Why Mister “War on General Purpose Computing” Bought a Kindle

I spend a lot of time here making the case for smartphones as true pocket computers, not just Internet and app-enabled appliances. I try to demonstrate how you can fully exploit the potential of an Android-powered device with an unlocked bootloader and root, and how you can use these tools to blocks ads, backup, restore or freeze apps, change your theme or even your file system.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: a couple of weeks ago I bought a Kindle.

I know, right? Hypocritical much? This single purpose device riddled with DRM is pretty much the polar opposite of a generative computing device. But the Kindle is technically a tablet and tablets are technically mobile, and that’s the justification I’m using for what I actually want to talk about, the Kindle DRM—which can be easily, almost trivially, stripped out of your Amazon purchases using a desktop computer.

To be clear, I did buy a Kindle and I think it’s a fine ebook-reading device, but I would never had bought the thing without the means to liberate my legal Amazon ebook purchases from it.

You’ll need two bits of software to do the same, both of which are 100% free. The first is the Calibre ebook management app, which you can install on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. You’ll also need a plugin called DeDRM, which you can read about on the author’s blog and download from GitHub. Both the app and the plug are open source—that is, free as in freedom as well as free as in beer.

Get your plugin installed by following the instructions on the author’s site and you’re nearly done. If you’re on a PC or Mac you’ll also need the desktop Kindle app (free as in beer only) as this will include Amazon’s encryption key. On my Linux box I had the extra step of entering my Kindle’s serial number.

At this point you can open your legal Amazon purchases in Calibre, and export them to any file format of your choosing. Stripping DRM may technically be illegal depending on where you live, but it’s certainly better than pirating books—this way Amazon, the publishers and authors all get their money, and you get full property rights to the ebooks that you’ve paid for. Of course I would prefer if Amazon sold DRM-free books in the first place, but as workarounds go this one’s pretty easy.

So that’s why I bought a Kindle… and if none of this is mobile enough for you, what about my first purchase for it?

Links: Calibre, DeDRM

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