Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kindle 2 Review

My shiny new Kindle 2.0 arrived yesterday, so I've had a bit of time to play with it. Here are some first impressions, and some differences from the Original Kindle.

Form Factor

The Kindle 2 is a lot sleeker-looking. It's very thin and has nice smooth, rounded corners. It is a bit taller and wider than the K1. I'm not sure why, but it does feel somewhat bigger in the hand. The back of the case is brushed aluminum, and some users on the Kindle 2 forums have complained that it's a little too slippery. A skin or cover is probably a good idea.

The paging buttons on the Kindle 2 are very different than those on the first Kindle. My first impression wasn't too favorable, but I think I'll probably get used to them in time. The Kindle 1 had large, responsive buttons that could be easily pressed at any point. The new buttons are not only quite small, but they must be firmly pressed on the inner edge. There were a lot of complaints from K1 owners about accidental page turns, but I think the Kindle redesign team may have gone a little overboard in addressing that issue. As I said earlier, though, I think I will adjust to the new buttons.

The keyboard keys are small and round now, and may be a bit harder to use for some. I don't use the keyboard much, so I don't find it to be an issue.

The big change is the switch from the scrolling wheel to the new 5-way navigation controller. I really disliked the wheel on the Kindle 1. I found that it would often slip when pressed, and it was sometimes difficult to tell exactly which line the cursor was on, particularly when the text didn't extend all the way to the right side of the page. Also, the cursor position in the silver bar was sometimes difficult to see in certain lighting.


The cursor is now on the page itself instead instead of in the silver sidebar, and can be moved up, down, left or right with the new 5-way controller. When reading a book, the cursor works like a cursor in a word processor. As you move the cursor around the page, a definition for the word to the right of the cursor will automatically appear at the bottom of the page, and you can simply begin typing anywhere to add a note or highlight a passage. When on the home page, or in a menu, the current position is now denoted with a thick underline, making it much easier to see where you are. The movement of the controller is much more distinct than the wheel, too.

The whole navigation system has been greatly improved. From the home page, you can move the cursor to a book title and click right to bring up a page with the book cover and menu items to buy now (if it's a sample), see book description, go to a location, search or delete. A left click over a title on the home page will delete the item. The menus themselves are now accessed from a hardware button just above the 5-way controller, and filling in form fields is a much simpler process now.

More soon...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free Kindle Books

Someone asked for a consolidated list of places to get free books for the Kindle. If you know of any that I've missed, leave a comment and I'll update.

Download directly to your Kindle

These sites allow you to use the Kindle's built in EVDO connection to download books directly to the Kindle. You may also download books to your computer and transfer them to your Kindle with the usb cable, or you may email them to your Kindle's email address.
For direct downloading to your Kindle, access from your Kindle's web browser. You can add the Kindle Download Guide to your Kindle for easier access. You can find details and instructions here:
Smaller books may be downloaded directly to the Kindle. Books with a size listed should be downloaded to a computer first and then transferred.
For direct downloading to your Kindle, access from your Kindle's web browser. Detailed instructions are here:
For direct downloading to your Kindle, access from your Kindle's web browser.

Download to your computer

These sites will require you to download to your computer and then transfer to your Kindle with the usb cable. You can also email books to your Kindle's email address.
Some free books, some available for purchase in multi-format. See
Books with a size listed should be downloaded to your computer and transferred or emailed to the Kindle.
Some free books. See

From Amazon

Amazon often has free Kindle books available. Sometimes they're even good books! Go to the main Kindle Books page, enter -domain in the search field and sort the results by Price: Low to High. Here's a direct link to the sorted book list.

Moving Content From Your Kindle 1 to Kindle 2

Many Kindle 1 users are selling or giving away their Kindles and upgrading to the Kindle 2. In case you're wondering how to get your content transferred over, here's a quick guide.

Books purchased from

These are automatically backed up in your amazon account, with annotations, bookmarks, etc. Just delete them from your old Kindle. When you're ready to read them on your new Kindle, you can just send them again. From your new Kindle, there will be a menu for 'Archived items'. Select the titles you want and choose download. You can also go into your account from your computer, select 'Your Account' from the top of the screen, and then click on 'Manage my Kindle'. You should see all of your purchased books, and you can send them to your new Kindle. You can do this even if you haven't received your new Kindle yet!

