A better way to get rid of Kindle DRM

Jacobsor sez, "This post provides a 'how to' guide for a simple way to remove DRM from Kindle, Nook and other ebook files using the open-source Calibre application in conjunction with some third-party plugins. I tried it on my Kindle library, and it works great, without needing to muck about manually with Python scripts. The Calibre program also allows you to convert files from one format to another, such as Kindle format (.mobi files) to epub files."

This is a followup from yesterday's somewhat more complicated Kindle de-DRM-ifier method.

Ebook Formats, DRM and You -- A Guide for the Perplexed (Thanks, Jacobsor, via Submitterator!)


  1. Content providers should get a clue that locking their content only irate its users. Pirates will still be pirating their content, no matter what.

    I didn’t buy a single book from Kindle store or Barns and Nobles digital content because they can be as expensive as real books but you don’t buy the same rights.

    I hope all these DRM cracks become as streamline as they can, so people can get rid of the nuisance and go back to read the content they bought without any worries of compatibility, remote wipe, device specific locks, etc.

  2. This is a great article (they BOTH were, actually). What I’m commenting on, though, is calibre. Calibre is probably the finest open source tool I’ve ever worked with. The design is beautifully done, the program is well thought out and the number of features is astounding. Now we have anti-DRM plugins, too! I used to keep all my PC ebooks in folders and used Windows Explorer to find what I needed. calibre gives you all of that with an interface you can tag and search. Highly recommended!

  3. Cracking the DRM while useful is like smuggling a few joints into prison.
    I would rather buy an open device and have root access and apt-get so anyone could install applications optimized by a developer community for this device like we see with the Nokia N900. I can find my own digital media to read or play instead of relying on their prison canteen for books.

  4. Calibre is a good program with some, to me, unfortunate quirks. The author has decided that he knows what is best for your computer and your e-books, and your have no business changing it.
    I had to unload the program because of disabled functions.
    Phoenix, AZ

  5. Now if this only worked on NOOKStudy. The one (python based) NOOKStudy drm removal tool I’ve tried just leaves me with a damaged file rather than a stripped one. Anyone have any luck with something else?

  6. I understand why people are against DRM. But, once you buy something with it attached, why can’t you follow your agreement? If I sell you a hotdog and before you buy it, I say, “You can buy it on the condition that you only eat it in the store.” If you buy the hotdog I’d expect you to follow the agreement.

    Why can’t you follow the rules. If you are against DRM in ebooks: don’t buy them. If you really want them but they have DRM: buy them and abide by the limitations. If you want them but are against the DRM: don’t buy it; be without something.

    It’s a crazy concept. If you don’t want to follow the rules, you can choose not to have it.

    1. Back in the 1930s it used to be against the rules for women to wear trousers. Would your advice to women have been to do without? The only way societal rules change is by casually breaking them for a generation or two.

      1. Women not being allowed to wear trousers was a societal rule, perhaps (and deserved to be broken), but this is not. This is a legal agreement you enter into with the bookseller, who has every right to make those demands with regards to the products that they’re selling. If you don’t want to enter into the agreement and don’t like the demands, don’t buy from them.

        I own a Kindle, and I like it, and I buy some Kindle books. However, because the publishers keep raising their prices for ebooks, I’ve started buying used books instead. I’ve gotten some great deals for (at times, massive) books in near perfect quality (often $1 plus $1 shipping). So while I vastly prefer ebooks, if I can buy a print version for a fraction of the cost of an ebook, with increased rights, I do that.

    2. lippenhoffer seems rather astroturf-ish.

      The message: “The rules are already set for you. Follow them or have nothing. Don’t question the rules, don’t act for yourself. Do what the corporations want.”. And note how all mention of those corporate influences is avoided, instead it is framed as a personal agreement, and as if DRM is just part of the natural order.

      How incongruous with the boingboing ethos.

      1. I wouldn’t necessarily say ze’s an astroturf. It’s too… inane.

        But, I do kind of see why it may be better just to avoid buying the Kindle all together: Don’t encourage the bastards.

        As it stands, Amazon is trying to corner publishers by acquiring market share and by making ebook readers more ubiquitous. As far as I’m concerned, until they fix the DRM issue right out of the box, this makes them evil. I understand it’s more complicated than that, but Amazon’s buy page is the only place you or I can really apply any pressure. So I’m of the view that no one who is really interested in seeing DRM flourish should buy things that are DRM locked.

        Let’s face it, Amazon doesn’t get that far without early-adopters, and they took the nerds in hook, line, and sinker because so few of us can resist the urge to go, “OOOH! A shiny!”

