UPDATED: A beginner’s guide to the Amazon Kindle


amazon kindle


I’ve been using my Amazon Kindle for about 10 days now. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • Set up and book buying couldn’t be easier
    You will be good to go in under a minute. Don’t be scared of this device if you’re a technophobe because it really is extremely easy to use. You do need an Amazon account to operate, but if you’re buying a Kindle then you’re probably no stranger to The Big A anyway.
  • You could spend a frickin fortune if you’re not careful
    I had assumed that ebooks would be a lot cheaper than the print versions, since the production and delivery costs are so much less, but that’s not the case. Many best sellers are a fairly similar price whatever version you choose. Somebody’s making a lot of money out of Kindle books, and I suspect it’s not the writers.
  • But you’ll still be seduced
    It’s the instant delivery to Kindle that’s so seductive – you can think of a book, buy it with one click and be reading it in under a minute. So if you’re in a field and you fancy reading some Rilke – away you go. You can see why it’s caught on.
  • The range of free ebooks is pretty vast, if not terribly current
    So far we’ve downloaded stuff like Little Women, Black Beauty and some scary Greek myths. There’re classics including Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Pride and Prefudice, so plenty that’s worth reading. You can see the free ebooks collection here.
  • With a good book, the format doesn’t matter
    Yes it’s nice to have a fat volume in your hands, and pages to sniff and turn. But once you’re in the world of the book, all that slips away and becomes irrelevant.
  • Be careful where you log off
    If you turn off the Kindle at a particular page, when you power up again you’ll go straight to the same page. For most readers this is useful, but if you are an adult reading the bit in Caitlin Moran’s book about strippers, and you’re sharing the book with a child who’s reading Black Beauty, tread carefully.
  • The bargains contain some gems
    For the canny publisher who’s prepared to price books low, it’s a great way to hook in casual readers. Kindle readers seem to be awfully keen to share their views, so a quick glance at the reviews will tell you whether a book is worth a punt.
  • Reading your Kindle in the bath is like an extreme sport for librarians
    Drop a Kindle in the bath and there goes your whole library. I didn’t even want to put mine down next to the bath in case it got dripped on, nor did I want to fling it to the other side of the room in case it broke. A conundrum. Might need a pulley system, or a special shelf.
  • You get free internets as well with the 3G model
    It’s in black and white so not the most sophisticated picture, but for checking in to Twitter or your email it’s a good way to keep connected on the move.

I hope this is useful to anyone who’s thinking of getting Kindled. My Kindle was a gift from Amazon’s Christmas media preview event. I would like to apologise to the PR person who gave me the Kindle, since I was so shocked that I also ran off with her Biro. Oops.

image: Flickr – Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com


I am now on to my 3rd Kindle – the first two went kaput and had to be replaced. In each case, out of the blue a diagonal line appeared across the screen and around half the screen was frozen, making reading books impossible.

I found Amazon customer services impeccable – quick to respond, helpful and very easy to deal with. Each time, they made suggestions as to how to fix the problem, and when that didn’t work they arranged for a free replacement to be sent out. Though all in all I would rather have had a Kindle that didn’t break.

I still love my (3rd) Kindle and very much enjoy reading books on it. However, it’s disappointing to have it go wrong twice – the second one only lasted a matter of weeks. Hopefully I have just been unlucky and this is no indication of a wider problem. But if you’ve had a Kindle that’s gone wrong, leave a comment below and tell me your experience.


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  • Thanks so much for your comments Kim – it’s great to have more input from an experienced Kindler. I might give The Guardian a go since I see that you can get a 14 day free trial subscription for newspapers.

  • I can hear you crumbling Alison! I took mine to London on the train this week and it was really handy to slip in my handbag, plus I have a few Doctor Who books on there now that the kids like to read. Only problem was fighting over whose turn it was.

