How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

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kindle   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

When you pay Amazon some money for a Kindle eBook, you probably think it’s yours now. I mean, you paid some money, you got some content, and now you have it, just like any other book you buy at a brick-and-mortar store. Well, that’s wrong. Actually, you didn’t buy anything, and you don’t own that book you just paid for.

Amazon’s official Kindle Store Terms of Use are very clear about this, stating “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. Technically speaking, Amazon can take the book away at any time – simply remove it from your device remotely and delete your account, which wouldn’t be a first for them. If this sounds wrong, and if you think you should actually own a book after clicking a button that says “Buy now with 1-Click” and paying some of your hard-earned money, read on and I’ll show you how to take ownership of your Kindle eBooks.

What DRM Removal Means

After you de-DRM your Kindle books, you will be able to read them on your Kindle as per usual, but you will also be able to convert them to PDFs, ePubs (for reading on a Nook, for example), and any other format. Most importantly, Amazon would never be able to take those books away from you – you get to keep what you bought.

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This Is Not About Piracy

A few important caveats you should keep in mind before proceeding with DRM removal:

  • Stripping DRM violates Amazon’s ToS. By taking ownership over the books you paid for, you are doing something they specifically told you not to do. Again, I quote from the Kindle Store ToS: “you may not bypass, modify, defeat, or circumvent security features that protect the Kindle Content.”
  • Stripping DRM may be illegal in your country or state.  Laws change from country to country, and I’m sad to say that in some countries, it is now illegal to actually own content you bought. I am not telling you to break the law, merely informing you about technology. Whatever you do or not do is your own responsibility.
  • If you are a decent human being, I trust that you will not distribute the content you de-DRM. If you do this, you don’t hurt just Amazon, but the individual author who wrote the book you’re sharing with others. That’s just not fair, so please don’t do  it.
  • Last but not least: DRM is a cat-and-mouse game. This method works at the time of this writing, and may stop working tomorrow, as soon as Amazon change things.

If this whole concept of DRM sounds new and unfamiliar, go read James’s recent piece, What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It’s So Evil? in which he presents some compelling arguments explaining the problems and realities of digital rights management. If it’s not just DRM-free books you’re after, Matt recently published 6 Places To Buy DRM-Free Games, and Justin showed you how to Rip A DRM’d DVD Disk To ISO Format With BDlot DVD ISO Master.

Ingredients (All Free, Except For Your Book)

kindle   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

You will need:

  • A Kindle book (or fifty) you bought and now wish to actually own. These books should all be registered under your Amazon account for this to work.
  • Amazon’s Kindle for PC application. Even if you use Windows 8, get the one that’s labeled “for Windows 7, Vista, and XP.” It works just fine on 8, just doesn’t use the Modern interface.
  • The Calibre eBook manager. Much has been written about this fantastic free application, and we have an entire manual dedicated to it, titled Open Book: Managing Your eBooks With Calibre. You don’t need to read the whole manual to do this.
  • The magic sauce: Apprentice Alf’s DRM Removal Tools for eBooks. This is a ZIP file full of lots of plugins and tools, and we’ll use just one of them.  Download the ZIP and remember where you put it.

Installation

First, download and install Calibre and Kindle for PC.

Then, register Kindle for PC under your account, and download all of the books you wish to de-DRM. To do this, click Archived Items within Kindle for PC, then right-click the book you wish to download, and pick Download:

kindle3   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

This is a very tedious process, because you have to manually download each and every Kindle file you own. If you know of a way to bulk-download these titles into Kindle for PC, enlighten me in the  comments and I’ll amend this part of the post with full credit to you.

After you’ve downloaded all of your books, your Kindle for PC Downloaded Items screen should look nicely populated:

kindle5   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

Of course, we’re not going to have the same books, but you get the point. Now we need to get at the actual files for these books. By default, they’re going to be in your Documents folder, under My Kindle Content:

kindle13   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

The files we care about are the AZW ones – these are the actual books. So, now we have all of our DRM-protected files downloaded, and we know where they are.

