Connecting and Disconnecting the Device on Linux

Linux or GNU Documentation in EBook Format

Amazon's Publishing Kindlegen

Amazon's Free Conversion

Amazons's News & Blogs Subscriptions

Calibre - EBook Format Converting Tool

Kindle Custom Firmware?

Amazon Kindle DXG Bugs

Updated 2016.09.12: Added notes concerning optimizing PDF files for Kindle devices, using GhostScript; and likely Poppler PDFtoHTML for possibly rendering to PDB/PRC/MOBI.


Just got my new Amazon Kindle DXG around August 2011.  (Yea, it takes me about 5+ years to buy a new gadget these days.)

It's great being able to finally read & study Linux Manual Pages without the glare of a computer monitor!  Love E-Ink!

I did have some problems finding command line only tools for converting files to the reader's .mobi format,  so I've taken some time to create some HTML pages documenting my successes and failures in hopes of making life simpler for others.

The thing I most like about this device and most surprised me, is it's durability!  Unlike a LCD display where you want to keep your fingers off, you can touch and even press the display with pressure and it will not bend or flex.  It's quite rigid clear plastic.  And because the text appears so much like real text in a book, at times I find myself flipping the device over to view the opposite side of the page!

Unlike a real book with the inability to turn pages while in a jacuzzi, you can put the device into a good quality zip lock bag and read.  To turn the pages, just press the buttons.  Although I hinder at doing this with $400 devices, I've already done so and see little risk.  However, I've yet to drop or submerse the device while in a ziplock bag intentionally into the water.

Connecting and Disconnecting the Device on Linux

Make sure you have the following package installed:
sys-block/eject ->

The Kindle is treated as an ordinary removable media (ie. USB memory stick) when plugged in.  On plug-in, the screen on the device will let you know it's plugged in and possibly has it's media mounted, locking you out from until you've safely unmounted partition.

Your Linux computer will likely create a device file on plug-in such as /dev/sdb1, or /dev/sdc1, or ...

From here, either your Linux distribution will auto mount the device using udev to /media/kindle, /mnt/auto, ...  It's up to you to make sure it's mounted as you like.  There's little documentation on using udev or autofs with the Kindles.

To unmount, unmount the device as you usually do for any other removable media, however notice the screen will still say "USB Drive Mode".  To regain control of the Kindle, issue the eject command.

# eject /dev/sdc1

or, if you just want to the screen back to normal so you can see the files you're copying to the device use the "-m" switch to prevent unmounting:

# eject -m /dev/sdc1

While the device is plugged in, it will charge using USB power (5V @ 0.80 AMPS).

NOTE: ALWAYS unmount the device prior to disconnecting, else you risk data loss -- especially since the partition format is vfat and not journaled!

Linux or GNU Documentation in EBook Format

Although there's little Linux or GNU Documentation in EBook format, I tend to download both the PDF and HTML file of each.  I convert the HTML to MOBI using either kindlegen or ebook-convert.  I then copy, both, a PDF and MOBI version to the device.  I prefer to read the MOBI format as there's a feature to enter Notes and Highlights as well as Bookmarks.  These notes are saved to a text file on the device, and can copy to your computer later.  Sometimes formating errors happen with MOBI files, so I have the original formatting with the PDF files.

GNU Manuals Online - Contains some excellently formated content!  I usually get the .pdf and .html for each tool.  I then convert the .html using Calibre's ebook-converter because those .html files are quite complex and kindlegen will mangle them.  The GNU Manuals either contain the main documentation for a tool versuses it's manual page, or they're a duplicate of the tool's manual page.

$ ebook-convert tool.html --output-profile kindle_dx --language en

(If you want, use an additional --authors "GNU".)

C Programming - A lot of C Programming Books are available as a free PDF file.  This is where you just have to know what is published and where it is published.  Such as the ISO standards, hence, a good starting point is the IRC C IRC WIKI page as it lists the most popular books and publications' location.

Python 2.7.1 Tutorial - Somebody has converted the Python 2.7.1 Tutorial to epub.  Unfortunately, Python docs are still all HTML.  Kindlegen does pretty good at conveting .epub files to .mobi:

$ kindlegen python-tutorial_2.7.1.epub

O'Reilly Media - O'Reilly offers their books in many formats including PDF, MOBI and EPUB for the price of one EBook.  You can download all formats of the book you bought without restrictions or DRM.  When you buy a technical book on Amazon, only a MOBI is available with the likeliness of it being encrypted with DRM is available -- but the price is usually reduced.  I still buy all other books through Amazon based on the low price and ease of availability.

