Thursday, 27 January 2011

Goodbye paper, Hello Kindle!

According to, the new Kindle is their #1 bestseller and has the most 5-star reviews of any product on Amazon. So, when choosing the Christmas present for my wife, the three kings settled on this electronic book model.

The version we got (you can see that I am also staking a claim on this gadget!) is the Kindle Wi-Fi, which is fine, since I don't think we would use the 3G functionality, and it increases its price by a whopping 37%!

After unwrapping it, the first thing to test was the reading experience. The e-ink technology is supposed to be far superior for reading long hours, and it certainly is great. I still need to take the real test (i.e. to read a whole book with it), but there is absolutely no glare, no backlight, and it feels really comfortable given the very limited reading I've done with it so far).

The next thing was to check if our new little gadget would deliver on the main things that we wanted from an electronic book. This is a provisional list:

* Be able to organize content for both my wife and me
This can be done with Collections. As far as I can see, I cannot create Collections inside other Collections, so to keep your library organized is probably better to do it in the computer with Calibre.

* Transfer PDF files and other content
PDFs are handled automatically in this Kindle, as some other content. The most convenient way to transfer files to the Kindle is probably thanks to the associated e-mail. Each kindle has its own unique e-mail address. If you want to transfer some document to it, you just send it as an attachment to that e-mail address, and it will downloaded automatically when you are connected to the Internet (via WiFi or, if we had the other model, via 3G).

* Different dictionaries
This is possible, and in Amazon you can actually find a number of dictionaries for it. What I don't like is that the dictionary is set globally and not per book. It would be nice to have the option to override the default dictionary for an individual book (mostly I read in English, so I would like that as my default dictionary, but if I want to read something in French, the option to select the French dictionary for just that book would be nice).

* Getting books (in English and in Spanish)
Amazon will deliver to Spain only their international version, which comes with the American spelling dictionary. I prefer the British version, so thanks to a colleague who was coming from the UK, we got the UK version instead (in the end, both the American and the British dictionaries were loaded, so perhaps we could've got the international version instead).

    ** Books in English
The number of books in English that you can get is really big. With the thousands of books that you can find in PDF format, plus all the stuff at Project Gutenberg, Google Books and the Kindle Books at Amazon, I think it will be some time before we run out of stuff to read...

    ** Books in Spanish
The story is different for books in Spanish. Amazon has some books (searching for "spanish edition" gives (as of 27/1/2011) 6,924 results), but certainly nothing comparable to the number of mostly-in-English Kindle-books (545,187). For newer books (those in Amazon are often classics), you can head for instance to Libranda. The number of books  is quite small yet (2466 at the time of writing), but these are all newer books, and that's what my wife is mostly after, so I decided to try and buy one: "El otro barrio" by Elvira Lindo. There are many shops that sell this one, so I settled for iBubok (for no reason), and here the fight begins...

        *** DRM stuff

After paying for the book, the Download link brings me to a .acsm file, which I have no idea what it is... It turns out that this is a way of protecting the books (, and that in order to get the actual book content I will need Adobe Digital Editions which, surprise surprise!, cannot be installed in Linux. OK, so I head off to my VirtualBox Windows XP and install it there. Installation is very easy, and the .acsm file is automatically dealt with by Adobe Digital Editions and I can see the contents inside the VirtualBox window:

But obviously we didn't get the Kindle to read books in the computer screen, so I need a way to transfer that content to some format that the Kindle can read.

A way to get rid of the DRM protection stuff is outlined in this blog. As per the instructions, I installed in my Windows virtual PC: Python 2.6.2, PyCrypto, ineptkey.pyw (version 5), ineptepub.pyw (version 5.2) and ineptpdf.pyw (version 7.2). The book "El otro barrio" which I bought was actually a PDF, and after running ineptkey and then ineptpdf I got a beautiful non-DRM PDF file, which I can read in my Kindle (or in any other PC) without any trouble:

I wanted to check whether the script would also work fine with EPUB files, but for the moment I don't want to buy a new book (I asked the library whether they can send me the EPUB file instead of the PDF file), and this is actually not that important, since I can also convert PDF files to MOBI files (which the Kindle can read) with Calibre. When I get a DRM-EPUB file I will update this post.

UPDATE (17/2/2011): Just bought a DRM-EPUB book and the script managed to get rid of the DRM protection without any trouble, so I could (after converting from EPUB to MOBI with Calibre) send it to our Kindle without any trouble.

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