By Marco Gustafsson
The Amazon Kindle is one of the more popular of the e-readers, but by no means one of the first. That distinction belongs to the Rocket eBook and the Softbook introduced in 1998, with the Kindle not appearing until 2007. Nevertheless, it is often best not to be first, and the Kindle ironed out many of the problems associated with previous machines.
In taking the accolade of an ‘advancement’ in its field, any item of hardware will have introduced innovations and features that the general public might need help with, and here are ten hints and tips on how to get the best from your Kindle, although many of these also apply to other e-readers. These do not refer to how to use the various buttons, or most other aspects of the Kindle that you will learn by reading the Instructions, but they are things that you would only find out through using the device.
1. Read the Instruction Manual
Many technophiles are so confident that they don’t ever need to read the manual. However, many of the problems people come across with their Kindle could have been avoided had they done just that, and had ‘lowered’ themselves to ‘read the instructions’! That’s what they are there for. However, given that you have done that, here are some other tips for using the Amazon Kindle, most of which are not mentioned in the instructions.
2. Free eBooks to Read
You can get free books from the public domain – in fact over 300,000 of them. Among them are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Grimm’s Dairy Tales and many of Mark Twain’s, Charles Dickens’s and William Shakespeare’s works. You can even download the Declaration of Independence free of charge.
Some of these are available on Kindle’s own free library, from where you can download selected books using 3G, and because it is an Amazon site, the format is ideal for your Kindle. Project Gutenberg contains a massive selection of eBooks: that is what it was designed for. To render them compatible with the Kindle, just download them in .mobi format. As it is noted in the article “A Review of Websites About eReaders and eBooks“, not all of these books are in the public domain, so make sure that you read the copyright license inside the eBook and adhere to its requirements when using it (Digital Book Readers). There are others useful sites, such as Kindlepedia that will change any Wikipedia page into an eBook for your Kindle.
3. Avoiding Image Burn
As with most screen displays, your Kindle screen can suffer from image burn from static text. This can occur if you leave the same page up for any length of time, but there is a way to protect your screen. You can’t use a screensaver (yet), but if you refresh the screen by clicking Alt+G then you can resolve the problem.
4. Using Kindle Shortcuts
The Kindle offers you a number of shortcuts. Here are some of the more useful:
Alt+T displays the current time.
Alt+P will play MP3 files you have stored on an SD card.
Alt+ F will go to the next MP3 on the list.
Alt+SHIFT+R will reset your Kindle. Use this soft reset if your Kindle freezes when in use.
Alt+B will bookmark the page you are on.
Alt+SHIFT+G will take a screenshot of the page you are on.
Alt+H will move the cursor one space right when typing.
Alt+J will do the same to the left.
Alt+Backspace will clear all text.
5. Using the Read-to Me Feature
The read-to-me feature is a text to speech option that enables the Kindle to work a bit like an audio book. The speech is computer-generated of course, similar to ordinary PC equivalents using a word library, so it does not flow quite the same as an audio book, but it is good nevertheless. The tip here is that if you are holding the device when you are listening, such as if you are on a train or bus, or are taking a walk, then if you accidentally press the menu button or the space bar, the reading will be stopped. This can be a nuisance, so in such situations it is a good tip to hold your Kindle upside down: you are then less likely to hit these buttons. Even better, don’t hold it! Keep it in a bag or a pocket.
6. Find Your Location
Amazon’s 3G CDMA module has a location capability that can be used in Google Maps:
Alt+1 – shows your currently location
Alt+2 – shows nearby gas stations
Alt+3 – shows nearby restaurants
Alt+5 – shows a custom keyword used nearby
7. Fast Forwarding
To fast reverse or forward through your book pages: press Alt and hold it down while pressing the Previous or Next keys.
8. Defragmenting your Kindle
When you delete anything from your Kindle, it leaves a space in memory. When you load up a book it will use that space and perhaps some other spaces available, until the whole file is uploaded. This means each of your books could be stored in small areas all over the memory. You can defrag the device by attaching it to your computer and running your computer defrag utility, pointing to the Kindle as the drive to defragment. This can have a remarkable effect on the speed of your Kindle.
9. Newspaper Subscriptions
Many people use their Kindle with a newspaper subscription, but some papers are better suited than others for the Kindle. It makes sense to use a trial copy first: you can get these very cheaply just to try out, so do that first before making your mind up.
10. Saving the Battery with 3G
The Kindle battery life is good, but if you use 3G connectivity then your battery will run down quickly. The only way to turn 3G off is in the settings, so make sure that if you are not using it for a while, go to Settings and turn 3G off. Even if you are not using it, it will still drain your battery unless you do this. Always turn off Wi-Fi when your signal is bad.
These are just 10 hints and tips for using the Amazon Kindle. There are more, but these are some of those that come up most frequently.