There are a couple of reasons why Amazon grew to dominate the e-book market early in the game. First, the store’s selection is first-rate. A ton of content is key. But the real brilliance on the part of Amazon was the way the store tied into the Kindle Reader. Buy a book online and the Amazon website makes it very easy to pop that new book onto a Kindle compatible reading device. It doesn’t matter if that reading devices is a Kindle branded reader, iPad, iPhone, Android device, or even a laptop/desktop Mac or PC. Just click the buy button on Amazon.com and select your destination device (assuming you have more than one device registered in your Amazon account). Amazon’s backend infrastructure takes care of the rest. Just buy the book and start reading… very easy.
But what if you buy a book from Smashwords or you download it directly from an author’s website? If that book wasn’t purchased through the Amazon store, getting it onto your device suddenly becomes a lot less intuitive. Actually, it can be a down right painful experience… Until you know the tricks. But there is good news. There are a number of ways to get those books onto your Kindle compatible device.
Since Kindle compatible books can be read on actual Kindle branded devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire, as well as all of Apple’s iOS based devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and just about every Android based device ever produced, the method for manually moving a book onto each gadget differs depending on the device in question. We’re going to cover some of the most common devices and their associated options.
The traditional gold standard has always been drag & drop over a USB connection, so we’ll start there. But Amazon has built some powerful backend infrastructure that can be leveraged, allowing you to drop a new book on your Kindle from just about anywhere at any time. We’ll take a closer look at everything you need to know. My favorite method of the three involves a cool utility for Mac and PC computers called Send To Kindle. Once you install it and set it up, it’s just about the easiest of the three methods that I cover. Since it builds on the infrastructure that Amazon has built to support the Kindle and Kindle compatible devices, I’ve left it for last. That said, this method is my favorite and worth considering when you select the option best suited for your needs.
Good Old Fashioned Drag & Drop:
Devices built by Amazon such as the original Kindle Readers, the Kindle Paperwhite, and even the Kindle Fire make it relatively easily to move a book to a device. Just plug the device into your computer using the USB cable that came with the device. The Kindle’s internal storage should appear on your Mac or PC as if it were a USB flash drive. Just browse to the drive and open it. Look for a folder called Documents. Toss your .mobi file in there and then eject/dismount the Kindle drive. The next time you look at the list of books on your device, the new book should be a part of your catalog.
The Power of Your Amazon Account:
Just because you didn’t buy your book through Amazon.com doesn’t mean you can’t leverage Amazon’s system to move that book onto any device that has been linked to your Amazon account. It’s a little known fact that any device running the Kindle software already has an intimate relationship with Amazon. As soon as you launch the Kindle software on a device for the first time (Kindle, Kindle Fire, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, or PC), the software makes you login to your Amazon account. When you supply your Amazon username and password, that device is registered, or attached, to your Amazon account. And you can use that to help move non-Amazon books to your Kindle compatible reader.
Every device that is registered to an Amazon account is assigned a unique email address, automatically. Let me take a moment to explain exactly what that means. The device receives its own email address. Just like you have an email address that you use to communicate with friends, your Kindle Reader is issued its own unique email address by Amazon. You can use that email address to send books directly to your device via email. Once you know the email address of your Kindle device, simply create a new message using your normal email client (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Apple Mail, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail). Enter the email address of your Kindle device in the To field of the outgoing message. Put anything you want in the subject line. But in the body of the message, add your .mobi formatted e-book as an attachment. As long as the file is a .mobi formatted file and the file is not compressed, as soon as you click send, the message goes off to Amazon’s servers. Minutes later that book will appear on the intended device. It’s that easy!
There are just a few additional notes to keep in mind. First, you need to know the email address that Amazon automatically assigned to your device. Plus, if you have more than one Kindle compatible device registered on your Amazon account, you need to keep track of the email address belonging to each device. Finding the right email address is easy. You just need to know where to look on the Amazon web site.
Start by going to Amazon.com and clicking on the Your Account link at the top right side of any given page. Then scroll down the page and look for a link called Manage Your Kindle. It’s located in the Digital Content area near the bottom of the page. If you’re not already logged into your Amazon account, you’ll be prompted to enter your username and password once you click this link. If you’re not asked to login, you must already be logged in. Just keep going.
