Monday, January 03, 2011

Downloading Free Books to the Kindle

This article is a follow-up to a previous article that talked about free numismatic publications and’s Kindle.

There are literally millions of books in the public domain that are now available to anyone with access to the internet. Downloading them onto your Kindle allows you to read them anywhere that you can comfortably read a book. You can literally carry a whole library with you wherever you go and have instant access to it. The trick is in knowing how to download these books in a format your Kindle can read. has many  free books available on their website. Books from their site require nothing more than purchasing the book (whether free or not) and having Amazon automatically download the book to your Kindle. You do not have to worry about format if you are getting the book from Amazon.

But what about the millions of free books on Google Books? The numismatic publications I’ve found and listed in my previous article are available from Google Books.

Downloading is as simple as an email

The cool thing about the Kindle is that gives you an email address (that you can change and personalize) to use for downloading. Once you have the document in the format you want, you simply email it to yourself as an attachment. Amazon takes the document and automatically downloads it to your Kindle the next time your Kindle is connected to the internet.

But first you need to have the book in a format that the Kindle can handle. Generally you will find books from Google available for download in two different formats, PDF and ePub.

Free Books from Google Books

Many books from Google Books only allow you to download them in a PDF format. A PDF document retains all the formatting or page layout of the original publication. This is probably the preferred format if the book or magazine you want to download has a lot of special formatting such as columns or illustrations. Many of the coin publications have images so you will be better off using the PDF format for downloading to your Kindle.

The second format is ePub. The main difference between a PDF versus ePub is that ePub has reflowable content. What this means is that the content can automatically adjust properly to fit whatever screen size your e-reader has and whatever font size you choose. On the other hand, a PDF is like a Xerox copy of the original.

The ePub format is great if what you are mainly downloading is text. Although it does fine with the occasional illustrations, a book with lots of illustrations on a page or multiple columns of text on a page can sometimes get a little mixed up. Most of the books that don’t do well in this format usually don’t have the option to download them in it, so Google may have already made the decision for you. Where ePub is a valid option, you probably want to choose it.

Downloading PDF books

The nice thing about a PDF book is that you can download it directly to the Kindle. There is no conversion necessary. You simply email the document to your Amazon supplied email address, and it will automatically get downloaded the next time you connect your Kindle to the internet.

Downloading ePub books

Unfortunately the Kindle does not handle the ePub format. The solution is to first convert from ePub to Mobi. Mobi is just another format that allows for reflowable content. Although Amazon will automatically convert many formats when you email the document to yourself, ePub is not one of them. So you will have to convert it yourself.

Converting with Calibre

Luckily there is a solution for converting books and it’s called Calibre. Calibre is an e-book management tool that you can download for free. It will allow you to convert the ePub format into Mobi. Once you’ve converted to Mobi, then you simply email the Mobi file to your Amazon email address. The next time your Kindle connects to the internet, the book will automatically download.

That’s really all there is to it.

Sources of Free Books for the Kindle

  • Kindle Store - If you can find it here, it's only 1-click away from your Kindle. 
  • Google Books - With millions of books available, it seems to have the best selection of numismatic titles.
  • Internet Archive - Has a good selection of numismatic titles including some of the earliest volumes of the American Journal of Numismatics by the American Numismatic Society. 
  • Open Library - Make sure you click the "Only Show eBook" box and look for the "READ" icon.
  • Project Gutenberg - Has over 33,000 free books but I have yet to find any numismatic subjects. 
While I’ve only talked about getting free public domain documents for the Kindle, don’t forget that there are many new releases and other copyrighted books that are now available for the Kindle. Many are at a price significantly cheaper than buying the paper version.

Test Drive a Kindle

So if you haven’t pulled the trigger yet and bought yourself a Kindle, you might want to take one for a test drive. Some public libraries now have Kindles that you can borrow. If your library has one, give it a try.

I’ve only had my Kindle a couple of months, but I’ve become so attached to it that I can’t imagine being without it. The fact that there are so many historical numismatic publications now available for free is icing on the cake.

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