What’s New in the Kindle 3?

September 30, 2010

New Amazon Kindle 3 Wifi Wireless

Everyone’s excited about Amazon’s new Kindle 3. It’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper, and its battery seems to last forever. (According to Amazon, it runs without a recharge for up to a month if you turn off the wireless receiver.)

But what’s new about it? What can you actually do with a Kindle 3 that you couldn’t do before? Here’s a handy list.

1. The new Kindle feels different. Not only is it lighter and thinner. It’s now got a textured back which Amazon describes as “soft touch”.

2. There’s a new screen, which Amazon boasts offers a “50% better contrast.”

3. There’s been several changes to the font menu. There’s now eight font sizes to choose from — more than the six that were available on the original Kindle — but now there’s even a choice of font styles, according to Amazon’s Kindle page. (There’s “our standard Caecilia font, a condensed version of Caecilia, and a sans serif option.”) The new Kindle even supports different kinds of letters. It can now display Cyrillic (Russian) characters, as well as Japanese, Korean, and Chinese characters (both traditional and simplified) — along with Latin and Greek script.

4. Amazon claims the new pages display 20% faster.

5. The newest font menu also lets you change the line spacing — small, medium, or large. (Though last month the “KindleLove” blog reported this was also available as a special hidden feature on the Kindle 2. Just type a number between 1 and 9 while holding down both the Shift and Alt keys!)

5. The web browser has been improved on the Kindle 3, and now includes a special capability called “Article Mode,” according to Wired News. Complicated web pages with lots of graphics can be simplified, so that “Instantly the web page will be laid out in an easy-to-read text column…”

6. Amazon beefed up the PDF reader, and its native support even lets you zoom in (up to 300%) and then pan across the page. It’s also possible to adjust the contrast on PDF files, with five settings from “lightest” to “darkest”. And of course, there’s an easy way to convert your PDF files into the native Kindle format (which then allows you to change font sizes using the Kindle’s menus, or use other Kindle features like text-to-speech or annotation). Just e-mail the PDF to your Kindle e-mail address with the word “convert” as the subject line.

7. Text-to-speech capability has been added to the menus. It’s always been fun using Amazon’s text-to-speech features, but they only worked for the actual ebooks, and not when when trying to navigate around the Kindle. This got Amazon in trouble with the Department of Justice, which worried that the Kindle wasn’t fully accessible to blind students who might want to use the Kindle at a university. Fortunately, the Kindle 3 now extends its text-to-speech features to the navigation menus. (This “Voice Guide” feature is located on page two of the “Settings” page.)

8. There’s now password protection. If James Bond lost his Kindle in the desert, would his enemies be able to read all his ebooks? Not if he was using a Kindle 3, since it’s now possible to “lock” a Kindle with your own personal password. This is more important than it seems, since many people also carry personal files on their Kindle – so it’s possible that a Kindle could be storing documents that are highly confidential.

Finally, a blog called “Kindle Minds” offers another tip that changes the sorting on the home page. He’d wanted his collections to appear at the top of the home page, before all of the individual books. To accomplish this, he re-named every collection so they started with a high-priority character — like ~ or the number 0 or a hyphen.

“Now my collections sort to the top again,” he wrote, “and life is good… now I’m using the hyphen plus a space, which gives them a sort of bullet-list look.”

Click here for Amazon’s page about the new Kindle 3

Or click here to buy Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide

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Number five on a billiards ball
I went looking for more Kindle tips and tricks — and discovered the mother lode. When the Kindle was first released, a hacker named Igor Skochinsky poked around through the Kindle’s hardware, and discovered some undocumented features. For example, he posted instructions on how to create a book on your home page which is actually a set of your favorite pictures. (When you e-mail pictures to your Kindle, each picture appears as a separate ebook, but Skochinsky appears to have found an unsupported way to pull up a special “Picture Viewer,” which can also re-size pictures to fit the Kindle screen, adjust their dithering, and even select one of them as the Kindle’s screen saver.)

