Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Backing up is important not only for your PC but for your digital book purchases as well. I'll look at whether you need to and how.

We readers know how you feel about making back-ups for our computers. Yes, I do have them, but how about making back-ups for e-readers? We can spend hundreds of dollars buying reading material; if the e-reader fails, it's all gone. Is there a way to do this?

Absolutely.

In fact, believe it or not, there are scenarios here where backup is actually not required!

That's probably something that you'd never expected to hear me say. Smile

It depends on two things: the e-reader that you're using and where you got your books.

Kindle's my example

Because my wife and I own a couple of Kindles, and I have Kindle software on my desktop, my laptop, my tablet computers, and even my phone, it's the Kindle that I'm the most familiar with, so I'll be using it as my example for this discussion. The concepts that I'll be discussing apply to other e-readers and I'll try to point out what to look for if you're not using a Kindle.

Kindle books purchased through Amazon

When you purchase a book using Amazon's own store - be it via the Amazon website or through the Kindle store on your Kindle - the book is automatically downloaded to your Kindle shortly thereafter.

Don't bother backing it up.

Amazon's got you covered.

Login to the Amazon website, click Kindle on the left menu, and then Manage Your Kindle:

Kindle, Manage Your Kindle menu

The resulting page will contain a list of all the Kindle books that you've purchased. Ever.

Your Kindle Library

From this location, you can access any Kindle content that you've purchased and have it re-sent to any Kindle device that you have, now or in the future.

Click the Actions item next to any title and you'll be able to select from any of several options:

Kindle Actions menu

Click "Deliver To" and you'll be given the choice to send the book to any Kindle device associated with your account.

Kindle deliver to menu

As you can see, in addition to our two Kindles, we can access our Kindle titles on several devices with the free Kindle application installed, or even with the application using the Kindle Cloud Reader available for several browsers.

And it's all backed up by Amazon. If we lose any - or even all - of our Kindle devices, the books can be quickly and easily re-downloaded to a replacement device.

Everything that I've just described here can also be done from your Kindle. The exact steps and even the wording used may vary, depending on what model of Kindle or which Kindle application that you're using, but in general, everything that you've ever purchased will be accessible for download.

Other e-readers: I believe many e-readers that are associated with booksellers or support some kind of account association may well work in a very similar manner. Check with the provider of the books that you're purchasing to see exactly if and how long they keep your books archived, so you can re-download at any time. If they do that, then as long as that company stays in business, your books are backed up.

Books not backed up by the provider

If the books that you purchase are not available for re-download directly from the vendor at some later point in time, you're very correct - you need to back them up.

There are two scenarios:

PC download

If you've downloaded the book to your PC and copied it to your e-reader, things are pretty simple.

All that you need to do (in addition to copying the book or document to your e-reader) is copy it somewhere else. Perhaps just keep it someplace on your PC where it'll get backed up again by the backup process that you have set up.

Device download

If the book was downloaded directly to your e-reader, then you need to take an additional step.

Almost all of the e-readers can be connected to your PC via a USB cable. Do that, locate the books on your e-reader, and copy them to your PC.

Once again, with your PC being backed up regularly, so will your books. If you ever need to restore them to this or a replacement reader, all that you need to do is connect via USB and copy the files back to the appropriate location on the device.

A note about compatibility

With the number of different e-readers out there, it's important to understand compatibility, particularly when you've backed up content yourself and you elect to change devices.

Content purchased from Amazon for the Kindle is in a proprietary format viewable only on Kindle. In fact, it's my understanding that if you back up the actual Kindle book files via USB, they may only work on the specific Kindle device from which they were copied. The way to move a title from Kindle to Kindle is to re-download it from Amazon, using the techniques I've mentioned above.

Other file formats may work on most devices. Kindle specifically supports the .prc and .mobi formats for ebooks, as long as they are unprotected and DRM-free, as well as most PDF formatted documents, although perhaps without full support of all formatting options.

Before switching devices, be sure to understand what formats your existing content is in, whether it's restricted in some form, and whether the new device that you're considering will be able to read it.

Article C5026 - January 3, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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9 Comments
Steve
January 5, 2012 3:03 PM

What about the O/S? On many Ereaders and tablets the potential to damage the O/S remains. How does one repair/restore an O/S like Android?

