I discovered yesterday that my decision to sell my e-ink Kindle and get a Kobo Vox had an unfortunate and unforeseen side effect—Amazon won’t let me back up my books anymore!
I noticed when I did some tidying up this morning that my books on the ‘manage my Kindle’ page no longer had a ‘transfer via USB’ option and assumed it was a momentary glitch. But, following a chat with another user on Mobile Read who confirmed she had this option still, I contacted tech support.
I was told to my horror that Amazon only allows this option for people who own a hardware Kindle! If you read on a tablet, phone or off-brand ereader, Amazon only allows you to download from the cloud; you can’t download an actual file directly.
This is unacceptable for two reasons. Firstly, Amazon cannot always guarantee you access to their cloud. I remember when my account got hacked one time, and they decided to unilaterally close it! I was able to get access back later by a special dispensation from a level 2 support rep, but that was only by asking for it. Otherwise, I would have lost access to all my books!
Secondly, I do require a backlit device for my current needs—but Amazon won’t sell me one. Their only backlit device is the Kindle Fire, and it is only for sale to Americans. If they would have sold me one, I would have happily bought it. My Vox is humming along nicely, but given how heavy an Amazon user I am, their tablet probably would have been easier. Alas, I am geographically undesirable, so I bought a competing brand. And Amazon is punishing me for it by holding hostage my books.
The solution the customer service rep gave me? Pay the hundred bucks to buy a hardware Kindle, or content myself with a 100% cloud-based life. Unacceptable! I did discover a workaround, which I won’t spell out for fear they’ll close the loophole on me. So, for now, my Kindle ebook purchasing can continue. But I wanted to warn others who are thinking of trading in their hardware Kindle for the growing horde of multifunction Android/iThing toys. Amazon won’t let you download your books anymore!
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"Iโ€™m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that Iโ€™m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. This comes from the same company that deleted their own customer’s purchases from their libraries. I am referring to the book 1984.

    I have to agree with Scott. Download all your ebooks to your computer and store them in a calibre library. Do not trust any of the ebook sellers. Don’t forget, when you buy an ebook, you still do not own the rights to it, just the rights to read it. Calibre allows you to store them in a place away from the main ebook sellers.

  2. And by the way, another reason to be very apprehensive of any cloud service. They can always control what is or what is not allowed to be stored. Your hard drive or removable hard drive will always be the safest storage option and probably even cheaper for most of us

  3. Hayden, I agree 100% about downloading to your computer. My issue is that they won’t LET you download the books—unless you have one of their hardware devices, they disable the download to your computer option. This is the whole point of the above article ๐Ÿ™‚ I *want* to download and they have disabled that option.

  4. What you are asking is for Amazon to give you free cloud storage. While it may be convenient for you, it really doesn’t make sense for Amazon. The cost of a $79 Kindle doesn’t seem like much in order to have access to unlimited cloud storage. Add a $5.00 book light and your reading in the dark problem is also solved. (BTW…it was announced just before the Glowlight nook came out that Amazon would have a similar model available in the Fall.)

    Also, I just checked with a friend of mine who reads her K books on Kindle for PC. She doesn’t own a hardware Kindle, but all the books she has purchased are available on her computer.

  5. January- I am not asking for free cloud storage. They already give me that, I buy the book and I can access it—through the cloud—on my mobile devices. What I am asking for is the return of the transfer to USB button I had before so I can download these same already on the cloud books to my computer. I have backed up my previous purchases, but any new purchases they are saying will be cloud-only. And it’s not $79, the Kindle is $100 here. All so I have the download button back? No thanks. If they had sold the Kindle Fire here I would have bought it.

    As for your $5 booklight option, did you even read the article before you commented? I explained that I tried a booklight and it didn’t work for me. It strained my eyes. It made it uncomfortable for me to read. It disturbed my companion. I didn’t like it; I have that right. I also should have the right to enjoy books I PAY for and purchase as I see fit. And that includes downloading a copy onto my computer, not just onto my device.

  6. You’re asking the wrong question. You want Amazon to Download to your Vox, which they can’t/won’t do. So as been said, use Kindle for PC to download to your PC, *then* move the books to the Vox yourself. Of course, that requires breaking DRM, which is why crazy tin foil hat types are always spouting how DRM should be avoided, or immediate removed, in the first place.

  7. If you have Calibre, there is an option to mail your books to an email address. What happens if you email it to your Amazon address?

    Remember, Amazon definitely wants people to use their devices. The fact that they don’t make the Fire available in Canada doesn’t seem to enter into their decision making. This is not an Android issue; it is an Amazon strategy.

  8. I think you have misunderstood the USB option, which is easy to do if you have not used the Kindle for PC application. The USB option is for transferring files onto your Kindle in case you do not have wifi available to download the books to your Kindle. When you use the Kindle for PC application, it does download the files to your computer. After all, what would you use the USB transfer option for if you no longer had a Kindle to transfer via USB to since files with DRM can only be read by a Kindle or Kindle application anyway?

    Of course, the only way to make sure said files are forever accessible from any device even if they have been downloaded is to strip the files of DRM, but that is a different issue and one to take up with most publishers and stores, not just Amazon. I believe your downloading dilemma is easily explained, though.