Next, install Calibre.

Now, unzip Apprentice Alf’s plugin bundle into a folder. It doesn’t matter where you put this folder. I just dumped it in my Downloads directory:

kindle15   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

Note the Calibre_Plugins subfolder – that’s what we’ll need. Also, you can definitely take a look at ReadMe_First just to get a better understanding of what this whole bundle is about.

Next, launch Calibre and click Preferences:

kindle17   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

In the Preferences screen, click Plugins under Advanced:

kindle19   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

In the Plugin window, click “Load plugin from file” (near the bottom of the window):

kindle23   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

Now, navigate to the folder where you unzipped Apprentice Alf’s de-DRM bundle, and click Calibre_Plugins. There, pick “K4MobiDeDRM_v04.7_plugin.zip” (the version may change by the time you read this):

kindle25   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

Calibre will now explain that installing plugins locally is a security risk. That’s true, but we’re going to go ahead and take that risk anyway:

kindle27   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

So, click Yes, you do want to proceed. You should now get a success message:

kindle29   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

And… you’re done. At least on my machine, this is the totality of what needs to be done to break DRM on Kindle books.

Now restart  Calibre, and let’s break some DRM.

The Fun Part

Remember the My Kindle Content we located a few steps back? Now, open that folder, and open Calibre.

Sort the folder by extension, and highlight all of your AZW files:

kindle31   How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere

Now go ahead and drag them onto the Calibre window. That’s right: Just drag and drop, there’s nothing more to it.

Calibre will now crunch some numbers, and add all of your books to its library. As it does this, it creates DRM-free copies of your books, which you can then convert to any other format you wish to use. Those copies can’t be removed by Amazon, no matter how naughty they think you’ve been. What’s yours is yours – mission accomplished.

Final Thoughts on DRM Removal

Seriously, please don’t pirate books. Authors need you to buy their work so they can make a living. That said, I do think that when you buy something, it should be yours.

Circumventing DRM is a finicky process, and what I’ve described may not work for you. If you try it out, let me know in the comments how it went. Good luck!

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77 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Carol Parker

Re: DRM on Kindle books.

I can understand peoples need to OWN things, but as a lover of Books & reading I think that there is a miss conception of the use of e-books, the same as when publishers first started printing mass market Paperbacks, it does not diminish the value of a book, just makes them more available to all and e-books are a natural progression in doing this.

The DRM protects not only the author but all the other industries involved in printing books, I recently found a UK based book binders who have seen how e-books effect their industry and they are producing covers for e-readers which look like books http://www.klevercase.co.uk.

You can even get a Bible on an e-reader and who would want to have that as a PDF so they could print it?

If you want to OWN a printed book, then buy one.

I read a lot of books so the Kindle is an absolute god send for me, I do how ever still buy & OWN books, owning a Kindle has in fact made me more aware of the value of real Books and I have become an avid collector as I feel that real books in the future may be a rare thing.

I can’t say I agree with you publishing the details of how to break the DRM on a Kindle, but I am pleased to see that you point out the legal & moral issues in doing this.

I love what you do and pass articles on via facebook all the time.

Erez Zukerman

Hi Carol,

Thank you for your kind words. As I stressed the article, I definitely think people should buy their books — this is not about piracy. But how would you feel if one day, Amazon decided to remove your account and just delete all of the books you’ve paid for, saying they were never “yours”?

That’s the sort of situation I’m trying to prevent with this post.

BJosephs

Like it or not, Amazon isn’t selling us any ebook – they are essentially renting them and lowering the price slightly to make us feel like we got a bargain. It’s their choice to do so, and our choice to part with are hard earned cash for the debatable pleasure of using their services.
I don’t like it any more than the next guy, but lets call a spade a spade. If you want to own a book -BUY one. Or better yet – convince Amazon to sell us one. Now, if you are arguing that “Buy now with 1-click” is false advertising, that’s a valid point. However, I’m not sure that justifies violating a contract (ToS) that you willingly agreed to.
I do appreciate your intentions here, as well as your fine blog, even as I question the propriety of this particular issue.

