If you're into reading books, it's likely you own, have owned, or want to own a Kindle e-reader. Digital books have changed the game where reading is concerned, and you no longer need to cram volume upon volume into your daily bag or into holiday suitcases when you can just use an e-book reader instead. Unfortunately, Amazon has DRM (digital rights management) to stop you from reading those books on anything other than Amazon's own devices or apps.
This DRM takes the form of Amazon's proprietary AZW file format, and it means that reading Kindle books outside of the Kindle bubble is impossible. Thankfully, that DRM can be removed with certain free and paid tools, though it's important not to share those books with anyone else, or you may find yourself in breach of copyright.
Removing DRM so you can convert Kindle books into PDFs is a little tricky, but once you know the process and the right programs, it becomes relatively straightforward and easy to do en masse. Here's how to convert your Kindle books to PDF, so you can read your favorites on any device, not just a Kindle or Kindle app.
No matter how you convert it, you'll need the file in the first place. It's easy to download an AZW file of your book from Amazon, though due to DRM, the e-book can’t be downloaded to just any PC. Readers must have a hardware Kindle linked to their Amazon account. Otherwise, you will see an error stating, “You have selected content that is not compatible with any of your registered devices.”
Step 1: Open Amazon’s website, click on your name, and then select Account & lists on the drop-down menu.
Step 2: Select Manage your content and devices, then choose Books.
Step 3: Choose the More actions button next to the target e-book, and select Download and transfer via USB.
Step 4: A pop-up window asks you to select a registered Kindle. Choose one and select the yellow Download button.
Calibre is a free app that excels at converting and collating large amounts of digital media. No matter which reading file type you're dealing with, chances are that Calibre can handle it. Unless it has DRM, that is — then things get a little dicier.
Thankfully, there are workarounds that mean you can still use Calibre to remove DRM from your Kindle books and convert them into PDFs. Oh, and best of all? It's completely free.
Step 1: In order to remove the DRM from your Kindle e-books, you’ll need to download an older version of Calibre, version 4.23.0.
Step 2: Once you've downloaded and installed the software, you’ll also need to download Apprentice Alf’s DRM Removal Tool. Rather than the latest version, you want to download and install v6.8.1, which will work with version 4 of Calibre.
Step 3: Just click on the DeDRM_tools zipped folder to download it to your computer, then unzip the folder by right-clicking it and selecting Extract all (or however you would normally unzip folders on your computer). The zipped file inside is the one you'll use to install the plug-in.
Now that you've got both Calibre and the plug-in you'll need to remove the DRM, you'll need to install the plug-in. Here's how you do it.
Step 1: Open Calibre, and select Preferences at the top-right corner.
Step 2: Now, select Plug-ins and then Load plug-in from file.
Step 3: Find and choose the DeDRM zipped file.
If it doesn't seem to be working, remember you need to unzip the first file you downloaded and then use the zipped file inside that original download.
Step 4: Choose Yes and the plug-in will install.
Step 5: One of the quirks of this plug-in is that you need to include a Kindle serial number for it to work. To do this, you'll need to go back to the plug-in menu by going to Preferences > Plug-ins.
Step 6: Open the File type section and double-click the DeDRM entry.
Step 7: Select eInk Kindle Books.
Step 8: Now, you need to find and enter your Kindle serial number. Go to Settings > All Settings > Device Options > Device Info on your Kindle. You should see information about your Kindle, including the serial number.
If you’re unsure where to find your Kindle’s serial number, a quick Google of “serial location” plus your Kindle model, e.g. "10th-gen Paperwhite,” should help.
Step 9: Enter the serial number without any spaces into Calibre. It's also case-sensitive, so make sure to enter it in capitals if it's capitalized, or it won't work.
Step 10: Click Close, then OK, then click Apply.
You're finally ready to actually convert some books. Thankfully, it's quite straightforward from here.
Step 1: Select Add books and find you downloaded file. Choose Open and it'll be imported to Calibre and the DRM stripped away.
Step 2: Right-click on your imported book and then go to Convert books > Convert individually.
Step 3: Make sure the Output format is set to PDF and select OK.
Step 4: Calibre will now start converting your book. You can keep an eye on it by clicking the Jobs button in the bottom-right corner.
Step 5: When conversion is complete, select Path: Click to open to open the folder containing your converted file.
Epubor boasts it's able to get rid of DRM from all of Amazon's Kindle e-books, and it also claims it can remove DRM from Adobe, Sony, Kobo, and Google e-books to boot. Unfortunately, it's not a free option and costs $25 for a year's license. There's a 30-day free trial you can take advantage of in order to test whether it works for you, but the free trial version only converts 20% of the book, meaning you're going to have to buy the full version if you want to read more than a fifth of any book.
Epubor is extremely easy to use compared to Calibre above, and this goes a long way to justifying the license fee before use. But we recommend you use it when you have a lot of e-books to convert at once, making sure you get value for your money.
Step 1: Start by downloading Epubor Ultimate for Windows or Mac. When downloaded, install and open it.
Step 2: As mentioned, you'll need to enter your registration email and code to unlock the full version. If you want to test it out without buying yet, just click the red x to close the code entry box.
Step 3: Import your AZW file by dragging it into Epubor or by selecting the big Add button at the top of the program.
Step 4: A popup will tell you DRM is being removed.
Step 5: Once imported, select the drop-down button at the bottom of program and choose PDF.
Step 6: Select Convert to PDF. Wait for it to finish processing.
Step 7: To find your converted PDF, right-click the book and choose Explore converted file.
Remember that you should never share a DRM-free e-book with somebody else, as this is a breach of copyright law.
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