Monday, March 28, 2011

Kindle Questions

I've been hanging out at the Kindle Discussion Forum a lot lately. At first it was to gather advice and figure stuff out. But as I went from newbie to regular, I started to write up answers for other people. And eventually I started writing FAQ responses. Just because I'm a really odd person that way, and I channel my frustrations into writing.

Anyway, I thought it might be amusing to put up my list of Frequently Asked Kindle Questions on the Kindle Discussion Forum with their answers here. I figure the post about it will vanish quickly from the forum itself, so saving a copy here just makes sense to me.

Since I doubt very many of my regular readers will be interested, I'll put it after a jump, so the whole thing doesn't show up on the main blog page.


1 Can I read library books on a Kindle?
2 Will Kindle come out in color soon?
3 Can I read non-Amazon (Nook/Kobo/Sony) books on my Kindle?
4 Can I get free ebooks for the paper books I've already bought?
5 Why does the Kindle edition cost more than the paper edition?
6 Why are there so many typos in this ebook I just bought?
7 Can I change the screen saver/sleep screen?
8 Why doesn't Kindle have page numbers?
9 Where can I get free eBooks?

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Hello. This is a Kindle Fan's effort to address some of the most frequently asked questions we get on this forum. Please note that none of these answers are official. To get an official answer, contact Customer Service. This is an unmoderated forum populated by Kindle fans.

To my fellow forum users. Please criticize. Please rip my answers to shreds, ask your own questions, give answers, and clarify. Please feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot for posting this. I'll even accept praise. And if you think this is worth the effort, please keep bumping it so it stays near the top of the forum. Otherwise, let it vanish into the depths of the discussions like it was never here. Thanks.

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Short Answer: No, you cannot read library books on the Kindle.

PLEASE NOTE: This may violate your Kindle Terms of Service.
Long Answer: If a library book is in mobi format and uses OverDrive to manage the digital rights, there is a hack you can apply to the book file that will allow you to read it on your Kindle. This is NOT recommended for the casual computer user, so the answer is still no for most people. The legality of the hack has been questioned, and many libraries do not have a good selection of mobi books, so do your research BEFORE you try to run this hack. There is a description of the process here: and more information is available here: but remember you should never run any strange software on your computer unless you know *exactly* what it's doing (unless you enjoy removing viruses and spyware from your computer).
PLEASE NOTE: This may violate your Kindle Terms of Service.

But why?: is in the business of selling books, and they prefer to focus their efforts on the people who buy books instead of those who borrow books from libraries. It's not an affront to your dignity, it's not a vast conspiracy, it's simply the way chooses to do business. If you purchased a Kindle recently with the sole intent of using it for library borrowing, will refund the purchase and you can find a reader that is more suited to the task. Again, before you take such an action, be sure to check the selection of ebooks your library has and in what formats. Your library will also list what devices are compatible with their books, so do your research and you'll be much happier.

Will this policy change?: Maybe, but not in the foreseeable future. Do not buy a Kindle expecting to be able to access library books with it.

But I like my Kindle! Can't I Still Read Library eBooks Without Buying Another Reader?: Well, yes. Your library probably links to programs like Adobe Digital Editions that you can install on your computer to read their books. Some of us have eyestrain issues that make this solution impractical, but the books are at least available in some form.

But I want Library Books on my Kindle!: Well, you could try to get the book you are looking for through a lending club. A number of them are listed at and they use the Kindle lending feature to try to match you up with books you want to read.

On a Related Note: As mentioned earlier, please look at your library's website to see what they have available. Also understand that publishers put limits on the ebooks that libraries can lend so you may have to wait for an ebook to become available, usually on a hold list, sometimes on a very long hold list for popular books. Also, when the ebook expires you will have to check it out again if you haven't finished because you cannot renew an ebook with today's technology. Be aware of the drawbacks of library e-lending so you aren't surprised.

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Short Answer: We don't know.

Long Answer: The e-ink technology that Kindle uses is still being developed, and advances are being made all the time. Currently, color e-ink is not yet advanced enough to be practical for a Kindle. Until a color e-ink is developed that is effective and inexpensive, we will not see color on a Kindle. This could happen next year, or it might be ten years from now. Without having access to industry insiders, we just don't know.

