Kindle does NOT restrict you to Amazon ebooks

Hat tip to Kindle World for bringing this up – Almost every Kindle article/post has a comment from someone claiming that the Kindle does not let you use ebooks bought from anywhere except Amazon.

This is just false – The Amazon Kindle supports ebooks from a lot of stores. It does NOT restrict you to buying just Amazon ebooks.

Part 1: The Kindle Store is usually the BEST choice for buying eBooks

In Part 2 we’ll look at how you can get paid and free ebooks from a lot of different sources onto your Kindle – including via Kindle’s wireless. You can jump to Part 2 if you prefer – Part 1 just points out that you’ll usually not want to get ebooks from other stores because they’re either more expensive or not available.

Which Store has the most range?

Public Domain Titles

Sony and B&N have 1 million free books from Google. They include these when they make claims of being the biggest ebook store and having the most range.

However, here are a few things to consider -

  1. Kindle Store has 14,000 plus free public domain titles. This probably covers 75% of the public domain titles you’d be interested in.
  2. You can also convert all of the million free Google books for your Kindle
  3. There are sites like Gutenberg and Many Books that let you get 25,000 or so public domain titles. Manybooks has a mobile site that works from the Kindle’s browser itself.

Most of the time you can get public domain titles you want wirelessly on your Kindle from the Kindle Store or from ManyBooks Mobile.

New Books

The Kindle Store has over 300,000 new books. That’s much more than either Sony or B&N’s eBook stores.

B&N and Sony never break out how many new books they have because without Google Free Books their numbers would be weak – only around 100,000 titles. This might change as B&N has claimed it’ll have half a million new ebooks – at the moment they don’t.

Which brings us to the question of price. 

Which Store has the best prices?

Amazon pioneered the $9.99 price and they continue to have the best prices.

A study by Inkmesh found that for the 11,604 best-selling ebooks the Kindle Store had the lowest price 75% of the time.

What does this mean? 

It means that the Kindle Store has the best range of new books and the cheapest prices on new books – most of the time the book you want will be available as a 60 second wireless download straight to your Kindle.

If you want a public domain title not included in the 25,000 plus titles at the Kindle Store and ManyBooks Mobile you will have to convert a Google free book using Calibre. It’s more work – however, you will be able to get those books on your Kindle too.

That brings us to Part 2.

Part 2: You can get eBooks from a variety of stores on to your Kindle

Contrary to the misinformation being spread you have choices other than Amazon.

Any store that sells books in Kindle format or sells books in PDF and other Kindle supported formats without DRM ought to work. Please confirm with the store before buying ebooks – leave a comment if you run into problems.

What formats does the Kindle support?

Kindle supports these formats natively i.e. you can just transfer them from your PC to your Kindle’s documents folder via the PC to Kindle USB cable -

The 2 Kindle Formats – .azw and .tpz.

PDF, Mobi, PRC, TXT.

Audible audiobooks, MP3 audiobooks.

Kindle also allows for conversion of these formats -

HTML, Doc.

JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP.

Any books that are in these formats and not protected (i.e. restricted) by DRM will work on your Kindle.

What sites can we get Public Domain Books for the Kindle from?

Please check out this list of sites for free books for your kindle.

All these sites provide unrestricted ebooks in formats your Kindle supports – choose ‘Kindle format’ (or Mobipocket or .mobi or PDF or .prc) as your format choice.

The best options are the Kindle StoreManyBooks, and Gutenberg. The first two work straight from your Kindle.

What sites can we get paid books for the Kindle from?

There are a lot of sites from which you can get books that work with the Kindle -

  1. Baen Books.
  2. Fictionwise offers some of its ebooks in Kindle compatible formats.
  3. Harlequin.
  4. Harper Collins.
  5. Some Lulu books.
  6. Smashwords. 
  7. Some BooksonBoard books.

Make sure to avoid protected Mobipocket and protected PDFs as those do not work on Kindle – only unprotected Mobipocket and unprotected PDFs work.

It’s worth noting that there are some big sites whose books definitely do not work on Kindle – Shortcovers, Sony, Barnes & Noble. This is due to their restrictions – not anything done by Amazon.

On the flip side Kindle Store ebooks only work on Kindles, Kindle for PC, and Kindle for iPhone. They do NOT work with other eReaders.

It’s easier to buy from Kindle Store than any other Store

One complaint that you could make is that Amazon makes it easier to buy from the Kindle Store than anywhere else.

That’s a valid one – However, so does every other eReader. So does the iPhone.

For that matter – every company makes it easier for its customers to buy additional products and services from its own stores than from competitors’ stores.

Where does that leave us?

In a world that is far from ideal and also far from the terrible picture some people would paint.