  9. On a PC or a Mac, you can install the Kindle Application + Calibre + Calibre’s DeDRM Plugin.

    With that, you can download all your Amazon E-Books and remove their DRMs …
    even if you don’t own any Kindle hardware.

  10. Did something change? On my Mac I can download the Amazon books. Oh, the Kindle desktop application certainly tries to obfuscate the location and change the file names, but the files are definitely stored locally. Then I use Calibre to back them up.

  11. Vicki, I am not trying to download from the Vox. I am trying to download from the manage my kindle area on my mac. I don’t see why everyone is so confused about this. I am not worried about downloading onto the Vox; I can do that using the cloud just fine. I am worried about having a *local* copy ON MY COMPUTER in case something jeopardizes my cloud access. That is why I have always gone to the Kindle website after purchasing a book and downloaded a backup copy; that option is suddenly not available to me now that I don’t have a physical Kindle registered, and I think that is unfair since I still bought the books and still can continue to do so with the Anroid and iOS apps absent the physical Kindle. THAT is the issue I am criticizing.

  12. I use Kindle for PC and I have never owned a Kindle reader. Every Kindle book that I have ever bought from Amazon is sent there. Are you saying that Kindle for Mac no longer works now that you do not own an actual Kindle ereader?

    I back those files up by pulling them into Calibre with various plugins installed having to do with format etc.

  13. Yet another reminder that if you aren’t buying DRM-free books from vendors like Smashwords, Baen, Angry Robot, etc. you aren’t “buying” books, you are merely leasing them, to be used at the sole discretion of the landlord and to be restricted or controlled at the landlord’s pure whim.

    Maybe it’s time people started making more of a stink about DRM since the old saw that “well, you can just get it out of your Amazon library anytime” not true–it’s only true when Amazon feels like it.

  14. As I understand it, you can’t just move books from Kindle PC to your other device — there is a different kind of DRM-tag on files for your PC and files for your Kindle. So even if you have the book on Kindle for PC downloaded to your PC, you can’t just move it to your Kindle.

    You can always read it on Kindle for PC…until Amazon has another “forced upgrade” and heaven forbid you’re PC or OS doesn’t have the specs to run it.

  15. It’s completely despicable how DRM is being used not just to prevent infringement but as a method to control and limit legitimate purchasers.

    The trade-off for accepting DRM should be that it is transparent to the consumer with the same system used across all devices and platforms so that honest buyers can freely move their purchased media between devices and make backups.

    Unfortunately our Legislature is paid by big business and not by the people. So, when they write legislation regarding DRM, it is simply a laundry list of corporate wishes. No thought whatsoever is given to the rights or desires of individuals.

  16. So if all you want is a backup copy of your books, why don’t you just transfer them to your Mac by connecting your Vox to your Mac? Or via Dropbox? That’s how I backup any books or other files I’ve downloaded to my Android phone.

  17. @Joanna, do you deDRM (I thought you said you did in the past?)? If so I don’t know why you’re so worried about the transfer via USB option. Just download the books using Kindle4 Mac/PC instead of the website and then you can have your backup copies. You can also connect your Vox to your computer and copy the Kindle folder over for backup if you want the DRM intact (so the books only work on that device, beware if you need to re-register the app the PID changes IIRC).

    Amazon has always only allowed USB transfer downloads for physical devices. The best place to complain is, but I don’t know if it’ll make much difference as you don’t usually see complaints about this.

    @Scott, yes the delivery fees kinda suck, but in that particular case after reading the policy (which you see when you put the book up) the author in question re-did it so it’s optimized and not nearly so large and he’s making more. Most books still make more at Amazon with 70% + the fee than they do at B&N with 65% without as their size isn’t nearly so large.

  18. Joanna’s issue appears to be that Amazon only allows cloud access from the Vox: it doesn’t allow the Vox to hold a copy of the purchased ebook. Yes, one can backup each ebook on one’s desktop or laptop using the Kindle app for Mac or PC (bad luck if you use Linux), and you can (and should) create a separate backup copy on your hard disk using Calibre. However, this doesn’t solve Joanna’s issue of how to read her purchased ebooks when she doesn’t have live Net access. In these circumstances, her tablet isn’t an ebook reader, it’s a radio with erratic reception.

    If Amazon refuses to allow you offline reading of your purchased ebooks, Joanna, I agree with previous posters that you have to find ways around that yourself. Amazon’s decision is anti-competitive, of course, but human ingenuity knows no bounds. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As a separate topic, in order to avoid yet another copyright-troll lawsuit, it is important to note that the DeDRM plugin is not an official part of the Calibre code, nor is it produced by the Calibre team. It is an external plugin. For those in big publishing who are still technologically challenged, this is like someone knitting their own car seat cover, then putting it on a seat in their Ford. The seat cover is not a Ford, nor was it manufactured or licensed by Ford. It’s just a bit of personal decoration. Open-source coders are really into decoration.

  19. “If Amazon refuses to allow you offline reading of your purchased ebooks, Joanna, I agree with previous posters that you have to find ways around that yourself. Amazonโ€™s decision is anti-competitive, of course, but human ingenuity knows no bounds.”

