Using a Kindle to read things other than E books

I’m on the fence about buying a Kindle. What would really get me off the fence is finding out I can use it to read my backlog of all sorts of other text files I have built up.

The files are all text (vs. graphics) in various formats: .txt, .rtf, .pdf, and .doc mostly, plus some left over from palm days. (.prc? maybe)

Can I simply send these to a Kindle as is? Or do I have to convert them, and if so, to what and is there a cheap (free?) way to do so?

Um. I’m assuming you can connect the Kindle to a PC via USB, I have no wireless network at home. If that isn’t so, well, nevermind then. :frowning:

Sure, you can read pretty much anything on a Kindle, although .doc. and .rtf files need to be converted first. I strongly recommend grabbing a free program called Calibre, which will take care of all your format conversion needs. You can use USB to copy the documents from your computer to the device.

PDFs can be read on the Kindle without any conversion, but I’ve found that the fonts in most PDFs look much too tiny on the Kindle screen. You can zoom, of course, but then you get into a lot of tedious side-scrolling. Calibre will convert PDFs to MOBI (the ebook format that Kindle supports) but the results are at best untidy.

I have heard of people just throwing .txt files onto a Kindle and reading them natively, but I’ve never gotten that to work. They just don’t show up on the “home” screen when I do that. However, Calibre easily converts those.

The free program Calibre is probably the best way of handling what you want to do. It will do whatever conversions are necessary/possible.

You can transfer text files to the Kindle either by connecting it to your PC with the USB cable (and something like Calibre can make this easier, though it’s not necessary), or by sending documents to your Kindle via email (which it can receive if & when you can connect it to WiFi). The Kindle can read some formats natively (eg TXT, PDF) and others can be converted (eg DOC).

I have the Kindle app on my Archos tablet, and it is my preferred reader for PDFs. Not quite what you want to hear about HW Kindles, but I’m tossing that out anyway.

Yes, you can connect the kindle to your computer and drag files over just like with any storage device. I get full color magazine subscriptions on my kindle. Very cheap. Plus you don’t have magazines piling up all over the house.

Is the Nook any better at handling multiple formats? If a person was going to buy a tablet with a primary aim of reading “books,” would an Android tab be the most flexible?

Interesting: it works fine for me. I do this all the time. And, as noted, .pdf files come across, but are tricky to display. I hate having to side-to-side scroll. .doc and .rtf files will have to be converted.

Another free product to convert Word and other files to ebook format is Mobipocket Creator. This is the one I use.

I have had trouble with the PC-based Kindle Reader. For some reason, it refuses to display some of my (properly purchased!) Kindle ebooks.

For me, the “killer app” function is the ability to search a book. Like, “Which Shakespearean play has ‘All the world’s a stage.’” No prob! Search the “Complete Shakespeare” and the answer pops up. Delight!

Also - I know about Calibre and MOBIpocket and all the other free conversion tools. Why can’t I find any professional Kindle/Nook creator tools? Are they exclusive to Amazon and B&N’s publication/conversion departments?

By the way, I assumed the OP was talking about a Kindle ereader (one of the e-ink models). I would assume that any tablet, including a Kindle Fire, would be able to read just about any file format you throw at it, if you install the right app.

Calibre is a great program with a really lousy UI. It’s usable, but full of unnecessary graphics.

The advantage of getting one of the reader-reader Kindles to handle stuff is the immense battery life. Otherwise, any tablet running five or six apps (Kindle, Nook, Acrobat Reader, MobileOffice or one of its kin) should be able to read any document in circulation.

I am presently reading my very first complete e-novel on my Note II - a Kindle version is the only format available, so I finally gave in. But it does eat battery time and I wouldn’t mind having a more… durable reader. If the e-paper Kindles don’t read a wide variety of docs well, though, they wouldn’t be a good choice for me.

As said, you can definitely convert most formats to .mobi or .azw3 for the Kindle using Calibre, and if you want to go to the trouble you can dress up the formatting and add a hyperlinked table of contents with MS Word and add a cover and metadata with Calibre to make it look like a real ebook. I actually did this once with a collection of files that I had in various text and .doc formats and turned it into a proper ebook indistinguishable from any other. I may have used some other free tools, too, can’t remember.

