I finally broke down (after years of defending “real” books) and recently got a Kindle 4 Wifi. It is very convenient (I can adjust the font size and carry a lot of books on trips) and I wondered why it took me so long to get one. To help you on your journey to getting one, below are some tips on using the Kindle for those who don’t want to slog through the whole manual.
The power button for the Kindle is located on the bottom to the right of mini-USB charger port. Press it once to turn the Kindle on or off. A green light will come on for a brief period of time and then turn off to acknowledge the power button press. If you don’t turn the Kindle off, it will turn itself off (go to sleep) after a period of inactivity (several minutes).
Buttons and Buttons
The Kindle comes with four buttons and what I call a square thumb joystick at the bottom. The four buttons from left to right are Back (to go back to previous screen), Keyboard (to show/hide the virtual keyboard), Menu (to show the page-sensitive menu), and Home (to go to the main screen). The thumb joystick allows you to highlight things (like keys on the virtual keyboard) by going up, down, right, and left and can then be clicked on to make a selection.
I try to minimize my use of the virtual keyboard. Imagine inputting a 26 character wireless password using the thumb joystick and you can understand why.
Charge Your Kindle
The Kindle comes with a USB cable (it’s included in the box) which you can use to charge with. When you turn on the Kindle, if you look at the top right of the screen, you will see the battery status bar. Your Kindle shouldn’t need to be charged for a month or more with moderate reading (make sure you disable Wifi if you don’t need it).
Quick analogy on volts and amps: Think of electricity as water going through an opened half-pipe powering a water wheel. Volt is equivalent to the height of the water and amp is how fast the water flows. If you have a half-pipe of a certain size, the water level (volt) can only go so high before it overflows (bad for electronics). The speed of the water (amp) can vary within reason; it needs to go fast enough to move the water wheel but if it goes really, really fast, it could destroy the wheel, or back up and overflow the pipe (both bad for electronics). The point of this very rough analogy is that to power electronics, volts need to be a specific value while amps needs to be minimal value or greater. (FYI, Watts are just power ratings and is basically volts times amps; for example, 10 Watts = 5 Volts x 2 amps.)
The Kindle requires 5 volts and 0.5 amps or more to charge. This is what a computer’s USB port will usually output so you can just plug the Kindle’s USB cable into a computer’s USB port. (Note: Some older computers’ USB ports might not output this much power. You’ll know because electronics won’t charge.) Some newer computer’s USB port outputs 5 volts and 2 amps for power-hungry devices like Apple iPad; the Kindle will charge fine from these more powerful USB ports, pulling only as much amps as it needs.
The above means that you can charge the Kindle using the Kindle 4 wall charger (5 volts and 0.85 amp), iPad wall charger (5 volts and 2 amps), iphone/ipod touch wall charger (5 volts and 1 amp), Kindle Fire wall adapter (5 volts and 1.8 amps), and other USB wall chargers that meet the Kindle’s power requirements (5 volts and 0.5 amps or better).
When plugged in, the battery bar at the top of the Kindle screen will show a lightning bolt in the middle. When charging, an orange LED light will turn on at the bottom of the Kindle next to the power button. When the charge is 100% complete, the orange LED light will turn off and a green LED light will turn on. You can unplug at the point.
What are Special Offers?
I got the Kindle with special offers. Special offers is Amazon’s ad-supported platform. You see ads on the Kindle, Amazon gets revenue from advertisers, and thus, Amazon can sell you the Kindle at a discounted price ($30 off).
The ads are very unobtrusive. After a while, I stopped noticing them. The ads will only appear on the “screen saver” screen (when the Kindle is turned off or goes to sleep) and at the bottom of the book listing page (or home page). When reading a book, no ads are displayed; this is a good thing because most of the time, I am reading a book.
Disable Wifi to Save Battery Life
Wifi uses a lot of power so disable it when you don’t need it (not purchasing and/or downloading a book from Amazon). This is especially true if you have a Special Offers Kindle because it will wake periodically and use the Wifi to download new ads. (This explains why the battery may go down significantly even if you don’t use your Kindle for a while.)
When you first get your Kindle, if you hit the Menu button off the home screen, you will see the second option is either “Turn On Your Wireless” or “Turn Off Your Wireless”. Unfortunately, this option disappears once the Special Offers Kindle is updated and registered with your Amazon.com account. (I’ve also seen the option disappear on a non-Special Offers Kindle).
