I Just want to read ebooks with you.

I love e-books. I love them so much that I’m considering buying a double-sided, sheet-feed scanner, chopping the spines of all my dead-treeware books and having an OCR frenzy on their asses.

What I don’t like is DRM. Not for any idealistic reasons (well, maybe a few) but for practical ones. My bookseller of choice is Amazon, as it has the best range and Kindle books work on any device. But the Kindle app for the iPad sucks, and with an update this week it is almost unusable. If only I could read my Kindle books in the beautiful iBooks app. Well, it turns out that I can. And what’s more, I can keep all of my books in a DRM-free format in the cloud, ready to be downloaded to any device, whenever I like. Here’s how.

This really is an easy and very neat little hack. It takes a bit of setting up, but after that it is almost automatic. Here’s what we’re going to do.

  • Get the protected Kindle books onto our Macs
  • Strip the DRM
  • Convert the books into the universal EPUB format
  • Put them in Dropbox for easy access
  • That’s it

For this recipe we will need the following software

Kindle for Mac

Calibre

Dropbox

Hazel

You’ll also need to grab some DRM-stripping plugins for Calibre, provided by Apprentice Alf.

The Setup

The first part of this is probably the trickiest. You need to install and configure the plugins to work with your installation of the Calibre e-book managing app (and I’d just like to apologize for recommending such an ugly app). Fortunately, you are a Mac user, so the process is easy.

The full instructions are in Alf’s post, but you don’t need to follow them all. Just add the K4MobiDeDRM plugin and you’re done. Because you are using the Kindle Mac app to download the books, you don’t need to add any ID numbers or other shenanigans.

Auto add

Next, you tell Calibre to watch a certain folder. You can’t tell it to watch the Kindle App’s download folder, though, as this contains a lot of junk other than e-books. Calibre also deletes files on import. So go ahead and make a folder in a convenient place. I called mine “Kindle Auto Add” and put it in my Documents folder. Now tell Calibre where it is by opening the preferences, clicking the “Adding Books” icon under the Import/Export tab and then clicking the Automatic Adding tab.

Whew.

Next, you need a way to copy the Files from the Kindle app’s download folder to the folder you just made. For this we will use the excellent file utility Hazel. Point Hazel at the “My Kindle Content” folder in your Documents folder, and set up a rule to copy only AZW files to the Kindle Auto Add folder you created earlier:

Hazel

Now that’s done, we want to go back to Calibre and make sure it’s doing the right thing with new ebooks

Go back to the preferences and find Common Option>Page Setup. In here, set the Input Profile to Kindle and the Output Profile to iPad. Then, under the menu item XXX Books (where XXX is the number of books in your library — I know, it’s open source. Sorry) make sure that the Calibre library will be saved somewhere in your Dropbox.

Now. We’re done. You’ll never need to touch these bits again.

In Action

To convert a book automatically, you’ll need to have Calibre running, and to have the Kindle app open on your Mac. Just click to download any book and wait.

After a couple seconds, Hazel will copy the book file to Calibre’s watched folder, and Calibre will open and convert it automatically, stripping the DRM and storing it in it’s own library. This will take a few moments to a few minutes depending on the size of the book, and other seemingly random factors.

Then, just fire up Dropbox on your iPad, navigate to the shared folder where Caliber keeps its library (in a simple folder structure, thank God) and choose to “Open In…” iBooks. Now you can read your legally-bought Kindle book in Apple’s superior software.

Or, if you prefer, you can use any app that can open EPUBs, and you can access them from your Dropbox from any device you like.

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