The big list of free Kindle tools

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Kindle ToolboxThere are quite a few programs and web services that can be really useful to Kindle owners. This post compiles 17 of these that every Kindle user should know about, ranging from eBook conversion programs to services that can broadcast your favorite websites to your Kindle.

Note that many of the tools listed here aren’t strictly Kindle specific, but can be very useful to anyone who has a Kindle or any other eBook reading device, such as PDF cropping tools and eBook conversion apps, etc.

 

Areas covered include ‘eBook Reading Tools’, ‘General eBook Conversion’ , ‘PDF to Kindle Conversion’, ‘Organizing files on your Kindle’, and ‘Sending web content to your Kindle’.

eBook Reading Tools:

1. Kindle Cloud Reader: read eBooks from anywhere

2. Kindle Reader for PC and Mac: read eBooks on your computer
3. Kindle Previewer: see how converted eBooks will look on your Kindle

General EBook Conversion:
4. Amazon Kindle email conversion service: free online eBook conversion service
5. Calibre: eBook conversion and management software
6. Hamster Free eBook Converter: casual, powerful eBook converter
7. Auto Kindle eBook Converter: converts PDF, Lit, and HTML files to Kindle-friendly .MOBI format

PDF to Kindle conversion:
8. Briss: visual PDF cropping tool
9. K2PDFopt: converts complex PDF’s into Kindle friendly ones
– Also see my two related how-to articles on optimizing PDFs for reading on the Kindle (here and here).

Organizing files on your Kindle:
10. Koll3ction: use folder structures to organize your Kindle documents into collections

Sending Web Content to your Kindle:
11. SENDtoREADER: bookmarklet to send any web pages, Google Reader entries to your Kindle
12. Kindle It: browser extension that will send any web page to the Kindle
13. KindleFeeder: deliver up to 12 RSS feeds to your Kindle via whispernet
14. Greader2Kindle: read your Google Reader feeds on your Kindle
15. Instapaper: automatically delivers unread Instapaper articles to your Kindle
16. ReadItLater: deliver unread ReadItLater articles to your Kindle
17. Readability: receive your Readability reading list automatically on your Kindle

Other tools: a few that I wasn’t motivated to write mini reviews for


Kindle Cloud App Screenshot1. Kindle Cloud Reader: read eBooks from anywhere

This is a web app that connects to your Amazon Kindle account and lets you read your eBook collection from any PC or device. This service  (which is partially conceived to liberate Kindle eBooks on devices and tablets from from dependency on ‘app stores’ as go-betweens) is a great idea and works really well.

Because it is browser based, Kindle Cloud Reader can be used from any platform or internet enabled device.

Go here to get Kindle Cloud Reader.


Kindle PC App Screenshot2. Kindle Reader for PC and Mac: read eBooks on your computer

Kindle Reader for PC/Mac was meant for those who wanted to buy and read eBooks instantly on their computer without a physical reader. What it is in effect is as a local desktop client for your Amazon Kindle eBooks.

This program is different than the cloud reader in that it functions as a good general use eBook reader  and will read all Kindle-readable formats offline. Double clicking on any .AZW format file (produced by the Amazon online conversion service, #4 below) will add the file to the library, or on PC you can import eBooks into the Kindle Reader by manually placing your Kindle-readable eBook files into the “My Kindle Content” folder in “My Documents”. (Note: one thing to consider is that you will need a valid Amazon userid/pass to log into the program).

Go here to download Kindle Reader for PC, and here for Mac.


Kindle Previewer Screenshot3. Kindle Previewer: see how converted eBooks will look on your Kindle

This program is extremely useful if you’ve been converting eBooks to Kindle appropriate formats (from formats that are presumably less Kindle friendly), or if you are publishing your own Kindle eBooks. What it does is simply allow you to see exactly what you eBook will look like on the Kindle, saving you the trouble of having to upload and test it on the device. Sounds simple but, as someone who has done a lot of PDF to Kindle conversions, I can attest that it is extremely useful.

Go here to download Kindle Preview for PC of Mac (scroll down to the middle of the page).


amazon_logo4. Amazon Kindle email conversion service:free online eBook conversion service

Amazon offers an online document conversion service whereby you could email any of the following format documents (MS Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI, as long as they are unprotected) and have them remotely converted to Kindle-friendly .AZW format. This service comes in two flavors, a free one where your document is emailed back to you, and a paid one where it is beamed down to your Kindle via whispernet 3G.

What you need to do to use the free service is register your email at Kindle management page at Amazon. Next, you can send an email to yourname@free.kindle.com with “Convert” as the subject, and the file you want to convert added as an attachment. Note that some email services have size limits on attachments in (for example max attachment size in Gmail is 25 megs). Also note that you can zip your document first before attaching. Your converted file will be sent back to you via return mail.

This is a great service and an excellent way to read all kinds of documents on your Kindle from anywhere without dealing with local eBook conversion software.

