Back up your Kindle books? Not so fast, tablet users


I discovered yesterday that my decision to sell my e-ink Kindle and get a Kobo Vox had an unfortunate and unforeseen side effect—Amazon won’t let me back up my books anymore!
I noticed when I did some tidying up this morning that my books on the ‘manage my Kindle’ page no longer had a ‘transfer via USB’ option and assumed it was a momentary glitch. But, following a chat with another user on Mobile Read who confirmed she had this option still, I contacted tech support.
I was told to my horror that Amazon only allows this option for people who own a hardware Kindle! If you read on a tablet, phone or off-brand ereader, Amazon only allows you to download from the cloud; you can’t download an actual file directly.
This is unacceptable for two reasons. Firstly, Amazon cannot always guarantee you access to their cloud. I remember when my account got hacked one time, and they decided to unilaterally close it! I was able to get access back later by a special dispensation from a level 2 support rep, but that was only by asking for it. Otherwise, I would have lost access to all my books!
Secondly, I do require a backlit device for my current needs—but Amazon won’t sell me one. Their only backlit device is the Kindle Fire, and it is only for sale to Americans. If they would have sold me one, I would have happily bought it. My Vox is humming along nicely, but given how heavy an Amazon user I am, their tablet probably would have been easier. Alas, I am geographically undesirable, so I bought a competing brand. And Amazon is punishing me for it by holding hostage my books.
The solution the customer service rep gave me? Pay the hundred bucks to buy a hardware Kindle, or content myself with a 100% cloud-based life. Unacceptable! I did discover a workaround, which I won’t spell out for fear they’ll close the loophole on me. So, for now, my Kindle ebook purchasing can continue. But I wanted to warn others who are thinking of trading in their hardware Kindle for the growing horde of multifunction Android/iThing toys. Amazon won’t let you download your books anymore!

42 Comments on Back up your Kindle books? Not so fast, tablet users

  1. “If Amazon refuses to allow you offline reading of your purchased ebooks, Joanna, I agree with previous posters that you have to find ways around that yourself. Amazon’s decision is anti-competitive, of course, but human ingenuity knows no bounds.”

    I guess I still don’t get it. My WiFi is off, I have books in the On Device tab of the Kindle App on my Vox. I can read the books listed there.

  2. Felix Torres // June 23, 2012 at 6:47 am //

    A lot of answers but none explains what is going on.

    Joanna, the “Transfer via USB” option *needs* a physical device ID for the server to produce the file it downloads for you because the files it offers up are DRM-encrypted for that *specific* device. That is, why if you have more than one physical device registered to your account, you have to specify *which* one you want to sideload to.
    It isn’t really meant as a backup means–though it can be used that way–even without breaking DRM. It is simply a way to enable sideloading for devices without direct wireless access.
    This isn’t a matter of Amazon going out of its way to treat customers without devices differently (though they do in the case of the Lending Library, for example) just the way Whispernet works; each device and each reading app has a unique ID so the system can compile a file only readable on that device or app. If you don’t have a device registered it simply *can’t* generate a file for sideloading with the matching ID.
    No device ID, no file–just as Mobi DRM can’t deliver a file without a PID.

    It isn’t a Cloud issue, either, but rather a property of walled gardens. Apple does it with iBooks. Kobo does it with their Kepubs. Sony does it with their PSN downloads and Microsoft with their XBL content: garden content stays in the garden.

    Your only option for backing up at this point is, as suggested, to register a copy of Kindle for PC or Mac and DeDRM the files.

  3. I was told by Amazon tech support that Kindle for Mac/PC does not produce a physical file; that is untrue, but I did not address it in my article because I was worried that if they believe it is untrue and it’s pointed out that it isn’t, they will close the loophole and I won’t be able to get physical files at all.

    I do download and de-drm my books; I was worried more about future purchases. Felix has the best explanation for what’s going on here. Much appreciated.

