With the different models available and decreasing prices, more and more people seem to be purchasing Amazon Kindles. I noticed from conversations on social media however that some features of the Kindle I love are unknown to other Kindle owners, so I’m sharing a few tips about the way I use my Kindle (a third generation Kindle with keyboard and 3G access) that you might not know about.

1. You can send personal documents to your Kindle by email – more info here. I use this feature to forward longer documents I’ve received by email (or reports I find online) to send them to my Kindle to be read on there. You get a @kindle.com email address and a @free.kindle.com (both of which you set up in your Amazon account). The free one basically means it will use the wireless network rather than 3G (Whispernet) and that means you won’t pay for receiving the document. You can also set a maximum cost if you want to use the Whispernet feature (i.e. 3G access) but don’t want to spend too much by accident – I’ve set my maximum cost as £0.00 so it will never cost me but you could just set a low limit. You can send the following types of documents:

Microsoft Word (.DOC, .DOCX)
Kindle Format (.MOBI, .AZW)

2. You can convert PDFs to Kindle format simply by adding the word ‘Convert’ in the subject of the email – by default the Kindle will display PDFs as is (i.e. one PDF page to one Kindle screen) but this can make for some tiny writing. You can zoom in but it’s not exactly easy to navigate. One feature I use a lot is to convert PDF into Kindle format. All you need to do is use the subject Convert in the email you send with the PDF attached. It’s an ‘experimental’ feature so doesn’t always work perfectly, but I’ve never had any problems other than occasionally with images/tables. The example below shows the original (smaller text) and the converted below (where text can be adjusted to any size). Although there are a few misalignments I was very impressed that the table of contents in the document remained functional in the converted version (so you can click on the title in the TOCs and it will jump to the relevant section of the PDF – very useful for longer documents).

Original PDF
Original PDF (click for larger image)
Converted PDF
Converted PDF (click for larger image)

3. You can read your RSS feeds in full screen mode through the browser – I use Google Reader and one of the cool things you can do with that is make it full screen in your browser. You just hit key f once it’s loaded to make it full screen and then use j and k to navigate up and down the items (these work in any browser – see this list of keyboard shortcuts for Google Reader). The only downside is that you only have one window on Kindle so any links that want to open in a new window you won’t be able to open.

Google Reader on Kindle
Google Reader on Kindle (click for larger image)

4. You can take screenshots (to then share electronically) – this is how I created the images for this blog post. To take a screenshot you just press down Alt, Shift and g. To get the screenshot, plug your Kindle into your computer and your screenshot will be there in the documents folder for you to copy to your computer.

5. You can play games on it – reading work reports on your Kindle isn’t totally distraction free when you realise you can play a couple of games on your Kindle! Alt, Shift and m gets you to Minesweeper and then you can press g to go to Gomoku (5 in a row).

Minesweeper on Kindle
Minesweeper on Kindle (click for larger image)

I hope you find these tips useful – there are also some useful posts from Simon Barron and Bethan Ruddock. Do you have any other tips to share? Let me know in the comments or share on Twitter using the #kindletips hashtag.

This post first appeared on Jo’s blog Joeyanne Libraryanne on December 11th, 2011, at: http://www.joeyanne.co.uk/2011/12/11/5-things-you-didnt-know-you-could-do-on-your-kindle/

Jo is a keen user of technology and gadgets and is particularly interested in how to utilise mobile technologies in libraries. Jo tweets as @joeyanne


  1. Read actual books! Because, what if you run out of battery power, will you just have to stop reading? With actual books, you can read for however long you want. And what if something goes wrong with the Kindle, like it breaks or something? With actual books, you can’t break a book, you can tear a page but you can just tape it back. Books are meant to be read on paper, not a screen. That’s how it always has been until the invention of e-books which are silly. Don’t we people get enough screens and buttons in our lives? Why must we read books on screens, that’s like the only thing left that people read on paper. Even newspapers are starting to go down because people read the news on their computers. It doesn’t count to read a book on a screen and call yourself an avid reader. I think it would be sad to see books totally die out so please, can you help keep books alive by not buying an e-book? Please? Aside from the benefit of its size and weight, the Kindle is a manufactured product, which means that the Kindle not only takes up natural resources to produce the end product, but that the Kindle is made with human hands, Chinese hands to be more specific. Is the Kindle a fair-trade product? Were the hands that produced this luxury for Americans treated justly, humanely and respectfully? Were they given a fair price for the work done, a safe environment to work in, fair labor hours? Are the people who labor over our products treated well? What of the cost of transporting thousands of Kindles from Asia to America? What of the cost of packaging and delivering the same product into the hands of the consumers once in America? While it’s true that most everything we do requires energy consumption, one must take into consideration the things behind the scenes. For example, one can download a book from Amazon in 60 seconds flat. How does that book get from Amazon’s library to your Kindle? By their Whispernet technology, a wireless coverage in all 50 states. Just think of all that energy expended to supply Kindle followers of unlimited entertainment. Or how about the battery installed in each Kindle? Amazon thoughtfully installed a rechargeable battery, but one must use power to recharge that said battery. Where does that electricity come from?

