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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Transferring eBooks to your Kindle

While Amazon is the primary source of eBooks for most Kindle owners, there are other sources out there: Smashwords and Project Gutenberg, just to name two; and even eBooks you or your friends create. If you’ve never done it, the process can be mysterious… but TFM is here to solve the mystery. I bring you instructions for both MacOSX and that Microsoft operating system. (If you use Linux, you know what you’re doing and you don’t need me to help you!)

If you’re using that Microsoft operating system, make sure you’re connected to the Internet because it may want to download a driver.

Plug It In, Plug It In

The first step is to connect your Kindle to your computer. In case you didn’t know, the Kindle’s charger cord detaches from the charger itself, giving you a convenient USB cable:

Plug the small connector into your Kindle, like you would to charge it, and the large connector into your computer:

USB connectors are where you usually plug in a keyboard, mouse, or “jump drive.” On laptops, they are usually on the left or right sides; some older laptops put everything around the back. On desktops, there are always USB connectors in back, but some have one or two up front — maybe behind a little panel. If you have a USB hub, you can use it, but plugging directly into your computer also lets you charge your Kindle.

The computer treats your Kindle as a detachable drive. On Macs, you’ll see Kindle in a Finder window below the primary hard drive. On that Microsoft OS, it makes a bunch of weird noises, maybe downloads a driver if this is the first time you plug it in, then displays it in the “removable storage” area. I’ve circled what to look for below.

Note: I used Windows 7 for the Microsoft side of things. XP is going to look a little different, but functionally it’s all the same. If your CD/DVD drive is D: the Kindle will likely be at E:.


Electric Slide

Now that you have your Kindle connected, and know where to find it, it’s just a matter of copying your eBooks into the right place. The “right place” is the documents folder inside the Kindle. To see it, click the Kindle in the Finder window (MacOS) or double-click the Kindle in the Computer window (Microsoft thing).

Now that you have the destination in mind, let’s start with the source. When you download an eBook on a Mac, it usually ends up in either the Desktop folder (OSX 10.4 and earlier) or the Downloads folder (10.5 and newer). On Windows, it goes to the Downloads folder. The Kindle can handle eBooks with either a .mobi (MOBIpocket) or .azw (Amazon) extension — so when you download an eBook from a non-Amazon source, make sure you get one of those two types! (Another very popular eBook type is .epub but Kindles don’t recognize them right now.)

So let’s use WhitePickups.mobi as an example file name. Go to the Downloads (or Desktop) folder as appropriate, find the file WhitePickups.mobi, then Ctrl-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) and select Copy. Go back to the Kindle’s documents directory, Ctrl-click (or right-click), and select Paste. Repeat as necessary to copy more than one eBook.

Almost done!


Before you disconnect your Kindle from your computer, you need to eject it. This tidies everything up so you know your eBook is completely copied. To eject on OSX, click the little eject icon next to the Kindle in your Finder window. On Windows, go to the Computer (or My Computer) window, right-click on the Kindle, and select Eject.

Now you can enjoy your new eBook, knowing you’re not forced to use the Kindle Store if you don’t want to.

Other Ways

A program called Calibre is available to manage your eBook collection and simplify transferring eBooks from — and to — your computer. It runs on OSX, Linux… oh yeah, and on Windows too. It has several advantages: for one, it’s a lot easier than going through the steps I outlined above; it also works with multiple eBook readers and (if your eBooks aren’t copy-protected) converts between different formats. If I get a chance, I’ll run that by everyone next week. Until then… happy reading!

P.S. This post isn’t cast in stone, or even ink on paper. If I didn’t cover something throughly enough, leave me a comment. I can fix it.


  1. My favorite way is emailing the mobi-file to [address]@free.kindle.com. Some of my first-readers have added me to their white lists so I can send out my beta-stories that way and have them show up on their home screens.

  2. That's a good way to do it too, Aidan. But I don't know if Smashwords and the like have that option.


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