In 2012 Marcello, the webmaster for Project Gutenberg, posted a review of the then new Kindle Fire HD tablet. His opinion, to put it simply, was that you should buy another similarly priced Android tablet to read on, because the Fire HD sucked for reading ebooks not bought from Amazon.
When I reported on his review way back when, I argued the counterpoint that one should read Epub in a third-party app on the Fire tablets, but over the past few months I have come around to Marcello’s viewpoint.
Like he wrote in 2012, Amazon has locked down the Fire to make it hard to get any content to it you didn’t buy from Amazon. It is a huge step back in freedom from the Kindle.
I have a 2014 Fire tablet, and it has at least a couple dozen ebooks on it right now. I know this because I sent the ebooks to this tablet via Amazon’s email service, but when I check the tablet it tells me that I have only three ebooks in the tablet’s storage:
The ebooks not shown above are hosted on Amazon’s servers, and I can push them to any of my Kindle apps or ereaders or Fire tablets from the Manage Your Kindle page.
But once they arrive, I cannot find them.
Because according to Amazon they are not ebooks. Even though the ebooks arrive in Kindle format, Amazon insists they are personal documents, and Amazon does its best to make sure users can’t find said docs and use them.
It used to be that you could select the “Docs” option in the menu bar, but with Fire OS 5 Amazon has removed that option and buried the Docs menu. Where before it was a nuisance to access that menu, now it is almost impossible to find. (It’s buried in the app icons on the “Home” home screen.)
It’s ridiculous how many road blocks Amazon has put in place to stop you from reading your own ebooks on the Fire tablet. Even Apple has not gone so far as Amazon in locking down their devices. You can easily download and read ebooks on iDevices using only the standard apps, including iBooks.
You simply can’t do that with the Fire tablet, but do you know the true irony?
It is easier to read these ebooks in the Kindle app on another Android device than it is to read the ebook on the Fire tablet. Yes, Amazon wants to capture your attention when you are holding someone else’s hardware, but when you’re holding a Fire device Amazon makes it damned difficult for you to use it to read anything you did not buy from them.
And that’s why in my experience the Fire tablet sucks for reading ebooks. I strongly urge you to read on other hardware.