The page you land on should be titled Your Kindle Library. This page likely has a list of every book you’ve purchased through Amazon using this account. Look for the list of links down the left side of the page. Click on Manage Your Devices under Your Kindle Account about halfway down the page. This will show you every device that has been linked to your account. If you’re like me, it’s a long list. But I’m a geek. I have a lot of gadgets. Odds are good that you have only one or two devices. When you select your device from the list, the page will show you the email address that was automatically assigned to it. It will likely be firstname.lastname@example.org, or at least something very similar. That’s the address you want to make note of. That’s the address you’ll be emailing your books to if you want to let Amazon’s servers pop the book onto your reader for you.
There’s another consideration worth mentioning. You might be wondering why you don’t get spam emails on your device if each one has an email address linked to it. Amazon only allows certain email addresses to send messages to these special email accounts. By default, the email address you use as part of your Amazon.com login is allowed to send documents to any device registered to your account. For most people, this will be the account they would be emailing from anyway, so it’s not even a concern. But if you’re like me and have more than one email address that you use on a regular basis, you might want to register those additional addresses with your account so they will have permission to send books to your devices. That way you don’t have to worry about remembering to email a book only from the correct email account.
To add email addresses that are authorized to send to your Kindle device, or just to double-check which of your email addresses are currently allowed to send to your devices, return to the Your Kindle Library page as described above. Click the Personal Document Settings link on the left side of the page (about half way down the page under Your Kindle Account). Scroll down the resulting page and look at the section titled Approved Personal Document E-mail List. Email addresses listed here are allowed to send books to any device attached to the account. If you want to add additional addresses, add them here.
There’s one more thing to note while you’re on this page. Look up one section on the page at the heading called Whispernet Delivery Options. If you have a Kindle branded device that incorporates a 3G modem, you might be charged for sending books to your devices via this method. Please note that this is only an issue if the target device is connected to a cellular service when the document is transferred. If that device is instead connected to wi-fi at the time, there is no charge since the content will be delivered over the wi-fi connection. This is really only a concern for the older Kindle branded devices that incorporated an internal cellular chipset. The majority of Kindle compatible devices connect to the internet via wi-fi. Devices such as iPhone, iPad, and Android phones will receive the incoming data through whatever service is connecting them to the internet and there will not be any additional charge from Amazon. The note in this area of the Amazon page makes an attempt to explain the rare case where a charge would be involved. It is not a factor that will affect most users.
Send to Kindle:
Amazon offers a handy tool that you can install on your Mac or Windows PC. Once you install this application and provide it the login information for your Amazon account, it will allow you to send documents to your Kindle devices without sending an email or mounting your device using USB. Just launch the application on the computer, select the .mobi file to transfer, then select the device you want the book delivered to. Click send and you’re done. It might take a minute or two for the book to actually land on the destination device, but it doesn’t get much easier than that!
More cutting edge devices like the iPad, iPhone, and just about all Android based devices have another option worth mentioning. Assuming you already use the device to check some kind of email account, you could simply email the .mobi file to the email account you access from that device. When you view the message on the device, you should be able to see the .mobi file as an attachment. When you tap to open it, the software should ask you what app you want to use to read the file. Just select the Kindle app and the .mobi file should be added to your library, automatically.
In truth, there are other ways to move that .mobi file to different devices. Many of them support shared drive services such as Dropbox, Box.com, and Google Drive. If you store new books on one of these shared drives and access it from your mobile device, most of them will require the you to select the app you want to use to open the file. Just like in the case above, selecting the Kindle app should automatically make the book a part of the local Kindle library.
These are just a few of they methods for sideloading content onto a Kindle compatible device. Above all else, make sure the file being sent is in .mobi format. If it’s not, the Kindle app won’t be able to read it. If you have a .epub file, the Kindle app can’t read it. There are other apps out there for reading .epub. They are not difficult to find. And, if you’re looking to load your book into iBooks on an Apple iOS based device, that’s a subject we’ll cover in a future post.