However, the question is whether it’s worth the trouble in the general case. I have both a Kindle Paperwhite and a small 7" tablet, and I find that I generally use the tablet for all document types except true ebooks. The Kindle really is optimized to be an ebook reader and is very very good at that, not much good at anything else.

It will read PDF’s but, as also mentioned before, not very well. PDF’s render much better on the tablet’s Adobe app. Another unfortunate problem with PDF’s is that despite a bit of hunting around and trying every conversion utility I could find, I’ve found no tool or combination of tools that can convert them to an ebook format for the Kindle at all well – they all result in terrible formatting problems (not the Kindle’s fault – the problem is with the tools).

I’m very very happy with the Kindle as an ebook reader but I don’t use it for anything else. And BTW, yes, you can upload files to it via USB, and in fact you can’t do it via wireless. Wireless only uploads books that have been purchased from Amazon. I don’t believe the Kindle supports any kind of user-accessible network file service.

Whoo, thanks for all the answers (Dopers are a wonderful resource!) and it’s great that what you’re telling me is what I wanted to hear. :slight_smile:

Yes, I was talking about a e-ink reader. I want something as small and light as possible, and with a long battery life. The idea being, load it up with all the stuff I generally don’t get around to reading, keep it in my purse, and then I can use commuting/waiting time more profitably. I specifically didn’t want the temptations of a more, uh, versatile gadget.

Off to download Calibre and the MobiPocket one.

Oh, and order my Kindle, of course!

I strongly recommend the Paperwhite (as opposed to the original Kindle which I presume is still available). Two major reasons. The e-ink screen requires more ambient light than real paper, and for reading in bed or otherwise not brightly illuminated places it’s great to have internal illumination. Second reason is that the Paperwhite has a much improved font selection. My favorite font – Baskerville – isn’t even available on the old Kindle.

And yes, the battery life on those things is fantastic – advertised as nominally two months, probably more like one month in practice for an avid reader. But it means you can take it on a typical trip without any concerns about charging.

As I said above, Amazon allows you to email documents to your Kindle. (There is a charge for this if you have a 3G-equipped Kindle and transfer the documents via 3G rather than WiFi.) I don’t know whether that counts as a “user-accessible network file service”—the Kindle device can’t do anything more than passively receive files that have been sent to it—but it does provide a way to get files to the device without a cable.

My favorite .mobi reader is a Kindle Reader on a small laptop. :slight_smile:

They show under “Documents”.

I have Calibre, and I always email the books to my Kindle, rather than using the USB cord.

Also, a tip for PDFs: If you email them to your Kindle with the subject “convert”, Amazon will convert them in a very friendly fashion that will look decent on your Kindle. I’ve been pretty happy with it.

Paperwhite is da bomb.

If you want to save the 3G charges, you can still use the same Amazon service to convert many documents to Kindle format, then transfer them via USB. I do this often instead of using Calibre, it’s quite convenient. You just have to email to a ‘free Kindle’ email address you get with your amazon account; mine is something like for instance.

Whatever doc, rtf, html files I email there, I get one email response, with a link to download the .azw converted file from amazon. If I want them to try converting a PDF file, I need to remember to make the subject line ‘convert’ because Amazon thinks my Kindle can handle PDFs. (Technically, it can, but it doesn’t reflow, just starts with the entire page shrunk down to fit the screen, then zoom in on the existing page layout…)
waves to LibrarySpy

Yes, I knew about the email and would have mentioned it except that I never use it and had forgotten. Some documents are just too large to email, and the USB hookup is easy and straightforward. Although the comment about Amazon being able to convert FTP documents to .mobi format is interesting. That I didn’t know.

What I meant by “user-accessible network file service” is a generic service like Windows SMB/CIFS or Samba on Linux. With my tablet, if I want to move content to it, I just map it as a network drive from any Windows computer on my wireless LAN, and move content back and forth. I don’t even need to know where it is, or care that it’s asleep, because the file service is always running. A Kindle doesn’t do that, nor would I expect it to – though obviously it does have a specialized limited service that Amazon can use.