Confession: I didn’t actually try that tip, because I was afraid it might void my Kindle’s warranty. But I can pass along five of the other tricks which worked great on my Kindle 1.


1. Automatic Page-Turning with “Slideshow” Mode

You can teach your Kindle to turn the pages for you! When you’re reading an ebook, just press Alt-0 to “enable” the special slideshow mode. Then pressing Alt-1 will start the automatic page-turning — and Alt-2 will stop it. It seems to have only one speed, but it’s easy to keep up with if you increase your text’s font size, which reduces the number of words on each page. And pressing Alt-0 again will “toggle off” this special functionality.

“Slideshow mode” can also be used like one of those educational tools that they use to teach speed readers to read faster…

2. Display the Current Time

If you’re reading an ebook, pressing Alt-T will actually spell out the current time, in letters, in the lower-left corner of the screen (where the Kindle usually displays your current location in the ebook).

If you’re on your Kindle’s home page, pressing Alt-T will display the current time, in numbers, in the same lower-left corner.

And entering @time as a search will also display the complete time, including the month and day!

3. Switch to a Different Song

If you’re playing an mp3, pressing Alt-P will stop (and re-start) the Kindle’s music player. But if you want to continue playing music, and just switch over to a different song, then press Alt-F to go Forward to the next song in your Kindle directory.

4. Find Out How Many Hours You’ve Used Your Kindle

On a phone you’d dial 411 to call information. On the “Settings,” screen, you type 411 to get information about your Kindle. It’s a diagnostics page, with mostly cryptic technical information like “Kindle Version: Linux version 2.6.10-lab126.”

But it’s kind of fun to see your Kindle’s “awake time” and “sleep time” statistics.

5. Find Nearby Restaurants on Google Maps

If you’re using the web browser, try typing Alt-3. This automatically brings up Google Maps with a page listing restaurants near your current location. (And Alt-2 brings up nearby gas stations, while Alt-1 shows your current location.)

Note: I’ve had some erratic results using this feature. It seems like now, Google simply displays “Not Avail, Not Avail” for my city and state — and then performs the search using the last city that I’d accessed through Google Maps. But that’s still a pretty handy feature….

Click here for an earlier article, My 10 Best Kindle Tips and Tricks.

Or click here to buy Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide

10 Kindle Tips and Tricks
This week I’ve been writing more about my favorite authors — instead of about the Kindle itself. So here’s the 10 best tricks I’ve learned so far for enjoying the Kindle…


MY FAVORITE TIPS


1. Instantly Clear a Note or Search

I discovered this tip by accident. If you hold down the Alt key while hitting the backspace button, your Kindle automatically erases everything you’ve typed into a note or search field!

And it’s also possible to simply change the cursor’s position. (I discovered this while playing Minesweeper on the Kindle, which uses similar navigation keys.) Typing Alt-H will always move your cursor back one space, positioning you to backspace over characters that you’ve already typed earlier (or to insert new letters). Typing Alt-J then moves your cursor forward, if you want to return towards the end of the line.

2. Justify Your Kindle’s Text

This appears to be a hidden feature on the original Kindle 1 that was secretly added into the Kindle’s font menu. Press the font key, and the Kindle displays its usual six choices for your font size. But if you then type the letter J, the Kindle suddenly presents you with two more choices. There’s “Full Justification” and “Left Justification,” and it dramatically changes the way your ebooks will look!

3. Skim Faster

On the original Kindle, holding down the Alt Key while pressing the “Next Page” or “Previous Page” bar also lets you skip forward much more quickly, jumping past several pages each time you press the key.

 
4. View Your Own Photos on the Kindle

I only recently discovered you can send your own pictures to your Kindle. The file name appears as a separate entry among the ebook titles on your home page. (Just click on the file name, and that picture magically appears!) The pictures are displayed in black-and-white, of course, but it’s still fun to see a familiar image that’s all your own.

