Kindle Tips?
February 11, 2010 5:07 AM   Subscribe

Just Bought A Kindle, What Should I Know That Isn't In The Manual?

I am an American PhD student currently I living in Durban, South Africa. I am also an avid reader, and decided to buy a Kindle after realizing that bookstores in South Africa are small and expensive.

What should I know about my Kindle (it is arriving early next week) that isn't in the manual?
posted by chrisalbon to Technology (22 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
FYI: It is the smaller Kindle, not the Kindle DX
posted by chrisalbon at 5:27 AM on February 11, 2010

I don't know if they've gotten more explicit about this in the instructions, but turn the wireless radio off when you're not using it. Battery life improved with the last big firmware update, but it's not meant to run all the time. You can get weeks on a charge using it only as needed.

Also, there are a bunch of water-resistant cases available, but I'm not sure anything beats a 1 gallon zip-top baggie.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:33 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are into classics, you can get tons of books via Project Gutenberg.
posted by chiefthe at 5:34 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lyn Never: Love to zip-lock bag advice. I agree, simple, strong, waterproof.

Chiefthe: I wasn't really impressed with PG's selection. Any suggestions?
posted by chrisalbon at 5:43 AM on February 11, 2010

Nearly the entire collection of H. Beam Piper is on Project Gutenberg. It's relatively modern (1950s-1980s) science fiction, very good stuff. Probably the place to start is with Little Fuzzy.

There are a few E. Nesbit books (children's fiction)... for example, Five Children and It is a classic for a reason.

Mark Twain....

Anyway, you should just go look at the bookshelves, which sort stuff by subject and usually have the best (on Gutenberg) of such.
posted by anaelith at 6:00 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Amazon has a number of free and/or very inexpensive public domain books I've enjoyed on my Kindle (in my case non-fiction selections Jack London's People Of The Abyss, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jacob Riis's How The Other Half Lives if you want to be thoroughly depressed.)

You can read the first chapter of any book in the Kindle store for free. Click "Send Sample Now" and then read it at your leisure to decide whether you want to buy the whole book. I use this feature a lot and feel it's saved me time and money.

Battery life is surprisingly good, and Lyn Never is right--turning off the WiFi will get you days more power.

If you have an iPhone, I highly recommend downloading the free Kindle app which will permit you to access your Kindle library on your iPhone. (I find that what the iPhone lacks in viewing screen size it makes up for with intuitive controls far superior imo to the Kindle's chunkier and clunkier navigation buttons. It's also backlit so you can read in the dark.)
posted by applemeat at 6:23 AM on February 11, 2010

There are a few sites with tips and tricks for the Kindle. The hack that allows you to put whatever set of photos you want on the front page is nice.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

The kindle is great for reading long articles that you find online, whether you email them to your kindle (for a small fee) or convert them yourself and upload them via USB. The things I read on my kindle are almost exclusively things that I found online (legitimately) for free, and reading for work (I'm a book editor; I read almost all the manuscripts and proposals I'm considering on my kindle).

Also, if you don't have a smartphone or other internet-connected mobile device, the kindle's "experimental" web browser is great for checking email and text heavy websites like, say, Metafilter.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:27 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

So is Kindle's web browser free? Like, Amazon pays the cost for me to search the internet via 3G?
posted by chrisalbon at 8:41 AM on February 11, 2010

Yes, it is. But it has limited functionality.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2010

If you press Shift+Alt+M at the same time, you can play Minesweeper.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

The web browser is free if your time is worth nothing. It's horrid.
posted by dmd at 9:33 AM on February 11, 2010


I leave Calibre running all the time on my desktop and it automagically goes out every morning at 6am and grabs the Washington Post and a few other sites from their RSS feeds, bundles it up into a package and, if the Kindle is plugged into the computer, dumps it on there.

I believe it's possible to get it to use the over-the-air updating which you pay a nominal fee for, but I don't find plugging it in every night to be onerous.

Aside from that functionality the converting that Calibre does from other formats makes the reading more pleasant. Kindle's PDF handling can be... meh. Calibre does a much nicer job of fixing the formatting and layout.