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the hacker ethos, but to me it’s more a theoretical problem than anything else, since I have no desire to, as stated above, encourage the bastards.

        1. If lippenhoffer had presented his/her argument as you just did, that would have made a big difference.

          I’m also part of the “I vote with my wallet, so no, I won’t buy your product under these conditions” contingent, but as you point out, that’s not what lippenhoffer was saying.

    3. Obviously, because the other option (to buy something with DRM, then remove the DRM, creating the product that you actually wanted to buy but nobody would sell you) is more attracive than the two options you present.

      Is your question more about why people don’t just follow whatever rules they are presented with? If so, then maybe this TED talk would be of interest to you: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html Some people are inclined to value preservation of order over individual justice, and others are inclined to do the opposite.

      Also, I think the sense of respect the consumer feels from the seller is reciprocated. When someone offers you a totally unfair bargain and presents you with no alternatives, you feel less obliged to honor the agreement.

    4. Good point, lippenhoffer. I do not think that you understand why people have something against DRM. You could put the analogy this way:

      Imagine that you could buy hotdogs *only* from Toyota outlets, and they come with the condition that you will have to eat them inside your Toyota only. Conversely, if you want to buy a hamburger, you can get it only from the Volkswagen dealer, and you will have to eat it while sitting in your Volkswagen car. If you want to eat both, you have to own both cars, and you will still not be allowed to carry your food from your one car to your second.

      It is clear that this universe makes sense only to the dealerships, but not to the customers. Thats why the customers oppose it.

      1. Or imagine that Toyota hotdogs are actually manufactured by someone somewhere, a person, say, and that the only way the person gets paid is if enough people eat his hotdogs (same with the burgers). But no one wants to buy his hotdogs directly because they are perhaps in another state. So, hotdog guy makes deal with Toyota Corp. to sell hotdogs but with the understanding of these limitations you set forth. But people don’t like this, (but they really love hotdogs!) so rather than not buying the hotdogs, or the Toyotas, they engage in an operation in which they pay a mechanic to smuggle the hotdogs out of the dealership in the dead of night. Meanwhile someone, a hotdog fanatic maybe, gets the idea that we don’t even have to pay the mechanic if we just jump him and take all the dogs. Free hotdogs for everyone, right? Everyone’s happy now!

        I also have a bit of an issue with the notion that all media wants to be free. I get it. I hate paying for stuff too. I love my books, games, and music but the prices don’t equate to what I feel I’m receiving. And I think corporations are evil (mostly) and should be dismantled for much of what they do. But, and maybe my moral is showing, I don’t know if ripping stuff off is the answer. Or maybe it is. Maybe tearing it all down is helping, I’,m really not smart enough to know. But what will we get in the end? Smarter DRM and faster DRM crackers? Pretty soon we’ll just buy whatever they sell us and sit on it a day or two until someone cracks it, or doesn’t.

        I know, the hotdog thing was kind of a joke.

        1. Yeah, there’s such a thing as overextending a metaphor.

          You’re suggesting that we’re breaking DRM so we can spread these books to all and sundry. No one has to pay for ebooks ever!

          I can’t speak for anyone else but personally, I only strip the DRM so that I can read a Kindle ebook on my Nook. The author still gets paid. These tools can be used the way you’re describing, but the optimist in me wants to think that’s not the way the majority of people use them.

          1. Good point, Mythus. Yeah, I guess the fear is that it’s going to be a free-for-all, which, you know, I mostly surmise from how rabidly people support just downloading music and film for free and how unwilling many people are to pay when they can get it for nothing. Of course, this is the internet and talk is free, what people do in real life may differ.

            I’m with you, though. No real problem in moderation, but maybe if people begin to see media as something they’re entitled to. I hear a lot of that.

        2. Dear Jackasimov, thanks for the thoughtful extension of the metaphor. I believe that you are really highlighting the problem. In my view it is not about not wanting to pay for media, but about not accepting a dominant business model.

          At the moment, almost all publishing relies on “car dealerships”. If you are a hotdog maker, you have to convince Toyota (or one of their distributors) to sell your hotdog. It is unlikely that you will be able to make a decent living, because even though Toyota charges 10$ per hotdog, you are going to make 50ct per sale. Even if you spend a whole year, making 30000 hotdogs, you will have to work an additional day-job! (And Toyota will not allow you to sell some of your hotdogs on the side, either.) This is a good world for Toyota, but not for you.