Content purchased or downloaded from other sources

Connect your old Kindle to your computer with the usb cable. Copy books or other content from your Kindle to a folder on your computer. You can then either delete the items from your old Kindle, or you can leave them for the next user (if they are transferable). Once you get your new Kindle, connect it to your computer and copy the items onto it.

Amazon Book Samples

If you're like me, you use samples to keep track of books you want to read but are not yet ready to purchase. I had a couple-dozen or so samples on my Kindle 1. Unfortunately, these are not kept in your Amazon account, so you can't just go into your account and send them all to your new Kindle like you can with purchased books. I ended up sitting in front of my computer, with my Kindle 1 in hand, and revisiting each book's product page to send each sample to my new Kindle 2. Kind of painful, but it worked. If anyone has come up with a better way, please leave a comment.

Kindle 1.0 Tips & Tricks, Part 2

Using the Web Browser

The Kindle's browser is accessed from the Experimental menu. There are 2 browser modes: basic and advanced. Some sites (e.g. gmail) need javascript, so if you are having trouble accessing a site in basic mode, try using advanced mode with javascript enabled. Select 'Settings' from the browser menu to switch between modes. See Amazon's browser help page for more details.

Some Useful Sites

Gmail -
Google Calendar -
Google Reader -
Yahoo mail -
Yahoo messenger -
Manybooks -

GPS and Google Maps

Your Kindle 1 knows where you are! If you turn your wireless on and go to the web browser, you can do the following:
  • Alt + 1 - Pinpoint your location on Google maps
  • Alt + 2 - Find nearby gas stations
  • Alt + 3 - Find nearby restaurants
  • Alt + 5 - Find keyword nearby (e.g. enter coffee to find nearby places to get your caffeine fix)
Update: These mapping shortcuts do not seem to work on the Kindle 2.

Sending SMS Text Messages

You can send a text message from your Kindle to a cell phone. From any email client (e.g. gmail) in your Kindle web browser, address an e-mail to the 10-digit cell phone number at the appropriate gateway. For instance, to send to an AT&T cell phone number, address the email to Here's a list of cell provider gateways -

US Cellular:
Virgin Mobile:

Kindle 1.2 Firmware Upgrade

Most Kindle 1 owners should have received the 1.2 firmware upgrade by now. You can check your firmware version by selecting 'Settings' from the Home menu. The version should display at the bottom of the screen.

Version 1.2 changes:
  • Zoom any image in Kindle books or periodicals by selecting the image using the scroll wheel.
  • Items can now be deleted directly from the Home screen. Simply scroll to the item you wish to delete and push the backspace key.
  • Improved character and font support including Greek characters and monospace fonts.
  • Whispersync support has been added. This will allow you to keep content on multiple Kindles in sync.
  • The Ask Kindle NowNow feature has been removed.
See for more details.

Kindle 1.0 Tips & Tricks, Part 1

A few useful things
  • Alt + AA - Sleep or wake
  • Alt + B - Set a bookmark
  • Alt + T - Display the time
  • Alt + Next page or Alt + Prev page - Skip forward or backward several pages
  • Alt + P - Play or pause music
  • Alt + F - Skip to the next song
  • Alt + backspace - clear text field
  • Alt + H - Move cursor left
  • Alt + J - Move cursor right
  • J (while the text menu is open) - Open a text justification sub-menu
  • Alt + Z - View pictures (on SD card)
  • Alt + 0 - Enable automatic page turning mode
  • Alt + 1 - Start auto page turning
  • Alt + 2 - Stop auto page turning
  • Shift + Alt + M - Play minesweeper
  • Shift + Alt + R - Reboot your Kindle
  • Shift + Alt + . - Restart the GUI
  • Shift + Alt + G - Take a screenshot (stored on SD card)
Free content

There are several sites that offer free books for the Kindle. In general, you will need to download a book in Kindle format (.azw) to your computer, and then transfer it to your Kindle via the usb cable.

There are a few sites that will allow you to download free books directly to your Kindle via Amazon's Whispernet. My favorite is From your Kindle's basic web browser (see Tips & Tricks Part 2), navigate to, find the book you are interested in, and select download in .mobi format. The book will appear on your Kindle in a few seconds., ready to read.

