TROUBLESHOOTING your e-books on computers AND e-readers

First, you need to know: what file format does your device use? E-books come in about 8 different file formats.

Computers need a software to display an e-book. These softwares are free or they are shareware (small donation requested but not required.) Use: Mobipocket Reader ( .mobi format); Calibre ( .epub format—AND has a converter to convert an epub or mobi file to any other file format you could want: what a bargain!) Or use Adobe Reader ( .pdf format).

Our downloads will be in .mobi, .epub, and .pdf. Via Calibre you can make them into anything your device needs.

A computer screen produces its own light. E-book readers, the Kindle, for example, have a screen that emulates paper—and produces no light.

A computer can read a variety of e-book formats, and its storage, is as large as you want it to be. The storage of an e-book reader is somewhat more limited. The Kindle II, for instance, holds up to 1500 books. Other readers have their own storage limits, some considerably less than that. But they are still more compact than a shelf full of books. And the Kindle downloads wherever you are, using something like cellphone technology, without the use of wires.

Phones are becoming e-readers, as well; as are Palms, and other devices.

You’ve heard of DRM. That’s a lock on the file that limits it to the device to which it was downloaded. Non-DRM files can easily be moved from device to device, and computer to computer. For that reason, the success of a store offering non-DRM depends on the honesty and integrity of its customers. People who like my books, thank goodness, tend to be honest and honorable, and I figure if you’re honest in what you offer, with a fair price, you’ll get honesty and fairness back.

On the left sidebar of this site is a section called E-BOOK READERS. Your computer can natively read PDF and so do many readers: the advantage of PDF is that it looks just the way the author wants it to. The disadvantage is that it can’t scale to help your eyesight. The advantage of mobi is that you can change fonts at will, change type size—or totally adjust the file to fit a subcompact size display like a phone screen.

If you are having trouble with a download or a reader, tell us, and either I or our very smart readership will figure out what to do.

1) getting a ‘mini’ file. These are .zip files and need to be unzipped: to do this– Step one: download to a computer. Step two: click on the file. [Your computer likely has an unzip program already, and it will respond by breaking open the .zip file and revealing files in all our formats…mobi,.epub, and .pdf. If you do not have an ‘unzip utility’ on your computer, look at and, and download a free utility. Once it is on your computer, it will work whenever you click on a .zip file.]

2) getting a file onto a device: some of these are from our very kind readers.
A) To read via your computer: choose .pdf. Click on the file. Your computer should have an Adobe pdf reader that responds to this and opens the file. If it doesn’t, download this free reader:; other options: (uses .epub); and the Kindle for PC download from Amazon (uses .mobi) (both are free).

B)Kindle. Open the zip on your computer as above to get the .mobi file. Plug the Kindle’s USB into your computer. Your computer will find the device as a drive: open your My Computer’ screen and just drag the .mobi file onto your Kindle and drop. It will now open like any other book.

D) C) Nook. Simplest choice: the .epub file, and this method gets the color covers.
1. Download and install Calibre from
2. Start the program, then add the .epub file you downloaded from Closed Circle into Calibre by using the drop down menu on the “Add Books” icon.
3. Plug your Nook into a USB port on your computer using the USB cable that came with the device. Calibre will recognize the Nook, and add a button in the tool bar labeled “Device”. Then you can transfer by clicking on the drop down arrow on the “Device” icon.

E) iPhone >go here for instruction, with screenshots:iphone

E) iPad: go here for instruction, with screenshots: Adding DRM-Free books to your iPad or iPhone

F) Nook Tablet: See: Nook instructions.

G) Android device. For my Android phone I’ve used two methods sucessfully:

[A] downloading to a PC and transferring to the phone from there (using drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer).

[B] downloading on the phone itself (i.e. if you use your phone to read the email containing the download link).

I use the free Aldiko Reader app on my Android phone, which seems really nice – you’ll find it in the Play store (there’s a paid version too but I’m not sure what the advantages are). For other readers the process of getting the book into the app once the file is on your phone may differ…

For [A] the process is:

1. Get the files onto your PC as explained in point 1) of the main post above

2. Connect the phone to the PC via USB cable, and ensure it’s connected in “Disk Drive” mode (not “Charge only”)

3. Locate the .epub file on your PC using Windows Explorer

4. Drag and drop (copy) the file to a suitable folder on your phone – I’d suggest the ‘download’ folder

5. Start the Aldiko app, tap ‘Files’ (you’ll see a list of folders on the phone), then tap whatever folder you copied the file into (e.g. the ‘download’ folder)

