I want to purchase an eBook reader device and eBooks. I don't use Windows, Mac OS or Wine. Most eBooks sold today are encumbered with DRM. Therefore, I need a workflow to buy and read DRM eBooks either using only the device or using Ubuntu.

The three popular types of DRM in use today are:

  1. Adobe Digital Editions(ADE) used with the ePub format on multiple devices with books from several stores. This software requires Windows, Mac or Android. Sony Reader and B&N Nook Apps appear to be variants of ADE.
  2. Apple iTunes. This software requires Windows or Mac (or an iDevice).
  3. Amazon Kindle. This requires, a Kindle, Kindle software (such as on Androids) or Kindle Cloud (through web browser).

This leaves me with two option

  • an Android device with a DRM app (Kindle or ADE)
  • a Kindle

Both can directly communicate with a store and handle the DRM themselves, a computer is not required. To my knowledge there is no Android device with an eInk display.

Other devices are not an option because although the support ePubs with ADE DRM, it appears that a computer with the ADE software or some variant thereof is required (according Google eBooks, B&N, Sony) While many readers have Wifi or 3G, no manufacturer states that you can buy DRM books without going through a computer with the ADE software.

This brings me to the conclusion that Amazon's kindle is the only eInk device that will work for me. Can you name an alternative?

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    Doesn't Kindle have a web interface that could theoretically be used from Linux? (Theoretically because I haven't tried it.) – zpletan Nov 14 '11 at 18:46
  • My Kindle works with duokan firmware and 11.10 with calibre and I can use any eBook I want that has no DRM (ePub for one). – Rinzwind Nov 15 '11 at 14:08
  • If you want a dedicated device - what has this got to do with Ubuntu? Please explain why this question shouldnt be flagged to be closed because at the moment, to me it looks off-topic. – fossfreedom Nov 17 '11 at 21:26
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    At @fossfreedom, you are right, in a perfect world, this question would have nothing to do with Ubuntu. However, both ebook publishers and device manufacturers, frequently assume that their customers will connect their device to a personal computer and access the shop website from a personal computer. The ebook "system requirements" commonly list a proprietary Windows software to handle the DRM. This renders the device/DRM-ebook useless for Ubuntu users. Hence, Ubuntu users must buy an ebook device, which does not rely on Windows software (for DRM). – Jan Nov 17 '11 at 22:38
  • @Jan I understand your pursuit with this question, I just want to let other users know Shopping Recommendations are typically off-topic. This question is very, very borderline off-topic. Due to it's highly specific nature though I believe it still fits within the site scope. As for an answer, I think you have it already with a Kindle device. – Marco Ceppi Mar 6 '12 at 15:33

I am the owner of a Kindle and, until a couple of weeks ago, of a Sony Reader. As you explain, and not everyone understood, you can manage both devices with Calibre, but you CAN NOT manage DRM epubs on the Sony unless you use their software (=> Windows). You have to register in Adobe or something like that (actually, I never cared to do it) and it's not possible in Linux.

So your choice is reduced to the Kindle, honestly. First of all, a Kindle is actually a modified Android (it gets recognized as such if you visit certain websites). In addition, I can't think of any Android device with e-ink display.

My advice would be to go for the Kindle. It's a great device for reading, buying from their shop is ridiculously easy and you won't have any problems finding free books for it elsewhere (if you can't find them in .mobi, which is rare, you can convert them with calibre).

I actually bought the Sony in the first place because I was concerned about the EPUB issue, but found out that is almost never an issue.

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    AFAIK, Kindles use the Linux kernel and a webkit browser engine. However to my knowledge, the eInk devices don't seem to have anything else in common with Android. – Jan Feb 29 '12 at 17:31
  • Yes, you are right. I might have mixed up information I read about the Kindle and the Nook (that one is Android indeed). – Cmorales Feb 29 '12 at 18:05

I want to purchase an eBook reader device and eBooks.

Purchasing an eBook (or eReader) is just like buying a computer. You first have to identify the software ('books') that you are going to want, and which 'platform(s)' supports them.

For eBook purchases: Amazon is the market leader (in terms of selection, market value, or market share). Barns and Noble (Nook), Sony, etc., are other alternatives ..

For free eBooks: The Internet has myriad sources for (quite literally) millions of titles. Most are in .epub and .pdf format, but plenty are available in the format of your choice.

I don't use Windows, Mac OS or Wine.

You don't need any of these. The suppliers want you on their website. For example, Amazon.com actively encourages you to send your purchases directly to your device. This can be done a any time, by 'syncing' your device. Anyone can do this, without any technical expertise ..

Most suppliers support (or allow) downloading the file to your PC. The device can simply be connected via USB, allowing easy management of all content.

Most eBooks sold today are encumbered with DRM.

YES, that is true. And these eBooks are NOT intended to be used on multiple platforms (eg. Nook and Kindle). Sadly, this is about protecting their market share and NOT the authorship ..

Therefore, I need a workflow to buy and read DRM eBooks either using only the device or using Ubuntu.

You ONLY need Calibre and a browser.

sudo apt-get install calibre

Calibre will manage your (ever-growing) collections of books, convert between nearly ALL possible formats, has a built-in eBook reader, and will connect and manage most devices.

It will NOT convert the format of DRM eBooks - but unless you have multiple brands of eReader under one roof, and want to freely share, this should not be an issue ..

