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Your New Kindle: What You Need to Know

  • Category: Features
Date:1/5/2012

By Jamie Lendino

Welcome to the digital book revolution. The latest Amazon Kindle ($79, 4.5 stars) and Kindle Touch 3G ($139, 4 stars) are Amazon's best ebook readers yet. They're also pretty easy to use. But Amazon doesn't pack a printed manual, and Amazon's Web site doesn't necessarily emphasize the simplest way to do things, either. That's where we come in. Here's what you need to know to get the most from your new Kindle—without spending a single extra cent.

Join a network—any network. If you bought a Wi-Fi Kindle, go to Menu -> Settings -> Wi-Fi Networks, scan the list for your home wireless hotspot, choose it, and then enter the password. You can also do this from a public hotspot, although once you get home you'll need to add your home network later. Kindle 3G owners can get started right away using the built-in Whispernet cellular connection. If you've got a 3G Kindle, feel free skip the Wi-Fi step for now, although you may want to add your network later, as it's usually faster.

Register your account and go shopping. Next, go to Menu -> Settings -> Registration. Follow the on-screen prompts, which will depend on whether you already have an Amazon account. If you do, and you've purchased Kindle books before, you can begin loading them via Archived Items on the home page. Give it a moment first; it will say Archived Items (0) for a little while, and then start populating it about a minute later.

If you don't already have an Amazon account, you can create one right on the device and begin shopping for books. The Kindle comes preloaded with the users' manual and a couple of dictionaries, but we bet you want something a little more exciting for your first ebook. Note: If you have a non-touch Kindle without a keyboard, setup will take a little longer, since you'll need to select each letter using the five-way control pad. But don't worry; you won't need to type much (if at all) once you register your account and Wi-Fi network.

Grab some free books. Amazon makes it easy to buy books in all genres, but you could also spend several lifetimes reading nothing but free classics. Anything pre-1923 is in the public domain, and therefore out of copyright. That leaves you with more than two million choices. To start, you can grab dozens of popular ones right from Amazon's site.

But what about the rest? The Kindle doesn't work with ePub files; instead, head to Internet Archive (archive.org), click on a book, and click Kindle (beta) to download it to your PC. Then connect the Kindle via the included USB cable and drag the file to the Kindle's Documents folder. The same thing works with Project Gutenberg at gutenberg.org; in this case, choose Mobipocket as the format. If you bought a 3G Kindle, you can also email books directly to your device; go to Menu -> Settings -> Device Options and look at the bottom of the screen to find your Kindle's email address.

Borrow some other books. Amazon was a little late to the party with this functionality, but you now have two ways to borrow books. The first way is via public libraries with Overdrive support; it varies on a location-by-location basis, so check your library's Web site to see if it's Kindle-compatible, and how the process works. If you're an Amazon Prime member (which costs $79 per year, but gets you free two-day shipping on everything Amazon sells), the other way is via the Amazon Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one book per month. The selection here is somewhat limited, but it includes most of the New York Times bestseller list. To access the Lending Library, head to the Kindle Store on your device, and select See All Categories.

Adjust the display. Even if you don't know it off the top of your head, you probably have a preference for font style and font size—think about recent paperbacks you've read, and what kind of type you prefer the most. The way it works on the Kindle is you make adjustments while actually reading a digital book. Tap or select Menu, and then tap Aa. From there, you can select the font style, including eight different sizes and three font choices (regular, condensed, or sans serif). You can also choose font spacing, which gives you three settings each for both line spacing (small, medium, and large) and the number of words per line (default, fewer, and fewest). As far as adjusting the display contrast, you're out of luck, there are no such controls on Kindles.

Install free Kindle apps on all of your devices. One of the best things about the Kindle is its app ecosystem. Amazon has provided free apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, and Mac. Install Kindle apps on whatever compatible devices you own, and you'll be able to synchronize your e-books, subscriptions, and current reading across them all. If you're like most of us, you'll still prefer reading on the Kindle whenever possible, thanks to its E Ink display, long battery life, and svelte design. But this will ensure no matter what device you're in front of, you can keep reading the same book right where you left off.

Know how to reset your Kindle remotely. If you ever lose your Kindle, there's really not much a thief could do with it—other than check out what you're reading, and possibly buy you more Kindle books with your stored credit card information. Still, you'll want to deregister the device as soon as possible. From a desktop browser, log into your Amazon account. Click Your Account -> Manage Your Kindle -> Manage Your Devices (on the left). Next to the picture of the appropriate Kindle, click Deregister. Bonus tip: If you bought a Kindle with Special Offers and get tired of them, you can upgrade it on the same page and remove the ads; it will cost either $30 or $40, depending on the Kindle you bought.

Have a favorite Kindle tip we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.


This guide is in partnership with Ziff Davis Media.