How I printed a chapter from a Kindle eBook

imageAs I mentioned before, I love my Kindle.  It single-handedly brought back the joy of reading to me.  Besides my Windows Phone & my FitBit, it’s the single most used consumer device I own.  (Not counting my laptop of course)

Recently, I’ve been finding great use however for printing a chapter or two of the eBook I’m reading.

I keep finding myself in situations where having printed DISPOSABLE 8.5×11 pages of part of the book I’m currently reading is very useful.  For example:

  • when you’re hiking to a location and don’t want to risk bringing a $200 reader with you, but a few sheets of disposable paper would be perfect to throw away later
  • you’re near a water source and/or a very hot, exposed area – like the pool – and you don’t want to risk ruining your eBook reader
  • you’re in a place where having a book wide open would be rude and/or frowned upon – or eBook readers & other electronics are prohibited from use, but having a few pages of paper in a portfolio might keep you “under the radar”

Most recently, I was on a long flight and I had my Kindle out, reading a particularly engrossing book called “I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics“ about the stories comedians have collected while on the road going from city to city, and despite the low wattage consumption of the Kindle’s digital ink electronics, I was sternly told to immediately shut the device down because we were about to take off.  So for the next 20-30 minutes while we left the gate, puttered around the tarmac, and climbed to 10,000 ft, I was to be held captive to SkyMall?  Not me… printed chapter to the rescue!

It essentially just required decrypting the eBook itself, then converting the eBook to a printable format.  First, I downloaded a set of tools:

  1. Kindle for PC/Windows 1.01 Beta
    Using the early versions of Kindle for PC makes this possible.  Newer versions are more difficult to deal with apparently – hence the reason I used the 1.01 Beta which is freely downloadable from FileHippo.
  2. ActiveState’s ActivePython Windows 32-bit Runtime
    This needs to be 32-bit by the way even if you have 64-bit Windows 7.  The 32-bit runtime can be installed without a problem,  When I attempted to try the decryption tools on x64, it resulted in errors that said, “Could not read from memory…”
  3. Apprentice Alf’s decryption tools
    These tools are stored in an archive called “tools_v2.2a” and contain Python scripts that strip the DRM off of .MOBI formatted eBooks that my Kindle reads.  I unpacked the contents to a directory called "\tools_v2.2a” – including the directory hierarchy.  I have to admit that despite knowing very little about Python, the power of these scripts that are run in an interpreter is very impressive.  There is no binary code involved in the DRM stripping process outside of the Python runtime engine which should have been previously downloaded.
  4. Calibre eBook Management Software (Windows XP/Vista/7)
    This is, among other things, an eBook conversion tool that converts Kindle eBooks (.MOBI files) to other formats, namely Rich Text Format (.RTF files), a Microsoft Word readable & printable format.

    (NOTE:  When I clicked on the download link for Windows, I discovered that the browser doesn’t appear to do anything for a while.  The web site did something odd which is to immediately start downloading the entire 36.5MB software package to my machine over HTTP I got no notification that this happening.  Once it was downloaded, a dialog box appeared on my screen asking if I wanted to save the Calibre installer package file and where I wanted to save it to.  Once I selected a folder to save the package, it immediately moved the downloaded file to the selected folder and was done.

I installed the first 3 tools – all of which will be involved in making the eBook readable by Calibre – and then installed the Calibre software to perform the conversion to a printable, flexible document.  (Again, as a reminder, the decryption tools should simply be unzipped to "\tools_v2.2a” while MAINTAINING THE FOLDER HIERARCHY IN THE ARCHIVE so that you get the right files files grouped into the right folders) 

I did a little bit of preparation with the apps configuration before I proceeded:

  • KINDLE FOR PC (Windows)
    Once you’ve installed Kindle for PC, I signed in and downloaded the books I had access to.  Test that you can read the books within the desktop reader:  If you can’t read the books on the PC, you won’t be able to decrypt them.
  • ACTIVEPYTHON 32-BIT (Windows)
    I ran the 32-bit version regardless of whether or not you’re running a x64 version of Windows.  64-bit Python won’t run the scripts properly.
    The directory you’re looking for is called:

The “Unswindle” script is called “unswindle_v7.pyw”.  It is a little slow but it will automatically open the Kindle for PC application, then wait for the user to open an eBook.  Once I did this, I closed the Kindle for PC application & the script continued.

