How-To: Read George Orwell’s 1984 on your Kindle

How-To: Read George Orwell’s 1984 on your Kindle

Citizen! If you bought a copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-four,” (1984) for your Kindle it was deleted. It appears that the publisher changed its mind about digital versions (update, they were never allowed to publish them in the first place) and Amazon reached in and removed it from your reader. Sorry for the inconvenience! So, what to do? Let’s assume you’re going to go on a nice trip, like Australia, and you really wanted to read 1984 – once you get there, you can easily reload your Kindle with a copy of 1984. “Little Brother” will show you how…

g'day mate, i'm a kindleroo
Once you arrive in Australia stop by this site and download a copy of 1984. Read the warning first:

Under Australian copyright laws, copyright in literary works of authors, who died before 1955, has expired. These works are now within the ‘public domain’ in Australia and this is why the University is able to reproduce such works on this site. HOWEVER, works may remain copyrighted in other countries. If copyright in the work still subsists in the country from which you are accessing this website, it will be illegal for you to download the work. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country. In particular, the works of George Orwell are still under copyright in the United States and the European Union, and therefore users in those countries should not download these works.

Don’t worry – you’re in Australia, they’re totally chill down under.

Unzip the file, it’s just a big ol’ HTML document, if you have a Kindle DX, you should be able to plug in the Kindle and transfer the file over after converting it to a PDF (here’s a giant FAQ on PDF support on the Kindle DX) on a Mac, you can just “print” to PDF and save the file, or on a PC, use Adobe’s Acrobat ($) or the free open source PDF creator. There are also free sites online that convert web pages to PDFs, just point them to this site and have them email or convert the HTML version of 1984 to a PDF. If someone has a Kindle DX please post a photo of 1984 in the MAKE Flickr pool!

If you have a Kindle first gen, you’ll need to convert it since the Kindle doesn’t have a native PDF reader. No problem. Download Mobipocket Creator 4.2 and install the “Publisher Edition” – this has PDF support and a bunch of other features.

Pt 2064
You don’t need to convert the HTML file for MobiPocket, it can import in the 1984 HTML file just fine, or you can import the PDF you made, either way – it works. So let’s import the file and convert it.

Pt 2065
Next up, you’ll need a cover image. Here’s one from Shepard Fairey.

Pt 2066
You can add metadata, a TOC, and other extra bits if you want…

Pt 2067
Next, click “Build” – this will create the file. You can choose compression and encryption options.

Pt 2068
Pt 2069
Once the book is made (a .prc file), you can preview it and also view any errors from the conversion. Looks good, the HTML links worked in the TOC, that’s handy.

Pt 2072
Next up, go to the folder where the file was created, it’s an option in MobiPocket.

Pt 2070
Plug your Kindle into your PC or Mac (or it’s SD card) and put the .prc file in the Kindle’s documents folder.

Aaaand that’s it. The book will show up on your Kindle’s home screen and you can enjoy reading 1984 again!

Other methods include mailing the converted PDF file to yourself and using Amazon’s wireless service to covert it ($, here’s how to do that). But! That would require you to be in the USA since that’s where the wireless service is and Amazon would know (or could know) what’s on your Kindle. It’s unclear if Amazon can or will reach into your Kindle and delete books you made on your own, for personal use, but if everyone made their own 1984, we would eventually find out.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

On your way back from Australia, delete the book, or never turn on your wireless again – or just have a copy on a SD card as a digital Australian souvenir… It’s unclear if anyone actually cares if you do this anywhere in the world, in fact, you can since you do not need to be in Australia to do this, and assuming this is for your own personal use, it’s not exactly black and white. We are living in a transition period. According to a new article on the NY Times site, the “authorized” version of the book is in the Kindle store, so you could always buy it, again, with that refund. I think I’m more likely to convert books on my own — seems a lot safer.

There will be many comments about this from armchair legal experts, and that’s great – please post away — it’s an interesting topic.


17 thoughts on “How-To: Read George Orwell’s 1984 on your Kindle

  1. Cory says:

    I could tell from the first paragraph full of run-on sentences that it was true: Phil Torrone is back!