          I think you are suggesting that a world where Toyota’s business model breaks down would be a world without hotdogs: a bad thing indeed. However, people will still want to eat hotdogs, and others will still be making hotdogs, even if Toyota stops selling them. The Anti-DRM activists believe that something new is going to happen, which might even lead to a much better income for the hotdog makers, and a lot more hotdogs being in circulation than today.

    5. because then u get ‘big content’ doin what they do best, collude. wheres ur blu ray alternative? see what i mean? they will lock down everything, make it illegal to unlock it, charge the same if not more for the convenience of handling all the distribution and production for em, and do what useless middlemen do best: sit around making money off others work and bribing politicians to make rules in their favor, u know, like disney corporation owning all of stan lees marvel comics ideas FOREVER.

      just dont buy anything w/ drm. personally? i just been downloading PDF’s, i dont do the drm thing lol, and paying to lease digital content? no thanks, sounds bloody daft to me

      now dont get me wrong, i do give money to peole that provide digital content, but not for the actual content. ill pay for cloud services and updates, like steam, netflix, and probably spotify if MAFIAA ever gets over itself. those are services tho, u know, work people do day to day to earn money.

      and lastly, these people are lying scumbags, dtec/ media sentry spamming fakes and viruses, sonys clandestine rootkits, suing women and children for millions and then passing none of the money to the artists, LOL, i wouldnt honor an agreement w/ “big content” any more than id honor an agreement with any other lying, thieving Dbag i want nothing to do with

      PS. unless u add service like steam or spotify, then DRM is REMOVED VALUE, which is just basic business fail lol

    6. Sometimes the item (book, music, whatever), just isn’t available any other way. At least if you pay, and then break the DRM for your own use only, money changes hands and it doesn’t feel as bad as outright stealing.

    7. >> linppenhoffer I understand why people are against DRM

      No, I think it’s obvious you do not understand. DRM is all about money — not for the authors and artists who actually create content but for the publishing centers and media management. Most people see DRM for what it is, a cash cow that benefits the wrong people.

      Quite often in human history, these ‘rules’ you blindly believe in are simply wrong. Wars are more often fought over material goods (land, resources, etc.), not ideology that will benefit society. A ‘rule’ dictating policy that owning slaves might be something you can live with, or a ‘rule’ that women cannot work/vote/own property/whatever might be fine for you, but not all of us look at the world in that same light.

    8. That’s true, but consider. Let’s say I have a Kindle now, and love the heck out of my kindle. Now, two years down the road, let’s say Amazon made a bunch of bad decisions and went out of business. Or, less dramatic, let’s say my Kindle quits working and there’s some awesome Android or WebOS tablet and, since I don’t read in direct sunlight, I can make do with a general-purpose tablet. Further, let’s assume the Kindle software is unavailable on this platform.

      What do I do?

      Further, what does DRM do to competition? Some books may be cheaper on Amazon, some cheaper on Google, some cheaper on B&N, and being a customer on a budget I’d like to buy the lowest copy. If we’re talking about dead-tree media, no problem, I just buy from the lowest-price vendor.

      Now? Well, if I have a Kindle, I buy from Amazon. Period. And if Amazon decides they’re through with the Kindle platform, they might not choose to make those books available. In which case, if I decide to re-read the collected short stories of Jack McDevitt, I may just be SOL if I don’t do something “illegal.”

      That’s crap.

    9. You had to poke the hornet’s nest.

      I think there is an absolutely valid place for DRM, where this kind of crack is more or less immoral: where rentals are available for a lower price than purchases. I’m thinking of the program that cracks iTunes videos, where you have specifically agreed to a limited viewing time in exchange for a price reduction.

    10. An interesting point of view. The phone and cable companies also used to claim that they had control over the lines insides of your house–that you couldn’t put in an extension, that you couldn’t put in another feed, and so on. They were wrong.

      Employee contracts used to have provisions that workers couldn’t join unions– those were thrown out.

      Home buying contracts used to have covenants that precluded a subsequent sale of the home to blacks–efforts that were commonplace across the land–those, too, were declared illegal.

      You’re laboring under an illusion that users don’t have rights… in fact, the DCMA, draconian and pro-business as it is, gives us the right to strip DRM and make back ups.

      So, you see, just because someone says you have to do things a certain way, doesn’t mean that it’s right, ethical, legal, constitutional, etc.

      I am absolutely against ripping off other people’s property, intellectual and otherwise, but once I’ve bought it, it’s up to me to decide how to use it. Plus, let’s get real– the copyright revision acts were written by, lobbied for, and won by publishers. Death + 50 years is an outrage! It serves no purpose, no protection of creativity. It also has greatly limited a host of reading material, educational material that would have been in the public domain now. Even patents only get some 17 years (although that, too, probably has been changed).

