I resisted the Kindle for a long time. I read a lot and I’m headache-prone, and those low-contrast early Kindles were not going to work for me. Also, I saw in reviews that Kindle books often lacked the footnotes and indexes of the paper versions. When I had occasion to create a Kindle book I realized why: the format is very limited and inconvenient for publishers.
But then I bought an iPad. The Kindle app is free, so I tried a couple ebooks. For most books I read, footnotes and indexes are not an issue, and I’m chronically low on bookshelf space. I like the built-in dictionary and being able to carry several books in a small package. So now I was sold on ebooks, but the iPad was not the ideal hardware. It’s just heavy enough that I don’t want to carry it around, the screen washes out in bright sunlight, and the battery life is only so-so. I can read books on my Droid X phone, which also has a Kindle app, but that drains the battery fast.
Amazon had dropped the price of the Kindle when the iPad was released, and the new Kindle 3 with its light weight, improved screen contrast, long battery life, and readability in direct sunlight was starting to look pretty good. So I bought one, and I like it a lot. I used it for a few days without reading the manual – the basics are not hard. But once I read the manual and did a little googling, I discovered some interesting things I didn’t know. What follows is a collection of tips and tricks for the Kindle 3 that I found especially useful:
- Viewing PDFs and Other Document Types
- Zapping that Ghost Dictionary in the Archive
- Hotkeys and an Easter Egg
- The Hidden Image Viewer
Viewing PDFs and Other Document Types
One way to put books onto your Kindle is to buy them on Amazon, of course, but that is not the only way. Some free book sites let you download to your Kindle over the air. You also can copy files from your PC directly to your Kindle via USB cable, or email files to your Kindle using a special email address. The email address is the interesting method because it has a special feature: it can be used to convert files in different formats into something the Kindle can read.
Your special Kindle email address is set in the “Manage Your Kindle” area on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/myk). If you have the 3G version, make sure you use email@example.com and not firstname.lastname@example.org so WiFi is used for the transfer, otherwise 3G charges will apply for the transfer. You just create a message and attach the file you want to send to your Kindle; no subject is necessary except in one special circumstance described below.
The Kindle’s native format is based on the MobiPocket format. So in addition to Kindle files (file types .AZW, .AZW1, .AZW2), the Kindle can read unprotected MobiPocket files (file type .MOBI or .PRC) without conversion. The Kindle 3 also can natively read PDFs without conversion, but they don’t display well on the 6″ unit – the type is too small. You can magnify the display, but the lowest magnification, 150%, means the entire page doesn’t fit on the screen, and panning is a pain. You can’t magnify it just enough to fill the margins.
Before the Kindle 3, if you emailed a PDF to yourself it was converted. This is no longer true with the Kindle 3 unless you put the word “Convert” in the subject. Certain other file types will be automatically converted if you email them to your Kindle including HTML, Word, text, rich text, and image files. You don’t have to put “Convert” in the subject for these file types – you don’t need any subject at all. The word "Convert" is only necessary for PDFs that you want converted.
Zapping that Ghost Dictionary in the Archive
Do you have something in your Archive called The New Oxford American Dictionary, though it’s already on your Home page? But the archive version has no author, and when you try to move it to your home page you get the message that it doesn’t exist? So it just sits there annoying you? Here’s how to get rid of it.
Amazon recently made a change so that the Kindle dictionary is not downloaded like other books; it’s built in. But somehow the The New Oxford American Dictionary remained in your list of books. If you go to the the “Manage Your Kindle” area on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/myk), you’ll see it listed in “My Orders”.
Next to every book in “My Orders” is a plus sign. Click on that. Once the title is expanded, you’ll see a button labeled “Delete this title”. Click it. It’s scary, I know, but it’s the right thing to do – promise. After you delete it, reboot your Kindle while connected to WiFi. To reboot, press the Menu button, select Settings, press the Menu button again, then press Restart. Theoretically you also can reboot by sliding the power button to the right for 15 seconds (I haven’t tried this). When your Kindle restarts, you will still have The New Oxford American Dictionary on your Home page, but the ghost in the Archive will be gone.
Hotkeys and an Easter Egg
The Easter Egg is Minesweeper.
|Power Off:||Hold Power slider 7 seconds|
|Reset:||Hold Power slider 15 seconds|
|Next Chapter:||Right on 5-way|
|Previous Chapter:||Left on 5-way|
|Delete Book:||Left on 5-way then Select on 5-way|
|Book Options:||Right on 5-way then Select on 5-way|
|Numbers:||Alt+top row keys (gives you 1 through 9 then 0)|
|Screenshot:||Alt+Shift+G (places a GIF file in your documents folder – you need to connect through USB to see it)|
The Hidden Image Viewer
I found the information about the image viewer on this Web site. The viewer is a little buggy, but here’s how you set it up.
Connect your Kindle to your PC via USB. Create a new folder at the same level as the other folders called “pictures”. Then inside this folder, create subfolders in which you will put the actual image collections. You can’t put the images directly inside the “pictures” folder. I created two subfolders: “people” and “screenshots”. The Kindle can read .JPG/.JPEG, .GIF, .PNG, and .BMP file types. Copy your image files into the subfolders, then eject the Kindle from the PC. Press Alt+z to add the new image collection folders to the Home page.
When you click on an image collection folder, the image viewer will launch. You can cycle forward and backwards through the pictures using next and previous page buttons. When you move to a new image, it doesn’t refresh properly – you’ll see overwriting from the previous image. I found I could get it to refresh by pressing one of the directional arrows on the 5-way
There are image viewer hotkeys. The rotate works reliably for me, but the others don’t. I was able to zoom in and out initially, but after trying it a couple times it stopped working. Maybe I need to reset my Kindle. Here are the hotkeys, for what it’s worth:
Have you found any other Kindle 3 tips or tricks? Post them here!