Loading your own stuff onto your e-reader

Last Updated on October 11, 2019 by Dave Farquhar

I have a fair number of documents I created myself–that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone–but I don’t think I’m the only one who does. And from time to time, I’d like to reference them, and I may not have my computer with me.

Carrying around a cheap Nook or Kindle isn’t much of a problem, though. If only I could get my Word documents to display on it… It turns out that’s not hard to do. Here’s how to load your own content onto a Nook, Kindle, or any other similar device.

The key is a wonderful e-book management program called Calibre. I’ve covered Calibre before, as it also has other uses. Load your Word documents into it, convert them to the format your e-reader uses, and you can carry your library with you. You can probably figure it out yourself, but here’s a tutorial on how to do it, if you need one.

But here’s the cool thing. You collect some information. You copy and paste it into a Word document, including graphics. Save the file, convert it into an e-book with Calibre, and you can take it with you in the field. With a little patience, you can even make your self-created documents look just as professional as regular e-books, if that kind of thing interests you. If you just want the information and don’t care what it looks like, that works too.

So, whether you’re hunting for collectibles on the secondhand market or carrying background intelligence to a job interview–you did profile the company and look up your interviewer on Linkedin, didn’t you?–you can carry a library full of information in something the size of a paperback copy of The Old Man and the Sea. Then, when you’re waiting, you can review the information, then tuck the e-reader away when showtime hits.

If you need something more discrete than an e-reader, you can load up an epub application on your smartphone and save your converted document to your phone. Then you can pull out your phone and look something up, and for all anyone else knows, you’re just sending a text message. Don’t do that in a job interview of course, but when you’re shopping, nobody will ever know.

Calibre is also useful for converting books between formats. If you bought e-books from Borders before it went under, you know why you might want to transfer those books to someone else’s hardware.

And if, for some reason, you prefer PDFs, here’s how to make PDFs from individual image scans, using free software.

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3 thoughts on “Loading your own stuff onto your e-reader

  • May 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Note that Calibre can also automate the conversion of .mobi ebooks to .epub ebooks. Which is important since Amazon only ever sells in the mobi format, and everyone else sells in the epub format. Ebook apps for tablets also seem to suffer from this stupid vhs/betamax divide, with very few apps supporting both mobi and epub books.

    Calibre enables us to have one e-reader, and one ebook app, on which we can read all of the books we care to buy from whatever source.

    • May 2, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Indeed. And although I have no ethical problems with buying a book from Amazon, then converting it to read on a Nook or Kobo–the author and publisher got paid–breaking the DRM to do it causes legal issues, which is why i didn’t mention that. And there are times when a book is only available in one of the two formats, for whatever reason, and that is a real problem.

      I agree, there’s no good reason to Balkanize e-book formats; unfortunately the law is out of step with the technology here. Note that Calibre won’t automatically break the DRM for you–you have to do some things to make it happen–but it is possible to add the capability.

  • May 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Not all ebooks come with DRM. For instance, many authors are starting to self publish their old out-of-print novels as DRM-free ebooks. And some publishers are starting to issue their books DRM-free… but even so, the balkanization of formats continues because Amazon went with Mobi and everyone else has gone with Epub.

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