Amazon Kindle has become my main way to buy books, which of course is incredibly liberating because nowwith the Kindle app I can put every book on every device, including my iPhone. Imagine: I carry with me, on my phone, a copy of nearly every book I’ve purchased for the past three years.
Unfortunately, Amazon’s not the perfect solution. For one thing, I’d prefer not to be so dependent on a single company for so much of my reading. I trust Amazon today, but how do I know that these e-books will still be readable in 20 years?
I’m also limited by the Kindle software and whatever features Amazon gives me for searching/annotating and otherwise enjoying my books. For example, sharing a section of a book: Amazon limits me to short snippets, and those must point back to an Amazon-operated site.
Happily, there is a wonderful way around these limitations. The wonderful people of Calibre have created a wonderful free and open-source ebook management system that lets me do whatever I like with ebooks.
To answer an obvious question, yes there are plug-ins for Calibre that break the Kindle rights management system, and yes that means that you can probably steal tons of books just as easily as you can steal music or movies. But before you ask any further, let me state up front that I don’t feel right about it, and I won’t “share” any books (either giving or receiving) from you, so don’t ask.
But the “fair use” terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act means I’m allowed to use these books on other devices and in other formats, such as if I want to use the much prettier book reader on Apple’s iBook.
Today I also discovered another advantage of Calibre. By putting all my Kindle books in a fair use format, my books don’t need to be re-downloaded from Amazon servers when I load a new device. If I want one of my already-purchased books to show up on a new iPad, I just synch with the local copies on my computer. No internet required.