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Amazon Kindle for Linux

June 4, 2010
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Amazon’s Kindle applications are one of the most popular ways to read ebooks. Oh sure, some people actually own a Kindle reader but quite a lot of people don’t. They simply use the Amazon Kindle application for their particular hardware.

To date, Amazon is supporting the following platforms:

iPhone
iPad
Blackberry
Mac
Windows

Hmm. It seems that one VERY prominent platform is missing. Yep, that’s right. Amazon still has not released a Kindle application for Linux.

This is a very stupid and shortsighted decision on Amazon’s part and I’ll explain why in this column. Linux has a tremendous amount to offer Amazon…if the company is smart enough to understand why.

Kindle on the Linux Desktop?

Some will ask why on earth anybody would want to read Kindle ebooks on their Linux-based desktop computer. Well, why not? People do, indeed, use the Amazon Kindle application for the Mac and Windows to read ebooks on their desktop computers.

Which platform is missing from this list of Kindle applications?

No, reading an ebook on your desktop Linux computer is not going to be as comfortable as reading it while laying in bed. But, hey, that’s for the individual user to decide. If you aren’t interested in reading ebooks on your computer, then you don’t have to download the application.

Amazon Kindle for Mac.

Of course, some people might install it on their laptops or netbooks. And then they have the option of comfortably reading in bed or sitting upright. Choice is a beautiful thing!

When I’m working on my iMac, I will sometimes pull up my Kindle ebook collection via the Kindle for Mac application. I want to be able to do the same thing when running my favorite Linux distributions. My Kindle books should be available to me, regardless of the operating system I happen to be using at the time.

Distro Bundling

But what about distro developers? Where do they fit into this?

Amazon should be pursuing Linux aggressively by contacting makers of such prominent distros as Ubuntu, Fedora, PCLinuxOS, and numberous others to get the Kindle application bundled right into every Linux desktop. Amazon should also make sure that their Kindle app is available in every Linux software repository.

Imagine if every copy of Ubuntu had the Amazon Kindle application built into one of its application menus? Millions of people use Ubuntu on a daily basis. By default, Amazon would gain access to many people who might never buy a Kindle and who might not own an iPad, iPhone or other device that currently runs the Kindle ebook application.

Amazon would be very foolish to ignore the possibility of distro bundling as part of their business plan.

Amazon’s Kindle for iPad.

But Amazon’s Kindle Application Has DRM!

There are those naysayers that are going to scream bloody murder about the fact that Amazon uses its own proprietary ebook format and that the Kindle application has DRM, etc. Fine, no problem. Don’t use Kindle for Linux then. Keep it off your system and don’t support Amazon by buying Kindle books.

But others might disagree with you and might enjoy the convenience of buying books from Amazon for their Linux systems. DRM, while unacceptable to some, is not necessarily the worst of all evils.

Some people simply prefer the convenience of buying ebooks from a known entity like Amazon, DRM doesn’t bother them in the least. How many Linux users would feel this way? Well I think there are plenty of purists who might detest the idea of buying DRM-laden ebooks. But I think there are plenty of others who simply could not care less about it one way or the other.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Let each Linux user make his or her own choice. Some will buy books from Amazon, and others won’t.

Linux: Amazon’s Secret Weapon Against Apple

By now I’m sure that most of you already know that Apple’s iPad has drawn the attention of many people who might have otherwise bought a Kindle. Amazon is in for the fight of its life against Apple’s slick, new hardware. Apple’s iPad is selling like hotcakes and is no doubt already cutting into Kindle sales.

But Amazon has a secret weapon: Linux.

Apple will never, ever release a version of its iBooks application for Linux. Ever.

So that gives Amazon (or Barnes and Noble or whoever wants to go for it) the opportunity to serve the ebook needs of Linux users. And releasing a version of the Kindle application for Linux is exactly how Amazon can gain access to the wallets of millions of Linux users.

Steve Jobs isn’t smart enough to care about the money of Linux users. Is Jeff Bezos?

