Kindle Tips

So Now I Have a Kindle, What Do I Do With It? How to Get Started

So you received a new Kindle for Christmas. Now what do you do.  Below the jump you can find out about borrowing books, importing books, audiobooks, tracking the prices of kindle books, finding new books, getting your questions answered and more. This post focuses on Amazon Kindles, but some of the content is also true for Amazon Fire Tablets or other eink readers as well.

Free or Sale Kindle Books

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

One of the first things you want to do is check out free books.  There are a lot of free books, usually 500-600 free books a day (although many repeat at least quarterly).  You have a couple of options to find free ebooks. The ones I most I recommend are ereaderiq or ereaderperks. Both will send you a daily email of 30 to 40 recommend kindle books divided into genre, with a short summary and a book cover.  You can customize the email to the genres that you are most interested in.

There are also blogs that focus on sale books. Gospelebooks and VesselProject focus on Christian books but there are a variety of others including ereaderiq that post about kindle book sales.

You can also follow Bookwi.se.  Bookwi.se posts a free Christian Kindle books nearly every day and several days a week I post about sales. Project Gutenberg and Christian Classic Ethereal Library are excellent for finding public domain books.  Baen Publishers maintains a free library of ebooks if you enjoy science fiction or fantasy.

Amazon’s message board system also is a good place to find free or sale books.

Borrow from Your Library

Bookwi.se has a post about how to borrow books from the library.  It is fairly easy, free, and most public libraries are now participating.  If you like audiobooks, borrowing from the library can help you get discounts on audiobooks from Audible.com

Borrow from other Kindle Users

Amazon got into the borrowing and lending of kindle books fairly late in the game. But they learned from others and made the process very easy. Here is a post about how to Borrow or Lend a book. Many people do not know a lot of other kindle owners, so Kindle book sharing sites popped up. Bookwi.se has reviewed two.  Lendle and Booklending. I prefer Lendle, but it requires you to earn credits by offering up books to be loaned (most free books are lendable, so you can get some free books to build up some credits). Booklending allows you to borrow without lending, but does not have as many books. However, there is not a good reason to not check both sites if one site does not have a book you want to borrow.

How to Gift Kindle Ebooks

Because of all the sales, I wanted to repost about how to give a kindle book as a gift.

First you go to the kindle edition of the book. Then look below the regular Buy Now button and click ‘Give as a Gift’.

That brings up another screen that allows you to do one of two things.

1) You can designate a person to give the gift to by putting in an email address and a date to deliver the book. The email can be any email address, not just the person’s regular Amazon email address, but the date is only day specific, not time specific. Usually they are delivered at or after 12 AM Pacific, which is not always the best time for it to be delivered.

2) The other option is to email the gift to yourself and then you can forward the email or print out the redeem code and give the person a gift in person.

The advantage of sending the code to yourself, is that you can buy the book when it is on sale, but not have a person that you know you want to give it to yet.  I know I have wanted to buy books that I thought were great, but didn’t have anyone in particular to give it to. But I knew someday I would want to give that book away.

Scribd: A Review

Over the past three weeks I have been using Scribd, a subscription ebook service, similar to Kindle Unlimited and Oyster. While not perfect, this is the first of the subscription services that I have seriously considering keeping the subscription after the trial.

All of the subscription ebook services have similar prices $8.99 or $9.99, all have a few hundred thousand books and a good bit of overlapping content. But there are differences.

First, Scribd and Oyster have some major publishers. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited is primarily self published books and smaller publishers, but both Oyster and Scribd have books from 3 of the 5 major publishing houses. Much of the newest content is not there, but the back list (about a year or so old) is here and has much worth reading.

Scribd Adds 30,000 Audiobooks

Note Bookwi.se now has a full review of Scribd

Scribd is a document sharing and ebook subscription service. Originally it was mostly to share unpublished papers or articles, Scribd started its ebook subscription service about the same time as the better known Oyster, last year.  At the time I tried and reviewed Oyster, but didn’t bother reviewing Scribd because the services were so similar.