I'm not aware of a way to do so (short of rooting the device).
Leo
06-Jan-2012
Chuck
January 6, 2012 8:59 AM

Leo, there's a great tool for ebook owners called Calibre. It's free (donations are accepted) and it will convert between the different formats, download metadata, upload directly from your PC to the device and keep a backup on your PC of all the books you've uploaded to it. It's unnecessary if you purchase all your books from Amazon or B&N (I've got a Nook), but if you already have an extensive library on your PC like I do it's invaluable.

To be clear, however, it cannot convert books protected with DRM, such as those purchased at Amazon.
Leo
06-Jan-2012
John H
January 6, 2012 10:34 AM

I try to avoid proprietary formats and hardware. I purchased an $89 generic Android 9 inch tablet from Big Lots. I can run Nook and Kindle readers on it.

Proprietary formats and corporate controlled media ownership take away our ownership rights.

A corporate controlled device/"user experience" is the perfect philosophical example of one trading security for freedom.

I think this article barely touched the surface of what is out there for E-readers but it is a start. Thank Leo.

Darryl Kenney
January 6, 2012 11:06 AM

To John H...you are still running proprietary software on your tablet by using Nook and Kindle programs. These programs, as Leo stated, can be utilized on many different platforms. In Canada, we have Kobo. My wife reads it on her phone, Kobo Vox, and Macbook. I read it on my iPhone, Blackberry Playbook, PC, laptop and Macbook.

What you want is a program where you can read a book, no matter what source of the book.

John H
January 6, 2012 12:32 PM

To Darryl Kenney
You are absolutely right.

So much of my life depends on software that can be revoked or changed at the whim of corporate decisions. It has happened twice in 20 years. This is why I use Open Source as much as possible. But I am screwed if My CAD company folds or changes its license policy.

Amazon has already removed one E-book from owners who had purchased it.

I am still trying to learn how to physically own all my Droid Data and apps. I know Calibre is a start in actually physically keeping copies of purchased e-books. I have to learn how to use it.

Lots of thoughts on Android O/S, privacy and ownership but getting way off topic from E readers.

Chuck Small
January 6, 2012 1:06 PM

I have been using Calibre and it is a wonderful program! Not only does it allow me to catalog my e-book library and back up all my e-books physically on my PC, it converts PDF. EPUB, and other e-book formats to the Kindle-compatible MOBI format (http://calibre-ebook.com/download) and loads them onto my Kindle. But another really good reason everyone with an e-book reader should get Calibre is that it will download web versions of publications, extensively reformat the HTML and CSS (using user-supplied "recipies"), and store them on your e-book reader as e-books! I start Cablibre up in the evening and plug my Kindle into the USB. By 6:00 AM the next day, the daily feeds from the Associated Press and the BBC World Service are there for me to read for free! Who needs a newspaper? Additionally, I get free weekly or monthly versions of The Economist, The National Geographic, etc. You can probably get your favorite newspaper or magazine delivered this way but you may have to first get a for-pay subscription.

Glenn P.
January 6, 2012 7:48 PM

Leo, here is the exact, precise inverse  question to what you've been discussing above. Not backing up  (that is, duplicating) one's books, but actually deleting  (that is, striking out, removing, or dropping) the odd unwanted title from one's inventory! Can this be done on a Kindle? Or is one stuck with a purchased title ad aeternum ?!

You can delete titles from the manage-my-kindle section when you login to Amazon. In fact you'll see "Delete from Library" in the menu image in the article.
Leo
06-Jan-2012
Glenn P.
January 6, 2012 9:21 PM

Leo wrote:

You can delete titles from the manage-my-kindle section when you login to Amazon. In fact you'll see "Delete from Library"  in the menu image in the article.
Oh...! Ah! Yes! So there is!

(Heh heh heh!)

Now, howsoever did I manage to miss seeing that...?

Said quickly, in my best "Emily Litella" voice:     "Never mind!"

Scott Sawchyn
January 7, 2012 10:01 AM

Ten thumbs up for Calibre (as alluded to by other posters)!
I also downloaded an Nook app (free) on my Kindle Fire and now can read Nook books ( must admit I like the "page turning" a little better than the Fire).
Leo, if you're still viewing, what do you think about rooting the Fire?

I'm torn on rooting any of my Android devices. Mostly I want the thing to just work and be able to go back to the manufacturer if there's a problem - can't do that if rooted. I've yet to find a compelling reason to root (though I've come close with my phone, just to get rid of the pre-isntalled stuff).
Leo
07-Jan-2012

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