Our local Library uses the OverDrive Library Reserve System to make online content available to its patrons. This includes, among other things, the ability to “reserve” and “check out” e-books. While cool in concept, it’s rather problematic for Kindle owners, because the books are only available in EPub format, which Kindles don’t support.
So what are we Kindle owners to do? First, yell loudly at Amazon! Seriously go there right now, click the “Contact Us” button, and demand support for the EPub format.
With that out of the way, here’s what you do in the meantime. Unfortunately this is probably out of reach for non-technical readers – you’ll need to be comfortable using your system’s command line interface (Terminal.app on Mac, “cmd” on the PC). Also, I’ve only done this on my Mac. PC owners, your mileage may vary.
Here are the steps:
Get the EPub file
The file you download from your library website isn’t actually an “.epub” file. It’s a “.acsm” file that tells Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) how to download the EPub book for you. Once ADE has downloaded the book, you’ll need to locate the .epub file.:
Mac: It’ll be in the ~/Documents/Digital\ Editions directory.
PC: Probably under “My Documents” somewhere?
I’ve found that most of the EPub books I get don’t have the proper file format to be read by the script I use to remove the DRM. So to get things to work, it helps to rebuild the book file by unpacking and re-packing the book. EPub books are just ZIP files under the covers, so unpacking is easy:
> mkdir mybook > cd mybook > unzip ~/Documents/Digital\ Editions/the_book_you_downloaded.epub
Re-packing is a little trickier; you can’t just use the ‘zip’ command. The file has to have a very specific structure, so use an app designed specifically for this:
Mac: I use ePub Zip.app. Just point it at the ‘mybook’ directory, and click “Choose”. It should create a “mybook.epub” file alongside the mybook directory.
PC: Maybe use ePubIt, or one of the other apps on that page.
Remove the DRM
*sigh* … and this is where we get into the legal and moral quagmire of digital copyright protection. While the act of bypassing DRM restrictions on copyrighted content is not illegal, distributing the software for doing such apparently is. At least, according to Wikipedia.. Thus, there is probably some line I shouldn’t cross in terms of how easy I make this for you. So rather than get into the weeds on this process here, I’ll just point you at the i?cabbages blog that showed me how to do it. Read it for yourself… or at least read everything after the “Here are the scripts:” part. It’s not hard.
Convert from EPub to Mobi Format
Once you have a DRM-free EPub file it’s pretty easy. Install and run Calibre (available on Mac/PC/Linux). In Calibre:
- “Add books” to add your [now DRM-free] EPub file to your library
- Select your book
- “Convert books”
- Make sure the output format is set to “MOBI”
- Click “Okay” and wait for the conversion to finish. (Click the “Jobs” button in the lower-right corner of Calibre window to monitor the progress)
Send to your Kindle
If you plug your Kindle into your computer, Calibre can upload it directly for you. However, I find it’s often easier to just email it to my “free.kindle.com” email address and use the “sync and check for new items” feature of the Kindle to download it over wifi. (You can get to the mobi file by right-clicking on the file in Calibre and selecting “Open Containing Folder”.
It’ll probably take you 15-20 minutes to walk through this the first time, but once you get the hang of it the process it’s not too hard. It’s just sad that this is the current state of affairs.