There are three ways to place your personal documents on the Kindle: 1) sideload them with a USB cable; 2) send them to your kindle email address; 3) use one of the new(ish) PC or Mac applications to send to Kindle from your file system. In this post I am going to review all three techniques and deal with questions readers might have about formats and fees.
Before we begin the discussion, here is a list of the file formats supported natively by the Kindle, taken from the Amazon web site:
- Microsoft Word (.DOC, .DOCX)
- HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
- RTF (.RTF)
- JPEG (.JPEG, .JPG)
- Kindle Format (.MOBI, .AZW)
- GIF (.GIF)
- PNG (.PNG)
- BMP (.BMP)
- PDF (.PDF)
Only documents in Kindle format can be manipulated with the font sizing and formatting tools on the Kindle, so if you want to use these tools to read your documents, you must first convert them. I’ll discuss below the various techniques for converting the other formats to Kindle format within the context of each method of document loading.
Word, HTML and RTF documents can contain mixed media. That is, text and graphics. Embedded videos or flash objects in HTML documents will not be supported as a Kindle document. (We are not considering the Kindle Fire’s web browsing capabilities in this post). JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP are graphics formats. PDF can be either.
I created a set of sample documents containing each of these file types, all under 1MB in size, to determine the most effective method of loading them on the Kindle. I performed my tests on the Kindle Touch.
If you have a document on your computer file system in one of the formats listed above, you can simply connect your Kindle to your computer via it’s USB cable (the device will go into “USB Drive Mode”) and drag-and-drop the file(s) to the device’s documents folder. Then safely disconnect and view the documents on your Kindle. Although you would expect the documents will appear on the device’s home screen (except for the Kindle Fire, where they will appear in the Docs area) they do not. Of my test documents, only the PDF document showed up on the home screen, even though all the documents appeared in the Kindle’s documents folder. The PDF document could not be resized except by pinching up. That is, the built-in Kindle font sizing and graphics viewing tools were not available.
It seems drag-and-drop sideloading is the least satisfactory method of document transfer, unless you are simply using the device as a large USB flash drive.
(Note: The Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard come with the required USB cable, with a standard USB connector on one end, to connect to your computer, and a micro USB connector on the other, to connect to the Kindle’s USB port. The Fire does not come with one and must be purchased separately).
Your Send-to-Kindle Email Address
From the Touch’s Home screen go to Menu>Settings>Device Options>Personalize Your Kindle>Send-to-Kindle to find out your send-to-kindle email address, or go to your Amazon Account web page>Manage Your Kindle>Personal Document settings to find out the same, or for that matter, change it.
Don’t waste your time sending documents to this address. It will only accept documents from an approved list of senders.
I attached each of the files separately to an email and sent it to the address above. Within 5 minutes all documents had arrived on my device via its WiFi connection (there is only a charge—.15 per MB in the US—if you use Whispernet (i.e., your device’s 3G connection, if it has one) to transfer the files). All of the files showed up on the devices home screen, and in fact except for the PDF document all could be manipulated with the Kindle’s font sizing and spacing tools or, in the case of the graphics, the viewing tool, though I did not specifically request that they be converted (by placing the word “convert” in the email subject line). An examination of the documents folder on the Kindle showed that all the files except the PDF had been converted to Amazon’s azw file format. The most complex of the documents, the Word docx document that contained very complex formatting, was certainly usable, though some of the formatting was lost or confused. The PDF retained perfect formatting, but could not be manipulated using the Kindle tools.
In addition I received an email from Amazon indicating that the documents had been added to my Kindle library, and that I could manage them there. They were, in fact there, and I could, had I so wanted, have had them delivered to some other registered Kindle device or app from my centralized Kindle library at Amazon.com. Even after removing them from my device, the documents remained in the library until I deliberately removed them from there.
Since the PDF document I previously sent was not converted to azw format automatically, I tried sending it again (after deleting it from the device and my library), attaching it to an email sent to my mail-to-kindle address with the word “convert” in the subject line. The Kindle help files are a little confusing on this point. They seem to say that the word convert is necessary for conversion to the azw format for all file types, when in fact all files are converted anyway except for PDF files. When the word convert is included, PDF files are also converted. Because I used a very complexly formatted PDF, the formatting suffered after conversion,
Send to Kindle app
By far the most elegant way to send documents to your Kindle is via the Send to Kindle app for PC or Mac. Once you have installed one of these programs all you need to do to send documents to your Kindle devices is to select the files, right-click (or Mac Ctrl-click) and choose Send to Kindle off the context sensitive menu. A dialog box will appear listing the files and devices (you can select multiple simultaneous devices) and clicking the Send button sends them on their way.
This combines ease of use, quick delivery, and document conversion, with the exception of PDF documents as mentioned above.
The simplest, most elegant method is the last described above, the send to Kindle app for PC or Mac. The exception is PDF documents that you want converted to azw format. To achieve that you must use the email technique with the word “convert” in the subject line. Gone are the days when you might want to connect a USB cable and sideload documents unless they are larger than the send-to-kindle opti0ns allow (50MB).