    I guess I still don’t get it. My WiFi is off, I have books in the On Device tab of the Kindle App on my Vox. I can read the books listed there.

  20. A lot of answers but none explains what is going on.

    Joanna, the “Transfer via USB” option *needs* a physical device ID for the server to produce the file it downloads for you because the files it offers up are DRM-encrypted for that *specific* device. That is, why if you have more than one physical device registered to your account, you have to specify *which* one you want to sideload to.
    It isn’t really meant as a backup means–though it can be used that way–even without breaking DRM. It is simply a way to enable sideloading for devices without direct wireless access.
    This isn’t a matter of Amazon going out of its way to treat customers without devices differently (though they do in the case of the Lending Library, for example) just the way Whispernet works; each device and each reading app has a unique ID so the system can compile a file only readable on that device or app. If you don’t have a device registered it simply *can’t* generate a file for sideloading with the matching ID.
    No device ID, no file–just as Mobi DRM can’t deliver a file without a PID.

    It isn’t a Cloud issue, either, but rather a property of walled gardens. Apple does it with iBooks. Kobo does it with their Kepubs. Sony does it with their PSN downloads and Microsoft with their XBL content: garden content stays in the garden.

    Your only option for backing up at this point is, as suggested, to register a copy of Kindle for PC or Mac and DeDRM the files.

  21. I was told by Amazon tech support that Kindle for Mac/PC does not produce a physical file; that is untrue, but I did not address it in my article because I was worried that if they believe it is untrue and it’s pointed out that it isn’t, they will close the loophole and I won’t be able to get physical files at all.

    I do download and de-drm my books; I was worried more about future purchases. Felix has the best explanation for what’s going on here. Much appreciated.

  22. It’s too bad – I was just introduced to your site: Teleread, and now I have a very skeptical opinion of the quality of information being put out here. I own a Kobo Touch and download free and paid for books from Amazon regularly using the Kindle for PC option. Kindle for PC is a piece of software you download and it talks to your cloud.

    Do your research and write proper articles. The last thing the internet needs is more MISINFORMATION.

    Signed, Won’t be back soon.

  23. The PC and Mac version do produce a file for *internal* app use; that is how the DeDRM works, it Decrypts them and saves them in unencrypted form.
    Absent DeDRM-ing, they are only usable by the app that downloads them so they can’t be used for sideloading. So that may be what the Amazon support was saying: the apps don’t produce a file you could use.

    About the VOX? It’s android-based isn’t it? So you can run one of the Kindle for Android apps, right? You’re not limited to the online Cloud reader, are you?

  24. @Joanna–and now that you know that books are actually stored on your Android tablet (look in the Kindle folder after you connect the Vox by USB and turn USB storage on) and that using Kindle for your desktop is also an option, is there something you would like to change about your article? Perhaps Paul Biba can add in a note of some kind for you.

  25. No Vicki, I don’t think I do ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t address the Kindle for Mac/PC option in the article purely because I specifically asked Amazon and they specifically said I couldn’t do it, so I worried that if I said something, they would disable the functionality. The official party line from Amazon is ‘no device, no file’ and that is unchanged by the fact that there may be third-party hacks around that.

    Felix had the most helpful explanation as to why that might be, and I appreciated that. Anyone who wants more info after reading my article can of course read his comment underneath.

  26. I’m rather surprised that Teleread would post a rant like this, considering this problem is negated by the Kindle for PC/Mac apps, which do, in fact, download the book file onto your computer. The challenge from there is stripping the DRM, which isn’t much of an issue. Then the files are easily converted and transferred to the book purchaser’s preferred device.

  27. Howard, you’re right, people love a train wreck.

    This site seems to be becoming the Consumerist of ebooks. Lots of posts with complaints but no research. I stopped reading Consumerist, and I’ve dropped this RSS feed as well.

  28. I believe that all ereader devices offer the ability to plug your device into your computer and download your books from the device to a folder on your hard drive. This essentially gives you a copy on your ereader and one on your computer. This may be enough for some people.

  29. Not sure why everyone has turned this into a DRM issue when it isn’t. It seems that Amazon has recently changed their eBook purchase settings. Unless you have the Kindle Hardware you no longer have the option to download your eBook purchases from the Amazon cloud to your PC or Mac. Therefore, you can no longer get a file to covert or remove the DRM. I am coming across this today after having the option to download directly to my PC in the past which is extremely frustrating. If someone has figured out how to download their ebooks from Amazon or the Kindle PC app to their PC recently (Dec. 2012) please advise!

  30. That’s it. We only purchase the tickets to acess the Kindle books, not the books themselves. I have heard of those who lost eBooks from mobipocket and nobody wants to pay for something but can’t use it some time later.

    Well, we actually can download Kindle files with Kindle for PC/Mac app, but that depends on registration as well. Frankly, I think the most reliable way to back up eBooks is to make them unprotected, which can be opened and read without any restriction. Anyway, this is what I would recommend to you guys:

    I don’t think backing up those downloaded AZW or AZW3 files to another storage or drive really work.

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