There was a flurry over the weekend — you may have noticed it — and it had nothing to do with snow.  This was the second weekend out of three when I am giving away a free ebook on the build up to Christmas, and there was a growing outcry about “But I don’t have an ereader!” or “but I don’t have a Kindle”, or “But I have a xxxx reader!” and insert xxx brand, style or  retailer.

I confess I was a little taken aback at this deluge of protests at first.

It simply hadn’t occurred to me that readers would find the lack of a reader or a reader with the wrong brand name stamped on it a barrier to accessing a free copy of my book, because it shouldn’t be.  There’s no reason for it to be.

With all the open source programs, open source platforms and generic reading devices available, plus all the free apps offered everywhere, there really is nothing stopping any reader from accessing any book they want.

Except for DRM protected books.

These will forever remain locked and anchored to the single device they are downloaded to, and in some cases, tethered to a single credit card and once that card has expired the books are gone forever.  (Fictionwise.com is a case in point.)  This is the single biggest argument against DRM protection I can think of.  It gives the reader no flexibility at all, and alienates the general reading population against ebook reading.  But that is another subject entirely.

For now, you need to consider DRM books as disabled, expensive megaliths that move slowly, if at all.  Buy them with extreme care and download them at your own risk.  Once you’ve bought them, you can never move them again.

Non-DRM books, however, are completely barrier free, mobile, convertible, and can move wherever you want them to move.   That’s what gives you the flexibility to have your cake and eat it, too.

You can read your books on your favourite reading device from your favourite retailer, and still download every single free book from Amazon that comes along…and read it on the same device.

Or you can not have a dedicated reading device at all.  I don’t.  And I don’t read on my computer, either.  I read…everywhere:

  • On my cellphone
    • when I’m standing in lines
    • in the washroom
    • on the bus when I’m not writing
    • in the car
    • at night before I go to sleep
    • whenever I’m waiting
    • my cellphone is my major reading device.
  • On my laptop occasionally when I just can’t do another lick of real work
  • Via the Kindle Cloud reader on my computer at work, during my lunch break
  • And I’m getting an Android tablet for Christmas, so I imagine that will become a major reading device for me.
  • My desktop computer is my major ebook sorting device.  It manages all my ebooks.

How You Do It

There’s a ton of ways to take advantage of the free, cheap and reasonably priced books you can find on Amazon, without having to shell out for a Kindle reading device.

Amazon provides their Kindle reading software for a whole range of electronic devices, and that’s the big key for easy reading anywhere.  They offer Kindle reading software for:

  • Cellphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Desktop computers
  • The Internet (wherever you are)

You use the Kindle software either alone, or in combination, depending on whether you’re already reading eBooks on another device or not.

Here’s how you do it:

If you’re not already reading eBooks on another device

This makes your choices relatively easy.  Pick which devices you want to read your eBooks on.

Tablets are screamingly cheap right now.  You can pick some of the Android tablets up for $80 and they come pre-loaded with Kindle already!  I’m not advocating you go out a buy a new device, though.  That’s not the point of this how-to, which is to get you reading Amazon books at no cost and with the least amount of fuss.

If you have a smartphone, that’s a place to start.  I read on my cellphone all the time.  It may seem cramped and too small, but you’ll get used to the convenience very, very quickly – by the end of the first book, I’m guessing.

One of the fantastic things about Kindle software is that you’re not limited to just one device.  If you have a smartphone and a laptop, and everyone has access to the Internet from time to time, then you can install the software on all the devices, and the software will synchronize across all of them.  Every time you open the Kindle reader on any of the devices, if it is connected to the Internet, it will synchronize and open up your current book to the last page you were reading.

You can use your desktop computer as your library command headquarters, too.

Even if you happen to have left your cellphone at home, and your laptop in the car, and you’re at work, you can still log into the Internet, surf over to Amazon on your lunch break and open up the Cloud Reader, and read your books there.

Any computing device with Internet access and a browser can access your books once you plug in your Amazon password.  You’ll never be without them again.

There’s no dedicated eBook reader in the world that does that.  Sort of makes you wonder why you’d bother with one.

If you ARE already reading eBooks on another device

Note:  This system will only work for books that are NOT DRM protected.  So, this will work for the vast majority of indie-published books, and a growing minority of New York published books.  Most New York published books are still DRM protected and will not allow conversion.  However, DRM books are rarely offered for free via Amazon.

If you’re already reading books on a dedicated reading device that isn’t a Kindle, you may be feeling a bit disgruntled about missing out on all the freebies that go down at Amazon.  Don’t be.  You can still indulge.  It’s a two-step process, but it’s do-able, and you may prefer the results, because you end up with a beautifully managed library.

You will need to open up an Amazon account.

You will also need to download and install the Kindle software on at least one device.  Your desktop or laptop computer is probably the best place.

You will also need to download and install the free Calibre eBook management software.   This manages all eBook formats across all computer platforms…and converts them.  This is the key to happy eBook reading for you.

You may need to take your time to learn how Calibre works in conjunction with your reading device.  You do need to install it properly so that it talks to your eBook reader correctly, but once you have done so, it manages your eBooks painlessly and usually in superior ways than the software supplied by the eBook manufacturer.

Calibre settings

·         Tell Calibre to automatically scan and manage the directory where your Kindle books are stored when they are downloaded to your computer.

·         Calibre should also be scanning the directory where your eBook reading keeps books on your computer, when you synchronize via cable/BlueTooth or Wi-Fi.

·         Calibre’s default format should be whatever the format is for your eBook reader (ePub, etc.)

·         Use Calibre as your eBook manager, not the software that comes with your eBook device.

Now, you are free to buy and/or download free books from Amazon.

Simply click on the books you have bought from Amazon, inside Calibre, to upload them to your eBook reader.  Calibre will automatically take care of converting them to the correct format for your devices as it uploads them to the device.

Links:

Amazon Kindle software for all platforms and devices:  http://amzn.to/91eo2U

Kindle Cloud Reader (read anywhere):  https://read.amazon.com/

Calibre eBook Library Manager:   http://calibre-ebook.com/

Enjoy your reading!

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