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Amazon Kindle tips and tricks: 12 ways to make the most of your handy ereader

Make the most of your old or new Kindle

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019)
(Image: © Future)

So you’ve got a Kindle - maybe you’ve bought a new one to read some books in the sun, or perhaps you’ve had one for a while but never really new how to make the most of it. 

Kindle ereaders are great devices for book fans, letting you transport whole libraries on one slender device, but there’s actually a lot more you can do on them - and the devices also have a few hidden functions that make reading even easier.

With that in mind, we’ve drawn up this list of useful Kindle tips and tricks, to help make your personal ereader that little bit more useful. You might know some of these already, but we’re willing to bet that there’s one or two here that are new for you.

1. Get definitions of words

Kindle tips and tricks

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re reading a book and the language starts to confuse you - maybe you haven’t seen a word before, or the text is from another dialect or time period - you don’t have to just gloss over the word. Your Kindle has a built-in dictionary.

Simply press and hold on a word that you’re unfamiliar with, and the dictionary will pop up telling you various meanings of a word. It’ll even tell you regional ones, depending on where your text is set or who wrote it.

The best part is, this dictionary doesn’t use the internet, so you can even search words and meanings when you’re offline.

2. Set a cool screensaver

The default Kindle screensaver, which pops up when the device is not in use, is fine. But you can actually change it, to the cover of whichever book you're reading.

To do this, from the device home page, press ‘Settings’, then ‘All Settings’, then ‘Device Options’. Now toggle ‘Display Cover’ to turn it on. Easy!

Now when you start reading a new book, the screensaver will change to match it too.

3. Keep the battery lasting longer

Kindle tips and tricks

(Image credit: Future)

Kindles generally have pretty good battery lives, lasting weeks or months between charges depending on how frequently you like to read. But there are ways to extend it even further if you want to ensure it’ll have charge when you need it.

Firstly, it’s best to turn Wi-Fi off when you’re not using it, and if you have a data-connected Kindle model, switch that off too. This is the single best thing you can do to improve battery life (well, other than not using the Kindle!). From the main Kindle menu, press ‘Settings’ then ‘All Settings’ and ‘Wi-Fi & Bluetooth’, which will let you alter these settings. ‘Aeroplane Mode’ will also be worth turning on. 

Other ways to save battery life would be changing display settings - press ‘Settings’ again, and turn down Brightness and Warmth (if your Kindle has the latter) to save some juice. Turning off Auto Brightness on models with that feature will also help (assuming you set the brightness low as well).

Oh, and as with all electronics, try to avoid keeping the Kindle plugged in when it's already fully charged - this'll stop the power pack degrading as much over time.

4. Browse the internet

You might not know this, but Kindle devices have internet browsers built into them - sure, it’s not going to be as quick to use as the one on your phone, tablet or computer, but it exists.

To find it, from your Kindle’s menu, press the three vertical dots in the top-right corner to bring up the options list, then select ‘Experimental Browser’. You’ll need to be connected to the internet for this to work.

The word ‘experimental’ is pulling a lot of weight there, and the browser isn’t great for handling lots of web formatting - images don’t usually work, for example, making the TechRadar home page look horrible. But if you need to quickly search something, it’s a fine option.

5. Clean up your library with collections

Kindle tips and tricks

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re like us, your Kindle library can easily become cluttered with loads of books you’ve downloaded (including plenty you’ll probably never read). You don’t have to have such a messy library page though.

Using collections, you can group selections of books together, so a collection will take up just one slot in the library. To use them, press the three vertical dots from the Kindle menu, select ‘Create New Collection’ at the bottom, give the collection a name, then choose texts that are on the Kindle to pair them all together.

By creating themed collections, like bringing together all the works from a certain series or by a particular author, you can easily reduce the amount of clutter in your library pages, making it much easier to find whatever you’re looking for.

6. Turn your Kindle into a kid-friendly device

If you want your kid to be able to read a book via your Kindle, but don’t want them stumbling onto something more adult-focused from your own library, you can use the Amazon Kids function, accessible by pressing the three-vertical-dot options button from the menu, then clicking ‘Amazon Kids’.

This function lets you make a specific profile for the child, and share whichever books from your own collection you want them to read. You can even set them goals for how much they need to read, check their progress, stop them accessing the aforementioned internet browser, and reward them digital badges for their work.