If you don’t see the above “Turn On/Off Your Wireless” menu option, you can use the Airplane Mode to disable Wifi. When you turn on Airplane Mode, the wireless is disabled; and vice versa. To toggle the Airplane mode, click on the Home button, click on the Menu button, select Settings, look for “Airplane Mode” at the top, and select the “turn on/off” option.
When Airplane Mode is on, the Wifi icon (five vertical bars of increasing height) will disappear from the top-right of the screen (to left of battery indicator) and you will see a new airplane icon (looks like a crooked plus sign) appear in its place.
Register Your Kindle
Register your Kindle with Amazon.com to buy books and to allow others to email books directly to your Kindle. To register the Kindle, turn Wifi on, go to home, menu, Settings, and click “register” to the right of the Registration setting. Use the virtual keyboard to input your Amazon.com username and password.
Getting Books on Your Kindle
There are several ways to get books onto your Kindle. Here are a few:
- Buy a book from the Kindle store using your Kindle or from a browser.
- Copy a book to the Kindle over the USB connection.
- Email a book directly to the Kindle.
If you buy a book using a browser, the book will appear in the “Archived Items” folder on your Kindle (if wifi is enabled). If you select to open an “Archived Items” book on your Kindle, it will automatically be downloaded.
To copy a book to the Kindle over USB, do the following:
- Attach the Kindle to your computer using the USB cable. The Kindle screen will display a message titled “USB Drive Mode” with instructions that should you wish to read while the Kindle is plugged in, just eject the Kindle without disconnecting the USB cable.
- On the computer, you will see a new drive named “Kindle” appear. Under that drive is a directory called “documents”.
- If you copy books (with Kindle-compatible formats like AZW, Mobi, PRC or PDF) to the “documents” directory, they will show on the Kindle when you disconnect the USB cable (or eject the Kindle).
Note: On my Windows 7 64bit desktop, the eject did not work to allow me to read with the Kindle connected by USB cable. However, it did work on my Windows 7 64bit laptop.
If you want to allow a friend to email a book to your Kindle, log into your Amazon.com account using a browser and do the following:
- On your Amazon.com account settings page, select “Manage Your Kindle” in the left “Digital Content” section near the bottom.
- Select “Personal Document Settings” under the left “Your Kindle Account” section.
- Your Kindle will be listed with an email address ending in “@Kindle.com”.
- This is your Kindle’s email address. If you don’t like the email address, you can modify it using the Edit link to the right. (If you have more than one Kindle, you will get a unique email address generated per Kindle.)
- If you want Amazon to store a copy of all books emailed to your Kindle, enable the “Personal Document Archiving” option.
- You will need to add your friend’s email address to the “Approved Personal Document E-mail List”. Make sure to use the email address from which he will send the book to you.
- Once you do the above, your friend can email a book to the Kindle’s email address.
- I suggest using the Mobi book format (.mobi file extension). This will reduce the transmission time because the Kindle.com system won’t have to convert and reformat the book.
- To convert any book format to Mobi, I recommend using a free application called Calibre.
- If Wifi is enabled, the Kindle will automatically download the book (within seconds or minutes). The time varies depending upon how busy the Kindle.com system is and whether the book format needs to be converted.
- Warning: If you use 3G Whispernet to download an emailed book, Amazon will charge you $0.15 per megabyte. Wifi is free.
Increase the Reading Font Size
I found the default reading font size was a little too small for me. Increasing it to the next larger font size was perfect for me. You can change the font size by doing the following:
- Hit the Home button.
- Click on a book to read it.
- Hit the Menu button and select “Change Font Size”.
- You can adjust the font size, typeface, letter spacing, word spacing, and line spacing. I just adjusted font size and left the rest alone.
Categories to Organize Your Library
If you have a lot of books on the Kindle (I have 40+ books), it can be a hassle to scroll through the list of books. Instead, use categories to organize your books into collections (categories are like folders). To begin using categories, highlight a book and instead of clicking to read it, hit the thumb joystick to go right. You will see useful options like “Add to Collection…” and “Remove from Device”. Click on “Add to Collection…” and select an existing collection or create a new collection.
Off the Topic: Email Books to an iPad
If you ever need to get a book onto an iPad (or iphone/ipod touch), here’s how to email it:
- Make sure that the iBooks application is installed on the iPad.
- I recommend using the ePub (.epub file extension) format for books that are sent to iPads.
- Email the book (as an attachment) to the iPad user’s email account.
- On the iPad, go to the Mail application, open the email, and click to open the attachment.
- The iPad will offer you the option to “Open in iBooks”.
- Accept it and the book attachment will be downloaded into iBooks for reading.
The tips above should work for other models like the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire.