Transferring Third-Party Books to Your Kindle

It has been over a year since I last update this, and I think it is time to update this post a little bit as a few minor things have changed, but I will also give you a small hint: I’m going to be pointing you to a lot of places other than Amazon for free books in upcoming posts (Hint: get excited!)

There are many places to receive free Kindle books other than the Amazon website – and a couple of you are probably scratching your heads saying “that’s nice, but how in the world do I get these books to my Kindle?” Well, here is your quick instruction guide – yes, you may have seen this before, but there are quite a few new folks who are new to the blog, just opened up their new Kindle, or acquired a gently used Kindle from upgraders.

Transferring Books to Your Kindle

If the only way you have added content to your Kindle is via the Amazon website, and assuming you may have missed the section in the Kindle User Guide of other methods to add content to your Kindle (and the user guide is not very helpful), you may not know how to put content (think books) on your Kindle. It is a fairly simple process, and we will briefly review four ways to put material on your Kindle; this is certainly not meant to be an all-encompassing “how-to” guide. The four methods are:

1. Purchase / download it from the Kindle store section of the Amazon website. I am going to assume you know how to download books from the Kindle store;

2. Transfer the material from a computer to your Kindle using the USB cord;

3. Email it to your Kindle with your unique email address; and,

4. Place the material on an SD memory card and insert the SD memory card into your Kindle (please note the Kindle 1 is the only version of the Kindle to utilize an SD memory card, and later generation Kindles are equipped with enough memory to hold 1,000+ books). If you have purchased and are using an SD card, I am also going to assume you know how to transfer and manage content to the SD card.

Transfer Using a USB Cord

To me, this method is the most straight-forward method – plus, it doesn’t cost you a cent to manage your content with the USB cord provided with your Kindle. If you are familiar with moving things around with a digital camera, an iPod / MP3 player, or a thumb memory drive you will find you are already familiar with transferring content with the USB cord. If you are reading this and don’t know what the USB cord is, it is the cord you use to recharge the Kindle’s internal battery; it is a separate cord for the Kindle 1 and first-generation Kindle Fire.

To transfer content with the USB cord, here are the simple steps in order:

1. Turn on and boot up your computer if it is not already on.

2. Turn on your Kindle.

3. The first generation Kindle Fire did not ship with a micro-USB cord: you will need one to follow the remaining instructions in this section. If you do not have a micro-USB cord and want to purchase one from the Amazon website (it’s a heck of a lot cheaper on Amazon than Best Buy), just click here which will open up the appropriate page on the Amazon website or type in into your computer’s web browser. I like this specific one because at 3 meters it is almost ten feet long, which gives me room to move the Kindle around without feeling squeezed due to a short cable; another is it’s less than $5.

4. Plug the large end of the USB cord that came with your Kindle into an open USB slot on your computer; if you’re looking at the USB cord and just see something that plugs into an electrical socket (Kindle 2 and later generations), that portion that looks like the end to be plugged into an electrical socket can be pulled apart to reveal the USB portion. If you are not certain where the USB slot on your computer is, please consult the instructions manual for your computer.

5. Plug the small end of the USB cord that came with your Kindle into the open USB slot on your Kindle.

If you followed the steps above in order, take a look at your Kindle’s screen – it should be indicating the Kindle is in USB mode, and on my e-Ink Kindles tells me I am unable to read or connect to the Internet; the specific message is “if you want to use your Kindle and continue charging, please eject your Kindle from your computer.” That’s exactly what we want it to say – you’re going to be making additions, etc. to your Kindle from your computer screen and not from the Kindle.

Now, let’s go to your computer. If you are using a Mac, you will use a program called OS Finder; if you are using a Windows-based computer, you will click on “My Computer” or “Windows Explorer.” The following instructions assume you are using a Windows-based computer, but for those of you with a Mac the process is very similar. Clicking on My Computer, you will see your hard drives and other locations as well as your Kindle; if your computer automatically opened up the Kindle folder after recognizing it subsequent to plugging in the Kindle to your computer via the USB cord, that’s ok and you can work from there, too.

Books and other written manuscripts are contained in the “Documents” folder of your “regular” Kindle, and are in the Books folder of your Kindle Fire. This is the location you will drag and drop, copy / cut and paste (or whatever process you are most comfortable with) the documents you have downloaded from the specific areas we will review in this book. After you have transferred or moved the content to your Kindle, you can disconnect your Kindle from your computer and start reading away at your leisure. The books you just transferred to your Kindle will show up as “new” in your Kindle home page.

