If you are willing to violate copyright laws, getting free ebooks is almost as easy as getting free music. There are numerous sites that have free, legal, out-of-copyright ebook files available for download. But tens of thousands of newly released books, including best sellers, are readily available on on BitTorrent sites as well, right next to movies and music.
And reading these books on the new Amazon Kindle is trivially easy.
Amazon ignored all of the ebook standards when building the Kindle, instead going with a proprietary format created by Mobipocket, a company they acquired in 2005. But most ebooks on BitTorrent come in one of four formats – .doc (Word), .txt, pdf or .Lit (Microsoft Reader format). The Kindle can read text and Word files in addition to its proprietary format. And PDF and .Lit files are easiy converted to .txt files. That means just about any book downloaded via BitTorrent can be read on the Kindle.
Getting it on the Kindle is easy, too. Every Kindle account has an email address. Send a file to that email address and it will appear on the kindle via Whispernet (Amazon charges a $0.10 fee). Alternatively, the USB cord can be used to move the files over without any fee.
To test this, I downloaded a few non-copyrighted files, converted them to text files and emailed them to my Kindle. Moments later they appeared on the home menu of my Kindle, where they could be read, annotated, bookmarked, etc., just like any book purchased on Amazon.
The Kindle is a breakthrough device, in many ways analogous to the first iPod. Just as the iPod brought MP3 players to the masses, the Kindle will be the device that introduces ebooks to many people.
And while Apple sells lots of songs legally on iTunes, the vast majority of content on most iPods comes from home-ripped CDs or was obtained in violation of copyright laws. I expect the same thing with the Kindle. Users may buy a book or two on Kindle, but many users will simply steal the content they want to read. Thanks to Amazon, that's really easy to do on their slick new device.
Should users do this? No, and we do not encourage this. But will they? I think we all know the answer to that.