I wouldn’t normally stick my head above the parapet and write a post like this but DRM on ebooks really annoys me as it impacts my enjoyment of the books I’ve bought. I personally find the default option of black text on a white background a little difficult to read especially if there isn’t a lot of ambient light. Most e-readers have an inverse option which is an improvement but can still be difficult. My e-reader of choice is Moon+ reader which has an orange text on black background option which I find easy to read even for extended periods. The problem is you can’t read DRM encumbered books in Moon+ (or any other third party software reader that I can think of). The other problem with DRM encumbered ebooks is what happens if the company you bought them from goes bust? You can no longer download them to your new device, effectively they are lost. This nearly happened to me but fortunately I had a DRM free version I could use.
In the past ts was quite a game to remove the DRM from ebooks, you had to install Python with some fancy crypto libraries and dance around an enchanted pentagon while chanting a magic incantation. Fortunately things have got a lot simpler and most of the heavy lifting is now done by a Calibre plugin. Before we get started though you need to get some software. I’m going to assume that you are working on a Windows PC, as far as I’m aware the decryption can also be carried out under Linux but you probably can’t install some of the downloading software for book providers so you’ll have to play about with encryption keys.
The first piece of software you want to install is Calibre, this is an ebook manager and while I find it a little unusual in it’s design it’s easily the best piece of software out there for the job. If you’ve bought any books through Amazon you’ll need the Kindle for PC software. Books bought though Google Play can be downloaded using Adobe Digital Editions see here for more information. Note: Digital Editions comes complete with it’s own bloatware in that it tries to install Norton Security, you have to uncheck the box in order to stop it being installed (slimy bastards).
You need to know where the various readers store your books so here are the default locations:
- Adobe Digital Editions: C:\Users\<username>\Documents\My Digital Editions
- Kindle for PC: C:\Users\<username>\Documents\My Kindle Content
Installing the Calibre Plugin
Next get Apprentice Alf’s DRM removal tools, as the software on that site probably breaks numerous ridiculous laws (DMCA I’m looking at you) I suppose it could vanish at any moment so best save a copy of whatever you download. Unzip Apprentice Alfs tool kit and open the root folder in there you should find a Calibre plugin folder and inside that a zip file that contains the actual plugin. Installing this plugin into Calibre is a little more convoluted than regular plugins but it’s done like this. Click the downward pointing arrow to the right of the Preference button on the tool bar and select “Change Calibre Behaviour”
Select Plug-Ins under the advanced section and then click “Load Plug-In From File”. Point Calibre at the zip file containing the plugin and select Ok. Calibre gives you a generic warning about untrusted plugins being a virus risk, select yes if you feel it’s safe to do so. You’ll then get a dialog telling you that the plugin has been installed, restart Calibre to be on the safe side.
If you are only using Adobe Digital Editions and or Kindle for PC and they are installed on your machine and they run under the same account as Calibre then you are ready to start importing your ebooks. If you meet this list of requirements then it’s likely the Calibre plugin has access to the encryption keys used by ADE and or Kindle for PC. If you are using other systems to download ebooks then you will probably need to extract the encryption keys for them. There are instructions in the tool kit for doing just that.
Freeing your Books
Kindle for PC
All credit to Amazon they have a pretty slick system for their ebooks, until you want to read a book it’s held in the cloud and (presumably) can be put back there when you are done. In order to remove the DRM you need get the file so download the book from the cloud by right clicking on it and selecting download. In the Kindle for PC library folder on your machine you’ll now have to hunt around for the correct book as they don’t have sensible names but if you sort by date you can probably pick the newest. Simply drag and drop the file into Calibre and the book will be imported. For Kindle books to be useful anywhere where other than a Kindle you’ll need to format shift to epub. To format shift just right click on the book in Calibre and select Convert Books > Convert Individually. In the conversion dialog ensure all the settings you want are filled in and then set the output type as epub if it isn’t already.
Go to My Books on Google Play and click the three dots next to the book you want to download and select the option “Download EPUB”. This will trigger the download of a .acsm file which you can drag and drop into Adobe Digital Editions. The first time you use ADE you’ll need to authorize your computer by entering your Adobe account details (which if you’ve had an Adobe account for any length of time got hacked a while back). ADE will then download the book pointed at by the .acsm file. You can now import this book into Calibre but opening the ADE library on your machine, finding the relevant epub file and dragging it into Calibre.