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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

How to Print Out a Kindle Ebook

I love my Kindle. It's great for reading novels, but recently I've been downloading a few more illustrated nonfiction books (this excellent guide to setting up a WordPress blog by Dr Andy Williams, for example).

And that's brought home to me one big drawback of reading on a Kindle. Because of the small screen, diagrams in particular can be hard to make out. In addition, the black-and-white display on my Kindle Keyboard is fine for reading text, but in illustrations and diagrams you can miss out on the added dimension colour can bring.

Of course, one solution is to read your e-book on your PC instead. Using Amazon's free Kindle for PC program, anyone can read Kindle e-books on their computer at full-screen size and in colour.

You can download and use Kindle for PC whether or not you have a Kindle e-reader yourself. Here's a link to the download pages for Kindle for PC and the Mac version.

Sometimes, however, nothing beats having a book (or part of it) printed on paper. And that's where the problems can start, since neither the Kindle reader itself nor Kindle for PC includes a print option. The good news is that there are various ways around this, though.

Just a note of caution, however. Nobody is likely to object to you printing out some or all of an e-book you have bought for your personal use. But clearly, you shouldn't print out multiple copies for distribution (or, even worse, for sale) to other people - at least, not without getting the author's written permission first. I'm sure I need hardly point out that to do otherwise would be a clear breach of the author's copyright.

Here then are the options I know about. I don't claim that this is a definitive list, so if there are any other good methods or resources you know about, please do post them as comments below.

1. Highlight any text you want to print or copy on your Kindle. On the Kindle Keyboard, press the Menu key, then select Add Note or Highlight, and follow the on-screen instructions. Then connect your Kindle to your PC using the supplied USB cable.

Using Windows Explorer or whatever, navigate to the Kindle's documents file, and in this you should find a file named My Clippings. This is a plain text (.txt) file, and the text you highlighted will be contained within it. Here's a screengrab of the sort of thing you will see (this is a paragraph from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins from her excellent Hunger Games trilogy, which I happen to be reading at the moment).

Now you have this in plain text form, you can copy and paste it into Word or any similar program, and print it out from there. Of course, as it's a plain text file, this method can't be used for pictures or diagrams, but if you only want to print out plain text, it works just fine.

2. Another good method if you just want to print a page or two is to open the book in Kindle for PC, then use a screen capture program to take a picture of the page/s concerned. There are lots of screen capture programs you can use - various free options are reviewed here - or you could simply press the Print Screen key on standard Windows computers and paste the resulting image into Paint or some similar image editing software. You can then edit it if you wish and print it, or copy and paste the image into a Word document.

3. To print longer extracts or a full-length book, you will probably need third-party software. One option is a program called e-photocopy (not an affiliate link).

This electronically photocopies your e-book and converts it to a PDF, which you can then print out. There is a free demo version which is limited to three pages - I tried this and it worked fine after just a little bit of tinkering with the settings. The full version of the software costs $19.99.

4. An alternative approach is to convert the e-book file to a format that's easy to print out, such as PDF. The free, open-source Calibre software will do this for you.

There is one important caveat, however. If the e-book has DRM (digital rights management) applied, you will not be able to convert it to any other format using Calibre. All types of DRM - including Amazon's - can be cracked, and if you search online you will find ways of doing so, but as this is probably illegal I'm not providing any links here.

How do you know if an e-book is DRM-protected or not? As far as I know, there is no easy way to tell (and this information is not provided on the sales pages in the Kindle Store).

One way to find out is to attempt to convert the e-book file to another format using Calibre. If the e-book is DRM-protected, something similar to the following cheery message will appear:

DRM is intended to help protect authors and publishers against piracy. Even though I'm a published Kindle author myself, however, I'm not in favour of DRM and don't apply it to my own self-published titles such as The Festival on Lyris Five.

My personal view is that imposing draconian restrictions on readers via DRM is likely to be counter-productive for authors and publishers in the long (and possibly short) run. If you'd like to see the arguments set out in more detail, I strongly recommend reading this article.

If avoiding DRM in e-books is important to you, you might want to consider whether the title you want is also available from other stores such as Smashwords which do not impose it. You might also want to check out Open Books, a website from the people behind Calibre which lists DRM-free e-books in all categories from a range of publishers.

To sum up, if you're looking to print out one or two pages of a Kindle e-book, probably the simplest option is to use the Clippings function (for plain text) or take a screengrab of the pages you want on Kindle for PC. For printing out longer extracts or the whole e-book, you might prefer to use software such as e-photocopy or convert the e-book file to a printable format using Calibre or similar - so long as the title in question is not DRM-protected.

And finally (of course!) if you're interested in writing a Kindle e-book, you might like to consider investing in my Kindle Kash guide, which is currently available with four extra bonuses via my homepage. Kindle Kash takes you through every step of creating a Kindle e-book, from coming up with ideas, through writing and editing your e-book, to publishing it via Kindle Direct Publishing and promoting it.

If you have any comments about printing out Kindle e-books, or e-book writing and publishing more generally, please feel free to post them below.

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Blogger jelly andrews said...

Oh! This is very useful. Thanks a lot for sharing such information. Great posting! I am looking forward to read more of your posts.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous TedZelmanni said...

I have also printed kindle books out for several times, and it's becoming more and more inconvenient.

In the past, I deDRM the Kindle books with calibre plugin just like your article mentioned, then convert it to ePub and print it out with ADE's print feature.

But the latest version of ADE has deleted the print feature.

Then I find this article:, it tells me that Calibre also has a print feature, which I was ignoring it.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Ted. That's a useful link.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Ted. Useful, well-explained, respectful.

7:23 PM  
Blogger James said...

Has it become easier to print since you wrote this article?

I am thinking about buying a recipe book in the kindle format. But, if I cannot easily print the recipe out, for me, the format is a failure. I do not want to risk ruining a reader in the kitchen and I am not willing to write out recipes by hand.

Thanks for your help

8:33 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Still the same, AFAIK.

With a Kindle recipe book, I would probably open it in Kindle for PC, do a screen capture of the recipe/s you want, and print it/them out.

If anyone has any better ideas, please do post them below!

4:15 PM  
Blogger david jonsson said...

can i print a finished ebook i bought with the highlights and notes i made while i read it? so i can have a hardcopy version that is more easily reference-able?

5:20 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

As far as I know there is no reason why you couldn't do this, by saving the text to My Clippings. Of course, what you will end up with is a plain text file without any formatting or illustrations, but that may be all you want anyway.

6:02 PM  
Blogger david jonsson said...

right? no i was hoping for an actual printed version exactly like a paperback or hardcover with cover art, liner notes, etc.. but ALSO includes personal highlights and notes that were recorded into kindle while reading it as ebook version.. THEN convert it.. seems like it would be a good service/ product..

6:08 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

I see what you mean. There could certainly be a demand for a service like that, but I'm not aware of anyone who is currently providing it.

I guess any company doing this would need to take care that they were not infringing the author's copyright. Could be a bit of a grey area, in my view.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Anushka said...

Thanks for your help on this.

2:32 AM  

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