To get the most out of your Amazon Kindle, you'll need to create an account with Amazon.com. It's a free process -- all you'll need is a valid e-mail address. Once you have an account, you can register your Kindle with Amazon. This gives you access to the Kindle Store through Amazon's wireless network, called Whispernet.
The Amazon Kindle's modem gives you wireless access to an electronic store that includes more than 1 million books, newspapers and magazines [source: Amazon]. Amazon provides 3G wireless service without a monthly subscription fee on some devices -- you just have to pay a little more upon purchase of the device. The 3G devices also allow for WiFi access to the store, and the non-3G devices are WiFi-only. The Kindle allows you to buy books directly from the device. Alternately, you can browse books in the Kindle store using your computer's Web browser and purchase them from your computer. Amazon will send the electronic books directly to your device. You can also browse several blogs online.
You don't need to own a computer to use the Kindle. That's one feature that sets Kindle apart from some of its competitors. You don't have to sync the Kindle to another machine to transfer files. You can browse, sample, purchase and download titles from the Kindle itself, provided you have access to a WiFi network or own one of the 3G enabled Kindles.
The files you access with a Kindle are in a proprietary format with the extensions AZW, AZW1, AZW2 or AZW3. These files include digital rights management (DRM) that prevents you from sharing your files with other users. The Kindle Keyboard 3G can handle Audible files (.aa or .aax) and MP3 files, two popular formats for audio books, but this feature is not present on the other current models. Amazon also can convert several other types of files into the AZW format so that the Kindle can read them. These file types include:
- Text (.txt) files
- Unprotected MOBI files (.mobi or .prc)
- Word documents (.doc)
- HTML files
- Image files, including JPEG, GIF, BMP and PNG formats
- PDF files
Each Kindle has a unique e-mail address. You can send compatible files to your Kindle by e-mailing them as an attachment to this address, visiting the Manage Your Kindle page at Amazon.com, finding the file in your library, and choosing to deliver it to the device. For files sent over the 3G network via Whispernet, Amazon charges a variable fee per file based on size and geographic location: $0.15 per megabyte within the U.S. and $0.99 per megabyte outside the U.S. Files delivered via WiFi or to supported Kindle applications on other devices are free of charge. Another way to avoid the fee is to e-mail the files to a special address at the free.kindle.com domain with the subject line "convert." Amazon will convert the files to Kindle format and send them to the e-mail address associated with your Amazon account. To transfer files from your Amazon account to your Kindle, you'll need to connect the device to a computer using the USB cable. This is one of the few times you'll have to connect your device to another machine.
Every purchase you make from Amazon goes into a special folder called Your Media Library. Amazon uses a cloud storage model where the file lives on one of Amazon's computer servers. That means even if you delete a book from your Kindle to conserve space, the record of your purchase will still exist on Amazon's servers. You can download the book again to your Kindle for no additional charge.
There are also free Kindle reading apps for many devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android devices and Mac and Windows-based computers, so that you can buy and read Kindle books without purchasing a Kindle. And Amazon now allows you to access items from your library using the Kindle Cloud Reader through certain Web browsers. Some manufacturers are even pre-installing a Kindle app on Windows 8 and Windows RT computers. One advantage to all the available apps is that you can partake of Amazon's Whispersync technology, which synchronizes the last page you read on one device across all your Kindle readers, including your physical Kindle if you have one, so that you can read on multiple devices without losing your page when you switch.
Some Kindle books can be accessed for free by purchasing a $79 per year Amazon Prime membership, which also provides 2-day free shipping on many products and access to free streaming movies and TV shows. Prime members can borrow a book at a time from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, which contains over 180,000 titles. And some public libraries even have the ability to let you check out e-books on your device.