SamR

It’s not merely an issue with “owning” the book, but of reader preference as well. Even though I believe that stealing intellectual property is a cruel crime, I do prefer other readers to the Kindle app for a long list of reasons, and believe I should be able to access my ebooks in ways other than those dictated by the Kindle app designers.

Sam

Reply

Mark O’Neill

Worked beautifully. The only snag is that, when converting to PDF, it’s a bit of a bitch getting the margins to work properly. Words get cut off and all that.

Apart from that, great stuff :-)

Erez Zukerman

Glad it worked! :) And yes, PDF formatting can be finicky indeed…

Jose

PDF it’s not an ebook format. Because that, will never translate good to any ebook format unless is pure text and simple layout.

JJ

I think Mark meant converting TO PDF.

Reply

Jason

Any drm info for video files from istore?
We have a Mac in the lounge and stream to the bedroom the problem is if we go away and want to take the hdd and play off a laptop… Thoughts?

Erez Zukerman

Might be an idea for a post by someone using iOS — but the best place for these questions is MakeUseOf answers, http://www.makeuseof.com/answers. Give it a shot, and good luck! :)

Reply

Mac Witty

Great! I’m tired of companies who decide how I should consume books

Reply

Darryl Gittins

You say “In the Plugin window, click “Load plugin from file” (near the bottom of the window)” however there is no such button in the current version of Calibre

Erez Zukerman

Can you show me a screenshot of the window you have?

Darryl Gittins

Thanks and apologies, Erez, it was a “pebcak” error!
The article is correct and works as described.

Reply

Darryl Gittins

You say In the Plugin window, click “Load plugin from file” (near the bottom of the window): but there is no such button

Reply

Phill Whiteside

I guess I should find out how to do this with linux? Come on guys.. get real.. DRM does not exist if you do not use M$ or iM@c… We just sit back and giggle :)

Reply

Al

I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong and followed each step. However, its not allowing me to convert any books. They’re all still DRM. I’m using a Mac.

Any suggestion?

Thank so much!
Al

Erez Zukerman

Hi Al,

Hmm, that’s interesting. What exactly is it saying when you drag the book into Calibre? And what does it say when you try to convert it to a different format?

This writeup is for Windows — I don’t have a Mac, so was unable to test this procedure on a Mac… It might be that you need some extra steps to make it work.

Mike Poole

Al, I had the same problem on my Mac. I couldn’t get around it so I followed the instructions on my Windows machine, moved the Calibre Library folder to Dropbox, and now use the same library through Calibre on my Mac. If you don’t have a Windows machine but do have Windows in Parallels or on Bootcamp, you could do much the same thing. It’s not terribly convenient, but at least it works.

Al Fike

Thank you, Erez! Mike helped me solve the issue!

Great job, and thank you for sharing this great info.

Al

Reply

Rajaa Chowdhury

Though appropriate disclaimer has been written within the article, still I personally feel a reputed forum like MakeUseOf should not feature DRM removal techniques as there is a very line line separating DRM removal and piracy. However, this is wholly a personal opinion.

Erez Zukerman

I respect that, Rajaa. That said, this technique only works with books you bought yourself — you can’t copy protected books from another computer and strip the protection, for example. So, in this case, I feel it’s relatively safe to assume that the books readers will strip will be their own books which they bought with hard-earned money.

Reply

Junil Maharjan

This is why i don’t buy ebooks from amazon. when i buy books, i’d like to own them and not own the license only. I like to control what i have bought and not give control to a company to delete the books i have purchased whenever they think we have violated their terms and conditions. I read about the last line in an article. A woman’s entire kindle library was deleted just because they thought she violated some terms and conditions. and when amazon found that it was their mistake, they simply told the woman to buy those books again and was not recompensed in any way. So i want to thank you guys for providing us with this wonderful tutorial.