I have some 15,000 titles (mostly free), and use Calibre on Ubuntu 11.10 to manage my Kindle 3. I previously used various earlier versions, and on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Note: You have NOT stated what version of Ubuntu you are using, and an older OS (or newer device) may require some additional care & feeding.

for example: (I used this, about a year ago)

Using Calibre with a Kindle 3 on Ubuntu 10.04


UPDATE 20-Aug-2012

Still using Calibre (now v0.8.64), now under Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

No longer using Kindle 3, gave it to a friend. Now I have two Kindle 4 (non-touch), one for home use the other for work/traveling.

Basically, no issues to report ..

  • Thank you for your answer. I think, I understand the Amazon/Kindle platform (doesn't require a PC) and the workflow for non-DRM eBooks (will work with calibre and any reader). However, unlike Amazon and maybe Apple, any other supplier of DRM eBooks (software) I'm aware of, requires in their fine print to have a PC with some software, typically a variant of ADE. Calibre has limited support for DRM eBooks. However, it's not clear whether the full process from buying the software to reading it on the device, which may require some sort of registration of the device, can be done without Windows. – Jan Nov 20 '11 at 11:19
  • The original intent of DRM was to: (a.) protect the content (prevent editing, or changing author/publisher), (b.) tie the product to a particular device (to prevent copying), and (c.) track the purchaser (to prevent piracy/re-sale). BUT, they (eBook publishers) don't really do all three anymore. They generally include (a.), and sometimes (c.), and they don't make this very clear. – david6 Nov 20 '11 at 11:29

A lot of time has passed since this question was asked, but I think that it's worth adding that as of today, both Barnes and Noble's Nooks and Kobo's ereaders allow you to purchase content without going through your computer, not just the Amazon Kindles. I've used both Kobos and Nooks, and can manage with Ubuntu without any major complaints.

In addition, DRM-unencumbered books can be copied to these devices via USB from Ubuntu as if you were transferring files to any mass storage device.

It appears possible, but complicated, to install the Kobo Desktop via WINE, but the OP didn't appear interested in this.


Not totally sure what you are after but for what it's worth you can download a "Kindle Cloud Reader" App for Chrome and Firefox. I have done this (I do not own a Kindle) and have registered with Amazon and bought and downloaded books to read in this way.


Maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult to tell what you're asking here.

Kindle-formatted books cannot be read on any other device without breaking the DRM. (Edit: This does not apply to devices that have Kindle apps available to them, such as Android phones/tablets, iPads, and even desktop browsers through Amazon's Cloud Reader. I am referring only to dedicated e-ink eReaders.) And Kindles can't read many other formats (only Amazon's proprietary format and PDF). However, you can get data onto and off of Kindles in Ubuntu.

If you're looking for as much flexibility/portability as possible, you should buy your books in ePub format whenever possible. This format is supported by the widest number of devices (except for maybe PDF or plain text), and is an open standard, although it is frequently protected by DRM.

Booksellers who offer books in the ePub format include Kobo Books and Google eBooks. These can be purchased, downloaded to your PC, and transferred to any device that reads ePub-formatted books.

eReaders that can read the ePub format include the Kobo, the Sony Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook, but there are many more. Shop around to see which one suits you best.

In order to get eBooks onto your eReader, you won't necessarily even need to use your PC. Some, like the Kindle and Nook, can be used to purchase eBooks right from the device. Others will require you to upload the eBook to the eReader from your PC. There is a terrific native Linux application for eBook management called Calibre, available in the Ubuntu Software Center, which supports many different eReaders.

In short, regarding your final question ("Is it correct that the Kindle reader the only eInk device that would give Ubuntu users access to commercial ebooks?"), the answer is no.

  • I routinely read Kindle ebooks on my Android phone and on my iPad using Amazon's free apps. I have also installed the Kindle reader using Wine in Ubuntu 11.10 and have read my Kindle ebooks there. I'm pretty sure I haven't broken the DRM. – Matt Hulse Nov 14 '11 at 19:18
  • I'm sorry, what I meant was that Kindle books can't be read on other dedicated eReaders. Several devices have a Kindle app available, and on those devices, you can read Kindle books. – Jay Nov 14 '11 at 19:24
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    @Jay, the stores you mention sell ePubs with Adobe ADE DRM. While this is compatible with many devices, ADE is by no means an open standard. According to Adobe, this DRM schemes requires proprietary Windows/Mac software to access the ebooks. – Jan Nov 14 '11 at 20:25
  • You're right Jan, I've updated my answer and hopefully it's more accurate/clear. – Jay Nov 14 '11 at 20:30
  • "Buy a Sony Reader, download purchases from Google Books, and upload them to the device with Calibre." @Jay, I don't believe this will work. Google and Sony clearly state that "Reader Library Software", Sony's variant of ADE, is required. This software exists for Windows, Mac, and Android, but not for Linux/Calibre or eInk devices. (Unlike Sony Tablets, the Sony eInk reader does not appear to run Android.) Have you personally bought an ebook that way? – Jan Nov 15 '11 at 10:35

The basic problem for DRM ebooks is that you cannot link a sony ereader to ADE using Ubuntu platform!Until Adobe come up with a linux[?]/Ubuntu based ADE: it is a no go area the only option is to use microsoft for ADE.

Wifi is a solution but you need to be able to access such services and where I live it is non existent ! best Peter

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