The Kindle walled garden is finally falling, sort of. In an unceremonious change to its Documents Service guide, Amazon now says that the Kindle e-reader will support EPUB documents in “late 2022.” But there’s a somewhat frustrating catch.
Since its launch in 2007, EPUB has been the most popular digital book format for every e-reader except the Kindle. Amazon chose to avoid EPUB in favor of its AWZ and MOBI formats, effectively preventing customers from buying books through other stores.
That’s a big problem—Amazon shouldn’t be the sole distributor of e-books. Competitors like Rakuten Kobo are plentiful, and authors who sell e-books directly to consumers often use the EPUB format. And while free resources like Project Gutenberg and Archive.org let you download books in the AWZ format, some books just seem to work better in EPUB.
You can convert EPUB files to AZW, MOBI, or PDF formats, which all work on the Kindle. But the process is a pain in the neck.
Amazon’s new acceptance of EPUB is a major milestone, but of course, there’s still plenty to complain about. For one, the Kindle won’t gain native EPUB support. Instead, it will convert EPUB files to a KF8 or AZW3 format—I really hope this conversion process doesn’t create any weird problems in e-books.
Also, you can’t just transfer the EPUBs to your Kindle over a USB cable. You need to email the files to your Kindle, a somewhat slow process that won’t appeal to average users.
Basically, Amazon just made it easier for power users to stick EPUBs on their Kindle. I doubt that this change will influence the average Kindle user, which is a shame, as they’re basically forced to shop for e-books through Amazon.