Go here for more info.


Calibre screenshot5. Calibre: eBook conversion and management software

This is the reigning king of eBook readers for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is an ambitious eBook management suite that includes eBook format conversion, an eBook reader for any format, and online tagging and local organizing of eBook files. It also supports syncing with Android, iOS, and most all eBook reading devices, including the Kindle.

For Kindle owners, Calibre is the surest way to convert most any document format under the sun into a Kindle friendly format (such as .MOBI). It is also a great tool for tagging/downloading metadata to your eBook files as well as syncing them with the Kindle. In short, a great tool if you have an extensive eBook library, especially if it mostly from non-Amazon sources. Or if you also like to read and organize eBooks locally on your computer.

Go here to download Calibre (also see my in-depth review of Calibre for PC).


Hamster Free ebook converter screenshot26. Hamster Free eBook Converter: casual, powerful eBook converter

This software can convert pretty much any eBook and document format into a Kindle friendly format such as .MOBI. The reason it is so powerful? It actually incorporates some of the (open source) code from Calibre, above. (Note: at one point they were in violation of some of the terms of usage for this code, but that seems to be no longer the case).

This is a must have for two reasons (1) it can convert most anything to Kindle friendly .MOBI quickly and efficiently, and (2) it is great for one-off, casual use, and doesn’t have the kind of ambition and breadth that Calibre (above) has, if all you want is to quickly convert and move on.

Go here to download Hamster Free eBook Converter (also see my in-depth review of Hamster Free Ebook Converter).


Auto Kindle eBook Converter Screenshot7. Auto Kindle eBook Converter: converts PDF, Lit, and HTML files to Kindle-friendly .MOBI format

Once run, this program will ask you to point to a PDF, LIT, or HTML file and convert it to MOBI. That’s all there is to it; the program has no interface, except for a small configuration dialog used mainly to set the output folder (see screenshot).

When I tested it, there was a bit of a lag between clicking the program icon and getting the file dialog prompt, but it performed the conversion well. As a general converter, however, I still prefer the much slicker and more powerful Hamster Free eBook Converter (#6 above).

Go here to download Auto Kindle eBook Converter (Windows only)


Briss Screenshot8. Briss: visual PDF cropping tool

For most PDF ebooks out there (and there are very many). the Kindle unfortunately does not provide a very good reading experience. And while most of the tools mentioned above can convert a PDF eBook to something more suited to the Kindle (i.e. .MOBI or .AZW), the headers/footers/page numbers in most PDF eBooks can end up strewn inside your converted eBook in a very unpleasant fashion. Briss can help avoid this by letting you crop these elements (in a semi-automated way) before converting.

Moreover, by eliminating headers/footers and white margins, it can in  many cases result in a Kindle-ready PDF that does not need conversion at all.

For a step-by-step on on how to crop and convert a PDF check out my post: Optimize PDF’s for reading on your Kindle 3: crop then (optionally) convert to AZW

Go here to download Briss (also see my in-depth review of Briss).


9. K2PDFopt: converts complex PDF’s into Kindle friendly ones

This is another tool that can be used to reformat PDFs for a better Kindle user experience. This tool will auto detect sections of content and string them together automatically, producing a PDF that looks like what you would expect a Kindle ebook to look like. It works like magic, especially on PDF’s that might contain multiple columns.

See an example below:

Pre K2PDFOpt Screenshot Before processingPost K2PDFOpt Screenshot After processing (showing 2 pages)

The only drawback to using this software is that it converts PDFs to bitmap images while processing, resulting in a PDF can be more than 30 times the size of the original file that was used to create it.

For step by step instructions on how to use this program, see my posting entitled: How to read PDFs on the Kindle (or smartphone, or any small-screen device) – revisited.

Go here to download K2PDFopt.


10. Koll3ction: use folder structures to organize your Kindle documents into collections

koll3ctions Screenshot

The Kindle supports ‘collections’, which are the organizational equivalent of tags. But with its non touch screen interface setting these tags up can be quite a chore to set up. This is where Koll3ction can help; it will let you go into your Kindle’s ‘document’, ‘audible‘, and ‘music’ folders on the Kindle and create your own folders and subfolder within them. You can then re-arrange your Kindle ebook and audio files within these folders to organize them into collections (see image above for an illustration).

Next, run ‘Koll3ctions.bat’ from your PC/Mac/Linux computer. The program will create collections based on your folders, completely replacing any collections that existed previously (it will make a backup of these though). Note that (a) the program does not have an interface; it will run and exit, and (b) you will need to restart your Kindle for the new scheme to appear, which on the Kindle 3 involves resetting the device via holding the ‘on’ switch for 20+ seconds.

Go here to download Koll3ctions (works on Windows/Mac/Linux).


SENDtoREADER screenshot11. SENDtoREADER: bookmarklet to send any web pages, Google Reader entries to your Kindle

SENDtoREADER is a bookmarklet that can be placed in your browser toolbar and used to send any webpage (text and images) to your Kindle via WIFI (free) or whispernet (paid).

