Top 5 Kindle Tips

We got our Kindle 3G last fall, and recently some friends and family members have gotten Kindles too. They asked me for some tips on navigating the features, and I decided to post them here:

1. Your Kindle has a Web Browser

The number of people that didn't realize their Kindle has a Web Browser feature surprised me. Under Menu>Experimental>Web Browser, the Kindle does indeed include a rudimentary web browser. I say rudimentary because it's clunky and slow (especially if you're used to a good smartphone, tablet, or netbook), but it is considered experimental so I wasn't expecting a lot.

However, on several car trips it's come in very handy when I needed an address, a map, to search for a store or restaurant, things like that where a smart phone comes in handy. But, alas, I don't have a smartphone, and was glad to at least have access to the internet through my Kindle. My Yahoo! Mail seems to have compatibility issues, so I don't see myself using this regularly for email unless I'm really desperate for a fix.

Also, turn off the wireless (via the Menu button) when you're not using it, and your power will last longer.

2. You Can Upload Your Own Documents to Your Kindle

What's more, you can do so for free, by USB or email. For USB, just drag and drop, and for email you'll need to send them as an attachment to your "name" address (check your account settings to find yours, but it's usually the same name as the email you use on If it's a PDF file, you can also type "convert" (without the quotes) as the subject line, and it will convert your PDF to an AZW format (for better formatting on your device, and to access features like font size).

There are some occasions that the free kindle upload doesn't work, and Amazon may try to send it by 3G instead. For that contingency, it's a good idea to set a charge limit for documents so you're not caught by surprise. You can set the limit through the "Manage Your Kindle Page".

3. A Kindle Can Read to You

This is also an experimental feature on the Kindle, though more people are aware of text-to-speech because there was some speculation on whether or not this feature infringes on audio rights. The experience of using the text-to-speech that comes with the Kindle does not compare to a well-done audio book, so no contest in my mind.

The Kindle's "voice" is pretty robotic, but that can mean some unintentionally funny readings. What it's truly valuable for, is using it in conjunction with uploading your documents.

When we read our own writing, whether on the page or out loud, we impose a certain rhythm on the words. Someone else doing a cold read (and what's colder than an experimental robot's voice?) may not have the same take. So words that are repeated jump out at you more, as well as places where you might need a comma, period, or new paragraph.

4. There Are Lots of Free Kindle Books Out There

When you go to the Kindle Store, there is a link on the left that will take you to Free Ebook Collections and there are some marvelous classic works listed, but what if you're in the mood for something more contemporary? Especially if you're wanting to try out a new author?

From the "Bestselling Kindle eBooks in Featured Categories" page, click on a genre and it takes you to a page displaying the Top 100 Paid and Top 100 Free in that category.

Another trick is to browse the genre you want, and then sort them using "Price: Low to High". You should get a few pages of free and nearly-free books before the prices start climbing.

5. You Don't Need to Buy a $50 Leather Case to Protect Your Kindle

Unless you want to, of course. My Kindle travels in my purse inside a low-tech sleeve: a bubble wrap pocket. Somebody shipped me a few music CDs inside one, and it fits perfectly without adding a lot of bulk. If I want another layer over that, I have an old-school zip up fabric book cover.

And then there's the Speck Dustjacket that I bought with a Target gift card, so technically it didn't cost me anything at all. I love that it has a stand (I have a bad habit of reading while I'm eating) and the "covers" have a weight/thickness to them that makes it easier to hold in my hands for longer periods.

You can also protect the most important part, the screen, with a film you apply over it, but I've heard mixed reviews on those. Since there isn't any sensitive touch-screen technology in the Kindle, it's probably not necessary.

So those are my Top 5 Kindle Tips! Hope they were helpful. Also, there is one more experimental feature that allows you to listen to MP3-formatted music, but I haven't successfully gotten any files on my Kindle yet so I don't know how good they sound. Anybody else have any tips they want to share?

Addendum: Hilarious blooper while composing this post. I had to tweet it: Mistyping fingers faster than brain. Just typed "dongjunction" instead of "conjunction". That's a whole nother Schoolhouse Rock


Colleen Thompson said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

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