10 Free Things to Do With Your Kindle
When I received a Kindle ebook reader for Christmas, I was worried that it would prompt me to start spending a lot of money on books. Pre-Kindle, I got most of my reading material from the library, borrowed books from others, or at least bought them used. Since most Kindle books are priced around $9.99, I thought I might be tempted to add an extra $10 a month to my entertainment budget.
I was delighted to learn that there are lots of free things to do with my Kindle. So far the only actual cash I have spent on the thing? $27 for a cute case from Etsy. Here are 10 free things I discovered I could do with my Kindle.
1. Browse books on Amazon.
One of my favorite activities in the world is to linger in a bookstore, picking up new and old titles and reading a few pages here, a few pages there. Now that I have three kids, it's something I almost never get to do. One thing that I realized shortly after getting my Kindle was that this thing is a bookstore — one I can step into at any time of the day or night. The Kindle can download a free sample of any book on offer, and these samples are usually one or more chapters in length! I absolutely adore sitting down to breastfeed my son and checking out a new book I heard about on NPR that day — without paying a cent and without even using two hands!
2. Download and read public domain works.
There are multiple places to download free books formatted for the Kindle, but the easiest place to start is Amazon.com. Simply go to the Kindle books page and sort prices from low to high. You'll find a hodgepodge of classics (so far I've downloaded and read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness) and oddities like ancient issues of the Atlantic Monthly. I think these have been converted to Kindle format by volunteers. So far I have no complaints about the formatting and had no trouble reading them. There are also millions of free books available from sites other than Amazon.
3. Check your email.
Free access to email and the Web is actually the top reason I wanted a Kindle. Kindles access wireless networks wherever you are, just like an iPhone or Blackberry. But unlike those devices, you don't have to pay any data fees when checking your email on your Kindle. The downside is that my Yahoo Mail and Gmail look pretty crappy on Kindle, the speed is low and navigating is cumbersome. To try it on your own Kindle, simply hit the Menu button, select Experimental from the menu, then select Basic Web. You'll find a Web browser into which you can type the URL of your Web-based email.
4. Read blogs.
You can pay to subscribe to blogs on Kindle, but why? The Web browser makes it quite easy to type in the address of your blog, and while the format doesn't look perfect, it's not bad either.
5. Get directions and do everything else that one does with mobile Internet.
You can access Google Maps to get turn-by-turn directions, or really look up anything on the entire Internet. You get the idea.
6. Look words up in the dictionary.
Kindle has a built-in New Oxford American Dictionary. To search it even when you're not reading, hit Menu, then select "Search." You'll be given a text window and the options of looking up what you type in the dictionary, Wikipedia, the books on your Kindle, the Amazon store, or just Google.
7. Listen to your mp3s.
OK, the Kindle makes for a dorky-looking music player, but what the heck? It's the word nerd's iPod. The mp3 function is also under the "Experimental" menu option. (Also, this is not free but you can subscribe to Audible.com and listen to audiobooks on Kindle as well.)
8. Read your own files.
This site has instructions for transferring PDFs to your Kindle — you can have them converted to Kindle format or just transfer them as PDFs.
9. Buy and read new releases — with SwagBucks.
Recently, I wrote about how I used the SwagBucks Search & Win site to earn Amazon gift certificates for my Christmas shopping. Many of you signed up through my affiliate link — and thanks to you I am getting so many Swagbucks each day that I can afford to cash some in for Amazon gift cards, which I then spend on Kindle books — and still have plenty left over to save for next Christmas. Once gift cards are applied to your Amazon account, they will automatically be used to pay for any books you order through your Kindle. It takes about 900 SwagBucks (they recently multiplied all SB by 100) to pay for one $9.99 Kindle book, and I'd guess that most people who use SwagBucks for search the Web every day could probably earn enough to buy one book per month.
10. Listen to a story.
Once you have books on your Kindle, you can listen to them as audiobooks for no additional charge with the text-to-speech function. I found the robot voice surprisingly listenable. I also downloaded a free fairy tale book in case I ever need Kindle to read my kids a story in a pinch.
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