The Amazon Kindle ignited a new revolution in eBooks and reading via electronic methods. While the Kindle was the biggest product to come out for the eBook platform, there were people reading electronic books for years on a multitude of devices. Due to the various sources of books, other formats exist, many of which are compatible with the Kindle.
Electronic books have been around since 1971 when the Gutenberg Project was launched to preserve books that had fallen into the public domain. Books with copyrights that had expired were converted into electronic format so that they would not be lost to all time. In the years since, books have been distributed on a number of formats, including CD-ROM and on the Internet. There is no standard format and there are multiple platforms used for reading text. By the end of the 2000s, the dominant formats came via text or HTML and through ePub, Mobipocket and eReader.
The Kindle, launched by Amazon in 2007, supported a format created by Amazon called AZW. This format is an offshoot of the Mobipocket format with only slight differences and the addition of Amazon's own proprietary digital-rights management. Amazon also built the Kindle to accept other formats including TXT, PDF, Audible, MP3, unprotected MOBI and PRC. The Kindle also accepts image formats like JPEGs.
Conversion of Formats
In order to accept other formats, Amazon created a conversion process. The formatting process consists of e-mailing a file to an address provided by Amazon. The file would be either wirelessly delivered to the Kindle or sent back to the user who could copy it to the Kindle via USB connection. If the user chooses to have the file wirelessly delivered, Amazon normally charges a small fee of approximately 10 cents.
While the Kindle supports multiple formats and allows users to get many different types of books, other options exist to convert other formatted eBooks onto the Kindle to achieve maximum compatibility. One such program is called Calibre. This software runs on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and allows the user to convert electronic books from one format to another. The program is open source, meaning the code is freely available to be looked at and improved upon. By having this tool out in the world, the door is wide open for many formats to be converted.
Compatibility by Being Open
Apple adopted the ePub format, which is widely used by many programs and readers. This compatibility allows for people to buy an electronic copy of a book once and not worry about a second purchase of that same item just because the hardware has changed. The advantage of devices such as the Kindle is that compatibility is determined by software which can always be expanded via updates. Amazon did this with the Kindle 2 in 2009 by adding the PDF format as a native format, moving it from experimental status. Overall, by sticking to open formats or taking advantage of the Kindle conversion process, books can be placed on the Kindle with no problems, regardless of where they were purchased.
- Photo Credit Open book isolated on white image by robootb from Fotolia.com
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