When Amazon first rolled out their Personal Document Service I pretty much went: “Yawn…yet another cloud document service”. I was already quite happy with Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which seemed much more versatile (and still is really) so I didn’t really pay much attention to this service from Amazon.
However, some time ago I actually started to use Amazon’s Personal Document Service for my books. I have found that it’s actually quite useful. It’s just that you should really not think about it as a cloud storage service but rather as an Amazon Kindle delivery (and storage) service by which you can use your Kindle, or in my case my Android Kindle Reader app, to read documents that are not originally Kindle books.
I buy a lot of my e-books from Baen Books for instance. Apart from being DRM-free they have a lot of books that cannot be found on Amazon although I heard that there’s a deal in progress to publish Baen’s books on Amazon now as well. I sure hope that doesn’t mean that Baen ends up putting DRM-crap on their books.
Anyway, I used to download them in EPUB format and then read them on Aldiko’s e-book reader. Aldiko’s reader is great except that you cannot chose any font size and at the same time have a two column display in landscape mode. So I ended up trying through a couple of readers but in the end I’m actually quite happy with the Amazon one. The Amazon one doesn’t really read anything else than Amazon’s Kindle format or MOBI, which is really pretty much the same, though. Sure I could download the books from Baen in MOBI format as well but not all e-book providers offer that flexibility and I would still have to manually move the file to each of my reading devices and they wouldn’t sync the current reading position between them.
This is where Amazon’s Personal Document Service comes in. If you install the free “Send to Kindle” application on your PC then you will be able to just right-click on a file, choose the Send to Kindle option and voila your file will be sent to any Kindle device(s) of your choice and optionally also stored in Amazon’s Personal Document cloud.
After you’ve done this your non-Amazon book will look and behave just as if it was an Amazon-bought Kindle book. You can download and open it on any of your Kindle devices and it will sync your reading position.
Well, the last sentence was actually not 100% true and here is where the silly and unnecessary limitations come in. Currently you can only use Kindle hardware devices, their Android reading app and their iCrap reading app. The other reading apps simply do not see the personal documents. This unfortunately includes both the reading app for Windows Phone and, surprisingly, the Modern UI reading app for Windows 8. This is just dumb. There are absolutely no technical justifications whatsoever for this and it means that on a Windows 8 tablet I’m artificially restricted when using the Kindle app but not when using it on an Android tablet. That’s really a big bummer. I hope that Amazon removes this restriction in the next upgrade or so otherwise it will be back to shoving around files manually again when I buy that Windows 8 tablet that I want to get.
Another silliness is that you’re limited to only a few file formats. You cannot send an EPUB file for instance even if it’s DRM-free. It’s simple enough to convert it, for instance using Calibre, so it more of a nuisance than anything else.
Right now I use this a lot so I really hope that Amazon fixes the rest of their apps as well.