Kindle Tips

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

I am reposting a lightly edited piece I wrote last year at this time.

If estimates are right, around 5 million people have purchased or received as gifts a Kindle this season.  So 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.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Free Books

One of the first things you want to do is check out free books.  There are a lot of free books, in fact because of the Kindle Select program for authors there will probably be around 100 500-600 free books a day for quite a while.  So you have a couple of options.  The two I recommend are ereaderiq or Booksontheknob.  They take two different tacks.  Ereaderiq 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 be the genres that you are most interested in.  Book On The Knob for the most part ignores all the independent books and only talks about free books from the major publishers.  You can follow Books on the Knob on their RSS, Facebook or Twitter Feed.

You can also follow Bookwi.se.  Bookwi.se posts a free Christian Kindle books nearly every day and based on reader feedback, I will start posting occasionally about other free kindle books.  Another option if you like Science Fiction or Fantasy is Baen.

Borrow from Your Library

Bookwi.se has a post about how to borrow books from the library.  It is fairly easy, free, and most 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.

There are also a number of smaller message boards that have their own lending systems.  These require more work (no automatic matching of lender and borrower) but if you are an active member of the message board, that may be a good option for you.

Only about 30-40 percent of books are lendable, so many books you want, you will have to pay for.

Track the Price of Kindle Books

If you are like most Kindle owners, you will quickly accumulate more books than what you can read.  But there will still be books that you want to buy, but they are priced higher than what you want to spend right now.  This is where Ereaderiq comes in.  This post shows you how to use Ereaderiq to create a wish-list and track the books you would like to buy, but are out of your price range.  It also can track a list of books that are not currently available for Kindle and let you know when they are in Kindle format.

Image representing Audible as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Audiobooks

One of the under-appreciated features of the Kindle is its integration with Audible.com.  I have a somewhat dated (but still accurate) review of Audible.com.  You can also borrow audiobooks from the library using either Overdrive or Netlibrary.  MP3 audiobooks will play as audiobooks (if you put them in the Audible folder), but I have found that there is a lot of problems saving your place correctly with MP3 audiobooks and I tend to use my phone for MP3 audiobooks.

Import Books

Amazon is the easiest place to get Kindle books, but it is not the only place that you can get Kindle books.  Baen, mentioned above, has a system set up to automatically email your books to your Kindle that works quite well.  Other book stores allow you to download and then you can email or sideload (move the book over via USB cord from your computer.  The most important issue if purchasing books from other sites is to determine the format and/or DRM.  Amazon uses .mobi format.  Most of the rest of the ebook world uses the .epub format.  Both have their advantages, but they are not interchangeable.  DRM is digital right management. I am not going to discuss DRM other than to say, do not buy books outside Amazon if they are not “DRM-Free”.

If they are DRM-Free, then you can convert them between the formats using the free software Calibre.  Calibre will also help you maintain a digital library of your books you purchase outside of Amazon.  (All of your books purchased from Amazon are maintained in Amazon’s cloud, so you don’t need to keep a outside library.)

The easiest thing to do, once the book is in the right format is to email it to your kindle.  Each kindle has its own email address.  If your book is in MS Word, HTML, Text or PDF format, you can also have Amazon convert for you by just putting “convert” in the subject line.  Amazon will save emailed files for later download in the Archive (just like purchased books).  So if you get a book from outside of Amazon, Amazon will still save your copy of it in your archive (up to 5GB for free.)

Discover New Books

I think one of the most important things to do as a reader is to learn about new books.  Without some intentionality to it, you will end up reading the same authors or the same genres and never grow as a reader.  I want to highlight a couple resources I use.  First are the traditional book review magazines.  I like Englewood Review of Books, a small independent magazine that started a couple years ago.  Also I am a fan of Christianity Today’s Books and Culture magazine.

My favorite place to learn about new books is Goodreads, it is a social network for readers.  Set up somewhat like Facebook, you can follow other people’s reviews or become ‘friends’ with others that you know or don’t know.  I use goodreads to track all of the books I read and store up ideas for future books to read.  I highly recommend it.  Goodreads also has message boards and book discussions as well as a lot of book give aways.

There are also many, many small book review sites like Bookwi.se.  Look around and find reviewers that you trust and branch out.  You will not like everything.  But if you loved every book you read, you would not really be branching out.  You also need to give yourself permission to quit reading books that you do not like.  There is some value in pushing through books that are difficult to read, but valuable.  There is not a lot of value in pushing yourself to read books that you hate.

Get Questions Answered

If you have a question about your kindle, the best place to find answers are the message boards.  There are three that I recommend.  The best, in my opinion, is Kindleboards.  It has been around for a long time and as a very knowledgeable and helpful group of people that can help answer questions, talk about books and it has very strong writers community if you are a writer.

Another board that is not exclusively kindle focused is MobileRead.  I have not participated there as much lately, but it has a good developer community that works on hacks and ways to use an ebook reader that the manufactures did not intend.  It can be very helpful.