For all PDF files, when reading on a gray scale Amazon Kindles with either 150 or 300 PPI, color PDF files and PDF files containing high resolution images are too much for these slower generation of Amazon Kindles!  Users of PDF files should immediately render their PDF files in gray scale, and reduce the resolution of the images to 150-300 PPI.

$ gs -sOutputFile=output.pdf -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray -dAutoRotatePages=/None -dPDFSETTINGS=/ebook -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dFirstPage=1 -dLastPage=10 -r150 TheOldFarmersAlmanac-2017.pdf

The parameters are more well documented within the GhostScript Ps2pdf.htm page.  (Edit the link with your installed version of GhostScript.)

Poppler PDFtoHTML
Another utility for likely converting these larger PDF files to PRC/PDB/MOBI.

Amazon's Publishing Kindlegen

A proprietary Linux command line tool.

Where kindlegen fails, converting HTML <TABLE> tags for usability within the Kindle.  There's hack to get <TABLE> tags viewing correctly within the Kindle is to set <BORDER=0>. )

Amazon's Free Conversion

You can also send files through Amazon's semi-free conversion service, but it's not much better formating then the kindlegen's output.

Amazons's News & Blogs Subscriptions

Be aware, these newspapers are a smaller content version then the regular newspaper subscriptions.  However, I quite enjoy the lighter content and I get what I need to know and I'm not forced into reading Ads and other unnecessary articles, along with the ink on my hands and the paper is delivered without effort to me in the mornings!

Unlike the newspaper subscriptions, I like the blog subscripts for the major news outlets such as Reuters Blog and the New York Times Blog for two reasons;

1) They overwrite the previous file on a daily basis so there are no files piling up in my root folder crying to be tended to or deleted, unlike the regular newspaper subscription files.

2) When you view them, they have an option to view an index of all article title entries, allowing your to view only the articles you want to.  This is unlike the regular newspaper subscription because there is no title index entry page, you must view each article whether you want to or not.  The only index you get with the newspaper subscription is a category of articles page.

3) The service is much like reading Google News, but using E-Ink vs. a bright computer monitor.

Calibre - EBook Format Converting Tool

One other gotcha for Linux, if you plan on using Calibre's command-line ebook-convert tool, you still need X running (for some dumb reason) to convert a book.  Even though it does do conversion well, I prefer converting the Linux Manual Pages and other simple text and HTML pages by hand as noted on my other page here on this site.

Kindle Custom Firmware?

I've done a little research, and have found little to no custom firmwares for the Kindle.  There is a chinese based alternate firmware for the Kindles, but it doesn't really overwrite the original firmware and installs itself on the remaining free space of the internal storage media.  You alternate between it and the Amazon Kindle firmware interface.  Since I might have some personal information on the device, I prefer not to use this.

There have been some attempts to create or modify the device, but the license agreement you agreed to when buying the device could cause legal issues.  And it seems to be hindering many users from further hacking, as we do get free mobile/cellular data service with the device.  Hacking could cause you to lose your free service, and seems to have even bricked some devices.

On the flip, I don't like the idea of being forced not having read access to common ASCII Text files!  Even HTML should be viewable by the device as it does have an experimental browser installed.  Some prefer to be able to view .epub, as .epub files are an open format.

Amazon Kindle DXG Bugs

Although I make note of some issues with the Kindle DXG, it's a well designed electronic device and will gladly buy a second one!  The following is just for documentation, so buyers are aware prior to buying or so users can work around them.  Also, Amazon may update the firmware, currently version 2.5.8, fixing many of these bugs.

1) <TABLE> HTML Tags require a <BORDER=0> work around.  (Search MobileRead Calibre forums for specific information.)  Also, background colors of text other then white can cause some reading problems.  All these issues are addressed within AmazonKindlePublishingGuidelines.pdf for HTML authors to avoid as kindlegen fumbles with these formatting tags.

2) The page number at the bottom of the notes for .mobi files page disappears at times when you most need to see it!

3) To view the time, press the menu button.  But you only get the time and no date!  For the date, you're required to type date after opening up a search box.  Tedious for such a simple task!

4) Raw file names are not displayed within the main list of files or file details.  This can cause problems if experimenting viewing files of different types.

5) There is no clickable Contents Page or Index pages.  However, you can get to a specific page, by pressing the Menu Button and then entering the specific page number.

6) Sending a document through Amazon's on-line conversion service replaces the author's field with the sender's email address.