One important safety note to protect your Kindle – I would not recommend just pulling the USB cord out of your computer or the Kindle without having your computer to “safely eject hardware” before disconnecting, or with the first-generation Kindle Fire pressing the Disconnect button at the bottom of the Kindle Fire touch screen.

If you followed those steps – congratulations! You are well on your way to reading the books and other content you have downloaded: go check out the home page of your Kindle and you should see “New” listed next to each item you just transferred.

Email to Your Unique Email Address

You may already know, or maybe you don’t, each registered Kindle owner has their own unique email address, where you and others that you grant permission to beforehand can email material directly to your Kindle. This could come in handy for sending Word documents, etc. from work for the “gotta read it” on the plane, but you can also use it as a method to transfer books to your Kindle.

If you do not know your unique email address, it’s easy to find out and you can do it several ways. Here are two that are pretty straight-forward to me:

For any Kindle except the Kindle Fire, perform the following steps:

  • Click on the “Home” button.
  • Press the “Menu” button.
  • Select the “Settings” option.
  • Page forward to the second page of the “Settings” option and you will see a header titled “Device E-mail.” Look just below that and you will see your unique Kindle email address in bold-faced type.

Alternatively, log into you account at your computer by typing in and you will be at the “Manage Your Kindle” page. Underneath the “Your Kindle(s)” section will list each of the Kindles registered to your account as well as the unique email address to send material to each particular Kindle.

I mentioned earlier you can have others you grant permission in advance to send material to your Kindle; if you scroll down on the same page that lists out your Kindle email addresses, you will also see the pre-authorized email addresses allowed. I would exercise caution with who you put on there, or the next thing you know your spouse or significant other will use that as a tool to send you reminders of chores to do, errands to run, or other emails!

Types of File Extensions

There are many different file formats for eBooks. Many are supported by the Kindle software, while others are not. While I am certain you can write an entire book on the advantages and disadvantages of each file format (and there probably is such a book available for sale out there), for purposes of this guide I am going to focus on what I believe are the four most compatible file formats for your Kindle:

  • Text files
  • Amazon extension files
  • Mobipocket files
  • PDF files

Text Files

Amazon is making changes to its Kindle operating software periodically, and the types of files available to be read by your Kindle could be enhanced beyond what I am listing here: that means you possibly could have an even greater free library ahead of you than what I will show you here. Let’s talk about the types and file extensions you will see in selecting the best format for your Kindle.

Text files are probably the most abundant free eBook files out there, although many web sites are slowly and steadily converting their text documents into Kindle-ready and other formats. Text files are easily identifiable as having a *.txt extension, where the “*” represents the file name and the “txt” portion says it is in text format. You can not only read these on your Kindle, but you can read them on your computer with, for example, Notepad, Microsoft Word, or any other word processing program out there. My experience has also shown that most *.txt files, while great at containing the underlying data, are not so good as being 100% compatible for your Kindle. For example, I have found the formatting is a little off, as line and even page breaks will show up in the strangest places (to be blunt – most of them are awful from a formatting standpoint).

Amazon Extension Files

Amazon’s proprietary format uses the *.kzw format. I haven’t found too many free books with the *.kzw format, although they are out there, unless I have downloaded it directly from the Amazon website – then it is usually copy-protected and I couldn’t, for example, email a file I had downloaded to my sister for her to also enjoy on a Kindle.

Mobipocket Files

The Mobipocket format (*.mobi) (“Mobi”) is becoming more and more prevalent as sites that have previously offered, for example, their content only in *.txt format have converted to the Mobi format. Books and other documents in the Mobi format are typically ready to go without formatting issues, can either be copy-protected or not, and read like any other eBook you purchase from the Amazon website.

PDF Files

You can also read PDF files on your Kindle. My experience with the most e-Ink Kindles is PDF’s usually come out looking very strange or the page is significantly compressed and is unable to be enlarged. The Kindle DX, however, has a much larger screen so PDF files should be good to go; personally, I tend to stay away from PDF files with my Kindle. My standard caveat is actual results may vary – and some PDF’s show up just fine on my Kindle Keyboard, but the price is right (e.g., free) so what do you have to lose?

