Fun With the Kindle (Screenshots!)

In technology on February 17, 2008 at 8:17 pm

One thing I really love about the Kindle is that there are tons of free books out there if you are willing to go through the agony of converting the file and then using USB to transfer them rather than just buying them and downloading them wirelessly over Sprint’s cellular network. It’s beautiful, you can convert all of the books that aren’t copyrighted and end up with this (click the pictures to make them bigger):

Works of Jonathan Edwards Screenshot

but then sometimes things are not well in Kindleland and the converter gives you this:

City of God Screenshot

But how can you complain with free?

  1. Using my USB cable, I can open up the contents of my Kindle as if it were another hard drive. But I don’t understand what I am seeing. For example I can’t even see the author’s name. And there are a bunch of codes I don’t understand. Somehow I want to edit the titles to remove the initial A, The, etc., which prevent proper alphabatizing. And often I want to correct errors of title and author, but can’t see how to do that — especially the author name which is often wrong, ruining the author sort capability.

    In addition to understanding the above, I want to be able to see the ebook on my web browser, but my computer doesn’t know how to display files with an extension of .azw which all Kindle files have. I know that DRM is supposed to prevent that, but since I have bought and own these files, I feel I have a right to do with them whatever I want, especially being able to display them or convert them back to .txt or .html files. Surely someone somewhere has written such a program, but I haven’t seen a link to one yet.

    Finally, I want to be able to produce an .azw file myself which has the proper keys to show up on my Kindle should I place them on my Kindle’s internal file space via my cable. I don’t want to have to use Kindle’s conversion service if possible.

    Charles Wilkes, San Jose, Calif.

  2. Charles,
    Amazon has encrypted their files (.azw files) so that they can only be read on the Kindle. These files contain copyrighted material so if they did not encrypt them, we could download them to our PCs, print them off, share them with our friends, etc. All of this would be breaking copyright law.

    I agree it would be nice to be able to edit certain things and add meta-tags for searching capability, but I’m afraid it is what it is right now and there is no way to legally edit these files (even if you only want to edit the title, author, etc.). Any links you find that convert .azw files back to html will be breaking DRM as you stated…

    Have you checked out Amazon Digital Text Platform? If you are the author of some material or if you want to have more control over any text not covered under copyright law, you can play around with that. There is also MobiPocket Creator which allows you to create your own books and have control over the author, table of contents, title, etc. But again, to use this you must own the rights to the text or use “free” text. Hope this helps. How do you like your Kindle so far? It has beaten my expectations and I’ve only been using it for a few days now…

  3. Defying DRM isn’t necessarily a violation of copyright law in it of itself. It is technically illegal to try to crack protection regardless of the status of copyright, though this seems illogically and may likely be struck down by a court sooner or later.

    Fair Use allows the individual to use material for their own personal use, something that Kindle’s licensing of material may already be in violation, but it is not entirely clear how a purchaser would legally force Amazon to provide for other outlets (such as physically printing material).

    Then there First Sale Doctrine which allows someone to transfer ownership of a work once purchased. This right was reinforced in a very recent federal court decision involving AutoDesk. The current Amazon scheme outright violates this by preventing the purchaser from transferring ownership. I suspect they will eventually be forced to come up with a method for this.

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