After spending 3 months with Kindle Unlimited, I was interested to hear Scribd announce yesterday that the $8.99 a month service will now include 30,000 audiobooks. This morning I signed up for the free one month trial and have some initial thoughts.

First, this is a much better website than it was last I looked at it, and the selection is much better than Kindle Unlimited. Yes Kindle Unlimited has more books, but Scribd has more of the books you want to read.

For instance, while Kindle Unlimited had a handful of CS Lewis books in ebook (none with free audiobooks), Scribd has most of his books, both in ebook and audiobook formats, in addition to the recent biographies from Alister McGrath and Devin Brown, and a number of Lewis’ books also have Spanish editions.

There are audiobooks from Blackstone, HarperCollins (which owns Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and HarperOne) and Scholastic included in the 30,000 audiobooks.

New Kindle Reviews (Kindle Voyager and Kindle Basic 2014)

This morning reviews for the new Kindle Voyager has starting popping up in the press. The Kindle Voyager is a new high end eink Kindle.*

The summary of the reviews that I have read so far, is that the Kindle Voyager is the best eink ereader available. It has a beautiful screen, with much higher resolution than anything else on the market. It is the only ereader with a light sensor so it automatically adjusts the frontlight based on the amount of light wherever you are reading. It has a new type of button that does not physically click (no more bothering your spouse when you are reading in bed) but senses the pressure when you push the bezel. And it has a new much higher price. It starts at $199 for the wifi only version with Ads. It is $20 extra to removed the Ads and $70 extra to get the version with free 3G.

I think Amazon and Apple are both having the same problem. People that want an ereader (or tablet) mostly have them. And both ereaders and tablets last a fairly long time. There is not a good reason for anyone to upgrade every year, or even every two years.

And for the most part the upgrades are incremental. A slightly better screen, even if it is the best screen, is only slightly better. Better buttons, even if more convenient are still only slightly better than a touch screen. A light sensor, even though useful, is hardly reason to spend $200. A flat screen (instead of a recessed one) is nice, as is a micro etched screen to make it even less reflective, but again, not a reason to upgrade.

Last week, I saw several reviews of the new Kindle Basic. The new Kindle Basic now has a touch screen and the exact same software as the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Voyager. The only real difference between the Kindle Basic and the and the more expensive Paperwhite is the lighted screen. In fact many of the reviews noted that the new Kindle Basic ($79) screen is actually clearer than the Kindle Paperwhite 2 ($119) that was released last year.

So at this point there are only three Kindles to choose from:

  • Kindle Basic – $79, touch screen, but no light (6.7 oz)
  • Kindle Paperwhite – $119, touch screen, lighted screen, no buttons (7.3 oz)
  • Kindle Voyager – $199, lighted touch screen, light sensor, sensor touch buttons on the bezel, flush screen to the bezel with micro etching to make it the most anti-reflective screen that Amazon makes. (6.3 oz)

My 3 Month Review of Kindle Unlimited

If you signed up for Kindle Unlimited when it first was announced your first three months is just about to end. I have been using Kindle Unlimited actively during that time and wanted to update my initial thoughts about the value of the service and who should think about using it. I am not going to pretend that I am an average reader, I read more than at least 95% of the public. But I do think that for at least some, Kindle Unlimited is valuable.

Kindle Unlimited allows the subscriber to borrow up to 10 books at a time from a library of more than 600,000 books (roughly 30% of the total Kindle books available.) None of the major 5 publishers participate, but several of the still good-sized smaller publishers do.

The first month of the trial is free, and each of the following months is $9.99. The first three months the subscriber also gets 1 Audible.com Audiobook credit a month that can be used on any Audible book, not just those in the Kindle Unlimited library.