It can even be added to your Google Reader sharing services, wherein it will send Google Reader articles in their entirety to your Kindle (and not just the bit that is visible in Google Reader)

Setup involves adding your Kindle email to SENDtoREADER and adding SENDtoREADER to your list of your Kindle approved email (on the ‘personal document settings’ in Amazon’s manage your kindle page).

The free version does all the above; the paid version will let you subscribe to RSS feeds and automatically send them to your Kindle.

Go here to sign up with SENDtoREADER.


Kindle It Screenshot212. Kindle It: browser extension that will send any web page to the Kindle

Available as a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome (and Android), ‘Kindle It’ will let you send any web page to your Kindle on the fly, and will even display a little preview window to show you exactly what is being sent. It is a less sophisticated version of SENDtoREADER (#11 above), in that it has no Google reader integration, no paid RSS subscriptions, etc.

You will have to do the usual setting up before Kindle It will work with your Kindle (i.e. adding ‘kindle@fivefilters.org’ to your list of Kindle approved emails on Amazon’s manage your kindle page). After that, all you need to do is enter your Kindle email address into the form when you are actually using ‘Kindle It’, and it will beam it to your Kindle (use @free.kindle.com to send via WIFI, and @kindle.com to send via whispernet).

Go here to get the ‘Kindle It’ browser extensions.


Kindlefeeder screenshot413. KindleFeeder: deliver up to 12 RSS feeds to your Kindle via whispernet

KindleFeeder is an RSS subscription feed service that can send feeds straight to your Kindle. The free service will let you add and manage up to 12 RSS feeds; however, it will only send via whispernet (i.e. to @Kindle.com, Amazon’s paid 3G delivery system), or alternately will send feeds to your personal email as .MOBI attachments, which you can then manually move to your Kindle. Free WIFI delivery (i.e. @free.Kindle.com) is only supported, unfortunately, in their paid service.

Also note that delivery of RSS feeds in the free version is not automatic; you will have to log in and press a button for RSS feeds to be delivered to your Kindle.

Go here to sign up with KindleFeeder.


14. Greader2Kindle: read your Google Reader feeds on your Kindle

Greader2Kindle Screenshot1 Greader2Kindle Screenshot3
Enter your Google Reader credentials and your Kindle email, and this software will go log into your Google Reader, convert your unread items to .MOBI, and then email them to your Kindle via WIFI (or, you can use your @Kindle email to send via whispernet). Alternately it can simply output a .MOBI file that you can install on the Kindle manually.

Note that your Gmail address will have to be added as an approved email (on the ‘personal document settings’ in Amazon’s manage your kindle page).

This software can be somewhat glitchy in my experience (e.g. I had to install it twice, and emailing would at times time out). Also, your security software might intervene when it detects that it is trying to contact the gmail servers; however, the output is quite good (see screenshot above right), and the actual content of the articles is available for offline reading on the Kindle, not just a listing or excerpt.

Go here to download Greader2Kindle.


Instapaper to Kindle Screenshot15. Instapaper: automatically delivers unread Instapaper articles to your Kindle

Instapaper natively supports article delivery to the Kindle, using both WIFI (@free.kindle.com) or Amazon’s paid whispernet 3G (@kindle.com). All you have to do is go to Instapaper’s Kindle settings and enter your Kindle’s email address, and set the delivery schedule; daily or weekly.

As with the other services mentioned above, the Instapaper email address (found on the Kindle setup page) will have to be added to the list of Kindle approved emails (‘personal document settings’  section in Amazon’s manage your kindle page).

Go here for Instapaper’s Kindle settings page.


ReadItLater logo16. ReadItLater: deliver unread ReadItLater articles to your Kindle

Unlike Instapaper (above) ReadItLater does not support Kindle delivery on it’s own. You can still receive ReadItLater articles on your Kindle with the help of some of the tools above, namely KindleFeeder (#13 above) and Calibre (#5 above).

Go here for instructions on how to sync ReadItLater with your Kindle using Calibre.


Readability Browser plugin17. Readability: send any page to your Kindle

Readability is a service similar to Instapaper or ReadItLater mentioned above. They offer two Kindle related services; however, only one is free, while the other is a service for paid subscriptions only.

The free service: a convenient browser add on that can be used to send articles to the Kindle much in the same manner as some of the tools mentioned above (i.e. SENDtoKINDLE, Kindle It).

Paid subscribers can automatically  receive their reading list in a “digest form” every morning.

Go here to get the Kindle browser add-on.


Other tools:

  • PDFMashercan help reformat complex PDFs into a simple single flow. (I prefer K2PDFOpt above though)
  • PaperCropanother PDF to Kindle program.
  • MobiPocket Creator can create/publish eBooks as well as convert eBook formats.

Know of other tools that are useful for Kindle? Let us know in the comments section.