet Archives are full of arcane things and of course great finds but a lot of it is esoteric and you need to know your way around it a bit more.

    Some of the mobi stuff sometimes doesn't download - it's sort of wilful. But it's a tremendous resource.

    I so dislike PDFs on anything smaller than the DX (which I have) and even the DX needs to be rotated to see it at its best -- On the other hand the K3 can now do contrast adjustments for these.

    A lot of academic things -- same with Google, a lot of university documents and books from all over the world and not just in English.

    On the other hand, almost no one seems interested in what I demonstrated could be done with foreign language google books at

  27. One problem I've run into on the Gutenberg Mobile site (and a few other sites during the week that I've been using my new Kindle) is that I can't seem to enter text into search fields. It appears that I've activated using the five-way controller, I can't generate any text at the blinking cursor. Upon pressing enter, the website tries to do the search, but there's it's searching for nothing because there was never any text in the search field.

    Andrys, are you or others running into this problem?


  28. Bart,
    I'd run into that earlier and then looked around to find other ways to access a site. Had not yet tried the new mobile Gutenberg on the Kindle 3 but just now did and found the same problem.

    The Kindle 3 has input problems on some "m." versions of sites or mobile sites, which is why I haven't yet updated my downloadable mobile sites file, until I can do some testing.

    As with a couple of other sites which bring a similar problem with the K3, I went then to the main site instead, in this case, , and was able to type into the search box and download to my K3 the file identified as the "kindle" version.

    Trying this on the older Kindle, the worked fine - input for searches is no problem on the K2 or DX(G).

    People should report the text input problem, in email to so that this gets the attention of someone key (so they don't think this affects only one or two people).

    On the K3, I can successfully go to and download a file but the print is smaller because they fit the regular screen contents into the space of the 6" Kindle screen.

    Thanks for reporting this. I'll update the blog for this tonight.

  29. Hi, I sent my personal doc to my own kindle email, and I already receved the link to download the converted file in amazon web page. But in this time, it requests my password to sign in... It´s the first time that this occurs, and I type the password but the amazon web page refresh and request my password again, every time I try... My password is alright (even I´ve changed it to be sure...) I don´t know how to donwload the file...
    Can you help me?

  30. Anonymous,
    Do you mean your Amazon site ID and password?

    Maybe you have your CapsLock 'On'--- on your keyboard?

    I don't know of any password needed otherwise and not sure what you mean.

  31. Hi!
    I was solve the problem... don´t worry.
    Thank you for the answer.

  32. Anonymous,
    Glad you got it solved. Thanks for the follow up.

  33. please check out:!

  34. Hi,
    I m new to kindle. I downloaded a book from the magic catalog here in my kindle. It is not showing up in my home page.
    The process i followed is: transferred the magic catalog to kindle from my PC -> clicked on a link to download-> saved the file as it is(it was in .mobi fmt). It still fails up to show on home page of kindle. Tried with couple of other books.
    Thanks for your help.

  35. Anonymous,
    Welcome to Kindle land !
    On a Kindle you can go to a web site (though it's faster-loading to go to a mobile version - such as on it and download it direct to Kindle (as you can do any .mobi file.

    HOWEVER, the trick when you move a compatible file to Kindle is to place it in the "documents" folder, which is where the Kindle looks for books or articles to display.

    Hope that does the trick!

  36. Hi Andrys,

    Thanks for all your work on the website. I love it and it has helped me immensely, especially in finding Project Gutenberg! I wondered if you knew that not all the PG books are available through the Magic Catalog? Try searching for "Phoebe, Junior" by Mrs. Oliphant. It's not found. Now go to the PG website on your computer (not using the Kindle). It's there. I'm not sure why this is. I was able to download it with my USB cable. There are quite a few Oliphant books you can download through the website but which can't be found through the Magic Catalog. I'm assuming this is true of other books, as well, so if you cannot find a book through the Magic Catalog, don't give up. It may yet be available on the website.

  37. kiminorkey,
    Your story is really hilarious!

    No, I didn't know, re current completeness of The Magic Catalog, as I haven't tried it in ages. I do think that it is not always up to date, as they add books all the time and I think there are almost 25% more than when I wrote this blog entry. So, it probably can use an update.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  38. Thanks for reading my journal! Glad you enjoyed it. :) In re the Magic Catalog--my first thought was the same as yours--that I needed to update the catalog. I do that on a regular basis by re-downloading it (is there another way?). But the anomaly remains. Visiting the PG website returns more Oliphant books than accessing the Magic Catalog does. Oh well, I can download them using the USB cord. Thanks for your help. Kim

  39. kiminorkey,
    Thanks for alerting us to this, so we're aware of it. I wasn't. Much appreciated.

  40. Anyone know how to download on an iPad with the Kindle app installed?



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