So how much did I use Kindle Unlimited? Quite a bit. During the last three months I read (including books that I did not complete):

Thoughts on KindleUnlimited


KindleUnlimited is a product that as a big reader I am interested in.  But I do not think this is a product for everyone.

After a day of playing with it and exploring the titles here are a few thoughts. (Here is my updated thought after 3 months).

1) Unlimited, but only ten titles at a time. I have not seen official documentation of this, but on the Amazon message boards many people are reporting that there is a limit of 10 titles at a time.  This is unlimited because you can check out as many titles a month as you want, but only 10 different titles at a time. Even as someone that likes to read several books at a time, a 10 book limit seems reasonable.

2) Do not miss the Audible Credits. In your welcome email there is a link about getting 3 free credits (one a month) from Audible.  I thought that it was only for new Audible members so I did not click it initially.  Later I learned that you have to click the link to get your free credits.  If you are currently a member of Audible you get a credit added to your account the first month and one addition the next two months.  If you are not a member, then you are being signed up for Audible and you need to quit Audible after three months.  Audible credits can be used for any book at Audible, not just the KindleUnlimited books.  The price of these credits, depending on your plan is $9.09 to $14.95.  So signing up for three months of KindleUnlimited is like getting 3 credits for $6.66 each (two months of $9.99 and one month free).

3) No major publishers, sort of. Initially I thought HarperCollins must have been a part because several of CS Lewis’ books were included.  But the ones includes are with Mariner Books.  I found two of Thomas Merton’s books are included. Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain is a Houghton Miffin Harcourt book (as is the heavily publicized Lord of the Rings books).  Houghton Miffin Harcourt is not a small publisher, but is not one of the big 5 and primarily focuses on textbooks.

Ebooks, especially of older books, are a gray area because they were not included in most publishing agreements so sometimes ebooks are self-published or have a different publisher even if the paper book is a regular publisher.

Open Road Media is a company that seems to specialize in larger name fiction and non-fiction that did not have ebook agreements and/or are out of print.  And all of the Open Road Media books that I have looked for are included.  So Dorothy Sayers, a number of Pat Conroy, older Susan Howatch, much of Octavia Butler, Pearl S Buck, John Jakes, some Michael Chabon, some Ann Patchett, etc.  So if you like 20th Century Literary Fiction, you will find a number of books worth reading.

4) Is it worth it? Time had an article that suggested that if you read 16 books a year from KindleUnlimited, then it is worth it.  That is based on $7.50 a book ($7.50 times 16 = $120).  But I think that is too generous. Many of the books that are included are less than $7.50 to start with.  And remember, this is rental not purchase.  Personally, I think that you should based your cost effectiveness calculation amount at $3-4 a book. So you would need to read 30-40 books a year from KindleUnlimited to make sense. ($3 times 40 = $120 or $4 times 30 = $120)

However, I think it is better to think about this as a per month cost benefit.  There is no reason that after the first 3 months (so you get your Audible benefit) you cannot stop, read some other things and then re-subscribe to KindleUnlimited later. ($4 times 3 books in a month is $12 which is more than the $9.99 cost)

5) Audiobook. Part of what makes KindleUnlimited different from Oyster or Scribd is the audiobook integration.  Initially it looked like there were about 7000 books with audiobooks.  But only about 2000 of those have free audiobooks.  The rest have discounts on the audiobooks, but they are not free.  I am sure I can find a few dozen or more audiobooks I want and for me that is worth the cost.  I did have a problem with one book that was marked as having the audio, but it did not show up in the kindle iphone app.  I contacted support and they suggested trying the iphone Audible app.  And it was there.

6) Eink Ereaders – The main reason I did not continue with Oyster after my initial trial and review was that I primarily read on my Kindle.  I believe that eink ereaders are far superior to reading on my iphone, ipad or computer (or android tablet if I had one of those).  KindleUnlimited is the only one of the ebook subscription plans that has an option to read on an eink ereader as far as I can tell.

