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. samsgran1948

    I haven’t been to this site in months. I check back in and discover things are really, really buzzing along new paths.

    Currently, I own a small specialty bookstore, and I’ve been in the book biz for a little over twenty years now if you count the years I spent working for one of the chains. So I, too, am all too aware of the off stage wrangling and politicking at the publishing houses. Like you authors, I, too, occasionally get caught up in the right hand not knowing or not caring what the left hand is doing.

    Ebooks have been on the horizon for about the past fifteen years or so, but as cstross pointed out, the biggest problem after the cost of the reader has been platform. Each and every publisher had its own flavor of epublishing software that was not compatable with any other publisher’s, and wouldn’t be because each individual publisher was damned if they’d share a platform with anyone else. That’s what’s so remarkable about Kindle: It doesn’t matter what platform the publisher uses, Amazon converts it all to Kindle.

    As a bookstore owner who frequently chats with authors, I’ve wondered why authors didn’t band together to form their own publishing entities. There really is no reason for a book to ever be printed our on dead trees. The most efficient method is for the finished manuscript to go from the writer’s computer to the publisher’s computer to the printer’s computer. And once you add in independent editors, you can totally skip the publisher’s computer. Then, by adding in the epublishing element, you can now skip the printer’s computer, too. The only real hangup is distribution. Once you get a handle on the distribution angle, you should be good to go.

    I am actually very surprised that anything other than coffeetable books are printed on dead vegetable matter. I had assumed that once the NY bean counters figured out the publishers could save a couple of pennies by epublishing, the printed word would vanish overnight.

    As an aside, it’s interesting, C.J., that you’re doing this at this particular moment. I’m a big Barbara Hambly fan. On her blog, she’s announced that she’s going to try to sell stories and novellas written in long dead universes though PayPal.

    Best of luck!

    • derek

      There’s irony for you. I like e-books, but this is part of the reason that there will always be a market for real, physical copies.

  2. tulrose

    AMazon has now changed their policy. If you bought an ebook in good faith and the publisher changed its mind then Amazon won’t scrub you kindle. The original article has an update to it.

    • tulrose

      You can store Amazon ebooks as well.

      • CJ

        One of the really weird things, however, is the fact that Amazon had books of mine on there it had no right to, and a publisher “suddenly deciding” against issue supposedly after negotiations of rights is just real weird. Real weird seems to surround a lot of e-book issues.

  3. tulrose

    I’ll agree with that. Wierdness seems to go with the territory.

  4. stargazer

    I found you online a few years ago, but it was only after starting through the Chanur series for the upteen bazillionth time that I decided to look up your site and see what it was about now. I was thrilled to see the idea for e-books, and had to sign up just so I could post my two cents.

    I use Linux, exclusively. I am glad you are going to trash the stupid DRM. I am very interested in yoru works as e-books as I always have a computer around (I work in the field). BTW, B&N mentioned above, does not have a reader for Linux, and their stuff is in a proprietary format.

    I guess my question is whether you are considering as standard ASCII text file at all. That way, I could even read it on my little iRiver E-100 DMP (although, with a 2″ screen, I’m not sure I would). Not important, and I’ll definitely buy your e-books so long as I can read them on a Linux machine (and back them up).

    I didn’t read all the posts on this entry, so I hope I’m not repeating something someone else said. As far as converting your current format to one compatible with your e-book format. You do realize that this can be easily automated; at least getting a rough draft prepared with all the grunt work out of the way. Feel free to write me at my registration e-mail address if you would like more information on that. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel, and definitely no reason for you to take time away from writing more Chanur novels (hint, hint) to do grunt work reformatting.

  5. stargazer

    Sorry, forgot this in the last post (which is too long anyway). If you are looking for a quality, free, open source solution to your shopping cart, look at Zen Cart ( I have used this for several of my web clients, and they have gotten a good, strong solution and not had to pay too much. It can be customized as you like (just like WordPress), or used straight from the box. I am not associated with them in anyway except that I use their product.

  6. hanneke28

    About Calibre: I’ve been trying it, with some Project Gutenberg books, on my PC as I don’t have an e-reader. It works very well, and uses surprisingly little memory (less than 0.4 GB for 400 books & short stories).
    I’ve tried putting both the calibre program folder and my e-books folder on a USB-stick, and that works: I can now continue my e-reading on any PC where I can plug in my USB-stick (e.g. when staying at my parent’s house, or during my lunch break at work).
    Does anyone know whether it also works on a Creative Zen portable device (primarily meant for music and photo’s etc.)?

