Like a book but digital

The original plan called for tying together a series of unfortunate events in my younger dates that led to a terrible date/non-date with a girl named Kendal. This would bee matched up with my frustration with the Kindle (ha) and e-reader woes in general.

Then I remembered her name was Kendra, and my problems stemmed from a Libra, and the whole thing fell apart.  

Re-Kindling A Relationship

About a year ago I picked up a Kobo Libra2 to replace my worn-out Kindle. The Kobo and a case were on sale, and the Kindle had pissed me off too many times that month. Seeing a chance to escape the Amazon garden, I jumped over the wall and into Kobo-Land.

The side buttons were a feature I didn’t know I needed, at first. The screen was beautiful. Responsive, silk-smooth, lit. Overdrive integration, what a blessing! And the ability to sort my sideloaded books into collections on the device? Glorious.

Ah, right; my sideloaded books. So many books from Kickstarters, old Baen CDs, StoryBundles, HumbleBundles, RumbleBumbleBundles. Free epubs for signing up to a newsletter. Free epubs for Patreon members. Free epubs from Project Gutenberg.

Maybe not that many in comparison to others’ libraries, around 300 titles or so. Certainly nothing compared to the amount of books I bought from Amazon which…oh, shit.

This isn’t the time or place to talk about removing DRM from books or converting formats or any of that stuff. You can Lycos that if you want.

After some research, swearing, and experimentation, titles I used to read on my Kindle now I could read on the Libra2. Never again would I have to go through this, I thought. My books are moved. Maybe some formatting issues exist, but whatever. I can work around that. My magazines, the old Analogs and Clarkesworlds and Ellery Queens are moved. Moved and fucntion like hot garbage on the Libra2, which is a bummer. My library of non-Amazon books work perfectly. My Amazon books are passable. And the books purchased from Kobo are, well, non-exisitant.

Even when a book dropped in price for a sale, even when a book I wanted to read since forever popped up on the Kobo store, I couldn’t do it. No force on Earth could make me log in to my account, add a credit card, and buy a Kobo title.

I’m swimming in Amazon gift cards. People give them to me all the time. Birthdays, holidays, work related prizes, random strangers on the street wanting to make a good impression. My gift card balance is healthier than the market cap for most alt-coins. It’s nuts.

And that bizarre gift card stockpile made it easy to buy Kindle books. The books I struggled to convert, add to Calibre, move to the Kobo, all while hoping there wasn’t a firmware update that broke my ramshackle system.

As much as I loved the reading experience on the Libra2, I sold it off to an aquaintence looking to replace their old Kobo Whatever. That money combined with a trade-in of my forgotten, dusty Kindle to purchase more of Amazon’s hardware. So now a new Kindle Paperwhite Signature sits in the corner of my desk, charging wirelessly, waiting.

But now I’m back to a familiar problem; what about all these sideloaded books?

Re-Kindling Frustration

Amazon made changes in 2022 to allow for sideloading epubs onto the Kindle platform, while moving away from the old azw and mobi formats. Great! Epub is an industry standard, mobi is old Amazon hat. Let’s go!

Ah, not so fast. Weere you wanted to do this before late December? Will you email the file to your Kindle? The filename will become the title and the author, well, death of the author and all that, right? Every book you send via email to your Kindle is now written by Unknown. They are, I’m told, exceedingly prolific.

Let’s try the Send to Kindle app. Now I can add an author name, so it does have bare bones functionality. And as long as the books I’m uploading have the same author, I can batch process them. Whoops! Just not in epub format; that’s not supported yet in the app. OK, I can convert to mobi and move forward. Whoops! Mobi isn’t a supported format.

Perhaps Amazon doesn’t consider it in their best interest to support books not purchased from their store. The honorable, non-cowardly way to do that is to stop providing half-formed tools that offer a false promise. Just be honest and say “This is a completely walled garden. Deal with it.”

Research online culminates in multiple sources, or one source posting to many sites, telling me to change the file extension from epub to txt and upload the files.

So much for bare bones functionality.

Here’s what did work, and I’m not happy with it. Move the epub files to my iPhone using iCloud. Click on each file, tap Share and select Kindle. Edit the title and author name, then click OK. The epub magically shows up in the Kindle App with a cover (once it is opened), and the correct filename and author. Total time for one file is 40 seconds.

Looking at my list of 300 books to upload, I decided to cut my losses. There’s 20 titles I’d like access to now, so they get the bizarre phone treatment.

Things improved by December, and the Send to Kindle app worked as…well, not intended, or advertised. But it functioned with epubs.

“You should use Calibre!” I heard from the crowd. Well, no, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have to because I don’t want to. The News functionality of Calibre is a waste of code for me. It’s most things to a handful of people. I’d rather have a supported, dedicated tool for the job. I’d like the books in the cloud, available on my Kindle and my phone, and I don’t want to deal with yet another piece of software designed for 80 things when I only need it to do 1.

At some point in the future Amazon will update the Send to Kindle app to work with all supported file types. Or fix the email to Kindle process. Or stop supporting other ebooks altogether. I’m not holding my breath for which comes first.

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