Amazon’s Kindle for iPhone.

Final Thoughts

Linux is getting better and better on the desktop. Millions of people use it on a daily basis, around the world. Amazon would be very, very foolish not to take advantage of this.

Amazon needs to release a version of the Kindle application for Linux. And it needs to do it soon. I have my fingers crossed that somebody at Amazon has thought this through, and that the company is quietly working on a version of its Kindle app for Linux.

Linux users are waiting to buy Kindle books, Amazon. Don’t make them wait too much longer.

Edit: I’m very pleased to note that Amazon is now offering the Kindle Cloud Reader that should work on Linux.  Be sure to check it out if you want to read Kindle books on your Linux system. You may need to use Chromium though as it doesn’t seem to support Firefox right now. I’m sure that will change soon though, or at least I hope it will.

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

What’s your take on an Amazon Kindle application for Linux? Tell me in the comments.

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37 Responses to Amazon Kindle for Linux

  1. jutta on July 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    My main problem is that Amazon does not want to sell me ebooks because it does not find Kindle on my PC. Any work-around for that?

  2. Don on July 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I can appreciate the various comments about DRM and Amazon losing out on guaranteed purchases from a significant percentage of Linux distro users. As was stated in one of the comments, it’s your, the user, choice. If we, the users, want to make a dent in Amazon’s ‘firewall’ of marketing, where is the website that we can visit that would report to Amazon the mass of petitioners wanting a Linux version of the Kindle Reader Application?

  3. Peter on June 6, 2011 at 4:42 am

    @ Andreas Mohr:
    Actually, the Kindle Application is Qt…

  4. Old Geek on May 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    As a long-time Windows user who is attempting to wean himself off of Microsoft’s offering, I have been using Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit for three months now. It will be the Windows-killer as soon as some companies–Amazon among them–recognize the move away from Windows and to the open source community. It is particularly annoying that Amazon uses Linux to run their Kindle, but cannot see their way to paying back by offering their software for those of us who also use Linux.

    I own a Kindle 3. I also read on my laptop (Windows XP) and would read on my desktop if the Kindle app ran on Linux. C’mon, Amazon! Get with the program!

  5. Ryan on May 27, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    as a new ubuntu user, I have a 7′ kohjinsha sc3 that I really want it to be able to run kindle app, so I can take it with me and read some books.

  6. John on May 21, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Kindle needs to SERIOUSLY do a better job with kindle software compatibility. It only hurts amazon by NOT releasing kindle for linux because they can still sell books on the app. Plus, what’s most pathetically gastronomically stupid is (and ironic) the OS of the hardware kindle devices actually IS Linux (look it up on wiki)!!! It’s preposterous, dumb, and bordering shady that amazon hasn’t released linux kindle software. I can WINE kindle but teh WINEd version doesn’t allow hightlights. Wake-up amazon/kindle/software-designers, release theapp for linux!

  7. Darren Genge on March 5, 2011 at 10:08 am

    This is an example of an exception to the rule for Linux. I love Linux and would like the ability to sample books on PC before I buy. Surprised it hasn’t happen given Android is Linux…. love the penguin.

  8. Prof. John C. Fish on February 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    @ Prof. John C. Fish:
    BTW, great article.

  9. Prof. John C. Fish on February 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Jim, how about the cross platform application Calibre: Calibre is meant to be a complete e-library solution. It includes library
    management, format conversion, news feeds to ebook conversion as well as
    e-book reader sync features.

    I know this doesn’t get Amazon’s head out of their “you know” but it works in the meantime: http://calibre-ebook.com/

  10. Devlin on February 5, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Exellent and well thought out article. I for one think the publishers have a right to DRM their books. Don’t like the DRM buy a paperback! Our household has been running strictly Linux since 2005 and we are far from purists. We use binaries when it is in our favor such as Adobe’s Flash Player over the open source alternatives because they are still rather buggy, same with my desktop which is running nVidia’s binary driver because I feel the manufacturer knows the hardware best. I don’t care if it’s open sourced or not if it works.

