Putting dead tree books on a Kindle.
April 7, 2010 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Considering a Kindle, but I have one big hang-up: all the books I already own. Any ideas?

The thought of condensing my personal library on to a small device is very exciting, however having to re-purchase the "Kindle" version of every book I own is most definitely NOT exciting.

Is there a way (legal or...ahem...otherwise) to get the physical dead-tree books that I already own onto a Kindle? Or is there another e-reader that I should consider for this reason?
posted by po822000 to Shopping (13 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Teleread had an excellent essay yesterday, on the ethical and practical side of this problem.

Money quote:
[...] If we expand the space-shifting right to other media, then yes, buying a book does give you license to the use of that material. If, that is, you do the conversion yourself. [...]
posted by ijsbrand at 8:13 AM on April 7, 2010

Since the Kindle supports PDF, and since a lot of book torrents are in that format, you do have that particular non-legal option. I'll leave the legal/moral/practical considerations for you.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:18 AM on April 7, 2010

I don't own a Kindle, but I think if you can get your book in any kind of common ebook format you should be able to use an app like Calibre to convert (if necessary) and transfer the book to your Kindle.

As far as legal methods go, you can scan the book yourself, which should be legal in most places. There are also various torrent sites that have ebooks hosted on them (some focused entirely around books), though downloading those ebooks, even if you own a physical copy of the same book, is most likely illegal.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:21 AM on April 7, 2010

Best answer: This Sunday's Ethicist Column concluded that it's ethically acceptable to obtain illegally pirated e-versions of books if you've already paid for the dead-tree version. I don't know if I buy the argument (then again, I'm also not sold on the e-book thing, either) but I thought the column might be relevant to your situation.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:27 AM on April 7, 2010

Best answer: The easy, practical, legal answer: no, not really.

In real life, a lot (but definitely not all) of popular books exist as torrents. They're a little harder to find than your typical popular movie or mp3, however. Obscure stuff... not so much. These ebook torrents are typically in pdf, epub or lit formats, all of which can me easily converted for the kindle. You can either use Amazon's free-to-email conversion service, which I've never tried, or Calibre, which is a little clunky but gets the job done remarkably well. Viewing pdfs (converted to another format or natively) on the kindle, although apparently markedly improved since the first kindle iterations, is still a crap shoot. Some work totally fine... others, not so much. Anything with considerable table or image formatting is less likely to be a clean trouble-free conversion.

If you can't find an electronic copy of these books you already own, you'll have to create it yourself, by scanning it into a pdf at the very least, and possibly OCRing (and cleaning up) the scanned text. To me, this sounds like waaaaay more work than it's worth.

That being said... there is so much legal, free, amazing content out there available for the kindle or any ebook reader, you may not feel to the need to re-read your old favourites on the kindle. Project Gutenburg will keep you busy for years.
posted by cgg at 8:35 AM on April 7, 2010

I just got a Kindloe. Love it. Now for your question, I can not supply answeers in how to download something yhou already have, but you can do this when you begin to fill your Kindle (1500 books!). Delete them!W They then get stored off your Kindle, at Amazon, in your Archive, which then means you can call back to read any book out of the Archive and there is no need to
re-buy or store directly on your home page.
ps: read that ethicist thing. I am not very ethical but I would avoid downloading illegally for the same reason to avoid other things: bugs, botched, viruses. But what you do learn from that article: The price of that spcific book was expensive. The pub. withheld from Kindle to see hard copies. then moved it to Kindle at much cheaper costs. Moral: all good reads come to those who wait. Or not.
posted by Postroad at 8:38 AM on April 7, 2010


Private message me if you'd like recommendations for particular private trackers (note: I am not giving away invites, but you can "apply" for these by talking to admins) but suffice to say there are many on which you can find almost anything you'd like. Here is a great google custom search across public trackers.
posted by phrontist at 9:29 AM on April 7, 2010 [13 favorites]

I don't have any ethical problem with downloading books (that I own in paper-form) via BitTorrent. It may be illegal, don't care. The law needs to catch up with modern reality, sadly it probably will not for several years. Please do not conflate law and morality.

IMHO, your chances of getting in trouble with the law for space-shifting your purchases are so minuscule as to be nonexistent. Regardless, it is your (tiny) risk to choose.

Demonoid.com is your friend for this sort of BitTorrent searching. Most of my paper books are now in boxes, as I *prefer* reading on Kindle. Almost everything that I want to read or re-read I can find on Demonoid.

Just mount the Kindle and drag the .prc or .pdb format books to the Kindle. Easy.

If it is some sad old proprietary format like .lit, then use "ABC Amber Lit Converter" to convert them.

If it is .html format, then use "Mobibook converter" to make a .prc format.

Scanning isn't worth the effort, for most people.

If you don't have a Kindle DX, my experience is that PDFs look very bad. I don't bother since I have a first gen (ugly) Kindle.
posted by Invoke at 9:37 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not all e-books get released in torrents (or at least it's harder to find them). Try IRC, #bookz at undernet.
posted by Memo at 9:50 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have any invitations for Demonoid at the moment, but I believe registration is in an open period right now, so snap an account up before it closes again!

Also, consider that your Kindle need not replace all your old books. Having a Kindle is awesome, and has legitimately changed my life as an adult (I read a ton as a kid, but fell out of the habit as I got older and busier. The Kindle has changed fixed this. However, I still don't mind going back to re-read my old books that I couldn't find on Demonoid.

One more thing! If a good number of your old books are literary classics, remember that Amazon offers a surprising number of these books for free; also try Project Gutenberg!
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2010

why don't you just ask...

posted by Truthiness at 1:43 PM on April 7, 2010

I have a lot of books, and after I got the Kindle, I decided I'd just stick go buying nice, hardcover editions, and get rid of/digitally reproduce the less important or mass-market paperbacks. I had a big white elephant book giveaway party where I gave away about half of my library, and to be honest, i haven't missed them at all.
posted by timoni at 10:57 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another option: sell the books you no longer wish to keep a hard copy of, and use the proceeds to purchase digital versions. Powells will buy your used books via a relatively painless online transaction -- I've recommended it before.
posted by somanyamys at 5:59 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

« Older Help me Locate Photo of a XC Skier with an...   |   What are some interesting ways to go from the UK... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.