In the background, the Unswindle script captures the key necessary to decrypt the entire eBook.  Now that it has that in memory, it can process the eBook, decrypt it’s contents, and write a DRM-free version to my hard drive.  The script will open a dialog box that will ask for the name of the file to assign to my newly DRM-free .MOBI eBook.  I typed it in and it saved the eBook to disk without any DRM.

Now that I had the eBook available without DRM, the rest was simple.  I had installed the Calibre software previously by double clicking on the downloaded .MSI installer package, at the time called something like, “calibre-0.7.43.msi”.  I followed the installer instructions just like any other new software installation.

The Calibre software is very easy to use. 

  1. Begin by running Calibre and keep it on the desktop. 
  2. From the desktop, I was able to drag & drop the eBook .MOBI file that I converted from its folder directly onto the Calibre application to add it to its library.  (Alternatively, I was also able to open Calibre and click the “Add Books” in the upper left hand corner to add the book to the Calibre library to start working with it – or more specifically begin converting it to a printable format.)image
  3. I right mouse button clicked on the title I was going to ultimately print.  A menu appeared that allowed one to select “Convert Books”.  I selected “Convert individually” from there which initiated a new window.
  4. I changed the output format by clicking on the drop down list box in the upper right hand corner labeled, “Output Format” and changing this to “RTF”.  (Rich Text Format)


  5. I clicked OK.  This apparently triggered the conversion process.  A “swirely” actively moved at the bottom right hand corner labeled, “Jobs: 1”.  When this was completed, it read “Jobs: 0”.
  6. I clicked on the book that had been converted:  A new “formats” hyperlink had appeared for “RTF”.  I clicked on the RTF hyperlink and Microsoft Word started and it loaded up the book… ready to be printed.image


Now that the book is in a format that can be printed, I was able to have a single chapter on paper to keep in my portfolio for whenever I wanted to read… without taking out either my Windows Mobile/Phone or my Kindle.  This is particularly useful when the book’s chapters are disjointed and don’t depend on each other.  Printing an ENTIRE book is generally silly because you end up with so many unbound pages as to be simply too bulky to carry.


It again warrants reminding people that just because the ability to print eBook content exists, doesn’t mean anyone should ever deprive hardworking authors of their livelihoods.  This process was for my personal use only & Wheaton’s Law most definitely applies.

5 Responses to How I printed a chapter from a Kindle eBook

  1. […] UPDATE 12/16/11: It seems a lot of people have been finding this entry interesting.  For those of you looking to take your Kindle eBooks on the road, I’ve written a chapter on how to take a given chapter of an eBook and print it for reading on the road.  It’s useful for when you’re reading in environments where the reading material could get damaged – like at the pool, on the beach, or in lousy weather conditions.  (I used to do this for reading at the pool in Vegas) […]

  2. Howard says:

    Greetings Kurt,

    Thanks for giving me hope. I purchased a Kindle for PC book titled the Perfect Health Diet but need to be able to mark it up significantly in order to study and master the material. Your technique is offering some light but I am not through the tunnel yet.

    You recommended ActivePython/releases/ . Your link to the product does not work (2012-02-01), so i went to the Active State site directly downloaded the product closest in version to your recommendation.
    Python or was not listed so I took The next highest version is Perhaps i should try that. HOWEVER, your instructions do not indicate how or when to use the active python download in the process of converting the Kindle book.

    I clicked on the “Unswindle_v7.pyw” and waited overnight as you had said that it was a bit slow. I tried it a few times but it has not launched the Kindle 1.01 Beta as you said it would. Am I missing a step?

  3. Leonardo Gorini says:

    I find this easy tool :

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