If you want, you can pay for Amazon Kids Plus for a nominal fee, which does the same as the above, but also lets the kids access a curated collection of appropriate books depending on their age. This service works on all Kindles, not just the Kindle Kids Edition, though we’d advise caution before handing an expensive Kindle Oasis over to a young child.

7. Leave notes, highlights and bookmarks when reading

Kindle tips and tricks

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re reading something that you find particularly profound, or that you want to remember, you can leave a variety of markers to help you find it again in a pinch.

First, and most basic, is the bookmark, which lets you remember the position of an entire page. To make a bookmark, when you’re in a book, press at the top of the screen, so the Kindle header and footer appear. Now, next to ‘Go To’ there will be a little bookmark icon to the right of the screen - press this to set a bookmark. You can then press in this corner when the menu’s not up, to find a list of the bookmarks you’ve left.

Second is a highlight, which you can use to identify quotes you like. To leave one of these, press and hold on a word, and when it’s highlighted, draw the start or end marker to encompass the whole quote. Select ‘Highlight’, which is one of the options that appears, and the text will darken a tiny bit to show it's a highlighted section.

Finally, you can leave a note on a quote. To do this, follow the above steps, but press ‘Note’ instead of ‘Highlight’, then type in whatever you think of the excerpt. You can navigate the Notes by pressing at the top of the book to bring up the Kindle footer, selecting ‘Go To’, pressing ‘Notes’ at the top then browsing this list.

If you want to see a handy overview of all the excerpts you’ve noted or highlighted, the browser-based Kindle site has a handy Notebook tool which lists it in an easy-to-understand way.

8. Download PDFs or other documents onto your Kindle

The best hidden Kindle trick is the fact that you’re not locked to Kindle ebooks on the device - you can send your own PDFs, word documents and more onto the ereader, to read at your leisure.

We’ve written an in-depth guide on how to send a PDF to your Amazon Kindle device, as writing down each step would double the length of this article. It’s a little fiddly, but is really worth it to master.

With this tool, you can send work documents to your Kindle, get free ebooks from your friends or sources like Project Gutenberg, and get all your school or university reading onto your device (which plays really well with the aforementioned Notes and Highlights functions).

9. Listen to audiobooks

Kindle tips and tricks

(Image credit: Future)

If, for whatever reason, you own a Kindle ereader but don’t like to read, you can actually use the Audible audiobook service through your Kindle. Just be warned, you’ll need some Bluetooth headphones to connect to the ereader to actually listen to them.

From the Kindle menu, press the three-vertical-dot options menu and select Audible Store. Audible is an Amazon-owned company, hence the close collaboration. From here you can peruse a long list of audiobooks (many of which have Kindle versions too).

If you have a separate Audible subscription, you can use this to get audiobooks for free or reduced too.

 10. Read reviews of books or log your reads

Another book-related service Amazon owns is Goodreads, a website where you log books you read, review them, and read reviews from other fans. And, of course, the service is available from Kindle ereaders - well, parts of it.

From the Kindle menu, simply press ‘Goodreads’ at the top - it couldn’t be easier. This will bring you to the service, and once you’ve logged in (or made an account), you can using the social service largely as you would on desktop.

This includes seeing what your friends have read recently, recommending books to people, and adding things to your wish list. Some functions are missing though - namely, you can’t write reviews, though you can log and rate books.

11. Download books onto your Kindle without using it

Amazon Kindle Oasis

(Image credit: Amazon)

Kindles aren’t the snappiest devices in the world, but you don’t actually have to scroll through the on-device library to buy or download books. You can do it all via your computer.

We’ve written a whole guide on how to buy, download and lend Kindle books via the Amazon web store, and this will let you easily choose which books to buy on your computer before sending them to your Kindle. We find this the easiest way to buy Kindle books, and we expect you will too.

12. Read your Kindle ebooks, without using the ereader

Sometimes you’ll find yourself without your Kindle - maybe you didn’t manage to fit it in your suitcase before a holiday, or forgot to charge it before a trip. Fortunately, you don’t have to forget about reading until you’re back, as there are other ways to access your books.

There’s an online Kindle reader platform which lets you read books assigned to your account, even ones not actually downloaded onto your device. There’s also an Android app and iOS app which do the same thing, so you can read on your phone. 

Using these, you’ll be able to keep up your reading habit while not physically touching your Kindle.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more. Outside of work he's an award-winning filmmaker, trained mixologist, expert baker, keen runner and okayish gamer.