    I am running the Kindle for PC (I hate how they use the term “PC” to mean Windows. Since Linux runs on PC’s as well!). It is okay. If one wants to try it use Wine 1.3.x then the current version of Kindle for PC. I hate using Wine but eh… do what we have too…

  11. kneekoo on January 19, 2011 at 7:57 am

    With 2 billion internet users, 1% out of that number really means there are about 20 million Linux users. Let’s say only 1% of them would buy Kindle books. That means 200,000 clients. Let’s say they would only buy one book at $10. That means $2,000,000. Now really, which mentally SANE sales manager would say no to that amount of income? And that’s only 1% out of 1% for a single cheap book.

    I’d bet at least 10% of those clients will buy more than one title. That’s 20,000 clients that keep generating income while new clients arrive. I guess people stating the Linux market is too small never bothered to do some math. I hope they will. I have some Kindle books as well and I’m not so fond of running Windows apps with wine. I always prefer a native application. It’s just common sense. Really.

  12. karakal on November 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I had a plan.

    1) buy Toshiba nb200 netbook
    2) install ubuntu netbook edition (10.04)
    3) buy all my coursework books off Amazon as ebooks

    Result: one paperless student.
    Advantages: lightweight bag, all my resources a click away (books, notes, internet, UbuntuOne synced files).

    Reason for failure: Amazon does not support my platform.

    Possible work-around: reboot into XP every time I wish to read a book, then reboot back into ubuntu to do actual work… meh

  13. Alex on November 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    @ Alex:
    The instructions here worked, though. The key factor was using an old version of the Kindle For PC software.

  14. Alex on November 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    @ thelonecabbage:

    This failed for me with messages like fixme:system:SetProcessDPIAware stub!
    err:ole:CoGetClassObject class {6e4fcb12-510a-4d40-9304-1da10ae9147c} not registered

  15. Alex on November 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    The argument that there’s no Kindle client for linux because of DRM concerns doesn’t really hold water when you consider that there’s a Kindle client for Android, which is based on Linux, and a virtual Android application which runs on linux. I haven’t tried running Kindle in virtual Android, but don’t know of a reason why it would fail…

  16. Zachary on November 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    This is why they didn’t release a Linux client, and never will.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

    Makes pretty good business sense if you ask me.

    I’m a Linux user, for the record. Arch Linux, to be specific.

  17. Winfried Maus on October 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

    “And releasing a version of the Kindle application for Linux is exactly how Amazon can gain access to the wallets of millions of Linux users.”

    This all sounds nice and cozy, only that there are no millions of Linux users, and even less Linux users who are willing to PAY for (DRMed) software or content.

    The Kindle itself and Android-based devices technically are Linux-systems, but they cater to a different breed of customer than the stereotypical Linux user who usually chooses Linux out of ideological reasons. Heck, even Mac OS X is based upon an open source platform: FreeBSD. But the people who use it usually don’t have a political reason to use their platform of choice.

    If Linux were such a lucrative market, why is there still so little commercial desktop software available for Linux? Not even game developers port their titles to Linux, and if they do, they hardly make any money with it – if you believe in what John Carmack, the father of Doom, says.

    Linux is an awesome server platform and it is also a great platform if you want to build highly customized solutions. My company and I use it for several purposes on dozens of machines, and Linux serves us very, very well.

    However, on the desktop, it still is completely irrelevant. Linux desktop users are just the LOUDEST crowd on the Internet, but as a matter of simple fact, they are also still the smallest crowd and it makes little to no commercial sense to write and deploy DESKTOP software to Linux. (Mobile gadgets and servers are a completely different story.)

  18. Ed on October 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I’m confused. The Kindle Software is available for Linux, buy a Kindle from Amazon and you will get a locked down Linux tablet running Kindle software.

    I would far rather have a vanilla Linux tablet that could run Kindle, as well as any other app that I chose, including other ebook readers.