Erez Zukerman

Yes, that was the story that motivated this piece — and you’re welcome! I hope this never happens to me or any of our readers.

Jose

Please check your sources.

If you are talking about the same case that happened few months ago, that woman actually violated Amazon guidelines and contract. She had several accounts and was in clear violation of the Amazon terms. Amazon did not reinstated her account.

Reply

Anonymous

I use and actually prefer PC-Kindle, however it’s nice to know I now have a way of converting my local Kindle content to a form readable without the Kindle software. Case in point: For some reason unknown to me, my reader stopped functioning last month, and I was unable to continue reading a book (a tutorial) I was in the middle of. Fortunately, I was able to re-install, and the new installation recognized all of my content. BUT, I was in the middle of some work (using said book) and I would have been thoroughly irritated had I needed to download my entire library again. Having a .pdf backup at the time would have saved me some stressful moments.

Reply

drowlin

Have tried this before, this article prompted me to use the updated zip file. Still not working on a couple of books (DRM still intact). This is annoying as I bought the books to read on my wife’s Kindle and she throws a wobbly when I want to access them. I know I can read them on my PC, but that’s something I don’t want to do, I spend enough time on it as it is.

Erez Zukerman

Right — reading on a Kindle is much, much better than reading on a PC, I fully agree. Now, about your books: Does this method generally work with your books, and only these two still retain the DRM? Did you buy them using the same account you’ve registered Kindle for PC under?

drowlin

I don’t convert many, but the method has worked its just 3 books that don’t respond. Yes the same registration used.

Erez Zukerman

Pretty interesting that just those three books balked. Not sure why. One thing you might try it removing them from the PC and re-downloading them — maybe that would help?

drowlin

I retraced my steps and found I hadn’t transferred all 5 zip files across to Calibre. Also I transferred the files straight from the Kindle to Calibre. Finally connecting my Kobo & converting. Worked great.
Thanks for the article, am now a happy chappy, & family harmony is restored.

Reply

A&L

Does DRM apply to nook as well, is it just books bought from Amazon or does Barns and noble do it too?
thanks

Erez Zukerman

I believe that yes, B&N use DRM as well. This specific method is for Amazon, but I think the same ZIP file you download in the instructions above also has something for Nook. Not sure, though.

Reply

Ashutosh

Worked like a charm for the 99% books I owned or got as free from amazon. Thanks for the workaround.

Reply

John

But what format should I convert it to that is both open and able to be read by kindle?

Erez Zukerman

.mobi is the format you’re looking for. On the Kindle, it looks just like any other book (cover image and all, if you have the new Kindle Paperwhite). But it’s YOURS. :)

Reply

scott

if you remove the DRM, and upload it to your kindle, when sync it will Amazon figure it out and close your account?

Erez Zukerman

Absolutely not. If/when they stoop to that level, that’ll be the day they’ll lose a ton of users. There’s a limit to how creepy and invasive corporations get to be (it’s constantly eroding, yes, but it’s still there).

So, short answer: For now, you’re safe. :)

Reply

Doc

“Next, install Calibre. Just Next-Next-Next your way through the installer.” NEVER do this. And I mean NEVER. Most freeware now comes with additional “junk” installers that will put CRAP on your computer, like RealPlayer, toolbars, and sometimes even SPYWARE. ALWAYS watch what you’re doing while installing software.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Erez Zukerman

That’s a very good point! Weird, I was sure I changed it myself. I went ahead and edited that “next-next-next” reference out of the post. Thanks!

Reply

John

This worked and generated mobi files for about half my books. The other books come up “locked by DRM” when I even try to read them. Even with the plugin installed. I’m confused, because it can convert some of the kindle files.

Erez Zukerman

That’s interesting — did you buy all of the books using the same username/account? I did this with about 50 books or so and didn’t get a single error…

John

They were bought with the same account, yes. Over time, I have collected two different kindles and occasionally read from my phone. But all from the same account. So they may have been purchased on different devices.