  2. Phillip Torrone says:

    there’s more than one sentence?


  3. gyziger says:

    This is really nifty. I really enjoy the idea of a kindle but I’m not sure I would like to pay the money for one! Still cool though.

    Also, when did it become cool to bash Make?

  4. anon says:

    fyi – another online source should you be traveling in Australia – Project Gutenberg:

    Thanks for the detailed instructions.

    And… I think you can just transfer a txt file to your kindle, I don’t think it has to be a pdf file (formatting may be off though). Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  5. tevk says:

    A great app for creating eBooks for a variety of eBook readers, including the Kindle, Kindle DX, and Sony PRS – check out Calibre:

    It’s free, cross-platform, and supports a TON of input and output formats.

  6. Kdog says:

    The sweet and delicious irony of it all. You can almost hear the “I told you so” from beyond.

    1. Kirril says:

      As long as you mean Alanis Morrisette-style irony, then yes, this is very ironic.

      In reality though, Amazon did exactly what they should’ve done: withdraw from sale a book they did not have the permission to sell.

      Yes, they shouldn’t have sold it in the first place, but taking it back is exactly what they should’ve done.

  7. Spooky says:

    1. You can buy 1984 legally from Amazon in Kindle format. In the US. They carry it and other older titles from several publishers. Just one particular publishing comapany that sold it through Amazon and had not paid the royalties and therefor did not have the rights to sell it in the US. Absolutely Amazon should have checked this out better before allowing this publisher’s 1984 into the Kindle Store. But I make a few mistakes and poor choices myself and have always felt that if you own up to it when you are wrong, make amends, and learn from your mistake you’re seldom a lost cause.

    2. There is no irony. Taking back something you sold someone and refunding their money–even if they don’t wish to make the transaction–bears absolutely no resemblance to anything that is represented in 1984. Read the book. No comparisons to Amazon’s error in judgment. BIG similarities to The Patriot Act. And if you like 1984 and wnat more in the same vein, try Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother.” Easily the best retelling of Orwell’s chilling masterpiece ever, and what is most chilling is Cory’s skill at demonstrating that we are now, really and truly, living in Orwell’s nightmare–and not because Amazon can look in to your Kindle but because the powers that be look into and alter, in exactly the same way Amazon did, EVERY ELECTRONIC DEVICE YOU USE! If you use a cell phone, computer, PDA…even some new cars can report your position and speed and you are almost never told your devices can be accessed.

    3. In the end, I am amazed at the way Amazon stepped up and took it’s medicine in this incident. Bezos was loud and clear that they did everything wrong–from not checking the title carefully enough to hastily pulling the books from customer’s Kindles. They reimbursed customers and provided alternate versions of 1984 and annotations that had originally disappeared with the books have been returned. They admitted all guilt, apologized, made amends, and appear to have learned how better to handle such sticky issues in the future. Hopefully other companies with similar access learned from Amazon as well. (Are you listening Apple and Microsoft? How ’bout you, Google?)

    What we all need to take away from all this is best summed up by Cory Doctorow. “If someone puts a lock on something you own, and you don’t have a key to that lock, that lock is not in your best interest. If you can’t open it, you don’t really own it.” This is the message of 1984. It’s about surveilance, and doublespeak, and torture. Not about a company making a truly stupid mistake, fessing up, and making amends. (Yes, you could argue just the opposite re: the DRM on the Kindle content, but I truly believe Amazon is in the same position there as Apple was in opening the iTunes Store. Neither Apple nor Amazon is benefiting from DRM and both seem to have decided to accept DRM’ed content as better than no content. I tend to agree.)

  8. mayceegreene says:

    Hard to believe I never read this book. This was one of the gaping holes
    in the books I’ve read. I loved 1984, but something about the nature of
    this being set on a farm turned me off. When I finally got around to
    it, I was blown away. I don’t want to get in to the plot too much,
    because it’s so well known, but man, it will change how you see the
    world and governments.
    website for Halibut Fishing Alaska

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