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How to Use a Kindle

Aug. 25, 2016
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Amazon introduced its first Kindle e-reader in 2007 and has been updating the product ever since. There’s now a full lineup of Amazon e-readers that includes three additional versions: the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kindle Voyage and the Kindle Oasis.

It’s easy to confuse these devices with tablets — they’re all portable and have touch screens — but even though technology has improved and their capabilities have evolved, they’re not quite as versatile. So what exactly can you do with your Kindle? Let’s take a look at some of the obvious and not-so-obvious features.

kindleRead more than books

The main purpose of a Kindle is reading e-books, of course, but you can also use it to catch up on current events and Hollywood gossip. You can leave paper behind and digitally subscribe to popular magazines and newspapers through the Kindle Store. Available publications include The New York Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Time and Vogue.

Connect to the internet

All Kindle models have Wi-Fi connectivity, which lets you sync the device to your Amazon account so you can buy and download content. Each gives you internet access through an experimental browser, but its capabilities are limited and your connection may be slow.

You can check your email and visit websites, but web pages might look strangely formatted and basic. The Kindles’ E-Ink screens, which are designed to resemble a printed book, won’t display color or videos.

The Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis are also available in a Wi-Fi plus 3G version, but the 3G is also limited; it will let you access only Amazon and Wikipedia.

» MORE: 5 things you should know before buying a Kindle e-reader

Build up your library for free

Each device has 4 gigabytes of storage and can hold thousands of books. Filling up your virtual bookshelf shouldn’t be too difficult, though. Millions of works are available to purchase, and millions are free to download, including classics such as “A Tale of Two Cities” and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

You can also borrow works from participating public libraries if you have a library card. Just visit your library’s website, search for Kindle books or e-books, pick one and send it to your Kindle using a Wi-Fi or USB connection. You can borrow a book from another Kindle user as well. That person can send the book to your email, and you’ll have up to 14 days to read it after you download it.

Amazon Prime members get a bonus option: They can borrow one free book per month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, which has more than 800,000 titles.

Customize your content

Once you’ve started your digital collection, you can make it easier to locate and read your e-books. You can create categories with Cloud Collections and sort your downloaded works by genre or collections. Visit your settings to adjust the margins, type font and size, and line spacing to tailor each book’s appearance to your liking.

Join a digital book club

Reading can be isolating. As a Kindle owner, you can make it a more social experience by using Goodreads, a virtual community for bibliophiles. Once you create a free account, you can connect with friends to see what they’re reading, start discussions, get book recommendations and ratings, and give feedback on books you’ve read.

» MORE: Kindle Oasis vs. Kindle Voyage

Send and receive documents

If you need to view a document, say for work or school, you can do so on your Kindle. The supported file types include Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, HTMLs and JPEGs.

First, you’ll need to go to your account settings and add a personal email address. Then, attach the document to an email using that address and send it to your Kindle email address. Your Kindle email address will be assigned to you when you register your device. If you don’t know what it is, you can find it under your account settings.

There’s also an export option that lets you send the notes and highlights you’ve made on your Kindle directly to your email address as PDFs.

» MORE: Kindle Voyage vs. Kindle Paperwhite

Read in the dark

If you’ve become engrossed in a book, you’ll likely want to extend your daily reading time as long as possible. Except for the standard model, all Kindles feature a built-in light that allows you to keep reading in the dark without straining your eyes. The Voyage even has a sensor that will adjust the screen’s brightness automatically based on your environment.

Ready to begin?

Make sure you know what’s in store before you commit to a Kindle. You can find more details about each e-reader and access a user guide on Amazon’s Kindle products page. Once you’ve decided on one, set up an Amazon account or link your existing one to your device. Then, get more familiar with your e-reader. Explore the settings and functions, dive into your reading material, and you’ll become a pro user in no time.

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Lauren Schwahn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.