Welcome to the digital book revolution. The latest Amazon Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Voyage, and Kindle Oasis are the company’s best eReaders yet. They’re also pretty easy to use. But Amazon doesn’t pack a printed manual, and the company’s website 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, you can connect to a wireless network during the initial setup—it will prompt you. If you chose “Set up Wi-Fi Later,” go to Menu > Settings > Wi-Fi Networks, scan the list for your home wireless network, 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. Kindle 3G owners can get started right away using the built-in 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, as it’s usually faster than the cellular connection.
Register Your Kindle
During the initial setup, the Kindle will require you to either create a new Amazon account or register an existing one (if it doesn’t come automatically loaded with your account info). 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 the Cloud section on the home page. Give it a moment; it will say ‘My Items (0)’ for a little while, and then start populating with titles about a minute later.
The Kindle comes preloaded with a 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 an older 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.
During the setup process, the Kindle will ask you to connect to Facebook and Twitter, which you can skip using the button at the bottom of the page. It will also ask if you’d like to add a Goodreads account. Then it will force you to go through a short tutorial, which offers useful information like how to turn pages, bring up the toolbar, adjust the backlighting, and find the dictionary, and X-ray features. After that, the Kindle will prompt you to pick some of your favorite genres for personalized book suggestions and have you rate 10 books you’ve already read so it can get an idea of your preferences. At the end, you might be offered free downloads of book samples that interest you and prompted to sign up for a Kindle Unlimited trial.
Go Shopping and 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 published before 1923 is in the public domain, and therefore out of copyright. That leaves you with more than 2 million choices. To start, grab many popular titles right from Amazon’s page.
But what about the rest? The Kindle doesn’t work with ePub files; instead, head to Internet Archive (archive.org), go to ‘Texts,’ browse, click on a title, and click Kindle 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 have 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.
For more, see How to Put Free Ebooks on Your Kindle and How to Get Free (or Cheap), New Ebooks.
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 is via public libraries with Overdrive support; it varies on a location-by-location basis, so check your library’s website to see if it’s Kindle-compatible, and how the process works.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member (which costs $99 per year, but gets you free two-day shipping on everything Amazon sells and some other perks), the other way is via the Amazon Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one book per month. The selection here includes many titles on the New York Times bestseller list, plus another 600,000+ options. To access the Lending Library, head to the Kindle Store on your device, and select the drop-down menu for “All Categories.” The Lending Library will be all the way at the bottom of this list. Amazon also has a newer option that gives Prime users unlimited access to a rotating selection of titles.
Another option is Kindle Unlimited, also available to Amazon Prime users. Subscribing offers unlimited access to a rotating selection of ebooks, magazines, and comics for a modest $9.99 a month.
Adjust Your Fonts
Even if you don’t know it off the top of your head, you probably have a preference for font size and style—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 the top portion of the display, and then tap Aa. From there, you can select the font style, including eight different sizes and nine font choices. You can also choose font spacing, which gives you three settings each for both line spacing and the size of the margins (small, medium, and large). On the Kindle Oasis you can also choose orientation, letting you read in portrait mode.
Install Free Kindle Apps on All Devices
One of the best things about the Kindle is its app ecosystem. Amazon offers free apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, PC, and Mac. Install Kindle apps on the compatible devices you own, and you’ll be able to synchronize your ebooks, 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.
Parental Controls and Family Access
You can set parental controls to restrict access to the Kindle Store, the cloud, the experimental Web browser, and Goodreads. Just Tap Menu > Settings > Parental Controls > Restrictions. From here, you can additionally set up Kindle FreeTime, which allows you to create a personalized profile for your child and add appropriate content.
For Family Access go to Menu > Household & Family Library >Add A New Person. You can create a Household of up to two adults with the ability to jointly manage up to four child accounts. You can also create a Family Library, which lets you share books and other content across Amazon devices and Kindle apps.
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 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 Content and Devices > Your Devices. Click the device in question, and click “Deregister” underneath.
It may also be wise to have a passcode set to deter prying eyes. To do that on your Kindle, go to Settings > Device Options > Device Passcode and enter your password.
Bonus tip: If you have a Kindle with Special Offers and you get tired of them, you can upgrade on the same page for a one-time payment and remove the ads.