6. You should see your .epub file there – tap to select it, then tap the ‘Import to Aldiko’ button that appears

7. Use the Back button to get back to the main menu in Aldiko, and your book will be there!

And for [B]:

1. Download the ZIP file on your Android phone (note, on my phone all downloaded files are saved to the ‘download’ folder by default, but I’m not sure if this is the same on all Android devices)

2. Go to ‘Downloads’ (you can find it in the All Apps list)

3. Tap the ZIP file to open it (you’ll see all the files that are inside)

4. Select ‘Extract All’ from the phone’s Menu button (the button on the phone itself, just next to the actual touch screen) *For those who care to know such things, the unzipped files end up in the ‘download’ folder alongside the ZIP file, but it’s not apparent – you just have to trust that they’re there*

5. Start the Aldiko app, tap ‘Files’ (you’ll see a list of folders on the phone), then tap the ‘download’ folder

6. From there, depending on how the ZIP file is structured, just tap through the folders until you find the .epub file, tap to select it, then tap the ‘Import to Aldiko’ button that appears

7. Use the Back button to get back to the main menu in Aldiko, and your book will be there!

G) Kobo. The Kobo Touch reader should work like Nook with Calibre, though I haven’t tried it.

HOWEVER, it can also work like this:

1. Download the file from the Closed Circle purchase link as a .epub.

2. Plug in your Kobo Reader via the USB cable and allow it to be recognized as a USB drive. (Press Connect on the Kobo when it gives you the “computer connected” dialogue box.)

3. Copy the .epub file to the USB drive representing the Kobo.

4. Properly “eject” the Kobo reader so that the file is truly written.

5. Unplug the Kobo reader. It should automatically recognize the .epub and add it to the front page as a new library entry.

This I did on Linux for the new Deliberations I just bought nary a few minutes ago. It should work very similarly on Windows. I don’t know enough about Mac to say. I suspect this process would also work on Nook: they are very similar devices.


  1. AndrewR

    FBReader ( is available for Linux and reads most formats (RTF, HTML, TXT. PRC, FB2) though DRM is not supported. (Tools are available to strip the DRM so that a Linux device like the Nokia 770 can be used to read books that publishers insist on adding DRM to, like your books at Fictionwise.)

    I was glad to see in your note to me that you have a sensible pricing structure planned. This increases the liklihood of customers purchasing multiple books and reduces the incentive for piracy. (See Eric Flint’s Prime Palaver at ).

    Have you considered linking up with Webscriptions ( They started as the e-publishing arm of Baen, but now also host other publishers, like Nightshade Books.

    • CJ

      I appreciate your note and the links. A few weeks ago my question level was, “What’s RSS?” and “DRM?” I don’t know all the places I should be looking. Every day has its own set of questions, and I look into new possibilities as fast as I can locate them. I absolutely agree with you. The vast, vast majority of people are honest if they feel they’re being honestly dealt with, and that’s what I hope to do.

  2. creightona

    I read with both a computer and reading devices and I really hate DRM. I applaud you for thinking outside of that crud. I also suggest Baen and their sites if they are interested in you since they are really good at getting stuff to new devices.

    For instance I read mainly with mobipocket on a Cybook but last week Baen enabled the same library of books that I have previously purchased to be viewable on my ipod touch!

    Any site with DRM would be aghast at the thought that I could steal their work for a new device without forking over more money. If you decide to launch your own site I really suggest looking at Webscription to see how they are doing it because I like them a lot more than Fictionwise or Books on Board.


    • CJ

      I figure that well-disposed and honest readers are a better security device than DRM could ever be. I hope to be proved right in that. I think the time is right to try this, and see how well word-of-mouth, some good links, and people who love to read can do this.

      In my wildest dreams, I’d like to resurrect science fiction fantasy into the community of ideas and discussion it was before the bean-counters got into the act.

    • A.Beth

      last week Baen enabled

      Thank you for mentioning that. I hadn’t realized they had, but now I’ve got Stanza looking at the webscriptions/free library stuff. *squee*

  3. kyran

    I’ve been reading with a pda, but I’ve switched to a smart phone (everything in one pocket) so I can read at night without waking the wife I think the this is a great idea and it will save trees. less trees less raking up.I’m not sure people are as honest as you think but I hope you are right and I’m wrong :)having said that I used to belong to a library which is simular to sharing files so perhaps it won’t be as bad as the rich people seem to say it is. but keep writing theres at least one buyer out here.