  • Kim

    I agree about the seductiveness of being able to think of a book, and then be reading it seconds later. A few weeks ago my OH said, “You should read some Saki”, and moments later the “best of” collection was there on the Kindle, having cost all of 60p. In terms of what books are available, there’s loads of old, out-of-copyright stuff, which is either cheap or free; and there’s the very new stuff – I just read the latest Alan Hollinghurst. What’s harder to get is stuff that’s about 20 or 30 years old – I wanted to read some Bruce Chatwin, but the most famous stuff isn’t available on the Kindle. Pricing is also odd – generally much cheaper than new hardbacks but about the same price as paperback. The fact that ebooks are subject to VAT doesn’t help. Having had a kindle since Christmas, I’m finding that I read about half my books on the Kindle, half in traditoinal format. Oh, and am also enjoying reading The Guardian on the Kindle – that’s worked out quite well.

  • Kim

    The other thing I love (I could talk about the Kindle for hours!) is the pre-order facility. So e.g. with the new Alan Hollinghurst, I pre-ordered it, and then on the day it was published, I switched on the Kindle, and there it was, waiting for me. Have just pre-ordered the new biog of Edward Thomas, which means that on Friday, it will just appear ready for me to read. Lovely!

  • I could definitely be seduced into buying one of these! The weight of my bag from all the books I carry around would be reduced for starters! I do have the app on the iPad and downloaded quite a few on there – it was very easy and the thrill of seeing something and then having it to read within just a few minutes was great although I could see it would be dangerous for my bank balance. I like the feel of a Kindle – so lightweight and you don’t get any glare do you? Great invention.

  • Emma Cossey

    I almost got a Kindle earlier this year, but went for the iPad and the app instead. I love it, although I often find myself downloading another ebook, forgetting there’s still one half read in my library!

  • Good point Emma. I am lining books up to read, and aiming not to form too big a queue

  • oo good tip Diane, I will check it out

  • Oh, I love my Kindle! I’m amazed how much it feels like reading on paper, no eye strain at all. I am terrible for buying lots of books on impulse then forgetting I have them, but the summer sale has been marvellous.

    My top tip is: if you review books for a blog (or a living), check out Netgalley for free e-proofs – it’s a fantastic system.

  • Caroljs

    I love my Kindle it was Birthday present. I have spent a fortune so far on books!

    I find it easier to sneak in a chapter during the day with the kindle, I hide it behind a cushion while BG is playing. If I read an actual book she hears me turn the page and tries to steal it away!

    I also like that I can have the app on the ipad and it syncs up so when you book mark a page on one it does the same on the other. Also OH can read the books without having to use my kindle (its my precious)

  • It would be great if they would use that as an advertising slogan – Kindle Aids Sneaky Readers

  • Susan Heaton Wright

    I enjoy reading novels on my Kindle. I am prone to ‘cheat’ when reading: flicking through to the last page or before, to get a clue about the plot, but it’s a such a faff to do this on the kindle, I read the novel as the author intended!
    I agree with other contributors that the price of some books is prohibitive. I use the local library a lot for new books, and unfortunately the ebook selection isn’t compatible with Kindle. But it is a very worthwhile ‘kit’.

  • oh I know what you mean Susan – one thing I miss on the Kindle is the ability to easily flick to the end of the chapter. Sometimes when you’re reasing in bed at night and wondering whether or not to turn off the light, it makes a difference!

  • Thanks a lot for your comment Jo – it’s a relief to know that it’s not just me who’s had this problem. I’ve always suspected that it was much more widespread. Thank goodness their customer service was so good, but it would be even better if it didn’t happen in the first place.

  • Jo Chambers

    I had the same experience with the screen. First time I was able to reset it a couple of times before it finally froze, the second time (ironically) I was in France ski-ing, in February. The evening we arrived it was -22 degrees, and my Kindle quickly responded to the temparature and froze!! I tried to run it down, download new software etc, but nothing worked. However, as you said before, Amazon’s customer service have been amazing (both times), they compare very favourably to people like Dell (I’m waiting for my PC to die, and will never buy another Dell after the hours of my life wasted waiting for Dell customer (dis)service agents to work their way through their scripts, and really hours isn’t exaggerating). So I really appreciated the way I was dealt with, my new Kindle was with me within 24 hours and I am a very loyal customer!