  4. Biggest reason why I never ever buy a title through my Kindle, only through my Mac.

    Buy it.
    Strip it.
    Back it up.
    Load it.

  5. It’s too bad – I was just introduced to your site: Teleread, and now I have a very skeptical opinion of the quality of information being put out here. I own a Kobo Touch and download free and paid for books from Amazon regularly using the Kindle for PC option. Kindle for PC is a piece of software you download and it talks to your cloud.

    Do your research and write proper articles. The last thing the internet needs is more MISINFORMATION.

    Signed, Won’t be back soon.

  6. Felix Torres // June 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm //

    The PC and Mac version do produce a file for *internal* app use; that is how the DeDRM works, it Decrypts them and saves them in unencrypted form.
    Absent DeDRM-ing, they are only usable by the app that downloads them so they can’t be used for sideloading. So that may be what the Amazon support was saying: the apps don’t produce a file you could use.

    About the VOX? It’s android-based isn’t it? So you can run one of the Kindle for Android apps, right? You’re not limited to the online Cloud reader, are you?

  7. Yes, I am using the Android app. My discussion with Amazon was solely about how to get a backup file onto my computer.

  8. Bree …… Ouch !

    FYI: typo alert

    “She has parked her pen is such places as:
    nyc | london | montreal. ”

    Sad to see such copy quality …..


  9. @Joanna–and now that you know that books are actually stored on your Android tablet (look in the Kindle folder after you connect the Vox by USB and turn USB storage on) and that using Kindle for your desktop is also an option, is there something you would like to change about your article? Perhaps Paul Biba can add in a note of some kind for you.

  10. No Vicki, I don’t think I do :) I didn’t address the Kindle for Mac/PC option in the article purely because I specifically asked Amazon and they specifically said I couldn’t do it, so I worried that if I said something, they would disable the functionality. The official party line from Amazon is ‘no device, no file’ and that is unchanged by the fact that there may be third-party hacks around that.

    Felix had the most helpful explanation as to why that might be, and I appreciated that. Anyone who wants more info after reading my article can of course read his comment underneath.

  11. I’m rather surprised that Teleread would post a rant like this, considering this problem is negated by the Kindle for PC/Mac apps, which do, in fact, download the book file onto your computer. The challenge from there is stripping the DRM, which isn’t much of an issue. Then the files are easily converted and transferred to the book purchaser’s preferred device.

  12. pidgeon – rants generate site clicks :)

  13. Howard, you’re right, people love a train wreck.

    This site seems to be becoming the Consumerist of ebooks. Lots of posts with complaints but no research. I stopped reading Consumerist, and I’ve dropped this RSS feed as well.

  14. I believe that all ereader devices offer the ability to plug your device into your computer and download your books from the device to a folder on your hard drive. This essentially gives you a copy on your ereader and one on your computer. This may be enough for some people.

  15. I recommend you a nice article to help you backup your kindle books with ease.

    with this link:

    I think it’s useful for you.

  16. Not sure why everyone has turned this into a DRM issue when it isn’t. It seems that Amazon has recently changed their eBook purchase settings. Unless you have the Kindle Hardware you no longer have the option to download your eBook purchases from the Amazon cloud to your PC or Mac. Therefore, you can no longer get a file to covert or remove the DRM. I am coming across this today after having the option to download directly to my PC in the past which is extremely frustrating. If someone has figured out how to download their ebooks from Amazon or the Kindle PC app to their PC recently (Dec. 2012) please advise!

  17. That’s it. We only purchase the tickets to acess the Kindle books, not the books themselves. I have heard of those who lost eBooks from mobipocket and nobody wants to pay for something but can’t use it some time later.

    Well, we actually can download Kindle files with Kindle for PC/Mac app, but that depends on registration as well. Frankly, I think the most reliable way to back up eBooks is to make them unprotected, which can be opened and read without any restriction. Anyway, this is what I would recommend to you guys:

    I don’t think backing up those downloaded AZW or AZW3 files to another storage or drive really work.

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