  7. Scribble

    I have an iTouch, which has a free ePub reader called Stanza. It makes an awesome eReader. The iTouch was a gift and I (a lover of books from the time I was 8) have read only 1 ‘real’ book in 9 months. What I love is that I can read at night without having the light on, can change the font size if I forget my glasses, and it is so small. I have downloaded books from Project Gutenberg and Wattpad, and other online sources – so now I have over 400 books on it. 400 books in my pocket. Don’t you just love that thought?
    What I would love – is if I could buy eBooks directly from authors. I would be happy to pay the full price – and even happier to know that ALL the money is going into the authors pocket.

    • CJ

      You’ll be able to do that here as soon as we work the bugs out of the site. 😉 Welcome!

  8. pjr

    Dear CJ,
    I’ve just been surprised by the gift of a Kindle from my thoughtful wif (we’ve been traveling for the past 6 months and for the next couple of months, so we’re trying to avoid collecting too many physical books on the way.) After faffing around a little, I remembered a/ that you have a sequel to cyteen (maybe my favourite of your books, unless it’s Morgaine and the wells, but I digress), b/ last time I did some lurking here you were proposing to get into the e-book scene yourself, and c/ I discovered that amazon don’t have any of your books available for kindle.

    I’m impressed that you are planning to cut out the middle man by doing e-books. But I’m minded of R.A.H’s form response to correspondents whose first mail to him was to complain, so I hope I’m not too close to doing that when I ask … will you be selling e-books soon? (I’m not too worried about the format – I’m confident of finding a way to read it on this new kindle if the text is available in any half decent fashion).

    Warmly, pjr.

    • CJ

      We are working like crazy to get this project going. It has been months slower than we planned, but we are so close we can taste it. Bear with us!

    • tulrose

      pjr: I’ve got some of CJ’s books on my Kindle although not too many. The Fortress series is there, Hammerfall, Forge of Heaven, and Destroyer. Search for Cherryh under “Kindle Books” and revisit the site every week or so to see what’s new. Sometimes books appear and then disappear again, heaven only knows why.

  9. pjr

    cj: thanks! Don’t go too crazy while doing it. Good luck and I’ll watch and wait.

    tulrose: Thanks for the headsup. I’m living under the double burden of being Australian and living in France – amazon’s licensing deals are obviously complex and that seems to restrict my choices of what I can read (i.e., many things that seem available initially have a little note saying “but not for you aussie”.) But that hasn’t happened with cj’s books – they’re just not there for me, so I’ll do as you say and keep rechecking.

  10. CJ

    Green Knight reports some difficulties with the formats on the download offered in this blog, using a Mac and Palm: the typeface-scaling is being a bear, most notably. I’d like some feedback from the Mac side of the Force: does OS make a difference? I’ve heard reports to that effect, but I’m not well up on Macs, so if anybody has information on what formats to choose (I suspect e-Pub would be the best) and how to manage in general, I’d appreciate enlightenment.

  11. OctoberStar

    I’m interested in the Entourage Edge ( e-reader/netbook. Has anyone else here looked into this? I’m not usually a first-adopter when it comes to gadgets, but I like that it allows any PDF no matter the source, and you can add notes. It’s not a big name product and it hasn’t been released yet, so the reviews are few and far between. If anyone knows a reason to not get this, please post it. Thanks!

    • AbigailM

      Hmmm – very interesting. Use the computer side when you need it, but what you write can appear on the low-power e-ink side.

      I like that it has a camera, which Apple apparently decided to leave out of the iPad.

      I only saw one mention of battery life, said 16 hrs with no mention of what functions would be running. That’s pitifully short for an e-ink reader, but really long if you’re surfing the Web. So a little more specificity would be nice.

  12. Richard

    I’m running a MAC pro, and the Epub is definitely the best. I’m using Calibre/and/or Stanza and both seem to work really well. I’ll try some of the others to get a comparison. The only time I’ve had a problem with typefaces with the Mac at all was a Firefox problem when 3.5 came out, but that’s been fixed. I’m running the latest version of Snow Leopard 10.6.2. As I stated elsewhere, the Heavy Time and Hellburner Offerings are a PLEASURE to read.

    The Stanza IPhone app works very well, too.

  13. smartcat

    I use MacBook XO………use Calibre with no problem…..but started with PDF which should be *really* easy …if I can manage it anyone etc……… 😉 🙂

  14. Suzi99

    For Green Knight-
    This may be out of date, but IIRC, my Palm used .prc files. I could download them and drop them on an icon on my desktop that loaded them on the Palm the next time I synced. I don’t think the Mac (OS X 10.something) ever opened them, just passed them along to the Palm.

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