I haven't put the effort into figuring it out but the not-explicitly-said message on the Mobileread forums seems to be that it's possible to translate online checked-out ebooks onto the kindle somehow. Overt discussion doesn't happen since the powers that be are inclined to wield the DMCA anti-circumvention clauses as a cudgel against people who discuss it, but the information seems to be out there if you dig.
posted by phearlez at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

BTW, there's a Mobileread thread here that says "links every Kindle owner should have."
posted by phearlez at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The big thing for me about the Kindle is that you don't have to use Amazon to get books. In fact, I almost never do.

That's part of what was so confusing to me about people being so upset about losing 1984. Didn't you back up your Kindle? Why not? It is easy.

Just hook it up to your USB port, it mounts like a drive. Now drag books back and forth. It is slow, but works perfectly.

Kindles read two main formats for books, .prc and .azw. The latter is the native format, both work fine.

On Windows, use MobiPocket Creator (free) to make .prc files from any old books you have on your system in most formats (including HTML). For example, there's the whole Honorverse from David Weber, released as HTML (free IIRC). Use "ABC Amber Lit converter" (free) to convert .lit books to .html, then send it to MobiPocket to make the .prc file.

Usually ABC will kill the annoying .lit DRM. Not telling you to steal, just saying that it makes it easier to use your purchased product.

On Mac, use Stanza for the same thing. It also can directly write .azw files, which seem a bit smaller.
posted by Invoke at 9:58 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's part of what was so confusing to me about people being so upset about losing 1984. Didn't you back up your Kindle? Why not? It is easy.

Why not? Because you didn't expect the vendor to reach in and grab from "your" Kindle. Okay, now we are sadder and wiser, but at the time, it was to many a bit of a shock, to say nothing of Orwellian.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:50 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Things that I've noticed after using the kindle for a while:

I've found myself using the "experimental" web browser a lot more than I thought I would. Sites that I visit a lot that work well on the kindle include MetaFilter, the New Yorker fiction archives, and

I also frequently visit and bookmark recipe sites (allrecipes and recipezaar both work OK). I got a cover for the kindle that flips over the top like a notebook, so I can stand the kindle up and reference it while I'm cooking. (The cover I use is the Tuff-Love cover - it's a little pricey, but I love the level of protection it provides).

Whether you can use the kindle for email depends on the webmail you use. Gmail works OK (with some annoyances), Microsoft webmail (which I use for work) works not at all.

I sometimes use the kindle in place of a printer. For instance, rather than printing out shopping lists, travel confirmations, maps, etc, I'll create a document with MobiPocket and put it on the kindle for reference.

You can get books on torrent sites, but there's so much free stuff out there, you probably won't need to. I've found that the books available on torrent sites are usually science fiction/fantasy or tech reference manuals - there's not a great selection of mainstream literary fiction or nonfiction. This may change as ebook readers become more popular.
posted by GraceCathedral at 10:54 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding the hacks to replace the screensaver pics of dead authors with something a bit more personal (I have images of Japanese woodblock prints), but even better is the font hack that replaces the default Kindle font with something that is a little easier on the eyes (IMO). I use Helvetica which I think is much 'crisper'.

Read about and download the font hacks here
posted by 543DoublePlay at 11:11 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

anaelith, god bless you. I've been using Gutenberg for years but never knew about the bookshelves! *bliss*
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:20 AM on February 11, 2010

Many authors' book are run at a very steep discounts through Amazon for limited times (I assuming its promotional). For example, much of Charlie Huston's earlier work were either free or $0.99 for a quite some time. The best way to browse these sales is by using Jungle Search, an advanced search engine for Amazon.
posted by rtimmel at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2010

Expanding on what rtimmel said, the Kindle "bestsellers" are most often free books that are available - often for a limited time. You can check the Kindle bestsellers list from either your Kindle or on the Amazon website.
posted by freezer cake at 1:34 PM on February 11, 2010

I'm a big fan of instapaper. Combine that with calibre....

You hit spots on the web, find something you want, 'instapaper' it...and then download it using calibre. Just don't make the mistake I made; make sure you tell calibre NOT to mark your items as read.
posted by filmgeek at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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