How to read ebooks purchased from Kobo on a Kindle

When an ebook is not available directly through a publisher, I’d like to purchase it through Kobo rather than Amazon. A nice part of Kobo is the option to associate your account with an independent bookstore. Once associated, the store receives some amount of money for any ebook you purchase. This allows me to continue to support local shops while also reading books digitally.

Kobo provides ebooks as EPUB files with DRM applied via Adobe Digital Editions. Only Kobo authorized readers have the ability to open these files.

The Kindle does not support any type of EPUB file. If it did, I’m sure it would not support Adobe Digital Editions DRM, as Amazon has its own. Kindle primarily supports the more proprietary MOBI and AZW3 formats. You can convert non-DRM locked EPUB files to MOBI using Amazon’s KindleGen tool on the command line, though I’m not sure how robust it is.

When I purchased a Kindle Voyage 5 years ago, Amazon’s intent was to lock me into their ecosystem as much as possible. I would like to use another reader, but one point of reading digitally is to save natural resources, not burn through them faster by buying more devices. If I can’t use another e-reader, I can at least use another book source.

I’ll avoid digressing any further and save some thoughts on Amazon and e-readers for another time.

According a ruling recapped by the EFF, explaining how to remove the lock from a piece of content is not copyright infringement. The federal judge in that ruling said:

The act of infringement underlying the inducement claim, however, is not the removal of DRM protection. Rather, it is the copying and distribution of ebooks to others after such protection has been removed.

Because of that ruling, I’ll feel comfortable—legally and ethically—following these instructions every time I forget what I had to do the last time to read an EPUB I purchased.

So here’s how to remove the DRM on an ebook purchased from Kobo (or elsewhere) so that it can be read on a Kindle.

Prerequisites

  • Download and install Adobe Digital Editions.
  • Download and install Calibre, an open source ebook manager.
  • Download and extract the latest ZIP release of DeDRM_tools.
  • Open Calibre, open its preferences, and navigate to “Plugin” under “Advanced.
  • Use “Load plugin from file” to add the obok_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
  • Use “Load plugin from file” to add the DeDRM_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
  • Restart Calibre before loading any books.

Obtain the EPUB file from a Kobo purchase

When a ebook is downloaded from your Kobo library, it is saved by default as URLLink.acsm. This is not an ebook, but instead a document containing a fullfillmentToken element with a bunch of information about the ebook. This includes its format and the license data associated with Adobe. This file can only be opened with Adobe Digital Editions (or a reader that supports Adobe’s DRM).

Drag or otherwise open the ACSM file in Adobe Digital Editions.

You’ll need to authorize your computer the first time you do this, but there’s an option for doing so without an Adobe ID. I have absolutely no idea what happens during that process, but it works.

Once authorized, the book should then open in Adobe Digital Editions. Close the book itself and go back to Bookshelves. Right click on the book title and choose “Show in Finder”. This brings you directly to the EPUB file that was downloaded by Adobe Digital Editions for this ebook.

Convert the EPUB to MOBI

Whether or not the EPUB has DRM, via Adobe and Kobo, or is an unlocked EPUB through a source, like Gutenberg or a forward-thinking author, Calibre can now be used to convert the file into MOBI, a format readable by Kindle, so that you can read the book you purchased.

Drag or otherwise open the EPUB file in Calibre. Right click on the book title, choose “Convert Books” and “convert individually”.

A screen will come up with a bunch of options that are likely unnecessary. In the top left, Calibre will show that the conversion is from EPUB. In the top right, it will show that the conversion is to MOBI.

Click “Ok” in the bottom right and Calibre will proceed to convert the book.

Once that window disappears, MOBI will be listed as one of the book’s available formats. Use “Click to open” next to “Path” or right click on the book and select “open containing folder”.

This folder contains all of the formats available for the book. Either email the MOBI file to Kindle’s personal document service or copy it manually to the device via USB.

The purchased book can now be read! 📚