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
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.
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.
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.
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. (I have loaned out nearly 500 books on Lendle, so it is well worth checking out.)
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.
One of the under-appreciated features of the Kindle is its integration with Audible.com. I have a somewhat dated (but still generally accurate) review of Audible.com. You can also borrow audiobooks from the library using either Overdrive or Netlibrary on a smart phone, tablet or computer. Kindles no longer have speakers to directly play audiobooks.
Many Audible audiobooks are synced with their Kindle book. If you have both, you can alternate between audio and ebooks without loosing your place. The negative to this is that you have to own both the audiobook and the kindle books for it to work. The positive is that many audiobooks have a discount if you purchase the Kindle book first. If you want to try the feature out, there are a list of public domain Kindle books with free (or $0.99) audiobooks. Each month Audible has at least one new free Audiobook. And while it is not great for some one that has a large ebook library like I do, Kindle Match will show you which of your kindle books has an audiobook companion and how much it would cost to purchase the audiobook so you can sync between the audiobook and kindle 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 unless they are “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, 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.
Ebook Subscription Programs – Kindle Unlimited, Scribd and Oyster
Over the past year ebook subscription programs have really taken off. These subscription programs are basically ‘Netflix for Books’. You pay a flat monthly fee to access a library of books for no additional fee.
Bookwi.se has reviews of Kindle Unlimited, Scribd and Oyster. If you want to read on your Kindle, the only option is Kindle Unlimited. If you are willing to read on your smart phone or on a tablet, then Scribd and Oyster are also options. If you want both ebooks and audiobooks, Kindle Unlimited and Scribd include both audiobooks and ebooks.
Finally, content matters, with all of the subscription programs there are more than enough books worth reading to keep you busy for a while. But Kindle Unlimited concentrates on a large number of mostly independent authors, but do not have any of the major publishing houses. Scribd and Oyster have several of the large publishing houses, but not a lot of current best sellers. Right now I am subscribed to Scribd primarily for their audiobook library, but also because of their good selection of more academic leaning Christian books from Intervarsity Press, Fortress Press and other more specialty publishers.
Also it is important to remember that these subscription programs are not purchasing books, but letting you borrow them. So when determining if the program is worth it, don’t use the purchase price as a comparison. These programs are all month to month. So use it, then take a break and read other books for a while and then if you like go back to it. Bookwi.se has links to reviews of books that are included in Kindle Unlimited and Scribd.
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 Kboards. 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 author’s 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.
Gift a Kindle Book to another User
Once you have friends and family that regularly read kindle books, you might be interested in giving kindle books to others. You can do this by giving people Amazon gift cards or by directly giving them a particular books. This post has directions on how to gift a book.
Get an App
If you have an Amazon 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 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.