  4. CJ

    Thanks! I at least think there are enough honest people out there in the world to keep three writers going! 😉

  5. Aja Jin

    Like many I’m eagerly anticipating the ebook efforts. Any thoughts about doing new work as an e-book (perhaps with a “print one” option) — say a Chanur or Nighthorse book ?? I’d certainly like to see you get more of the money !

  6. CJ

    Every one of our e-books will have a print-one option, so far as I know: it’s spendy, but will print only one copy, either hard or trade paper, of any book you have as a file. Because they print only one copy, it’s fine with us.

    I have thought about those books as original e-book. If lightning struck and we actually made a good go of this, maybe I can afford to take time off from NYC publishing to do it. We just don’t know. The stats on e-book livelihood are very low—like 200 dollars a year…which is pretty scary to us: but that’s got to account for a lot of e-book offerings which are very specialized or of limited appeal, or, in many instances…how shall I say it? Not quite mass market standard.

    All three of us are mass market standard, and I think we can change those stats *and* give readers a good deal on the books.

  7. cstross

    I notice you’ve found Calibre, which is good.

    If you want to point readers at clients for handheld devices, it’s worth looking at Stanza. Stanza consists of a free (for the iPhone and iPod Touch) app, and a shareware (for desktop Macintosh) app. The desktop version does pretty much the same as Calibre; the reason for looking at the iPhone app is that (a) it’s a free epub reader for the current leading smartphone platform, and (b) you can use Calibre as an ebook library tool for an iPhone running Stanza.

    I have a Sony Reader — the 505 — and an iPhone. I use Calibre on my desktop to manage ebooks and shovel them onto the Sony Reader, and Stanza on the iPhone so that I’ve got the same content on my phone. (The phone’s a less comfortable reading experience but more likely to be in my pocket at any given time.)

    As for the stats on ebook livelihood — have you spoken to Eric Flint or the folks at Baen? Because they’re doing ebooks right (“give the readers the books they want in the file formats they want at a price below that of a paperback, without DRM”), and while they’re not making potloads of money, they are seeing comparable sales volumes to hardcover print runs. I gather a lot of the $200 a year crowd are trying to sell novels at full undiscounted hardcover SRP, with DRM as the topping on the shit-sandwich. (I have a bee in my bonnet about this — Ace have done it to my books, too — so I keep bugging my editors; the stories they tell about the internal politics behind the boneheaded marketing decisions beggar belief.)

    • Busifer

      Given that an iPhone costs the equivalent of US$730 (8GB version) in Sweden I always get a bit… unhappy when people promote it as a nice platform for anything. Just sayin’… I understand that that’s not the biggest market in the universe for most authors. But it would be nice not to be excluded from the e-book enterprise (which I hail, otherwise). In many cases ordering a print copy from would be my only viable option.

      (BTW in my world copyright would be a no-sell item, with the originator as sole legal owner. The originator could then chose to rent it out, for a certain period of time, under certain conditions. Selling would be legal – buying would not. A legalese construct which will make the buyer, not the seller, the one to be persecuted. But that’s just me.)

  8. CJ

    Great info—thank you very much, and welcome!
    I agree with you about the undiscounted hb prices: it’s happened to my books, too, and what are they thinking? And who gets that ‘found’ money from no paper, no trucks, no warehouses, no middleman? It’s sure not the writers!

  9. cstross

    As I understand it: it’s a crazy bag of internal politics within the large publishing houses. (Caveat: I’m not a publishing person: I’m just another poor bloody SF writer in the same boat as you, except I’ve been reading ebooks since around 1996 and keeping an eye on what’s going on.)

    For starters, they all set up ebook divisions in the late 90s during the dot-com bubble. These were set up as vertically integrated separate imprints, and this led to all sorts of sibling rivalry — hardcover/MMPB publishers refusing to let the ebook publishers sell the same titles for less than the dead-tree editions, for example, out of fear that ebooks would cannibalize their market.

    Then there’s the file format wars. It’s Mac vs PC all over again, or Wordstar vs Word Perfect, except that until last year there were about six bazillion contending file formats — only in the past year have we narrowed the field of delivery formats down to three (PDF for dead-tree print outs, epub or Mobipocket for handheld readers).