Longer Answer: The Kindle uses e-ink for many reasons, and if you look at the top of this forum there is an announcement titled "E Ink 101 - Electronic Ink Explained" that should lead you to other explanations of why the Kindle uses e-ink. This means that the Kindle is unlikely to jump to a new technology that offers color unless it also offers the same advantages of e-ink. Other color readers at this time do not use e-ink and may cause eyestrain for some users. Amazon has decided to wait it out, and many Kindle fans are grateful for that. Nothing is stopping anyone who wants a color screen from buying another device. Many Kindle owners also have a Nook Color and like them both. But for the moment, a color Kindle is not on the radar.

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Short Answer: Depends on the book.

Long Answer: To read a book on a Kindle, it must first be in a format that the Kindle can understand and it must second not have DRM that prevents it from being used by the Kindle.

Kindle can read books that are in the mobipocket format, which usually have a .mobi or .prc file extension. If the book is in another format you can sometimes convert it using a converter program such as Calibre (Google is your friend). The Kindle can also read files in DOC, DOCX, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP formats (some by Amazon's free conversion service), but keep in mind that mobi files are the native format and will always read better on your Kindle. The Kindle 1 cannot read PDF files natively.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an electronic lock on the book file that attempts to prevent it from being copied illegally. If you purchased the book from an online store, the odds are very good that it has DRM on it and you will not be able to read it on your Kindle. DRM is usually attached to a specific device, and unless you purchased the book specifically for your Kindle, then you are outta luck.

However! Not all books have DRM. There are many free books available online from a wide variety of websites. For instance, has thousands of books that are in the public domain, many of them formatted for Kindle. Also has a variety of books, mostly science fiction, available in Kindle format with no DRM. A handful of other booksellers trust you enough not to put DRM on their books.

So the long answer is the same: it depends on the book. It depends on where you got it, what format it's in, and whether or not it has been crippled with DRM.

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Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: Can you get a free paperback for every hardcover you've bought? It's the same sort of situation. Ebooks are considered a different format, like the difference between a paperback and a hardback. You'll have to buy a new copy.

However: If you buy certain Baen hardcovers, you will also get a CD with the book (and a few others) in ebook format. These CDs are also available (legally) online. Search for "Baen CDs fifthimperium" in Google and you'll likely find them. This is an exception to the rule however. Do not expect all publishers to be as forward thinking as Baen.

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Short Answer: Because of the publishers, probably.

Long Answer: Amazon likes to sell books at a nice discount to get people to buy them, but publishers don't always want to see their books sold cheaply for various reasons. As a result, the biggest publishers formed a coalition and developed Agency Pricing, which you can Google along with "Agency Model" for more details. If, when you check the listing for the book, it says "price set by publisher" then the book is under the Agency Model and Amazon has no control over what the price will be. Very often, those are the books that cost more. To complain effectively about these prices, you need to do two things: 1) don't buy the book and 2) contact the publisher and tell them why you didn't buy the book.

Other Factors: Please remember, when you buy a book from a publisher, you are not just buying a physical artifact. You are also paying for the time it took the writer to write the book, the cost of editors and proofreaders, the cost for layout and images, including the cover, and finally the printing and shipping costs. EBooks only cut out the last two (and add an extra layer of proofing and formatting, see next question), everything else still takes money, and to survive a publisher must charge a minimum price. EBooks are not free to make, despite how it seems. If you want a quality product, expect to pay for it.

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Short Answer: Because the publisher rushed it.

Long Answer: You have two different kinds of ebooks out in the wild now. There are ebooks that were originally published by a traditional publishing house, and you have ebooks that have been produced independently. Both types have their own issues, and those issues can lead to unexpected and often annoying typos and mistakes.

For books from traditional publisher, many times the ebook is the first time the book has been in a digital format. While a lot of publishing today is done digitally, there was a time when having an e-copy of a book was pretty much unheard of. For a lot of books on the backlists of these publishers, creating a digital copy is a long and drawn-out process that involves scanning the original book or typing it out by hand, then correcting the result. This costs money and takes time, and some publishers really want to get those books into the hands of readers as quickly as possible. As a result, some ebooks are not put through a proper proofing and have more typos than any reader wants to see. In other cases, the only digital copy is an earlier proof of the book, and again, rushing to get a copy into "print" as an ebook can lead to the publisher putting out a version that does not match the final printed book, which usually has some corrections done at a late, non-digital, stage. This is changing, and is no longer true for all publishers now. In the future this may not be a concern at all for new books, but older books will still need to go through this expensive process of basically re-editing and re-formatting them to make them ready for publishing as an ebook.

