Your Kindle isn’t just limited to reading from Amazon. Here’s how to convert a variety of e-book formats to the Kindle and where to get e-books for free.
Amazon Kindle is a great e-book reader, but it’s closely tied to Amazon’s ecosystem. If you have a Fire tablet or smartphone, you can download other e-reading apps to bolster your library, but with Kindles E Ink (including Paperwhite and Oasis), you’re pretty tied to downloading your content directly from Amazon.
Well, sort of. Using a bit of free software, you can grab e-books in EPUB, Mobi and PDF formats and transfer them to your Kindle split. Here’s how.
Find Your Kindle Email
The easiest way to put books on your Kindle is by email. To get your Kindle email address, go to amazon.com/myk using a web browser on your PC. At the top, click the Devices tab. In the list below, find the relevant Kindle device and click on the three dots on the left. In the pop-up, you’ll see @kindle.com. (It’s set to the default address, but you can change it by clicking Edit.)
Back up at the top, click the Options tab, and scroll down to Personal Document Settings. Click the down arrow on the right and scroll to the List of approved personal document e-mails. Emails attached to your Amazon account will be listed here. If it’s the email address you’ll use to send e-books to the Kindle, you’re ready. To use a different email, click Add a new approved e-mail address and enter the address you want to use.
Keep in mind that your Kindle needs to be connected to a Wi-Fi or 3G network for it to work. Of course, it’s not your home network; for example, you can go to a café or public library.
Choose your e-book format
Now that you know how to email an e-book to your Kindle, the next step is to find out your e-book format, which determines how best to send it.
Good news: If your books are in Mobi format, Kindle can already read them. Attach the file to an email message, send it to your Kindle email address (with any subject and no content in the email body) and the file will soon appear on your Kindle. You can also drag and drop files into the Kindle if you attach your device to your PC using a USB cable.
Amazon can automatically convert PDFs to a Kindle format, but you have two formatting options. If you want your Kindle to display every page in a PDF as if it were a graphic, simply email the .pdf file to your Kindle address without the subject line.
That will maintain formatting and graphics, but the font size may be too small to read. If you’re okay with this type of format, you can also drag and drop files into your Kindle if you attach your device to your PC using a USB cable.
Your other option is to attach a PDF file to an email and set the subject line to “Convert” —just from there. Send it to your Kindle email address and your PDF will be converted to a Mobi file, where you can control the font size and formatting. The graphics will still be there, but you’ll lose the layout of the original PDF file.
EPUB is a popular e-book format on the web, but kindle cannot be read. It’s all right; you can convert a .epub file to a Mobi file for Kindle to read.
The key is free software called Calibre. Available for Windows and Mac, it can re-format almost any type of eBook for most eBook readers, although cracking copy protection on books purchased from Amazon or some other store is prohibited. When you set up the software, it will ask you to provide an e-reader model and a pop-up that suggests emailing books. Fill in the email address for your Kindle and the authorized email address you’ve set to send documents to your Kindle.
After you set up Calibre, click Add a book and select any free ebook files you’ve downloaded. They will appear in the Calibre library. Now click an item in your Calibre library and select Convert Book from the top bar.
In the upper-right corner, make sure to set the Input Format to Mobi. Click OK and wait until The Number of Jobs at the bottom right of the home screen moves from 1 to 0. Now select the title again and click Save to Disk.
Select the folder you want to save. It will create a child folder with the author’s name. In Explorer or Finder, dive into that folder until you find the Mobi file inside, which you can send an email to your Kindle or drag and drop into it using a USB cable.
Also, keep in mind that text files, blog posts, Word documents, etc. can also be emailed to your Kindle. Just send them to your Kindle email address and enjoy.
So where do I get free e-books?
There are many places to get e-books for free. Caliber actually has a good metasearch function, and you can click Get Books to search by book name or author. However, it’s not the most user-friendly way to browse, so it’s best to know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re in a U.S. public library, try downloading OverDrive. Available for Windows and macOS, it connects to the public library category and allows you to download Kindle books through Amazon. You can find your local library, and OverDrive has instructions for sending to the Kindle for all types of devices. Libby and Hoopla offer similar services.
If you want classics, a great place to start is Project Gutenberg. The Gutenberg project, which has basically existed as long as the Internet, has nearly 60,000 un copyrighted e-books. Here’s how to get e-books from there.
The Open Library has even more downloadable books. The classics are available for download as PDF, then you can email your Kindle using the PDF method above.
For historical and academic texts, take a look at archive.org.
ManyBooks.net combines classics and self-published books, with more than 50,000 in the library.
You’ll find more self-published classics and works at FeedBooks.
Free-Ebooks.net also has a large collection of self-published e-books, but there are also a large number of classics.
If you like science fiction, Baen also has a free e-book set.
BookBub has a free ebook filled with romance novels and other regular works.
Some bookstores that use copy protection don’t work with Kindles. Unfortunately, that’s the case with Google Books, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.