The other big community is Amazon’s own message board system.  I have never spend much time there, but I do use it to track free and reduced price books and I know that many people do use it as a regular message board.

Get an App

If you have a Kindle fire, then one of the first things you want to do is explore the Amazon App store.  Every day Amazon give away a free app.  Right after Christmas there will be a lot of very good apps for free.  If you have an eink kindle (not a fire) there are still many good games, many of them for free.

Anything else?

If you have other questions or would like to suggest a Reading Tools post or something else to go here, leave a comment below and I will try to answer your question of find the answer somewhere if I do not now it.

New Kindle Paperwhite Firmware

Amazon released new firmware for the 2nd Generation Kindle Paperwhite (5.4.2).  This firmware brings some promised features to the Paperwhite.

  • Kindle FreeTimeFreeTime lets you create personalized profiles for kids, and give them access to titles from your collection of books. Kids can keep track of their personal reading progress and earn achievement badges. To learn more, go to Kindle FreeTime.
  •  Goodreads on KindleConnect with the world’s largest community for readers from your Kindle Paperwhite. See what your friends are reading, share notes, and rate the books you read. To learn more, go to Find and Share Books with Goodreads on Kindle.
  •  Cloud CollectionsUse Cloud Collections to organize titles in custom categories and store your collections in the Cloud. To learn more, go to Organize Your Content with Cloud Collections.

If you are patient, the update will be pushed out to your paperwhite via wifi.  But that can take a couple weeks.  If you want to download and install yourself you can download the firmware here.  The official announcement is here.

Goodereader.com blog is reporting a bug in their initial tests, but they seem very minor and potentially the intended design, not a real bug.

This matches the previous firmware upgrades for the Kindle Fires earlier this week.

This update is not for the first generation paperwhite, but I would guess the firmware for first generation paperwhites will be released soon.

Amazon’s New Kindle Book Sale Page

Kindle Countdown DealsAmazon has a new Kindle Countdown Deals Page.

From reports it sounds like the page is supposed to tell you how long until the book is no longer on sale.  But that does not seem to be the case.

Instead it is just showing the book that are on sale.

This seems to be trying complete (in combination with changes to the wishlist) sites like ereaderiq.com and jungle-search.com that highlight sales or search for price drops.  Those external sites get a commission from links and if Amazon can move those users to Amazon generated deals then Amazon get more profit per sale.

But this Kindle Countdown Deals is only open to Kindle Direct Publishers.  So you have to have an agreement to only sell ebook through Amazon to be on this page (although I would not be surprised later if publishers negotiated directly with Amazon to be on the page.)

Right now there are 79 books on sale all for $0.99.

4 Kindle Tools You Should Use: Dictionary, Wikipedia, Translation, Content Errors

Obviously I am a fan of ebooks.  But I am a fan, not just because they are portable, are sometimes cheaper, or because they don’t take up shelf space.  I am a fan of ereaders because of the tools that they bring to reading.

There are three in particular that most ereaders have that everyone should use.

bDictionary – almost every ereader now has a built in dictionary.  For kindle all you need to do is touch the word (on touch screen kindles) or move the cursor to the word on non-touch screen kindles.  That will either pop up a dictionary or bring up an entry along the bottom of the page.  Everyone needs a dictionary at some point, so you might as well get used to using it.  The new Kindle Paperwhite also has a flashcard game that uses the words that use lookup in your dictionary to help teach vocabulary.

Wikipedia – Everyone knows that Wikipedia should not be used to write papers.  But it is a good enough system to give a good overview of almost anything.  On the new Kindles the wikipedia is a tab on the dictionary popup.  So if there is not a good definition in the dictionary then you should try wikipedia.  It is particularly helpful with names and places.

Kindle Matchbook – Discounted or free Ebooks with Purchase of Print

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Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program was released overnight.  You can now check and see what print books that you have purchased in the past participate and what the discount is to also pick up the Kindle Edition of that book.

The discounts range from free to $2.99 to get the Kindle Edition.  When I looked, I only had 6 books that were participating.  But I also have not purchased a lot of print books from Amazon.

You can also search for print books that have Matchbook discounts (for instance if you are giving away a print book and then want to keep a copy of the kindle edition for yourself).  I did notice that many of the books that were marked as Kindle Matchbook compatible in the search were not showing up that way when I actually looked at the book.  So the rollout may be a bit slow.  Right now Amazon has just under 75,000 book that are Matchbook compatible according to the search.

Borrowing a Book from Amazon Prime Lending Library

On twitter I was asked about the likelihood of Amazon getting an Oyster-like feature (all you can read ebooks for a monthly fee.)  I think the ‘all you can read’ system, like Oyster, has a pretty low chance of ever being offered on Amazon.  But Amazon does have the Amazon Prime Lending Library. (Sometime referred to as the Kindle Lending Library or KLL).

Many people tried out the Kindle Lending Library when it was introduced and have ignored it since.  When it started you could not search from a computer for Lending Library Books, and it only had about 5000 books to choose from.

