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Thursday, February 04, 2010

14 Tips to Get More from Your Amazon Kindle



I could care less about debating Kindle versus Apple iPad Tablet versus Nook.  I have a Kindle and I love it, and as far as I'm concerned, the competition between these platforms is good for us all.  I do hate that Amazon temporarily McMillan publishing titles from the store in a dispute over supposedly McMillan's desire to raise the $9.99 pricing with an undercurrent of rumor that Apple plans to offer books between 12.99 and 14.99 and let publishers have more control over the pricing.  Then, of course, Amazon capitulated to McMillan leaving cries of "Monopoly" from many.

But for now, I love my Kindle. It has truly improved my reading experience if only because I have my books and reading materials with me 24/7 and find that I fit in an extra 45 minutes - 1 hour per day of reading during times that were normally wasted in waiting rooms, during the time outs of ballgames or between games, or just waiting in line.  In order to help you speed your set up process, here are some tips.

1 - When first booting up: Register, Be Patient, Let it Update
Make sure that you register your Kindle right away.  Be patient, your Kindle may update a few times.  Link Kindle with your amazon account, and I'd suggest that you set up your amazon account online first just to speed things up. Read Setting Up Your Kindle


2 - Read the User Guide
Yes, this is one user guide that it actually helps to read.  I read it and played with it as I went. I still go in there and search for things. Because the interface is so different from anything else, I just found that this jump started me, at least with the basic controls.

3 - Subscribe to Kindle Nation Daily
I highly recommend Kindle Nation Daily: The inside scoop on all things Kindle - and have found out about many of the great reads on the Kindle like the newest McArthur reports that you can read for free on your Kindle.  See five excellent examples:
This blog will cost you $.99 a month but will pull out the best of the free for the Kindle.  I remember being stuck on an airplane on the tarmac in Atlanta and Kindle Nation updated as I sat there, I saw the MacArthur report announcement about the Synthesis of the Good Play project and grabbed it and read it all the way to my speech. It contained several very important pieces of information salient to the talk I was about to give.  I clipped them and had them ready to go when I arrived in New York.

Remember that you don't have to have a Kindle to read these, the Kindle for PC app is free and many of these reports are available free on the Internet.


4 - Find a Few Good Sources of Daily Reading
For me, it is TechCrunch ($1.99) , The New York Times - Latest News ($1.99) (note, this is different from the paper), PhysOrg.com - Science, Technology, Research News ($1.99), The Junk Drawer ($.99) , and my own blog Cool Cat Teacher Blog ($.99) (to make sure everything formats properly for the Kindle.)

Note that you should look at rankings and also at the format of postings.  I subscribe to the New York Times Late Breaking News blog instead of the paper because it is updated various times during the day instead of once a day - I get 5-6 good stories that are timely throughout the day before others may know it instead of a ton of stuff I don't have time to read.

Additionally, I like PhysOrg.com because it is a great equalizer for me. Whereas most of the News in the New York Times is on the negative side of life.  The fall of great people.  Great controversies.  Great debates.  Horrible tragedies.  I need to know about these things but cannot let the negativity permeate my being.  PhysOrg is about breaking research news, about things that have been accomplished, things people are doing.  It is about the positive side of life and restores hope for me.  The Junk Drawer just makes me laugh.

I subscribe to my own blog because rereading my thoughts helps me see where I've made mistakes and also lets me clip things that I'd like to use in talks later on (handily sent to my clippings.)  I also want to learn and understand the medium of ebook publishing and look forward to learning about publishing elsewhere.  (If you're going to allow your blog to go through Kindle publishing, you should be the first subscriber.)

5 - Stock Your BookShelf Well
I've got a variety of things on my bookshelf, some of them free. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (free), Focal Point  by Brian Tracy, Walden by Thoreau (free), Grace Notes by Philip Yancey, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, the Iliad (free) by Homer, and the Memorable Thoughts of Socrates (free> by Xenophon as well as The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis Bonk, and the McArthur reports I've already mentioned.

As discussed in last week's post on Brown Pandas - mix it up.  Prevent group think and inbreeding in your own mind.

6- Read Well
I have sort of a morning reading routine that goes somewhat like this:

a - Read daily devotionals - I have 3 different daily readings, largely because there were 2 devotional books available for free the day after Christmas. I am programming my mind - whatever goes in first gains preeminence in my life.  Decide what you want preeminence in your life and read it first.  Hint: Make it positive.

b - I turn on my wireless while starting devotionals and tell it to synch and find updates while I read devotionals, then, when I'm done, the news is ready to go.   

c - In the mornings, I want to hit the highlights, so I'll click to read the news but then click the middle button (click the middle of the joystick to do this) so I can see the titles and run between the most important things.

(Tip: If your news blogs aren't updating properly, this happens sometimes, the tip is to  go to Menu --> Settings and then Menu --> Restart.  After it restarts, and you ask it to sych and update, it should start updating your blogs.)

d- In the evenings, I always read some of either Stop Worrying and Start Living (I like all except the end of that book where it is a bit dated and sexist) or Focal Point. It helps me remember what is important and program my mind for positive things.

Programming Your Mind
You are programming your mind. Be careful what you put into it!  What you think is what you are.  What you think is what you become.  What you think is what you reflect in your daily actions and activities. Quite simply what you think becomes the You that the world sees. Guard your mind, it is the gateway to your destiny. 

7 - Use the Kindle to Improve Your Activities
Knowing how to highlight and clip items to go into My Clippings is great.  I clip during the week and when I have time to sit down and blog, I open up My Clippings, look at the last location number on the bottom right of the screen, hit "Menu" and "go to location" and then type in the last location and read from the end forwards. If you need help, maybe this video will help.