For independently published books, the problem can often be one of money. If the author cannot afford a good proofreader, the book may end up being published with uncaught errors.

In either case, if you spot errors and hope to have them fixed, you can contact the publisher and let them know about the problems you have found. A good publisher or independent author will fix the problems as quickly as possible and offer an updated copy of the book to all readers who bought it.

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Short Answer: No. Unless you have a Kindle 1, in which case, Yes.

Long Answer: The Kindle 1 had an undocumented and unsupported way to change the sleep screen on the Kindle from the pre-packaged set to custom ones. Unfortunately, the rumor is that Customer Service ended up spending so much time answering questions about this feature that they removed it from future versions of the Kindle, much to the disappointment of people who like to customize. The feature may return in some other way on future versions of the Kindle, but you cannot do it without hacking your Kindle if you have a K2 or later.

Longer Answer: Yes, you can hack your Kindle to change the Sleep Screen. This violates your Amazon terms of service, so you are risking your entire relationship with Amazon if you choose to do it. The hack is in two parts, first you jailbreak your Kindle, then you apply the screensaver hack. You can use Google to find the information on them if you choose to risk it.

If you have a Kindle 1, the feature is easy enough for most people to figure out, but apparently hard enough for some to annoy customer service. You can also Google for this, and the advantage is that there is no risk to your Terms of Service with Amazon if you try it.

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Short Answer: It does. Now.

Long Answer: The latest version of the software for the Kindle 3 only, version 3.1, added page numbers to the Kindle. These page numbers rely on new files imported to your Kindle for each book you are reading, and not all books have page numbers available yet. Page numbers are linked to a particular paper edition of a book, based on the ISBN of the book. If you have a Kindle 3 with the latest version of the software, you should have page numbers.

Longer Answer: Page numbers do not make sense in a format that has no pages, where the font size can change the number of words displayed on a screen. originally believed their "locations" would be used in place of page numbers, but the demand for actual page numbers was so high that they eventually developed a way for them to be displayed along with locations and percentages read. Page numbers are unfortunately not available for Kindles 1 and 2 or Kindle DX. But the addition of page numbers to the Kindle 3 indicates that Amazon is listening to reader concerns.

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Check this forum regularly for posts by Happy Reader "Joyce", usually with a subject line of "FREE Book - date". Joyce keeps us up-to-date on the latest offerings from, complete with links and descriptions. Also check out the following websites:Also see:
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Why did a get a lot of mean answers when I asked this question?: If you had done a search on this forum before posting your question you would have found many other posts on the same topic. In short, the questions on this list are frequently asked and because you didn't look for an answer before posting, you are fair game for snark. Don't take it personally, mostly it's just frustration at having to answer the same questions over and over and over again.

Finally: This message board is unmoderated and mostly unmonitored by, so if you posted this question here to get an official response, you aren't getting through. Instead, try contacting Amazon via the Kindle Support Page


Martin said...

Great blog post. Another newish feature for Kindle is lending. Users can lend some of their books to anyone they choose. It's a 'one time only' loan that lasts 14 days. We have a large community of people sharing their books at :)

Tegan said...

Ah yes, I mention it briefly in the Library question, and link to an old list of lending sites that was put up just after the feature went live. But I probably should find a more current list.

The problem with the post on the forum is that I'm limited in what I can write, and I wanted to get as much information crammed in there as possible.

manugw said...

Having the Calibre software you can read most text formats in the Kindle

David said...

Another answer to question 5 for UK readers - Printed books are free of Value Added Tax, digital material has to add 20% Value Added Tax.

Anonymous said...

I just got my kindle and want to know how shock resistant it is. If knocked off table(in case) will it be OK?

Tegan said...


Haven't got a clue. I do know that Kindle Customer Service is very helpful when a Kindle is damaged.

spgraney said...

I got an error message on my Kindle "An error occurred closing this title." Any suggestions? Can't get rid of it.