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The COVID-related closure of libraries struck fear into the hearts of book lovers everywhere. Like many times of strife, it had the secret benefit of driving advancement. For a lot of us, that meant finally getting used to e-readers.

One unpleasant surprise many people may have found is that our ASCPL app is not available on Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire devices. This has actually been the case for some time; Amazon’s app store is much, much smaller than the Google Play store accessible to most Android devices. The Play store is up to around 3 million available apps, while Amazon offers a mere half million.

Now, that may or may not mean much. If you have only five apps to show you how to tie the six basic Boy Scout knots as opposed to the 500 your friend has, you probably won’t suffer much. The trouble is, the Amazon store lacks some quite popular apps, such as YouTube. Some other apps, like Facebook, have popped in and out of the store over the years.

And, of course, most important of all is that ASCPL app. So, what is a library user to do?

For starters, it should be pointed out that just because the ASCPL app itself is not available in the Amazon app store, that doesn’t actually limit your content. You can still download the bits and pieces that deliver library materials, like Overdrive for e-books, Kanopy for films, and so on. It’s just that you don’t get them all in one handy place that also lets you manage your account. It is not impossible to go without that library app, but it is inconvenient. Hopefully, we will find our convenient ASCPL app in the Amazon app store in the near future.

Here's a secret, though: you don’t actually have to go without the official ASCPL app even if you are using a Fire tablet. See, while the version of the Android operating system Amazon puts on its Fire devices is heavily modified, it is, at heart, still an Android operating system. And integral to that system is a kind of back door way to install apps without any app store at all. It is a process called sideloading, and it’s not as hard as you might think. Moreover, unlike more intrusive hacks like jailbreaking (for Apple devices) or rooting (the same idea but for Android devices), sideloading doesn’t break any warranty or licensing terms. In fact, Amazon even publishes instructions on how to sideload their app store onto other Android devices.

(Warning: There are dangers to sideloading apps. You should make sure your APK file is not malicious or corrupted. Sideloading is one of the main reasons for infected devices.)

Now, in general, you want to be a little cautious and not just sideload every app you find on the internet willy-nilly. You don’t hear about it much, but there actually are viruses that target Android-based operating systems, and careless sideloading is a great way to find them. Here are a couple links that can walk you through the process to load that Play Store, though, which is safe.

From the BestBuy blog

From the HowtoGeek blog

From the Androidpolice blog

There are others as well, including videos you can search for on YouTube if that’s your jam. While the library app is clearly the highlight of the Google Play store, once you have it sideloaded you can install any of the myriad apps normally unavailable on Amazon devices. It is a great way to squeeze some extra value out of those Amazon tablets that already tend to run much cheaper than their Android competitors.

by Fred Baerkircher,
Branch Manager at Highland Square Branch Library