  7. > “The Calibre program also allows you to convert files from one format to another, such as Kindle format (.mobi files) to epub files”

    – .Mobi is a Mobipocketbook format, which, while supported by the kindle, is not “Kindle format” (it predates the Kindle and was designed for mobile devices). Kindle’s native format is .azw

    > “Content providers should get a clue that locking their content only irate its users. Pirates will still be pirating their content, no matter what. ”

    – Amazon certainly was dreaming of the book equivelent of iTunes lock in with the Kindle, hence why it went in the exact opposite direction of their other download efforts (MP3 store and such), I won’t dispute that, but there is also no chance in hell that the publishers would have allowed their content to be distributed en mass in a non DRM format (they even DRM content that is now public domain, if they happen to be providing the amazon copy). Publishers see a potential gold mine with ebooks, especially as they have discovered that despite having much lower publishing costs and almost no distribution costs they can still charge near as much as they do for physical books (this is my real issue with ebooks). THey also don’t have to worry about used books and like the notion of people licensing the content rather than owning a physical thing. It will be a long time before they back down on DRM.

    The sad thing for Amazon is that they don’t actually need to do lock-in. The kindle is far and away the best electronic screen to read on, and it is very price competitive.

  8. If the average Boinger were an action figure they would probably come with a soldering iron and oscilloscope or a Dremel tool and an eye loupe as accessories.
    When you can walk into a super mall and realize there is NOTHING to by except perhaps some tools in Sears you are left with modifying stuff to fit your needs, some of us have become experts at this.

  9. If you were a real hacker, you’d make use of the analog hole that’s inherent in any DRM scheme applied to static content. That is, you’d build a robot that takes pictures of each page of the book, presses the button to turn the page, and then use OCR to get the text back out. Complaints about DRM on static content are merely complaints about inconvenient, slow, or lossy it is to copy the content. You have no specific right to convenience.

  10. While I think it’s great that Amazon DRM can easily be cracked, as it increases the pressure on vendors to only sell ebooks *free* of DRM, to me it’s rather a moot point.

    I’m boycotting Amazon because they did not stand up for freedom of expression and did not resist the ridiculous, inconstitutional and most likely illegal political pressure to stop hosting Wikileaks, and I think you should, too.

    Grow a spine, Amazon; and don’t budge to political pressure, unless followed by a crystal clear court order. Till then, I’m taking my business elsewhere.

  11. Has anyone actually tried this?

    I got as far as step 4 and it stopped making any sense, with the current version of Calibre. (“4. Click on the small icon to the right of the Plugin file text field.”) There isn’t a small icon. There isn’t even a “Plugin file text field”…

    1. I actually use the unswindle/Python method detailed in the last post, because this way didn’t work for me for some reason I can’t remember. /helpful

    2. Pldg, that step had me confused, as well. The Calibre developer must have redesigned the UI for that window.

      I believe that the step 4 should read as “Click the ‘add a new plugin’ button at the bottom of the screen.” That worked for me.

      In response to Dave Parker, this solution seems to work on my entire Kindle library, including some new purchases that I just made. Your mileage may vary…

  12. I haven’t tried this yet, but I definitely will. If it doesn’t work for me, then it’s back to buying the book and downloading the ebook from a P2P site. The author still gets their royalties, and I get something I can use.

  13. While I am an advanced user, the real reason I strip DRM from my Kindle purchases is so I can use Calibre to turn Kindle content into PDFs. On various help discussion boards (including one associated with Calibre), some commenters boggle why one would want to convert a convenient .MOBI or .EPUB file to PDF.

    I prefer PDFs because there are a number of tools that can annotate PDF content and export those annotations to plain text. As an advanced user, I can write short scripts to manipulate that content I generated, which makes PDF files the best choice for texts I want to use when conducting research.

    I also like to keep my content to myself until I choose to share it with others. I don’t want to share my notes with others, including the providers of digital content display software such as Amazon and Apple.

  14. As an Indie Author who was new to Amazon when I uploaded my eBooks for sale in their Kindle store, I am now sorry I ever chose the DRM option for my books. Had I known more about it at the time I would not have chosen to place DRM on any of my books. Now, the only way to remove it is to unpublish my 10 eBooks from Amazon and start over. Sadly, I enjoy the small, yet steady income I receive from my efforts so the best I can do is to never place DRM on any of my newly written stories.

    At least they are all still DRM free on Smashwords.

    Sorry folks,

    Jacob M. Drake

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