    If Amazon release the Kindle software for Linux, firstly it may help people to reverse engineer it, and secondly why buy a locked down Linux tablet that can only run Kindle, when you could pay around the same and get so much more.

    Releasing Kindle for Linux would undermine the business model.

  19. noah on October 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    @ Martin Owens:
    they aren’t asking for it to be there by default, all he is saying is that the software should be compatible with linux

  20. John Burbridge on September 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I wholeheartedly disagree with the author. This seems like a particularly backward move, especially at a time when DRM is loosing ground (ie, Apple removing DRM from iTunes).

    I’m all for shipping an eBook reader in every linux distro… Just keep it opened and free from DRM so that Amazon, B&N, and Apple have to compete for the Linux corner of the market… as is currently the case with MP3s.

    Besides, who’s side are we on anyway? The users and distros who have absolutely nothing to gain by supporting DRM’d content? Or a retail giant who needs to duke it out with it’s competitors? Sounds like the only party who would have anything to gain anything here is Amazon.

    And it’s not about purity… It’s about using the little consumer power we have in a smart way. I say, let’s not give away for free the only bargaining chip we have. Amazon certainly isn’t giving anything for free.

  21. Alessandro on August 20, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Martin Owens wrote:

    Your asking for a distribution like Ubuntu to bundle not only a proprietary application, but also one locked down so tight with DRM it makes DeCSS look like a wonky gate. It’s never going to happen.
    I know you think it’s just purest who have a problem with DRM and closed source, but honestly that’s just short sighted naivety, in the long view these things are harmful even if they’re useful up front.
    Amazon can release a version of it’s software, maybe put it in the partner repository and give people choice, but there will be bloody civil war over it’s default inclusion.

    Theoretically speaking you are right, but take into account that a lot of people of the Linux community is using something like Skype, that is not an open source package. By that I meant that if something is working under Linux and free, even if closed, it will be used by the most of people using Linux.

    The problem is that the Linux community, even if growing up day by day, is still too little to catch the attention of the the big companies (for example look at the trial to sell netbooks with linux pre-installed….. just a trial!). Take also into account that the most of the Linux people have a dual boot on their PC, because some specific applications cannot be substituted by any packages under Linux. Or if they don’t have a dual boot they have a virtual machine with Windows installed. Kindle is one more program (I am so sad for that) that will be just for Windows, Apple, and (maybe) Android.

  22. Ongytenes on July 5, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I read an article at: http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/02/microsoft-amazon-patent-deal-covers-kindle-linux.ars

    According to it, Amazon entered into cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft. Also it states “Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed”.

    Every Linux user should email Amazon to let them know how much they stand to lose if they scorn the Linux community. Maybe they will decide to support the Linux OS unless…. they allowed Microsoft to tie their hands.

  23. Hugh on July 2, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Jim Carter wrote:

    My take on DRM is, maybe in the 23rd century we don’t use money, but in the 21st century the artists (and the publishers and agents and advertisers and leeches and vermin) have to eat, which can’t happen if the product is made available for free.

    I recently bought my first ereader, a Kobo. The only ebooks that I’ve bought are from O’Reilly because they come without DRM. So one can make money selling ebooks without DRM.

    I own a lot of books. I’m experimenting with ebooks. One thing that I’ve not gotten comfortable with is DRM since my books would become fragile in a way that real books are not. That’s fine if you are just intending to immediately read them and then discard them but not if you collect them. So DRM significantly reduces the value of a book in my perception.

  24. Michael Bernhard Sorensen on July 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I would imagine that the patent settlement between Microsoft and Amazon prohibites Amazon to make a linux version of the kindle software.

    I use linux and I recently updated my HTC hero android phone so now I got Kindle for Android running. I’ve bought my first books allready.

    I hope in time that Amazon will make every book in store available on kindle. That way I could get rid of lots of books and just keep my books on a kindle or on my android phone.