Now there are more than 450,000 book, you can search from your computer (although still have to borrow from your kindle) and the quality of the books has gotten much better.

Here are a few hints and tips that has made the Lending Library easier for me to use.

1) Searching on the computer - it is still far easier to look for a book on your computer than looking on your kindle.  You can see all of the Prime Eligible books from this link.  From there click on the broad area you are interested in. For instance the 49,423 books in the Religion and Spirituality area.  Many of these books have been offered for free.  The biggest contributors to the library are independent authors.  But there are a lot more than just independent authors.

2) Use a wishlist – once you find a book you want (or if you randomly see a book doing another search) save it in a wishlist that you just use for Prime Lending.  I try to always keep at least 5 or 10 Lending Library books in a wishlist so that I do not have to scramble on the last day of the month.

Oyster, Now Open for Everyone, On the iPad and a Free Trial

Oyster Books, not on IpadEarlier I reviewed Oyster, an all you can read plan for ebooks.  Or as most people describe it, “Netflix for ebooks”.  The summary of my review is that it has good selection, a reasonable price, but it was limited to only reading on the iPhone.

Well today Oyster released an iPad app, which is a whole new app, not just scaled up from the iPhone.  Also, Oyster is now open to everyone (previously it was invitation only) and there is now a free month free.

Oyster’s blog announcement of the new changes.

Amazon Matchmaker

We found these audio companions for your Kindle booksYesterday evening Amazon announced their Amazon Matchmaker program. (h/t Goodereader and Gospel ebooks).

Amazon Matchmaker is a single location for Kindle books in your library that have Audible books that are matched through the whispersync program (where you can move back and forth seamlessly from audiobook to kindle book.)

I really like the concept of the whispersync.  I love audiobooks and as long as the price is not much more, I am willing to purchase both for the ease of being able to move between the kindle book and audiobook. (Plus I prefer to re-read a book in a different format.  So if I read first on kindle, I like to re-read on audio or vice versa.)

This is the first time Amazon has had all of the whispersync enabled books from your library in a single place.  I have tried to get this info several times previously.  When I asked Audible customer support they can told me what books that I already own on audiobook that have a kindle option.  But they can’t tell me what kindle books that I own have an Audiobook option.  And from Amazon’s side, they have told me that all I can do is go through my kindle books one by one from the Manage My Kindle page and look to see which one has the whispersync option.

So the fact that this is a one stop look is great news.  But the implementation is awful. At least it is awful for those of us Kindle users that have large libraries.  I have a large kindle book library (around 3500 kindle books and nearly 700 audiobook.)

New Paperwhite Review (2013)

I have spent the weekend with the new Kindle Paperwhite and I am ready for the final review.

Visually, it is almost indistinguishable from the first Paperwhite.  It has the exact same dimensions (so keep your cases). The only external differences is a very slight difference in the font that says Kindle on the front and on the back it says ‘Amazon’ instead of ‘Kindle’.  That is it, buttons are the same, case is the same.  Weight is supposed to be slightly less, but honestly I can’t tell a difference.

Screen

the Light on a Paperwhite Screen KindThe light is the biggest feature of the Kindle Paperwhite and it is slightly better on the new version.  Dedicated eink Kindles are different from tablets (like the iPad or fire).  Tablets have color LCD screen that make light by shining it out at your face.  The Paperwhite has invisible threads of light running through the screen and shining it down at the text.  This means that there is much less light that comes out from the screen (although it is not zero) and that means much less wear on your eyes.  Personally, it makes a big difference.

close

The new lighted screen has a much less blue tint and is more white when the light is brighter and less gray when the light is low. There was a complaint about the first Paperwhite that you could never white turn off the light, but either you can now turn off the light or it is so low I can’t detect that it is on.  (Left is new Paperwhite, right is the original Paperwhite.)

Oyster Book – An All You Can Read Ebook Plan – A Review

Oyster is an all-you-can-read ebook subscription program.  Commonly described as Netflix-for-Books.  Officially it was opened up in September, but it is still in a private testing phase.  I signed up and have used it for the last three weeks. Pick Five Books

My overall impression is fairly positive.  When you sign up you are asked to choose five books from your computer browser.  These five books will be in your account to get started.  The main problem is that on the computer, there is not a search function.  So you have to look through book covers sorted into categories.  These are their most popular books, so you should not have too much problem finding books you are interested it.

Oyster Home Screen

Once you complete the registration process (pretty basic) and give your credit card information ($9.95 a month but with a free one month trial) you are emailed a link for the iPhone app (you can just find it in the app store as well). Once you sign into the app on your iPhone, you can search for books, load the books that you chose on your computer, and update your profile (connect to Facebook or Twitter, search for friends that are on Oyster, list your favorite books, add a picture and write a bio).

explore

Oyster has a good selection of books, they claim 100,000 books, but Smashwords has also said that their entire 250,000 book catalogue of independent authors will be added soon.  I was able to find CS Lewis, Ursula Le Guin, NT Wright, Margaret Atwood, Susan Howatch and a lot of other books that I actually want to read.