Of iPads and eBooks

The best thing about the iPad is that it removes the clutter from reading. Traditionally, there’s a stack of books next to my bed that I’m currently “reading”, which is to say that I’ve started them, and not finished any. With the iPad (and the iPhone before it), I have that stack of books in a convenient digital device. I’ve been using the Kindle app mostly, since it manages to keep my Mac, iPhone, and iPad synced with my current position in each book, so that I can use whichever is most convenient at the moment. Most importantly, you don’t need to actually own a Kindle.

But recently I’ve been somewhat ticked off at Amazon. I purchased a couple of eBooks from them 4 years ago, and they’ve since closed down that particular store and associated format. I have my original (encrypted) PDF files, but they’re now worthless since Adobe has shutdown the associated authentication servers. The result is a bunch of bits I “own”, but cannot access. Amazon customer service is no help and based on comments in their own forums, I don’t think Adobe would be either.

So this week I’ve taken to converting all my Kindle books (of which there are many). It works out to be a fairly easy process once you gather all the software. I’m using iPhone Backup Extractor to retrieve the eBook files, a Python script to “modify” the files, Calibre to handle format conversion to the open ePub format. On the devices iBooks and Stanza read the results in pretty close to the same quality as the Kindle apps (sans location syncing). All but one of my eBooks was painless, and that other book was handled by a different tool that I don’t expect to need very often. The nice thing about this setup is that the Python script can be configured as a plugin to Calibre, and once you get the Kindle PID for each device (for instance, using kindlepid.py ) that part becomes seamless. If I can figure out the PID for my Kindle for Mac, I’d be able to eliminate the backup extraction, and could do everything from inside of Calibre.

As a side effect of all of this, I can convert and read any PDF I have handy on the iPad/iPhone as well. More importantly, I’ve future-proofed my eBook purchases against another boneheaded move from Amazon. Now I just need to figure out how to access those older files…