10 Free Things to Do With Your Kindle

Photo: I Love My Pit

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 site to earn Amazon gift certificates for my Christmas shopping. Many of you signed up — and thanks to you I am getting so many points called SB 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 SB (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.

Average: 4.2 (43 votes)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

I have found this wonderful application called Instapaper, it works very well with the Kindle.

It is a very useful way to collect articles and information from the web and the read off line on your Kindle. I wrote about my experience using it here:

If you do not want to pay for the wireless delivery by Instapaper via Amazon, you can simply download the Mobi file from Instapaper's web site and copy it to your Kindle via the USB connection.

Guest's picture

I consider it a bit of a double-standard that so-called "frugal" and "money-wise" sites are talking about "free stuff you can do with your new, over-priced, fad gadget". The kindle is such a gadget, just as PDA's / Pocket PC's were. A smartphone? Sure, I could see folks justifying in getting a smart phone while being frugal, since it's a phone that can do so much more. Plus, you can get inexpensive ones if you're savvy.

But lugging around a kindle? Give me a break. How about this... if you're so dead-set on a portable book reader, then just go onto Craigslist and get a used PDA/Pocket PC for like $40, transfer some files onto it, mp3's, google maps, etc, and use it like you would a kindle.

Maybe I'm being harsh, but I find it hard to take any "frugal" web-site seriously when they're talking about saving money while using expensive gadgets folks on a budget shouldn't be buying in the first place.

Guest's picture
Guest vs Guest

At the beginning of the article it says that the Kindle was a gift... which makes their remarks valid for the theme of their blog. So you fail. Read the article first and maybe you won't look like you're being so rude.

Guest's picture

If you are so frugal that you don't want to spend money on a Kindle, then don't do it. I guess it's a good thing that everybody gets to decide for themselves if they want to spend the money or not. I have a Kindle and love it--I don't mind "lugging" it around at all!!

Guest's picture

To be sure, a Kindle is not a frugal purchase. Then again, personally, I feel more comfortable paying for something upfront and using it without continuing fees than buying a smart phone and then paying for the data plan every single month.

Still, I think people who already own expensive gadgets or are thinking about buying one might still want to save money once they have it. It's like, just because you drive a Lexus doesn't mean you're not interested in what kind of mileage it gets, right?

Guest's picture
Diana K

Frugal or not, I love my kindle, all the classics are free. Well, I suppose it depends on what you do with your kindle, I believe it's great for kids who have a bit of trouble with reading, it builds vocabulary quickly thanks to the dictionary and the text to speech option enables them to read along, which builds sight word skills. People with vision disabilities also benefit greatly due to the text to speech option AND you can easily increase the text size. (try that with a book) and on average, new releases are cheaper on the kindle and plus, there is my own category, English as a second language readers like myself, I really enjoy reading books with the kindle, looking up words in a separate dictionary is not necessary anymore and keeps me reading fluently without annoying "word search" breaks.

Guest's picture

You can get free new release books for the Kindle as well - if you go to Kindle - books and then to Kindle bestsellers they have two columns - the top 100 free books are on the right! I have more than paid for my Kindle this last year since I have read over 200 books without paying for more than 20 of them at most. I expect to repeat this for the years to come. I've changed from thinking that Kindle is an indulgence to thinking that for some people, it can truly save them money!

Guest's picture

Wow. This website was so useful. I wasn't sure if i should get the iPad or this and now i know for a fact. :D

Guest's picture

I read the Kindle does American English-an oxymoron??? But does it do correct English in dictionary, as obviously US English would be of no use to me. Cheers, I will keep popping back, Don

Guest's picture

#3 Check your email

Actually, Gmail has a mobile site. m.gmail.com. Sometimes you get redirected to the desktop version of the site for some reason but other than that it works great on the kindle. If that happens just re-enter m.gmail.com in the url bar.

Guest's picture

If you're not connected to wifi while driving how would you be able to use Google Maps for free and have turn by turn directions?

Carrie Kirby's picture

the original Kindle did not need wifi, it had free access to Whispernet.

Guest's picture

I laughed when you said Look words up in the dictionary because I tend to do that a lot. Perhaps I know the word but I think it is just so much fun to just do it. I was just reading The Man Who Rode the Tiger by Charles Sailor and I did that lot with the stuff about China.

I am always looking for great things to read.