    1. Look what it takes to make a million books, all text going wireless is going to happen, it already is, and for good reason, buy a kindle, you’ll know why ppl do in a month, if you a reader you will also save a pile of cash in a year,A $100 kindle pays for itself fast when the books are 25% the cost of the paper copy, and as for power usage…. that point was so ridiculous I don’t know where to start, what did you type this on? …. use smokes signals if your worried an out power consumption

  2. Hello Di,
    Thanks for your message. When you’ve emailed the article to your Kindle account, it will appear in your home screen, just as if it were a book you’d purchased from the Kindle Store. Hope this answers your question.
    Best regards,

  3. That tirade at the top is an absolute *hoot*. Thanks for leaving it in. There isn’t space enough in this comment field to itemize all the argumentative lapses that constitute the ‘ebooks are bad!’ argument. Where does that electricity come from? Probably the same place that papermills get their power. 😛

  4. Oh Nicolas! If your kindle breaks, you still have access to your ebooks because they are saved to your online amazon account. Also, don’t spout all that about being “green” and “environmentally friendly”, you’re defending books! BOOKS! You know, paper made from wood, comes from trees? The Chinese get paid and treated very well and very fairly for their work on the kindle. Amazon have made sure of it. Yes you have shipping, but where do you think all these top selling books are printed? Good guess!

    Kindle has plenty of benefits. Go Kindle!

  5. Apparently a typical ereader, for example the Amazon Kindle, is equivalent in carbon emissions to between 20 and 70 paper books, depending on their size and format.

    So you would need to buy up to 70 books on your Kindle before you started to achieve a reduction in your carbon emissions compared to buying paper books. Once past that number, carbon emissions would be minimal, as recharging your Kindle uses very little electricity.

    So (according to this estimate), heavy readers on Kindle would have lower carbon emissions than print book readers.

    Source of data: Energy and Carbon Emissions: the way we live today. by Nicola Terry. Page 136. ISBN: 9781906860141. Published by UIT

  6. Nicholas, I can’t agree with you on your opinions towards ebooks. They offer many advantages. Not least of which you can store your entire book collection online. So you don’t have to waste space in your house with bookshelves full of you favorite books. When you pick your Kindle up it opens on the page you last read. You can carry on reading at the last page read on your smart phone or tablet. It is lighter than a book so you can hold it up easily with your arm/wrist getting tired. You mention the battery getting flat. I read for more than a month between recharges and a recharge off a USB port uses next to no electricity. I buy all my ebooks so the author and publishers still get there profit. And at least my books have not been made from thousands of trees. You say that there are drawback to using ebooks. I think people buying books made from trees is a drawback.

    I declared war on paper 20 years ago and store all my important documents electronically. I get electronic banks statements, invoices etc Its just so much easier to store, find and recover if electronic. I would be very happy to live in a paper free world (oh and card free, I hate all the plastic cards I have to carry. All I should need is one card (or preferably to use my smart phone) to identify me to all the different systems.

  7. “…one must use power to …” hmmm I wonder how Nicolas is connected to the internet and is able to make this comment

  8. I particularly found that the second thing in the list was very useful. I have many good books from free sources and just recently I knew how to have them in my Kindle -thanks to you for sharing this. I have bookmarked this page in my Google Chrome browser, so I could always come back and try another thing in the future (step 1, 3, 4, and 5) should I think I would need them. Again, many thanks for sharing

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am waiting
    for your further write ups thank you once again.

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