How to Download Books to Your Computer

As I mentioned earlier, I thought it important I explain just a few of the ways to transfer materials to your Kindle as well as provide a brief discussion of the various formats of this free material. We need to cover one more thing – how to download the free books – and then you will be ready to hunt away for free content. The listing of known sites for free books are numerous, but if you don’t know how to download the material it’s pretty much useless information to you. For the majority of the sites, for each book listed they will typically have a bold underline or the entire text is in a different font, color, or both for the title. Like anything else with computers, there are probably 1,001 ways to do things, but here is the way that works best for me (your results may vary):

  • Using your mouse, right click on the file you want to save / download.
  • In Windows, several options come up, but select the one called “Save As” or “Save,” depending upon which version of Windows you have installed on your computer.
  • Save this book into the “My eBooks” file folder in My Documents or, if you don’t have a file folder called “My eBooks” create one. You can create one with the “Make New Folder” option.
  • Your book should download to the My eBooks folder.
  • Transfer the book to your Kindle using one of the methods previously described in this guide.

That’s it, and I hope that helps!


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  1. says

    Great tips! I found that With my first generation fire most of the books I download form other sites need converted I use the method you did above to download then I use Calibre a free converter tool to convert and send my book to the device. A site with a lot of free ebooks is All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit They also run a lot of sales and specials and give you points you earn if you buy books (not free ones).

  2. Danielle Schrader says

    I too have been using calibre (a free e book management program) for years and love it- its a good way to keep a copy of all your books offline and spimplfies the USB hookup- no more file searing.

  3. Nancy Daly Smith says

    Michael – thank you. I had previously
    tried to move content via USB to my Fire and failed miserably. Ended up reading on my computer when would have much preferred the Fire. Now I will try again.

  4. Sheree Stanshine Beans says

    * * IMPORTANT * *: type the word "CONVERT" as the subject for *.pdf file emails & they'll be formatted properly. You can also attach multiple files in 1 email. Always use CONVERT as the subject! I do it all of the time & never have problems! ~~~ I also email *.jpg pictures to my kindles. They come out lovely (although B/W). ~~~ Thanks for the tips!

  5. Barbara Sokolowski says

    This was an excellent how to guide, thanks for all the help! When emailing as a .pdf "convert" files in the subject line works great on the Kindle Fire .

    Has anyone tried to add the books to the "Collections" Bookshelf App? Also, the books do not show up in the book list on the Fire. I am guessing I will have to keep anything downloaded on the carousel. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  6. says

    What about downloading directly to your kindle from smashwords? If you have a file management app like explorer es you can move the book from 'downloads' to 'books' without plugging into a computer. At least this method has worked on my first gen kindle fire.

  7. says

    I was glad to see your post today. Very informative, but your link to Amazon came up with a usb to usb cord. I am looking at my kindle and I'm pretty sure it's a micro port. I want to get the right cord. Please reply

  8. Denise Trewhella says

    The cord you need is a micro/USB Kathleen and Walmart sells them cheap. I found mine in the Ipod accessories section

  9. Tom Heaney says

    See the post from M. Drake, I was about to suggest a revision to the instructions to include direct download. I've also used es explorer to move files. The collections app is only looking for files in the books folder.

  10. Ruth Baker Sharpe says

    I am sorry but I hate the new.Smashwords. used your.directions but still cannot open books from.that site. It says they.downloaded but cannot be opened. I give up. I guess I there and.find.another source.that operated like yours did. I will miss your blog tremendously.

  11. says

    Technically, one shouldn't have to use the "eject hardware". Just make sure any blinking light are off & the transfer is completed. But I don't use a Kindle so maybe that's best.
    Just note that the usb port will not work thereafter until after it's reset by a boot i.e. restart.

  12. says

    Great info as always, Michael. Thank you!

    FYI — I typically use Calibre, but snailing is great when I'm on the go. With a Kindle Fire, you can find your email address by tapping the menu button, then choosing "Account."

  13. Stephanie Daniels says

    Thanks so much for all the tips! I'm an owner of a brand new Kindle Fire HD so I'm still learning the ropes. Just read the post about Project Gutenberg and started downloading books like crazy then couldn't figure out where they were. Kept reading and discovered the 're-direct to this page. I think I followed the steps correctly but they are located in the documents tab of my Kindle. Any advice on how I can get them to open up as Books? Or did I totally mess up and need to start from scratch?


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