    The DRM infestation is a special kind of insanity, handed down from boardrooms high above the ceiling of the publishing houses — by the multinational media conglomerates who own them (and own film and music production companies as well). Music and film execs get much more of a say in setting overall group policy than the book publishing folks, and they’ve bought a load of snake oil from DRM software salesfolk. (I say snake oil advisedly: DRM doesn’t work because for the product to be usable at all you’ve got to hand the ultimate consumer a key to the lock. So just about any DRM scheme the programmers come up with is compromised ridiculously fast, as soon as it hits the street.)

    In reality, if you buy a book you expect to own it (under the first purchase doctrine) and you expect it to be of use to you for potentially years or decades. But the average PDA or phone owner churns their gadgets in a time frame of 15-18 months. DRM locks the book (or other media) to a gadget with a life of 1-2 years: this means the book is of considerably less value to the consumer than an unlocked edition.

    (And yes, the publishing folks I’ve spoken to all understand this — but saying it in public is potentially a sacking offense!)

    Finally, we get to the lunacy of publishing accounting practices, and this is where it really gets surreal. According to a certain editor I was talking with a while ago, one of the obstacles $BIG_PUBLISHER hit on the road to hooking up with $BIG_EBOOK_RESELLER was that their standard sales contract for ebooks came out of Legal with clauses for the return of stripped covers still attached. But there’s worse …

    Hachette (aka Orbit) are currently very proud of their ebook provisioning warehouse, where ebooks are “printed”, filed on “shelves”, shipped to “wholesalers” or retailers, and accounted for using exactly the same accounting processes as their dead tree books! Which at a stroke neutralizes the huge advantage of the internet.

    The great strength of the internet as a business channel is that it is a tool for disintermediation, for cutting out barriers and middle-men between suppliers and customers, for streamlining communication.

    Hachette basically built a virtual warehouse with a virtual returns department, just so they could make the internet compatible with their existing royalty accounting system, cloning all its inefficiencies. Then they slathered a tasty topping of DRM on top to make it extra appealing to the customers (because of policy dictated from afar), and priced it on a level with their existing book business (so it wouldn’t threaten hardback sales). And then they wonder why nobody buys the product?

    (Baen, in contrast, is an 8-10 person outfit which was run — until his untimely death — by a dictator. Jim was free to look at the idiots on main street and do the right thing. That’s why I think if you’re looking into ebook publishing you probably want to talk to those folks. Me, I don’t have an OOP backlist yet. I’ll get to these headaches in time …)

  10. cstross

    Oh, and I forgot to mention Amazon.

    AIUI Amazon are a satanic conspiracy against ebook publishers. (I have heard the phrase “they asked for a 90% discount for ebooks going into the Kindle store”. And no, the publisher in question wasn’t smoking anything questionable at the time.)

  11. CJ

    I would say this is incredible, except that I have been on the inside of the publishing industry for thirty years and have seen an endless string of things just as silly, and destructive.

    The publishing industry was founded on the rise of the novel and the newspaper serials back in Victorian times, and it has groaned its way into the 20th century and computers, then doesn’t know how to read the stats it gets, its distribution system would be done by horse-drawn wagons, except that they ran out of buggy whips: now they use trucks, but sell by a system of returns that got more and more baroque…and they do take computer generated manuscripts now, but still have to have paper copies for the ‘process’…

    And now we have e-books and goings-on as per above.

  12. CJ

    I’ve created a ‘link’ category on the left sidebar for free e-readers that will enable your computer to read these books, except those with a .drm extension. Like much freeware, these programs hope you will donate a bit to their creator if you turn out to like and use them.

  13. CJ

    And, Busifer, if you can read this message, you should be able to read any of our e-books; we’ll be using mobi and ePub, which you can read on your home computer.

  14. Sandor


    I am now even more educated on this topic than before thanks to Charlie’s tutorial. This brings up the question the avid reader would like to have an answer to, even though the answer may not be as simple as hoped for:

    In the case that buying an ebook or a physical copy is equally attractive based on criteria such as shelf space and convenience, which method provides the best financial return to the author? Are there differences between new, backlist, and OOP? Does buying one type of media provide a short-term benefit at a sacrifice to the long-term supply of groceries and pizza/chinese food delivery at the author’s house?

    I wonder what the real future holds for publishing houses? They already outsource editing to freelancers. Once we move to total ebook in the future, the only value added I can see is in marketing and artist development (and they haven’t been doing too great a job at the latter lately).

    Obviously I and most, if not all, of your readers want to pay a reasonable price for books and have as much of that price as possible go into the hands of the author with the proper share to those who are actively making our reading experience better either through effective editing or proper digital packaging, or even putting up a decent storefront. Some readers have even suggested that your site should have a “donate” button just like some of the freeware sites do, for those readers whose primary source of books is the library 🙂

    – S

  15. CJ

    Well, we will cheerfully consider a ‘donate’ button.