  1. You can get public domain books from a ton of sites on your Kindle.
  2. You can get paid books from a large number of eBook stores on your Kindle.
  3. Buying from the Kindle Store is most convenient thanks to the free wireless.  

Most importantly, paid books are usually available straight from Amazon at lower prices than anywhere else.  

People are spreading the misinformation that Kindle restricts you to buying only Amazon ebooks. It is due to ignorance or malice and simply not true.

13 Responses

  1. Great setting straight of the record, Abhi.

    Also, you can download Project Gutenberg books direct to your Kindle wirelessly over the Internet by using the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg. Here’s the link: http://www.freekindlebooks.org/MagicCatalog/magiccatalog.html

    And for your list of formats that can be converted to Kindle, you can add ePub.

  2. This seems a little misinformative itself. Almost any ereader is compatible with most DRM-free titles, and most websites that sell books DRM-free can also offer you a format that works with your ereader.

    Speaking for myself, when I say Kindle users are “locked” into Amazon, I mean it’s because they can only buy DRM books from Amazon and only Amazon sells DRMed Kindle books. That’s not the case with any other ereader.

    Also, I think you’re missing the huge point that Kindle users can’t borrow ebooks from the library because of Kindle closed-format nature. That’s a huge point, it blows the “Amazon has the best book prices” argument out of the water, and it continues to be the primary reason I don’t want a Kindle.

  3. I have had a Kindle for almost a year and have read plenty of DRM free books on it. I created my own web site to d/l books to the Kindle from various other sources and even use it to read proposals and internal technical documents.

    There may be 2 arguments here:

    1. Is the Kindle reader capable of reading more than Amazon Kindle books. Without a doubt.

    2. Are Amazon Kindle books proprietary and locked to the Kindle user who bought them. Seems so, but I have not had the opportunity to copy my Kindle books to another users Kindle. Has anyone confirmed that they are unreadable? If so, it makes sense – as an author, I work to get paid, all aesthetics of “free for all” aside. I believe there are other services out there that are similar. I believe the Napster paid service and the Zune service lock their media to a user via DRM. “Sharing” ebooks, in my opinion is not the same as sharing a paperback. It is more like photocopying a paperback.

    • Noma, 2. is right – Kindle books are limited to the user who bought them and any Kindles that are registered to the same account. That’s for family members to be able to share.

  4. A thought this cross my mind, I can absolutely share Kindle books with other people. I may not get my Kindle back though ;)

  5. Thank you very much for this article. The reason I never purchased a Sony reader prior to Kindle coming along was because of its book prices. When I saw that I could get first release NY Times bestsellers on the Kindle for $9.99 and then have them delivered right there on the spot, I immediately ordered my Kindle; that was two years ago. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made; it has actually paid for itself in book price differential alone. Thanks to your article, I now know that there are plenty of other sources for books should I ever choose to take that path.

    Comments by the first responder to your article seem pretty much representative of what we’ve been hearing for a while now, with maybe a bit of a twist. There have always been those who prefer to borrow books from a library rather than buy their own. I admire those folks. But comparing the purchase price of a book with the cost of borrowing a book from a library seems just a little bit ludicrous.

    • I’m new to ereaders…trying to decide which one to purchase for my pre-teen daughter. She wants to be able to borrow from library but the above comment made it sound like it costs money to borrow an ebook from the library. Is this the case?

      • Not sure – it depends on what library she wants to borrow from. You could call them and ask what their membership dues are. After that, it’s free.

        If the dues are $25 a year. All she has to do is borrow and read 3-4 books and she’s ahead. Also, Nook offers lots of free book offers – not as many as Kindle Store, but a good number. So she would have those and the ebooks available in her library.

        It would really help to check on what ebooks the nearby libraries offer and how much they charge as membership dues.

  6. Just want to point out that you don’t have the option (generally) of buying Baen Book from the Kindle Store. You’re “forced” to buy them from Baen Books, in a non-DRM format. Of course, they cost less than the $9,99 that is normal for the Kindle Store. But I don’t think you can buy them wirelessly on the Kindle, but you can have them delivered wireleslly for the normal Amazon delivery cost of 15 cents.

    So, if you want to buy a book from Baen Books, the Kindle Store isn’t cheaper, or even an option.

    • you can just buy them and transfer them via USB for free.

      You are saying exactly what the post is saying. see the section on how Amazon makes it more convenient to buy from Amazon.

      • The only point I had was that you actually couldn’t buy them from Amazon. I’m not at all sure why Baen isn’t allowing this. If I were Baen, I’d list my books on every possible venue, especially since the cost of each channel is effectively nill.

  7. [...] recent concern is whether you can buy books for the Kindle from other stores and have already covered that (you [...]

  8. Referring to the question on how do authors of ebooks get paid, my e-mail adrress was incorrect – please answer this question here. Thanks!!!!

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