Summary: Basically, I think if you are a reader, especially if you like audiobooks and use Audible, you should at least get the one month trial.  And probably pay for the first two months.  After that, you should have a good idea if you are going to use it.  But do not be afraid to cancel for a couple months, read something else and come back to it later.

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Updated: I went through my fairly extensive  Amazon wishlist (if you look at it on your eink kindle, it says whether the book is KindleUnlimited or not, but looking at the wishlist on a computer does not.)  I moved my KindleUnlimited books to a separate wishlist and then added a few books that I ran across.  Right now I have 62 books on the KindleUnlimited wishlist.

I also went through the Bookwi.se Reviews and found about 50 books that are in KindleUnlimited, roughly 1/3 (mostly public domain classics) have free audiobooks as well. I also tagged just the ones with Free Audiobooks if you are primarily interested in that.

I will in the future continue to tag books reviews that are KindleUnlimited or KindleUnlimited with Free Narration to make them easy to find.

KindleUnlimited

1405689426_0.pngKindleUnlimited is now live.  I am not sure if Amazon moved up their release because of the leak or if it was always planned for release today.

Kindleunlimied is a ‘netflix for books’ plan.  For $9.99 a month you get access to more than 600,000 books.  And with about 7000 of those book, there is Audiobooks paired with the kindle book so you can switch back and forth between the audiobook and kindle book.  (It looks like some of the audiobooks you can buy the add-on, and some are free.)

There is a one month free trial and with the free trial you get a three month free trial to Audible.com.

I have signed up with the trial and I will post more after I am able to review the process.  But the quick look shows a number of good books that I have read and review and I am interested in reading.  The front pages shows, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Huger Games along with a number of other books.

Right now I don’t see anything about how it really works.  Can you have multiple books at a time? There is a brief FAQ, but I am going to have to explore it because my questions are not really answered.

The cost seems reasonable depending on how it works.  I often only read a book once, so book rental is ok with me.  My guess is that there is more than enough books for me to read for quite a while, but not every books I want to read.

Amazon Testing An All You Can Read Plan? KindleUnlimited

1405544162_0.pngAs has been reported in on LilliputingTechCruch, Goodereader, and several other places, Gigaom has a screen shot of an Amazon page that appears to be introducing KindleUnlimited, an all you can read book program for $9.99 a month.  This is similar to other services like Oyster and Scribd, but Amazon is by far the largest player in the ebook market.

According to the screen shot, more than 600,000 books and just over 7000 audiobooks would be available.

There has not been any response from Amazon publicly yet.  But unless someone is having fun with a mockup, this appears to be a mistake by Amazon and some of the pages went live before they were supposed to.

Right now Amazon has approximately 2.7 million books and about 120,000 audiobooks through Audible.  The big problem for Amazon will be getting publishers to participate.  Oyster has Simon & Schuester and HarperCollins, but I doubt either publisher will be quick to participate without some serious incentives from Amazon.

But given my review of Oyster, if this were available for kindle, I would subscribe.

Now Audio and Text in the iOS Kindle App

Amazon released a big update to the iOS kindle apps (iphone, ipod touch and ipad) yesterday.  This brings it in line with the Kindle Fire apps.

The main new feature is the ability to listen to the audiobook directly in the kindle app.  Previously you could sync your location in the kindle app and the Audible.com app, but you had to alternate between the two apps.  Now you can do ‘immersion reading’ and listen to the audiobook while seeing the words.

For most people, it is just a good feature to keep your place while alternating, but Amazon markets the feature to help kids learn to read.

I do like the syncing feature (although it requires you own a copy of both the audiobook and the kindle edition).  I briefly tried it out the iOS kindle app last night and this morning and it seems to work well.

Any book that you own both versions (there is often a discount if you purchase the kindle edition first) has a headphone symbol in your library.

If you want to try the feature out without spending much money, there is a list of $0.99 classics, where the kindle edition is free and the audiobook is only $0.99.