John

They were bought with the same account, yes. Over time, I have collected two different kindles and occasionally read from my phone. But all from the same account. So they may have been purchased on different devices.

Reply

Mike Poole

Thanks very much Erez. It worked just as you said. I live in an apartment with over 5,000 books of my and my family’s books and we have around 150 ebooks. I definitely prefer to ‘own’ those ebooks the same as the physical books. Thanks again!

Erez Zukerman

Sure thing, Mike! I’m glad it worked :)

Reply

Ronnie

Thanks for the article. I have been after this method for a long time. Part of my 900 ebook collection comes from the mobipocket/Palm Treo days. My challenge is getting the collection to adapt as the tech changes. Many of my mobipocket reader library prc/mbp books are trapped in the reader, all are purchased from various vendors, but that was the Treo days.
An additional problem is the stability of app readers, stanza is oft-crashing, ibooks has acceptable workarounds and Adobe Digital Editions is meh.
I tried the Calibre method some time ago and it bottomed out, but advances have taken place and my collection is worthy of making another go of it.
I have purchased my entire collection, I respect authors and researchers enough to never share or steal, losing Palm was a huge eyeopener as was the amazon purchase of mobi-but not allowing drm mobi onto Kindles was like being held hostage.

Reply

gmvolk

Did not work for a lot of my books, mostly those with the azw extension. azw3’s seemed to convert OK. And yes they were all download from the same account. I really just want a way to rename/retag the ebooks so that series show up in order on the Kindle.

Erez Zukerman

Hmm, maybe after breaking the DRM you could change the book titles (not just rename the files, but go into the file metadata and edit the title).

Too bad this didn’t work for all of your books. :\ Such is the finicky way of DRM, I guess.

gmvolk

What’s weird, I have 133 books, all from Amazon all with the azw extension in “My Kindle Content”. After following your steps and dragging and dropping onto Calibre, some get changed to mobi, some retain the azw and some changed to azw3 format. Not sure where that decision was made, tried digging around Calibre, but I’ve always thought their program was more “complex” then it should be. For the books that did de-drm, I was able to edit the metadata, and change things, add cover art, etc. Maybe eBook DRM will go away like it did with MP3s?
Thanks for the info, I’ll keep trying.

Erez Zukerman

I certainly hope ebook DRM eventually dies out… And yes, I hear what you’re saying about Calibre being too complex — it feels really bloated and complicated.

gmvolk

OK, just figured something out. In the common options/page setup in calibre, I changed the output profile to default, was Kindle. The input profile was already on default. After doing this, one of the books that did not convert now does and is in the .mobi format. Just to be clear, dragging and dropping the files onto Calibre is all it takes to de-DRM the book, I don’t have to click Convert Books(unless I want a different format)? Correct? Thanks again.

Erez Zukerman

Replying to your last (because we’ve hit the Reply thread limit): As far as I know, yes, all you need is just to drag the book onto Calibre. Converting to a different format is important just to verify that DRM has indeed been broken (unless you know of another way to tell this happened?)

Reply

Shay

Doesn’t work for me. Installed plugin, dragged, it seems to be doing something, ok I can view the book, but it still says the file is azw and I don’t see anything else besides the book in Calibare. Where is the pdf, and how do I save into it?

Reply

Rmte

“This is a very tedious process, because you have to manually download each and every Kindle file you own. ”
Correction: This is a very tedious process, because you have to manually download each and every Kindle file you have in your kindle library.

Erez Zukerman

I’m not sure I understand the distinction? You mean, “including free files that are still DRM protected”?

Reply

SamR

What about Mac users?

Reply

Kip Slaybaugh

Bought a new book from Amazon tonight. Didn’t work for it. All my older books are fine as I converted them a while ago. Wondering if they have done something to update their DRM.

Erez Zukerman

DRM, the never-ending cat and mouse game… It may very well be Amazon changed something, but it’ll only hold until freedom-loving hackers update their tools.