Content storage

Books that you have purchased from Amazon are automatically stored in your content manager on Amazon's servers. Any bookmarks or annotations are stored as well. This means that you do not need to worry about saving your library. Once you've finished reading a book, you may simply delete it from your Kindle memory. If you wish to read it again later, you can just transfer it back to your Kindle and re-read it, or pick up where you left off.

To download an Amazon book that you've removed from your Kindle, from your Kindle Home screen, select Content Manager from the menu. At the top of the screen, there is a "Show and Sort" menu. You can use this to show content in your Kindle memory, on SD card, or in your Amazon account storage area. Show items in Amazon storage, select the book you wish to download, and choose download from the menu.

You can also go to your Amazon account to re-send books that you've deleted from your Kindle. Log in to and click the "Your account" link at the top of the page. Select "Manage Your Kindle". Find the book(s) that you want to download in the "Your orders" section, and send them to your Kindle.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kindle 2 Tips and Tricks

It seems that many of the shortcuts that worked on the Kindle 1 do not work on the Kindle 2, or have been changed. Here are a few things that work:

Display the time - Press MENU button
Display free memory - Press MENU button
Display wireless network - Press MENU button (a 3G or 1X symbol will appear next to the signal strength bars when the wireless is on)

Refresh Display - ALT+G
Add or remove a bookmark - ALT+B
Change line spacing - ALT+Shift+n (where n is a number, 1-9)
Start or stop text-to-speech - Shift+SYM
Pause or resume text-to-speech - Space
Play or stop background audio - ALT+Space
Skip to the next audio track - ALT+F
Make a screenshot - ALT+Shift+G (saved as a .gif file in the Documents folder, accessible when connected to a computer)
Go to Kindle Store - ALT+HOME

Play Minesweeper (from home page) - ALT+Shift+M

Put Kindle to sleep or wake it up - Slide and release the power button (on top of the K2)
Power off - Slide and hold the power button for 4 seconds
Reset - Slide and hold the power button for 15 seconds

If you've found others, please leave a comment and I will update this list periodically.

Kindle 2.0 Features

If you're reading this, you probably already know that the Kindle 2.0 is available for pre-order (get yours here). Here are the highlights on the changes from the first generation Kindle:

  • 20% faster page turns.
  • Longer battery life.
  • The power and wireless switches have been moved - they're no longer on the back of the device.
  • The next page and previous page buttons are smaller.
  • Navigation has been improved
  • More internal memory.
  • Crisper screen.
There are a couple of maybe not-so-good changes. The battery can no longer be replaced by the user. The unit must be sent to Amazon for battery replacement. As I understand it, batteries will be replaced free of charge during the 1-year warranty period. After that, there will be a fee for the service. The other big change is that the Kindle 2 no longer has an external memory card slot. For some users, this will be a deal-breaker. If you have a lot of non-Amazon content, or if you use SD cards to sort your content, you might want to stick with the first-generation Kindle for a while longer.

Kindle 2 Announcement

Amazon announced the second generation Kindle on February 9. The new Kindles will begin shipping on February 24. The Kindle blogs are full of complaints from Kindle 1 owners, mostly about not getting any sort of trade-in or upgrade credit. Personally, I don't quite understand the problem. If I buy a piece of technology, and I'm satisfied with it, I keep it until I feel the need to upgrade. If and when I decide I want a newer/better/faster version, I sell my old one and buy a new one.

I've been a very happy Kindle 1 owner since April 2008. When the Kindle 2 was announced, I was on the fence about upgrading. On the one hand, I'm pretty satisfied with the Kindle 1. On the other hand, the Kindle 2 has some interesting new features (more on those later). In the end, I decided that if I could get a reasonable price for my Kindle 1, it would probably be worth it to me to upgrade. I went ahead and pre-ordered the Kindle 2, and listed my Kindle 1. I figured if the K1 didn't sell, I could just cancel the K2 order and keep the K1 for a while longer. Well, my K1 sold in just a few hours. My biggest problem now is that I'll be without a Kindle for 2-1/2 weeks! I haven't read a non-electronic book in almost a year.