  25. Jim Carter on June 29, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Amazon recently put out a Kindle app for Android, so they are halfway there. It should be relatively easy to hack the app and/or provide enough imitation Android infrastructure to make it run on generic Gnu/Linux. I really agree with you, Amazon ought to be doing the hacking, to maximize their profit on book license sales.
    I have *got* to get my local hacks ported to Android 2.1 (probably 2.2 by the time I’m done) so I can install that app.
    While some distros like SuSE (Novell) allow limited closed-source packages, the politics of Kindle are much too icky for a sane distro manager to get involved in, plus they risk alienating their most valuable users. Amazon should continue to distribute the apps from their own repo and they should not make themselves flame bait by bothering any distro with the Kindle app.
    My take on DRM is, maybe in the 23rd century we don’t use money, but in the 21st century the artists (and the publishers and agents and advertisers and leeches and vermin) have to eat, which can’t happen if the product is made available for free. If there were a cracker program for Kindle I would install it, and then only use it for fair use under copyright law. Specifically, reading in a multi-protocol reader. Until then, I’ll use the Kindle app. My personal objection to DRM is when it doesn’t *work* on Linux. When it does work, the result is not even as bad as a hardcopy book or a vinyl disc, for which you need physical possession to get at the content.

  26. Hugh on June 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Reasonable Linux distros only include open-source applications. Applications implementing DRM cannot be open-source. So distros could not include the Kindle reader.

    There is no reason that Amazon could not make available a Kindle reader package for selected distros. Care would probably be required to obey the LGPL since it would probably apply.

    Kobo is making available Kobo readers for 32-bit Ubuntu on a limited basis.

    Adobe promised ADE for Linux several years ago but has not delivered. Apparently the MS Windows version can be run under WINE.

  27. Robert Fizbinsky on June 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    After doing a simple ‘strings’ dump of the KindleForPC.exe file I can say with some certainty that the reader uses some FOSS libraries. Two of these:

    OpenSSL
    Qt

    are natively available for Linux. I see no reason for Amazon NOT to recompile their application with a simple flag to build the reader for Linux and provide for a general use binary on any Intel/Linux distribution.

  28. Michael J. Hennessey on June 10, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I love e books and have read them on a Palm, Blackberry, Droid and computer with windows and now Linux Mint operating systems.

    I have not been excited in any of the readers until now. I just ordered the Kobo from Border books. I was going to get the Nook but after the suggested accessories the price went to 500 dollars.

    I looked at the IPAD and I don’t think it knows what it is. It does a lot of things so so and maybe plays video well.

    I have never found a lack of books or magazines to read.

    I think you are right that Amazon and many other companies should look closer at the market share they are loosing not providing for linux.

  29. PKD on June 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

    A Java app might be a good idea. Would lay the groundwork for an Android app.

    Don’t hold your breath though. Easier to find PDF and ePub files.

    I’ll keep hoping though.

  30. Andreas Mohr on June 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    I want to add some info here about the fact that Amazon Kindle is just one link in a long, long, toooo long (did I mention long?) chain of devices which are Linux-based in their entirety yet don’t provide one shred of Linux desktop support (read: they probably failed to have this accounted for almost automatically – simply by implementing their desktop apps in proper cross-platform code using toolkits such as Qt, wxWidgets, GTK from the get-go, that is). What a shame.

    For the Kindle, one perhaps(!) credible reason for missing Linux support is the DRM incompatibility issue,
    but there are many other devices such as TomTom, Motorola phones, too many embedded Linux devices with FAT-only SD card file system support (which very helpfully reformat your ext[234]-based cards if you dare to insert them!), and another class of Linux devices with IE-only web administration support (though this particular nuisance now developed into a thing of the distant past I guess), and probably some other Linux NAS boxes with network share integration via Samba yet certain Linux desktop support insufficiencies (although the ASUS WL-500gP v2 is a nice exception since it very prominently states on the box that it provides a “SAMBA Server”).

    If vendors choose to use Linux for their device implementation, then that’s of course a very nice thing (certainly with not too many further obligations resulting from this, legally), but if one then goes ahead and creates _perfect_ support for multiple platforms (some with market share figures very comparable to Desktop Linux!) yet no support whatsoever for Linux, then that’s quite despicable. Morally, even providing something simple as “working base support” on Linux for a Linux-based device would be ok… – thus, not even providing that definitely is NOT.

