Last Friday I received an email from Amazon with a fairly innocuous subject line: “New Kindle Personal Documents Features”.
I’ll put the full text of the email at the end of this post, because I can’t seem to find it anywhere in Amazon’s online Kindle documentation. Which is weird, because I think the new features have broad implications.
To sum up, Amazon now applies their ‘whispersync’ functionality to personal documents. What does that mean in detail? Well there’s two necessary bits of background here.
1. Amazon has always allowed users to email their personal documents to their Kindle, that’s nothing new. A personal document might be a Word document, ebook file in a variety of formats, raw text, a pdf, or just about anything.
2. Whispersync is Amazon’s name for the feature that syncs your reading across devices. Leave off on a Kindle, open the Kindle app on your phone, and you can pick up reading where you left off. Highlights and notes taken in the book get moved between devices as well. It’s a powerful feature that I’ve used often to read a few pages while waiting in a long line somewhere.
By combining these features, Amazon is extending their cloud-based prowess to house users’ ebook libraries. I have a large quantity of ebooks that I’ve downloaded from non-Amazon sources. Project Gutenberg, Fictionwise, and freebies from authors are three sources that come to mind. I can now add them all to my cloud-based Kindle library, which I find pretty exciting.
Via Whispersync Amazon will now back up the books for me on their servers, and also sync any notes or highlights across reading platforms (or will soon anyway, it doesn’t work quite yet on Kindle apps). Each user has 5gb of space for their personal ebook library, which is enough storage for a library of staggering size.
There’s privacy implications to Amazon storing your personal documents, but the feature can be disabled.
Amazon is declaring that they don’t care where your ebook comes from, they just want you to read it on their platform (as long as it doesn’t have DRM mucking things up anyway). I’m not sure what their motivation is to open the doors like that, but as a consumer I’m not going to complain.
As a bonus, if libraries can get DRM-free ebooks from our vendors then those copies will suddenly be very useful on Kindles.
The text of Amazon’s announcement email is below:
Dear Kindle Customer,
As a past user of the Kindle Personal Documents Service, we are pleased to let you know about some improvements:
• Your documents are now automatically archived in your Kindle library (you can control this from the Manage Your Kindle page at www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle).
• Archived documents can be re-downloaded from your archive to the all-new Kindle and Kindle Touch devices, as well as Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3rd Generation–requires the latest software update v3.3 from www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates) – you will be able to find and download your documents from any of these devices that are registered to your account.
• Now (just as with Kindle books) Whispersync automatically synchronizes your last page read, bookmarks and annotations for your documents (with the exception of PDFs) across devices.
We expect to extend these features to Kindle Fire and Kindle apps (such as Kindle Cloud Reader, Kindle for Android, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for PC, and Kindle for Mac) in the coming months.
You can control these new features from the Manage Your Kindle page at www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle where you can see a list of your archived documents, re-deliver documents to your Kindle, delete any document from archive, or even turn off archiving for your account.
Learn more about the Kindle Personal Documents Service from our help pages at www.amazon.com/kindlepersonaldocuments.
Thank you for choosing Kindle,
Amazon.com Kindle Support