    We haven’t figured the pricing yet, but as low as we can manage on the books Closed Circle puts out. We have to do new covers (Jane is our artist as well as one of the writers)–we have to take files, clean them up and convert them to various formats—

    One thing the process doesn’t like is punctuation and italics. I can get them converted, but it’s going to take proofing, and a lot of editing.

    Plus I just can’t put a book through the computer without improving it.

    This evening I’ve just spent, oh, 6 hours first finding Faery in Shadow, getting it onto my computer, resurrecting old files from a defunct word processor, converting them to modern Word Perfect, getting it to respect italics and turn the ‘ marks the right direction…

    Then I have to format, design, set, copy-edit, edit, and proof. I’m wearing a lot of hats.

    The good news is that I may finally get the cover I always wanted.

    Jane has had to get new equipment to handle the e-art.

    We had to get a terabyte drive to handle our archives and find things.

    And in an evening’s work I am finally proceeding fairly smoothly.

    All of which is to say—it’s skilled work and it’s a lot of work. So I hope readers will appreciate that they’re getting more than just “here’s a file. glop! onto the e-dish.” We’re trying to do a quality production, literally going over these things sentence by sentence and making sure it represents the book well.

    From the publishers, we get max 10% of cover price. The advantage there is volume.
    From the e-books that we produce, we get everything and then have to subtract out our expenses.
    From the e-books others publish, I have yet to actually see much beyond 200-300 dollars, in nearly 10 years of issue. I don’t know where the money goes, but the contracts have changed hands so often, nobody’s interested in paying the writers. And now and again we find somebody online who’s lovingly scanned in a book—and we get nothing.

    So if we’re to make a living doing this—this year, our backlist income fell off by 95%, which was pretty publishers and booksellers just quit trying to market it.

    We’re trying to make a go of this. We do need the help of devoted readers to get the word out and to get membership onto this site and the other two sites, and to get people to buy and read these e-books. You don’t have to have a reader for what we’re putting out, but Kindle and other readers will read these files, if they read mobi.

  16. Sandor


    I appreciate the amount of work required to get good clean electronic versions of written word, having done so very occasionally with large technical documents (I miss FrameMaker, which I used for my dissertation, but would not live up to today’s quality standards).

    I know I am willing to pay paperback prices or even a little more for new works in ebook format (having actually shelled out $15 a couple times on Baen for ARCs). For backlist, the convenience of downloading immediately rather than having to find a store carrying a certain book or ordering is worth paying the $4-5 range, although one hopes with better volume, prices can come down. Not to imply that you should follow in Baen’s footsteps – they are simply the only working model of ePublishing that I have used to any sense of satisfaction. I should note that there is a marked lack of attempt to verify the work makes the transfer cleanly – sections within a chapter that might be separated by white space in harcopy often run together on the ebook.

    I think this blog is an excellent forum for educating the core of your readers as to how seriously you (and Jane and Lynn) are taking this project, and that we are genuinely getting value added through this process. Honestly, I’m hoping this effort helps set the tone for the future of publishing.

    – S

  17. CJ

    We do, too. We will proof every book, and we will have new cover art and occasionally even a frontispiece, if we can manage it. We want to make these as good as they can be.

  18. tulrose

    Like Sandor, I am more than happy to pay paperback prices for an eBook. In fact that’s my criterium for buying a Kindle book. I’ve also used Baen’s webscription successfully, although I’ve managed to restrain myself from buying ARC’s. I picked up all of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden ebooks there.
    Rosemary in Tulsa (the usual storm watch — SW to NE paralleling I-44)

  19. Phogg

    I hope to see more art.

    Actually I might buy more than one copy if they were illustrated and the art in each id good and different (although I may not have much company there. If you make an epub version of Paladin better proofread than my .pdb copy – I will buy another.

    In fact, If you will sell me an xhtml copy i might play around with my own.


    Glad to see you updating your site again. I tried to email you when I was looking for Paladin, but it turned up on it’s own.

    Ed (who seems to recall you singing “The weapon shops of Isher” in a filk room long long ago at the Mayo hotel.

  20. CJ

    Lord,the old Mayo! Great hotel, when the ac worked!—

    Alas, I can’t do anything for Paladin, since a book contract is valid as long as they keep it in print, and it is in print. But Baen pays me, so they’re legitimate copies.

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