ebooks with no credit card and other snowflakes
August 24, 2016 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to help out a friend who recently lost all his books. His personal situation is such that he would benefit from a Kindle or other ebook reader, but there are complications including not having a credit card.

My friend is on a fixed income, and is dealing with both physical and mental health issues. He does not believe he can get a credit card, and doesn't want a credit card even if he could get one. He's heartbroken that he lost all his books and, for reasons I don't want to get into, rebuilding his collection with hard copy books is not viable. He can borrow books from the library but even that has complications. I'd like to help him out by providing some suggestions on how he might move to ebooks.

Which device? I have a Kindle and can help with guidance on using it but we don't live near each other so this would be remote support. Would another device be better? He uses a computer regularly but can also get frustrated quickly with technology. The simpler it is to use, the better. Cost is a concern as I may have to provide him with whichever device he chooses. He has poor vision so being able to change the font size would be very helpful.

How big an obstacle is the lack of a credit card? It looks like I could provide him with a pre-paid Visa to get him started on a Kindle and there are free books available, but I'd be very interested in alternative suggestions and any personal experiences on how to best make this work.
posted by maurice to Technology (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does he have a library card? You can borrow Kindle books at many public libraries now.
posted by cecic at 9:33 AM on August 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My library has times when staff will show people how to use Kindles. They also loan out Kindles, so it's possible to try one before buying. Perhaps his library does, too? He wouldn't need a credit card for a Kindle, if he's going to get books for free from the library, Project Gutenberg, etc.

(This could all be true for other e-readers; I know only Kindles.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

An Amazon gift certificate could get him started.
posted by goggie at 9:35 AM on August 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Amazon lets you pay directly from a linked checking account.

You can also check out kindle books from the public library (downloads directly to your reader from the magic of the internet), and there is an enormous wealth of public domain literature available for free, both on amazon and on the wider internet in places like project gutenberg.

You (since it sounds like your friend isn't super tech savvy) can also scour the world for epubs and pdfs and convert them to mobi in this awesome tool called calibre, then email them directly to his kindle as long as your email address is set up as an approved sender on his amazon account.
posted by phunniemee at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I like the Kindle documents service, too. You log into Amazon, add your email (or the email of a trusted friend) to the Approved Personal Document E-mail List. Then, any documents sent to the device's kindle email address get synced to the device. I distribute ebooks to my book club this way. It's very convenient and free for most people.
posted by domo at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you use WiFi, I mean.
posted by domo at 9:40 AM on August 24, 2016

libraries lend out kindle books. alternatively he could pay on amazon using gift cards, or a checking account.
posted by zdravo at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2016

My library has ebooks for Kindle, but also on Overdrive, which means you can read it from a browser.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: For e-ink readers (as apposed to tablets like iPad and Kindle Fire) the best alternative to Kindle is Kobo. The Kobo e-readers are technologically on par or slightly ahead of Kindle (the companies regularly leapfrog each other). Kobo readers will read a lot more formats than Kindle because it isn't designed to lock you into the Amazon ecosystem, but they tend to cost a little more and AFAIK don't offer ad-supported versions. Font size is easily changed instantly at any time during reading, or just left alone and remembered.

Kobo store sells DRM-free books, but some of them are DRM'ed and last I looked (a couple of years ago), it wasn't obvious for non-technical people which were which.

IIRC supermarkets sell pre-paid credit cards that you can use for any online shopping that you can't pay for other ways.

Seconding that Calibre is a great (and free) way to maintain your e-library. Calibre will also remove DRM from Amazon purchases.
posted by anonymisc at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He can go to any Target, or most supermarkets, and use cash to buy Amazon gift cards to add to his account.

We got my MIL a 3G kindle so she didn't have to mess around with wifi and we didn't have to try to tech support her wifi from 2000 miles away. It just works, whether her wifi is working or not, and she can buy books from Amazon directly from the device, and we can email her Project Gutenberg ebooks to the device. It's very easy for a non-techy senior.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

In addition to a checking account, Amazon gift card or prepaid debit card as previously mentioned, you can use a regular old bank-issued debit card at Amazon. You don't need a credit card to make purchases from most online retailers - if they take Visa, they usually take Visa debit and so on (there are some exceptions, but they've been few and far between in my experience). I know for a fact that Amazon accepts debit cards, as well as Barnes and Noble, Powell's and other places that sell ebooks.

Note that Kindle is also available as an app that can be run on both tablets and computers, as well. It's not my favorite reading app (I prefer FBReader on Android, but it's not as user-friendly), but it does do its job fairly well.
posted by i feel possessed at 12:13 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can also read books free from Hoopla. I've had a Fire Tablet since last Christmas, and so far I've only bought one book -- and that was for my wife.

I get most of my books from the public library, but lately I've been using Hoopla. Overdrive hasn't worked well for me.

As long as you're happy with what's available free (as I am), you don't need a credit credit.

Also, your friend can -- free for nothing -- make a wish list on Amazon of the books he'd like so other well-wishers can buy him books as gifts.

I was quite surprised to see how quickly my wife took to reading via Kindle, but because she wanted so strongly to read that particular book, I only had to give her about ten seconds of instruction.
posted by OurOwnMrK at 1:49 PM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: If you trust him, you could send him a Kindle on your account. I've done this with my mother. She constantly forgets how to download books from the cloud, so I send her books that I've bought via the amazon website and the next time she syncs or connects to the network, the book appears at the top of the first page.

I get an email when I buy books, and I trust her not to buy any without asking me. She could also hunt through what I've bought and be judgy about it, but I'm not too worried about that. Other than that, it's pretty low risk especially if he's low income and not planning on buying books. The kindles are very independent, he can load on free stuff himself, though I'm not sure about borrowing from the library. I entered the password in, my mum doesn't know it. Sometimes syncing results in a book jumping to the spot my mum's up to, but it's no more annoying than the bookmark dropping out and having to refind your place.
posted by kjs4 at 5:57 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nook and Barnes & Noble gift cards? I buy lots of things from their "$2.99 and under" list, which is like the online sale table and updated regularly. You can browse and download directly with the nook, and I believe read free in the store.

I use the basic e-ink model because I hate reading long form on screens.

Also Calibre and Archive.org / Project Gutenburg, but that takes more effort and I usually just buy them on the nook.
posted by bongo_x at 9:03 PM on August 24, 2016

Oh, and for more ease of use you do the whole thing with the nook (in case that wasn't clear) and don't need a computer at all. You have to make an account and put credit on it, and after that you just click on things and buy them.
posted by bongo_x at 9:06 PM on August 24, 2016

Response by poster: I opened this thread months ago, but my friend finally has a Kindle and -- after a little confusion because I forgot to deregister it from my account -- he is reading on it. I included an Amazon gift card to get him started and he will pick up additional gift cards for himself as finances permit. Thanks for the suggestions.
posted by maurice at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

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