Amazon can support almost every format for image files, including .gif, .png., .bmp, .jpeg, and .jpg.The secret is e-mailing the image to your Kindle’s e-mail address, as an attachment. (If you’ve never done this before, just remember that your Kindle’s e-mail address appears on Amazon’s “Manage Your Kindle” page, which has a URL that’s very easy to remember.)

               Amazon.com/manageyourkindle

On my original Kindle, I also finally discovered that it was possible to zoom in on any image. Using the scrollbar, I could always scroll up and click to “select” an image — which would expand it to fill the entire screen!


FUN ON YOUR HOME PAGE


5. Skip Instantly To a Different Page of Titles

I’ve always been jealous of people who could jump to a title by typing its first letter. (This is only possible if you’ve sorted your titles alphabetically, which allows skipping instantly through the list to arrive at “the first item that begins with that letter”.)

But it turns out there’s also a skipping trick for people who haven’t sorted their titles alphabetically. Even if your titles are sorted by Author (or by which title is “Most Recently Read”), it’s still possible to skip quickly from one page of titles to the next. Type in the number of your desired page of titles, and the Home Page will automatically refresh to display the titles appearing on that page!

6. Only Show Periodicals and Blogs

This is handy if you’re one of those people who’s actually reading lots of magazines or blogs on your Kindle. The “Show and Sort” menu at the top of the home page will let you zoom in to a smaller listing that shows just your books (without blogs and magazines cluttering up the list) — or, to show only the periodicals and blogs, without clogging the listings with books!

7. View Your Own Documents On Your Kindle

Besides pictures, it’s also possible to send text documents to your Kindle. (It’s something I didn’t even think about for several months, because I was so excited to be reading digital ebooks!) But Amazon’s “approved file types” for e-mailing include all the basic file formats for documents, including Microsoft Word’s .doc format and .rtf , as well as .html and .htm, and recently, even .pdf

8. See Your Reading Progress on the Home Page

Here’s something I didn’t know until I read the Kindle User’s Guide. I actually thought Amazon was just displaying a decorative dotted line below the titles of my books — until I realized it was those heavy dots at the beginning of the line that were indicating how much of the book I’d read! (“Your place in the book is indicated by the progress indicator beneath the book title,” Amazon explains in the user’s guide…)


GETTING WHAT YOU WANT


9. Edit Your Highlights

I’d always get annoyed when I’d try to highlight a single sentence, and Amazon insisted on including a few words from the previous sentence, or the sentence that came after it. But after syncing the Kindle to my PC, I realized Amazon stored them all in a single text file called “My Clippings” in the “Documents” folder. All I had to do was pull them up in a text editor, and I could chop out the extraneous words!

When highlighting a clipping, you can also highlight more words on a single page — just by selecting a smaller font size!

10. Searching Has Shortcuts

By default Amazon searches through the documents on your Kindle, and also offers to run a search on the same words in its Kindle store. But if you prefix your search with special codewords, Amazon will conduct the search in a different location. @store searches the Kindle store, while @web runs the search words through Google. But the most useful code is probably @wiki, which will automatically take you to your search term’s page on Wikipedia!

UPDATE: It turns out I’m now Google’s #1 match for the phrase “Kindle tips and Tricks”. So be sure to click here for “Five MORE of My Best Kindle Tips and Tricks.”

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Or click here to buy Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide

Yes, it is possible to play games on your Kindle. Click here for my updated list of the 10 best games for your Kindle.

But when I first got my Kindle 1, it wasn’t nearly this easy to play games. Here’s my original post – written about my Kindle 1 – so you can see how much better things have gotten!

                        *                        *                        *

It turns out you can play Sudoku on your Kindle – and some other games too!

I was feeling a little jealous because Barnes and Noble had upgraded the Nook so it offered users the ability to play Sudoku. And then I discovered that it’s also possible to play Sudoku on your Kindle! That link leads to several interactive Sudoku puzzle books that you can download, and they’re played using the Kindle’s wireless web connection. Use your menu to select the row where you’ll enter a number, and then choose the appropriate square within that row.