Reply

j Williams

Purchased a book on Amazon today. I have a non-kindle ebook reader & wanted to be able to read comfortably instead of perched in front of the computer. File extension was azw3 for purchased book. Followed your instructions to the letter & tested on a book with file extension azw I got free off Amazon a while back ago. The azw book converted automatically to mobi when I dropped it into Calibre (i have preferences set to auto convert added books to Mobi). When I dropped in the azw3 book I had just purchased it did not convert & I thought “Oh-oh’ but I manually set it to convert to mobi without problem & now have a readable Mobi on my ebook reader. So thank you very much!

erez

You’re most welcome! Glad I could help :)

Reply

José WARNEZ

Thank you for your help.
Everything works fine, except: I can download Alf’s tools … ZIP-file,
but when I open it, I do not find the K4…plugin.zip file I need to add to Calibre, but 4 folders, one containing a k4mobidrm.py file.

Reply

RJM

Great post – everything worked smoothly – thanks! We are using this to share books within our family on kindles and kobos. This is also my first look at calibre – and it seems like an amazing tool. I’ll definitely be using it more often.

Reply

RJM

I should also mention that the name of the zip file that contains the plugin has changed from your original article. It is now “DeDRM_plugin.zip”.

Erez Zukerman

Thanks for the update, RJM! And for your kind words as well. :)

Reply

Clyde Atwood

Thank you for the info, even thought I have a Fire HD.

Reply

MikeB

When my antivirus scanned tools v6.0.5.exe, I got a half dozen virus hits from my antivirus software; what’s up with that? I think your advice to go thru the plugin virus warning as if it were trivial may not be the best advice. I think the best advice would be to make certain that you DO scan the file for viruses before you install it.

Here’s why I want to de-DRM: I’m reading a textbook that I want to outline as I work my way thru it; everytime I copy and paste, PC Kindle appends a !@#$ attribution footnote to the paste! I can then delete it, but it slows down the process. It, or course, doesn’t really do anything except nag you, but multiply that nag by hundreds, over the course of the whole book, it’s a real PITA!

Reply

Heather

Hi there. I have followed the instructions and the books have been dragged successfully into the Calibre window and they are showing in my Calibre window as format AZW3. Is there a way I can test that they are DRM free now?

Thank for these instructions.

Reply

Maxi3w

Hi Erez! This is Great. Thanks ever so much for writing this article AND providing the way to convert AZW books to other formats.

Calibre is brilliant and this has now made it practically Perfect! It’s a pain when you can’t read Kindle books on your reader. I have a Sony E-Reader and have wanted a way to read Kindles books on it for ages.

I checked out some software but they all cost around $30.

The Kindle books I have, I paid for or got them free when Amazon offered them. So for me your article is purely about getting my books onto my reader which now the conversion through Calibre is done – I can! And very happy.

I don’t want to buy a Kindle as I have a reader that cost quite a bit and like I said, I just want to read all my ebooks on it.

Thank You sooooo much!

Erez Zukerman

Brilliant, glad I could help! :)

Walt Huntsman

This whole process is even more complicated under Linux as I have to install an additional version of Python and some other stuff and make sure I get it all installed in the same directory (as least that’s how it seems) under Wine. The older version of the plugin worked fine. What happened to require the update and the apparent change in how and where the plugin gets installed? It’s all becoming clear as mud at this point.

Reply

Mary

I downloaded the file to remove the drm and it kept giving me zipped files so I had to keep unzipping files and then I followed all of your directions through Calibre but it wouldn’t take me to the file with that filename in it. There is a file with that name, but it won’t “let me” access it with the directions that you give.

The Book Girl

If I pay for something ( and I always do ) I want to watch it, read it or stuff it in a jar if I choose too. I paid for it, I should be able to do with as I please, as long as what I do with it is not illegal. Screw DRM. I De-DRM everything I pay for, and then watch, read or listen on whatever device I damn well choose.

The Book Girl

Sorry Mary, that was not in reply to you, thought I was making my own comment. Apologies

Reply

Mitch

tried would not work azw3. Files Did what it said in help forums.

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