8- Understand how to search
If you cannot remember where something is, then you can search from the main menu by typing the words and it will search everything.  But if you've clipped it, you may open up the individual item and search.  Additionally, if you use keywords that will only be used by you. (i.e. if I clip something I want to blog I'll type "blogthis" ) then it makes finding certain things a snap. You can search other things like wikipedia from your kindle, however, it will be pretty slow as it uses whispernet and is sort of slow.

If I read of a book within a book, I like to copy the name of the book into the search field.  So, use the 5 way controller to highlight a word or several words, then press the spacebar. This pastes the book title or words into the search box.  Then, you can click the controller to the right and tell it to search the Kindle store from within the book!  One day (not yet) we will be able to drill to the actual books and papers quoted within a book - sort of a hyperlinking for books themselves! This is exciting and our connections to libraries for this sort of material will certainly change.

9 - Emailing to your Kindle and converting
Ok, this is a trick it took me some time to learn.  Go into your kindle online account and set it up so you can email from your personal email account to the kindle.  If you are sending a PDF file, though, it will just be in PDF.

If you send the pdf to your private kindle email address and put "convert" in the subject, it will convert it to the kindle native format making it so you can search, clip, use text to speech, and change the size! This is cool. Although there is a cost for this (10 cents per file as of the writing of this.)  There are also free ways to do this and then drag it onto the Kindle.

10 - Learn the Shortcuts
There are some pretty nifty shortcuts, although, even with my small hands, I have trouble with some of these:
  • Alt+Shift+G - grabs a screenshot - .gif is format used (you can drag these onto your computer when connected to your computer - good for people who do tutorials)
  • Contextual Dictionary - Just use the joystick to put your cursor in front of the word you do not understand. To know more about this word press the enter key (the arrow pointing to the left) and then see the vocabulary. I like to clip the words and put them in my clippings to read later and review so that I may learn the words.
  • Click the Aa button to go to text to speech - I like to hook my kindle up to my iPod/iTouch speakers in the kitchen using the auxiliary jack and have it read the news to me while I'm cooking dinner. I like to listen to the male voice that is slowed down just a step. Text to speech is so useful and helpful for all of us!
  • Remember that you just start typing to open the search box (unless you've got your cursor within a document and then it will add a note using the standard footnote mechanism) -- but when you use the search box, make sure you click the controller to the right to see your search alternatives!
  • Alt+Shift+M - Minesweeper - OK, this is on your kindle - did you know that - completely offline time waster for when you just don't want to read. ;-)
  • Handy calculator - just type a formula using standard mathematical operators in the search box and it will perform simple calculations 21.73*.15 will give me the amount of tip while I'm reading my kindle in an airport restaurant.
11 - Save your Battery
a) Wireless Off
Leave the wireless OFF except when ready to read the news.  This extends the battery a long time.

b) Let Battery Fully Discharge
From my days in the cell phone business, there is one vital trick to making your battery last - DO NOT CHARGE IT UNTIL IT NEEDS TO BE CHARGED. Let it go down all the way.

Using all of the battery helps it stay healthy. (The same thing happens when a person just does bicep crunches and doesn't do other arm exercises - the entire arm is not developed! You need your whole battery to be used!)  Right now, I charge my Kindle perhaps once every six days. It lasts that long!

c) Turn it off completely
Also, don't let it go to sleep, with the Kindle completely on, slide the bar to the right and don't let go until the screen goes completely white. (about 10 seconds)  You've fully turned off your Kindle.  Although the rotating pictures don't use a lot of battery, they do use some and if you want it to last a while, turn it off this way consistently.

12 - Install Kindle for your Computer and ITouch
One of the neatest things for the Kindle is the ability to sync between devices.  It will move bookmarks, etc. between devices.  So, when I have a text I really need on my PC, I can easily pull it over there with all the highlights and marking! I also have the Kindle on my iTouch.  Being able to port these books between devices is truly the greatest thing about the Kindle.

13 - Be wary about Cracking Your Kindle
One of the top complaints about the Kindle and the standard Kindle Case is how easy it is to crack the Kindle.  I am going to order a better case the holds the kindle down and doesn't let you accidentally open it the wrong way.  I don't open my Kindle unless I make sure I see the little Amazon tag on the front of the case.  Also, I don't put anything behind the kindle (although it is tempting to put boarding passes, etc. back there.)  This is all over the Kindle Message boards and I think that the best measure is to know how easy it would be to crack if you opened the Kindle from the back and this is very easy to do.  (A simple strap would fix this - I find it odd that Amazon hasn't stepped in to fix this problem!)  The one I'm asking to get for my birthday in April is: M-Edge Platform Genuine Leather Kindle Jacket.


14 - Wish for It
Some Kindle users have found that buying books is TOO easy. I've found that by adding items (unless they are free) to my wish list lets me remember not to forget and keeps my dear husband from getting upset at me for exceeding my monthly book budget.

Just a couple of tips as I've been using this handy tool since Christmas.  This along with my iTouch are my two favorite tools ever!



Finally, consider having a Kindle club.  What is a Kindle club? Well, there are three of us at our school who have Kindles and love them.  We call ourselves the Kindle club and when we see each other, we share something new we've learned or a new cool book we're reading. Nothing formal, but we do have a common bond - we LOVE our Kindles.

So, fight the ebook wars as they may - when they settle down in 2-3 years it will be time for another ebook reader, but until then, I'm just going to get the most out of this kindle.

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