I ordered a sample from several of these Sudoku books, and ended up with a nice collection of free Sudoku puzzles for my Kindle. Having said that, it was still a horribly clunky way to play Sudoku. (It takes almost 10 seconds to enter every number.) And on my original edition Kindle, the squares were simply labeled “Input Field”. I had to count each separate “Input Field” until I’d figured out which square I was looking for!

It’s also possible to play Tic Tac Toe on your Kindle — if you order the appropriate “book” from the Kindle Store. Tic Tac Toe (Kindle Edition) uses the same format, letting you select the row for your move with the menu — and then selecting the appropriate square. It was also a little clunky. On my original Kindle, the menu would still say “Zoom Image” if a square already had an X or O in it — while the empty squares were labeled “Follow Link” in the menu. Yes, it’s possible to play a game of Tic Tac Toe using this book. But what’s hardest about winning the game is simply navigating the menus!

And finally, it’s also possible to play Minesweeper on the Kindle. This is a free game that I’d just assumed was a hidden “Easter Egg” — a secret feature that was pre-installed, just to make users feel special when they discovered it. Hold down the Alt key and the shift key directly above it while also typing M at the same time, and a grey 8 by 10 grid appears on the screen. You use the keys on the keyboard to navigate to the square for your next guess, and the space key reveals whether that square contains a number or an exploding mine! Like the other games, it’s a little clunky.

And to tell you the truth, I’d rather use my Kindle for reading!

UPDATE: Ironically, I just discovered this blog post has become one of Google’s top matches for the phrase: “Can I play Sudoku on a Kindle!” But it turns out there’s an even more famous game that you can play on the Kindle: Jumble puzzles!

I’m sure you’ve seen these “scrambled word” puzzles in your daily newspaper. (Circles in the squares mark all the letters which appear in the final set of scrambled words — which is usually the punchline to a question asked in the cartoon.) I’ve always loved doing Jumble puzzles (which I’ve also seen called “the Junior Jumble”).

And now you can play them on your Kindle!

That’s what I typed into Google the day my Kindle died. And surprisingly, Amazon was no help. Their only suggestion for a possible cause was…a low battery.


1. Plug the Kindle into a wall outlet.
2. Ensure the Kindle is charging (the indicator light should be on).
3. Wait 2 minutes.
4. If necessary unplug the Kindle and reset by moving and holding the power switch for 15 seconds before releasing it.

That didn’t solve the problem. And according to other posts on the web, that wasn’t even the only possible solution. One web site revealed that it was possible to perform a “soft reset” by pressing three keys at the same time: Alt, R, and Shift (the upwards-pointing arrow). And when that didn’t work, I went on to their next suggestion: the hard reset.


Turn your Kindle over.
Take the grey cover off.
You see a small hole labeled, “Reset.”
Take a paper clip and press it in the hole.
Hold for 5-10 seconds.


It didn’t work — my Kindle’s screen was still frozen on a blank Wikipedia page. But the site had one more piece of advice…


Again, if that doesn’t work, try again with the Kindle plugged into the charger.

And that worked! I’ve never been so happy to see the Amazon logo smiling up at me from the grey screen of my no-longer-lifeless Kindle. I let it continue charging, and eventually checked to see if would actually display my home page. And there it was…

Including the Charles Dickens novel I’d been reading just before my Kindle went blank!

Ever want to change the images in your Kindle’s screensaver? It’s as easy as putting new 600 x 800 images into the system/ folder on your Kindle – and then running a script which finishes the update. At least, according to one web post (citing a discussion on a mobile books forum).

It links to the script to run, though it’s important to also read the page’s comments. Some users are having trouble running the update, and there may be a better way to accomplish this!

Caveat: I’ve never tried this myself. (And I’m not sure if it works for all Kindles, or only for the Kindle 2.) But I’m definitely visiting that web page when I’m finally tired of my Kindle’s pre-loaded screensavers!