When you buy an ebook from Amazon, it's yours, right? Technically speaking, Amazon is merely licensing the book to you. And the company can, seemingly on a whim, close your account and delete all your books.
This isn't likely to happen, but it gives me pause. Indeed, it makes me want to back up the books I bought and paid for, just in case. What's more, if I ever decide I want to read those books using, say, another reader (be it an app or device), I'd like the option of converting them to another format.
Both options require the removal of Amazon's DRM -- the digital lock the company puts on its books to prevent unauthorized sharing.
I have no intention of sharing. I simply want to exercise my fair-use rights. Luckily, it's possible to remove Amazon's DRM (at your own risk, of course) using free book manager Calibre and a couple plug-ins.
I'm going to give you the broad strokes of this process. If you're not especially tech-savvy or want a more detailed guide, get Googling.
1. If you haven't already, download and install the Kindle program for your PC. Sign into your account and download any or all of your books.
2. Download, install, and run Calibre.
3. Download these Calibre plug-ins. Unzip the folder and pay attention to where you extracted the files (so you can find them later).
4. In Calibre, click Preferences (you may have to widen the window so you can see that button). In the Advanced section, click Plugins.
5. Click Load plugin from file, then navigate to where you unzipped the Calibre plug-ins. Choose K4MobiDeDRM_v04.19_plugin.zip, then click Open.
6. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to your My Kindle Content folder, which should be inside your Documents/My Documents folder.
7. Look for files of the file type "Kindle Content." (Their actual filenames will be random characters.) Now select one or more and drag them to the main Calibre window.
That's it! Your files should now be unlocked. If they're not in a format you like (some may become MOBI files, others AZW3), you can right-click, choose Convert books, Convert individually, then change them over to something like EPUB.
Looking for more Kindle tips? Check out How to browse the Kindle Lending Library on your PC.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.