Today I learned a wonderful trick: a way to put onto a Kindle Fire an ePub ereader that will read PDFs and ePubs — even Adobe DRMed ebooks — purchased from major retailers such as Kobo, Sony, and B&N, and the myriad of smaller ebook retailers worldwide. Apple ebooks, which use a different DRM, are not transferrable.
The principle is this: the Kindle Fire works on top of the Android system, and with a simple click in your settings you can tell the Fire to read Android apps purchased outside the Kindle app store. The default is, of course, to make this seem impossible — Amazon doesn’t wish to encourage anyone to buy from a competitor — but it is in fact very possible. Once installed, these “foreign” apps behave just as if they were purchased from Amazon, appearing in your apps folder. In this demonstration, I will show you how to install the free ereader Aldiko.
There are two ways to install the app; the first is directly to your Kindle and the second is via your computer.
Step 1. Open your Kindle’s settings (tap on the cog wheel icon in the top right corner). Tap on “More.” Scroll down to “Device.” Tap on “Device” and scroll down to “Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources.” Change to “On.” Kindle will spit out a warning, blah, blah. Tap “Okay.”
Step 2. Open your Kindle Fire’s web browser. Go to https://aldiko.zendesk.com/entries/402881-download-the-latest-version-2-1-0-of-the-aldiko-book-reader-application (https://aldiko.zendesk.com/entries/402881-download-the-latest-version-2-1-0-of-the-aldiko-book-reader-application). Tap on the APK file in the window. If you get a pop-up window saying unknown source, just tap “OK” to continue. The application should download automatically.
Step 3. Once the download is complete, you will see at the top of your Kindle window beside “[Your Name’s] Kindle” a circle with a number in it. This is your notification icon. Tap on it.
In the notification window, tap on the apk file name and then tap “Install.” A window will open asking if you want to install the application:
Click on “Install.”
Step 4. Once the install is complete, return to your Kindle home page. Tap on “Apps.” Tap on the Aldiko icon to open.
Option Two is more involved but you get the twin benefit of a file browser for your Kindle and the Aldiko file is stored in your Kindle, which will prove handy if in case you later need to reinstall and you are not near a Wi-Fi connection. Note that I tested this on a PC; I’m not certain if it works identically on a Mac.
Step 1. Open your Kindle’s settings (click on the cog wheel icon in the top right corner). Tap on “More.” Scroll down to “Device.” Tap on “Device” and scroll down to “Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources.” Change to “On.” Kindle will spit out a warning, blah, blah. Tap “Okay.”
Step 2. Open your Kindle Apps utility. Click on “Store” to go to the Kindle app store. Download the free app file manager File Expert or ES File Explorer. To find them, simply type “file” into the search bar. These two apps are the #1 and #2 apps in their categories. Download and install whichever one you please.
Step 3. On your computer, open up a web browser and go to the Aldiko direct download page. Near the bottom you will find “aldiko-standard-200160.apk” (if by the time you read this an update has been published, the file name will of course be slightly different). Save the apk file to your computer in a folder you can easily recall later.
Step 4. Plug your Kindle into your computer. When the Autoplay window comes up, select “Open folder to view files.” Create a folder in your Kindle called “APKs” (or anything else you fancy). Transfer the aldiko-standard-200160.apk file from your computer to the APKs folder in your Kindle.
Step 5. Disconnect the Kindle from your computer. Restart your Kindle and tap on “Apps.” Click on the file manager you installed earlier. Open the APKs folder you created and click on the aldiko-standard-200160.apk icon. This will start the installation as per Option One.
Buying or transferring books:
You can buy books directly through the Aldiko app from Feedbooks, Books on Board, All Romance Books, Smashwords, and O’Reilly Books.
To add books from other sources, first transfer them to your computer from your ereader if necessary. Then plug your Kindle into your computer. When the Autoplay window comes up, select “Open folder to view files.” Transfer your ebooks (ePubs and PDFs) from your computer into the Kindle folder called “eBooks” (NOT the “Books” folder with your Kindle books in it).
Disconnect your Kindle from your computer. Open your Kindle, then open Aldiko. If it opens to the default Shelf View, tap on the tiny Home icon in the top left corner. Then tap on “Files.” Tap on “eBooks.” You can then tap on a book title and either simply open it in Aldiko or import it into your Aldiko library.
Reading DRMed ebooks:
To read and transfer Adobe DRMed ebooks to your Kindle Fire, first install the free Adobe Digital Editions software onto your computer. If after installation ADE doesn’t launch automatically, open the program.
At the top of the window, click on the library icon (the three books). Beside “Library” you will see a down arrow. Click on the arrow and select “Authorize Computer.” If you already have an Adobe account, enter your account name and password. If you don’t have an account you will be asked to create one. Follow the prompts. Close down ADE.
When ADE is installed it creates a subfolder, called My Digital Editions, in your My Documents folder. If you have already purchased DRMed ebooks for other ereaders, depending on which ereader you have you can simply plug it into your computer and transfer its ePubs to the My Digital Editions folder.
If, however, this is not possible (it isn’t with the Kobo, for example: you can transfer books onto a Kobo but not off), you can download your ebooks to your PC using your web browser: go to your account page, open your library, and download your DRMed ebooks to your computer. Do NOT do this through your ereader or ereader app on your computer; doing so will defeat the purpose.
When you click on the “Adobe DRM EPUB” or “Download” (depending on the retailer) button, a window will open asking if you want to open or save the file.
Select “Open.” This will automatically unlock the licence and save the ePub in your My Digital Editions folder and open the book in ADE. (If you choose “Save,” you download to whichever folder you want. When you open the folder you will find a file with an .acsm extension; this is the license for your book. Click on the file and ADE will unlock the licence, store the ePub in the Digital Editions folder, and erase the licence file.)
Once you have all your ebooks, close down your browser. Plug your Kindle into your computer. Transfer the DRMed ePubs from your computer to the Digital Editions folder that was created on your Kindle when you installed Aldiko.
Disconnect from your computer and open your Kindle. Open the Aldiko app. Tap on “Files.” Tap on “Digital Editions.” Tap on one of your ebooks. The first time you do this a window will open asking you for your Adobe account name and password. Type them in and authorize your Kindle. Now all Adobe DRMed ebooks will open in your Aldiko app on the Kindle Fire.
Setting Preferences in Aldiko
On first sight your books may look awful in Aldiko: formatting such as line breaks and font formatting (bolding, italics) will seem to be lost. This is because the default in Aldiko is to override publisher formatting. To see ebooks as the author intended, open any book, tap on the bottom of the screen to open the Settings. Tap on “More.” Uncheck “Advanced formatting.”