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The Best eBook Format for the Kindle Fire is Epub

The Kindle Fire HD is Amazon’s flagship device, so one might expect that Amazon’s own native apps would be the best at their tasks – on this tablet, anyway. That is not true, and as I was reading a new review of the KFHD I began to realize quite how wrong that idea was.

Marcello, the webmaster for Project Gutenberg, posted his own brief rant on the PG website. I’m not linking to it here because it’s not a terribly useful review (and I don’t want to hold him up for ridicule), but I did want to pick up and reiterate a point.

I think you should read Epub on the Kindle Fire HD.

Marcello’s review was written in the heat, shortly after he encountered a number of issues with the Kindle Fire HD.  Some of his anger came from the ads but he was also bothered by how difficult it was to download ebooks from Project Gutenberg in order to read on the Kindle Fire HD.

And he was right; it is difficult.

Whether through a deliberate design decision or mere indifference, Amazon has made it really hard to download and read DRM-free ebooks on the Kindle Fire HD. You can download a Kindle or Mobi ebook and open it, but if you want the ebook to show up in your personal docs you will need to use a file manager to copy the ebook from one folder to another.

That tedious work is something that the KFHD should do for you; it’s not something that the average user should have to bother with, not when it comes to day to day operations.

This kind of file management nonsense is a good part of the reason why I use Aldiko reading app as my main reading app, and it is also why my library is centered on Epub, not Kindle ebooks.

I like Aldiko because first, the formatting options are wonderful, but also because it is so easy to download DRM-free ebooks and open them in the app – far easier than any of the Kindle apps on any of my Android tablets.

Whenever I try to open an Epub on a tablet (after this app has been installed), a menu will pop up with several options. One option will be to import the ebook into Aldiko. With one click the ebook is added to Aldiko’s library and I can find it with the other ebooks I have downloaded.

Guess what? This easy download process works with ebooks from Project Gutenberg, O’Reilly, Munsey’s, or even my calibre ebook library. That means that Aldiko fits in both with how I like to manage my existing ebook collection as well as how I might get the free ebooks I happen across in the future.

I suppose this sounds a little weird, but Amazon has forced me into using a different reading app even on their own hardware.

The Kindle app on the Kindle Fire HD is really only good for reading ebooks I get from Amazon. And since I am going to remove the DRM from those ebooks anyway before adding them to my calibre library, I don’t see a reason to download them to my KFHD at all.

In fact, I’ve gone so far as to advise that Marcello tell KFHD owners to download Aldiko and read the Epub version of whatever ebooks they get from Project Gutenberg. The extra step of downloading and installing Aldiko is a small amount of work but I think it’s worth it.

If you would like to do the same, you can find Aldiko here. That is the latest version of the free Aldiko app and it is hosted on Aldiko’s support site.

P.S. I have also added Aldiko to my 5 Apps for the Kindle Fire HD post. That is a measure of how strongly I feel about this.

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Robert Nagle October 28, 2012 um 3:01 pm

I wrote this last year:

NAGLE’S IRON LAW OF EBOOK DEVICES: If an ebook device for sale in 2012 cannot access, download and open a Project Gutenberg title quickly and effortlessly via the device’s builtin wireless connection, then by definition is is not an acceptable ebook device. It is a substandard — and even a useless — contraption.

(it really is amazing that neither the kindles nor nooks have tested this use case).

But about this issue. I wonder if the best solution is to take advantage of Amazon’s ability to email ebooks directly to the device itself for free. Maybe that might solve the problems. (I don’t own a Kindle HD so I can’t test ).

Nate Hoffelder October 28, 2012 um 4:09 pm

Emailing does work but it’s an unnecessary extra step when compared to the fact that you can download directly to the tablet. Plus Amazon mangles the formatting.

And I think both the Nook and Kindle ereaders can actually download an ebook from PG. It’s just the KF which have this trouble.

Sturmund Drang October 28, 2012 um 4:53 pm

I don’t think it’s amazing that Amazon and B&N don’t test this. My downloading free books is the last thing in the world they want me to be able to do. What I do find amazing is that they haven’t attempted buying Gutenberg like the music industry bought out a few years ago to obliterate the content. I think it’s also incredible that Google, Amazon, Apple, and to a lesser extent the Publishing houses and Microsoft/BN haven’t bought out enough Congressmen to push back the public domain to Johannes Gutenberg’s time. I’m sure the carrot wouldn’t be more than a couple of hundred thousand. It’s an election year.

fjtorres October 28, 2012 um 5:22 pm

Depending on party and seniority, the going rate for congressmen is about $30K. Senators are a bit pricier.
So a couple hundred thousand won’t do.
You’ll need closer to $10million for the House and probably that much for the Senate.
The President–mustn’t forget the luddite-in-chief–might require as much as $50Million depending on who wins the election. And even then…
The time to do it was last year.
It’s doable but not cheap and the timing is going to matter.

Sturmund Drang October 28, 2012 um 9:01 pm

If my party wins it will be more expensive. They’re the one’s that are in bed with Holywood. 🙁 You’re right of course. Even though I was assuming some party leaders, a couple of justices, and some key committeemen would do the trick, you’re right. But is it really more than Gates II, and Jobs II, and the DoNoEvil bunch would be willing to commit? I think not. And remember That one went without a sniffle.

Robert Nagle October 28, 2012 um 3:03 pm

Unbelievably it appears that Amazon’s email service can convert almost every format EXCEPT epub. This is amazing because Kindle Previewer clearly can do the conversion from epub on the fly.

Sweetpea October 29, 2012 um 5:04 am

I lolled… I have 3 copies of each of my (liberated) books. One is epub and a second is mobi. I create the mobi with the epub as base… And Amazon can’t covert epub????

derangedhermit October 31, 2012 um 2:03 pm

Take it for how it is. Amazon is not incompetent. Amazon is not indifferent or overlooking a use case. It works exactly as Amazon wants it to work. Amazon does not want you reading free books, or books from anywhere but Amazon.

I try to avoid doing business with companies that show such disregard for their customers' interests.

Terry Mills December 24, 2012 um 11:10 pm

I’ve read several places about "side-loading" on the KFHD. How do you do that?? I can download, but how do I find the file or "run" it??? I can find no way to access the file structure. I really would like to read EPUB, but so far I’ve hit a brick wall. Please help (in idiot instructions, if possible).
Thank you very much,

Nate Hoffelder December 24, 2012 um 11:51 pm

This is more of a general Android question, and I can answer it.

Are you referring to sideloading ebooks or apps? It doesn’t really matter; the basic steps are the same. Read this and install the file manager app labeled ES File Explorer:

When you KFHD downloads something, it is usually placed in the Downloads folder. That is the actual name of the folder.

I’m telling you to install ES File Explorer so you can easily find that folder. Once you have it open on screen you can click on the APK files to install apps or click on the content to get an app to open it.

P.S. Sideloading technically refers to using a USB cable to transfer content and apps to your KFHD, but I still want you to install ES File Explorer. You will need that file manager to see the folder where you copied the content.

David January 10, 2013 um 11:05 am

If you have a computer running Dropbox you can use DB to sideload content to iPad and Android – you download the file (using DB) and then choose which app you want to open it with.

Sara C. February 10, 2013 um 2:07 pm

Thank you for this article! I was frustrated when I tried to download PG files to my Kindle Fire (mobi files) only to be told they couldn’t open! Hooray!

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