    But oh my, who am I to be authorized to talk about morals… in the face of a nice BP spill and such it’s quite obvious that morals and robust business practices and behaviour is something entirely uncalled-for. :sick: :alien:

  31. rich on June 7, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I have bought a number of books on Amazon. What I like about electronic books is their search feature. Books indexes can only go so far. I like the portable, instant availability of books. So what’s a geek to do? I buy the printed books on Amazon that have the “Search inside this book” feature. The online book search takes me to the specific pages that have that particular word and I look up those particular pages in my paper book.

  32. Sam Daniel on June 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    While I agree that it would be nice if Amazon had a Kindle app for Linux, I think it won’t happen any time soon.

    As you probably know, Amazon has many free MP3 downloads available, but only if you use their proprietary downloader. They do have versions for Linux, but they have not been kept up to date. Since they apparently aren’t going to update their downloader for newer versions of Linux, it’s unlikely they plan to release any new apps for the Linux platform.

  33. homer on June 7, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I’m no Linux purist. But I have to agree that the good fight is the one against any form of drm. Freedom the likes that Linux provides has impacts that reach far beyond the desktop or pc that runs is. Globally we all need to work towards information freedom. In everything we do cooperative openness is the way of the future and I’m afraid the kindle application has no place in that future.

  34. John Bailey on June 7, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Kindle reader.. :sick: No thanks. Almost as bad as Apple when it comes to customer abuse through DRM.

    Pretty odious DRM, locked to one hardware brand, one store.. The opposite of open. If you tried to design a less open product, you would have a hard time. The extra DRM is there only to further Amazon’s world book selling domination goal. Not to protect publishers or authors.

    We can and do already have pretty much full access to ebooks. Excluding DRM..

    Check out Calibre. Great e-book reading/library manager. Works with pretty much every format, and converts between them. Linux/Windows/and I think Mac. Also supports multiple e-book readers.

    FB reader. Multi format cross platform reader software. Click an icon,and it flips the text 90degrees so you can hold the computer like a book and read longer pages/read lying down if you like.

    If you really want to lobby someone so we can have the option to buy DRM infected books, please ignore the Kindle. lobby Adobe to get their Adobe reader software ready for Linux. Multiple brands of e-book reader supported, DRM not limited to one closed store on one closed device. More books than Amazon’s Kindle. And you can buy a reader from one maker, later use a different maker,and still keep your books.

    And I’d be willing to be that when Google starts selling e-books, ePub is far more likely to be among the options than the Kindle.

  35. Martin Owens on June 5, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Your asking for a distribution like Ubuntu to bundle not only a proprietary application, but also one locked down so tight with DRM it makes DeCSS look like a wonky gate. It’s never going to happen.

    I know you think it’s just purest who have a problem with DRM and closed source, but honestly that’s just short sighted naivety, in the long view these things are harmful even if they’re useful up front.

    Amazon can release a version of it’s software, maybe put it in the partner repository and give people choice, but there will be bloody civil war over it’s default inclusion.

  36. William on June 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    For elderly disabled folks, such as myself, the idea of reading books on a computer is an excellent one. Hand tremors, vision inadequacies, and other physical problems are overcome that cannot be with books.

    Linux presents elderly and handicapped an opportunity to own a working computer with cutting-edge software, whereas, Windows, Apple, and others are anything but free.

    For those of us who love to read, these two reasons alone plead a good case for Kindle on Linux. We’re not in a place to argue the politics of open v closed source. With survival issues barely managed, it’s a blessing to have Linux, and it would be a wonderful addition to be able to read any book we chose on our computer, while sitting in bed, or a wheelchair.

    Thank you for calling this issue to the attention of more people. It has always seemed strange to be that places who create, use, or sell Linux devices would be slow to move their foresightedness to the desktop/cloud.



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