Monday, 9 May 2011

Four things Kindle can help you to do

In December, I hoped that my new Kindle would become for my books what my iPod is for my music. Although the Kindle has become a device that I take everywhere and use everyday, it’s less for reading and more for the other things that the Kindle can do. For Kindle users and potential Kindle purchasers, here are four things that the Kindle can help you to do.

Reading

The Kindle is primarily designed to be a reading device and it does this very well. As Bethan Ruddock wrote,

The Kindle... is magic. The enchanted book which is a different story every time you read it; the magic box filled with 1001 stories: this is primal, fairy-tale magic. It’s the sort of thing you can understand at a gut, rather than intellectual, level.
Beth’s blog post gives a lot of great tips on enhancing reading on the Kindle: I’d particularly recommend the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg which enables instant download of thousands of public domain ebooks and the SendToReader button which can send full webpages from your PC browser to your Kindle.

Browsing

On the Kindle with 3G, the ‘experimental web browser’ is one its best features: a perfectly functional browser which can be used to access the web for free anywhere. It’s great for checking email or Twitter while travelling or for quickly looking something up while lounging on the sofa.

Here are a couple of tips for enhancing browsing on the Kindle. First, use mobile versions of sites where possible. The Guardian website takes ages to load on the Kindle and sometimes crashes the browser: the mobile Guardian website has the same content and loads in a couple of seconds. I recommend the mobile versions of Google, Gmail, Twitter, and Google Reader. Second, use bookmarks. Typing a URL on the tiny Kindle keyboard can be difficult so it’s easier to set bookmarks for all the sites you’re likely to visit.

Exploring / geocaching

Since I moved to a rural area last year, I’ve done a lot more geocaching in my free time. I’ve also been travelling a lot more for work, for CPD, and for Voices for the Library stuff. In the middle of a strange place, the ability to quickly pull up a map of anywhere can be a lifesaver. KindleMap.net offers a version of the Google Maps API optimised for use on the Kindle: it can bring up a map, load a StreetView, or give you directions to anywhere. Wikitravel, the free collaborative travel-guide, is also a great site for finding local landmarks, places to visit, or getting background on an area. For geocaching specifically, the full Geocaching website works fine or, if signal strength is low, the WAP version serves the purpose.

Gaming

From the Kindle’s Home screen, if you press Alt + Shift + M, you can access a version of Minesweeper. Then press G to access a Noughts and Crosses game (comparable in difficulty to playing against the supercomputer from WarGames). In the US, it’s also possible to download a couple of word games: Shuffled Row and Every Word. For UK Kindle-owners, if you go on the Manage Kindle page on the Amazon website and change your location to the US, you can download them and then switch back to the UK (I haven’t tried this so take with a pinch of salt). 

Assorted tips

If you explore the capabilities of the device, you will discover that the Kindle has other hidden abilities. A few extra useful tips:

Use Alt and the top row of letters to type numbers without using the Sym menu.

Press Alt + Shift + G from any screen to take a screenshot. It’s also possible – though complicated – to change the screensaver images.

Use shortcuts. There are a series of @ commands that you can use in the search bar of the Home screen to quickly access things. There's a list here.

Change the font to make reading easier. I’ve read a lot more on the Kindle since I switched from the default ‘regular’ font to the ‘sans serif’ font. Change the text settings until you reach an optimum comfort level for your eyes.

6 comments:

Helen said...

Thanks for this post! I'm strongly considering buying a Kindle (just weighing up benefits against other e-readers), so it's been very useful!

Bethan Ruddock said...

Really helpful post! Wish I'd known about KindleMap.net over the last couple of weeks.

On that note, I can confirm that Kindle 3G works excellently in Italy - for all websites, not just amazon and wikipedia! I had coverage up mountains, on trains, on tiny islands in the Med... (yes, yes, I'll shut up!)

The only thing limiting my Kindle internet use now is the hugely annoying situation where websites force links to open in new windows - which the Kindle, with it's one-window limit, can't do. Very frustrating to finally find that bus timetable and then not be able to read it!

I'm also currently considering trying to add my own screensavers, as per instructions here. Having a bigger choice of fonts sounds great too!

Jo Alcock said...

Interesting post! Geocaching on there sounds like a good backup plan - my phone battery didn't last long at all when we went out.

I also would recommend KindleTwit though mobile Twitter may be better, I have to confess I haven't tried it.

I use regular Google Reader but use the shortcuts to get rid of the toolbars (f to go fullscreen) and move through the articles (j and k) - I keep meaning to share this tip and even took screenshots a while ago but haven't connected my Kindle to my PC since I had it!

Simon Barron said...

Beth - Cross-European coverage! If it works on other planets, it'll be as close to the Hitchhiker's Guide as we've ever likely to get!

The one-window limit thing is really annoying especially on Twitter when you want to see a link someone has posted.

Jo - That Reader fullscreen shortcut makes a real difference: it actually makes it much better and easier to use than the mobile site. Thanks for that!

Richard Hawkins said...

Hello,

I've just bought a wi-fi only Kindle and I found your blog post to be very useful indeed - thanks.

Just want to add one thing though. I tried adding sendtoreader to my browser (chrome) just now and it wouldnt work. However I found an alternative bookmarklet thingy (sorry about the technical jargon there) called Send to Kindle which works just great.

So now I can easily send important articles to my kindle during the day at work and then read them in peace at home on my ereader. I find this is much less distracting and more comfortable than on a netbook, mobile phone or desktop PC.

Richard Hawkins

Andy said...

I would say one of the big advantages of a Kindle IS the poor internet! Smart phones and tablets are very distracting... I'm posting this from my HTC now. Amazingly, I started it up to look for music by Stan Getz, yet after checking the web and some blogs I arrived here : )