I love my Kindle! I’ve used a Kindle for the last 10 years and recently upgraded from the Basic Kindle to a Paperwhite. Every time I whip out my Kindle in public, someone inevitably asks what it is and “how does Kindle work?” or “how do you get books on a Kindle?”
Whatever your questions, this post will provide comprehensive answers to everything you’ve ever wondered about the Amazon Kindle. I’ll share how it works, all the types of Kindles out there, what you can and can’t do with the device, and how to make the most of being a Kindle user.
How does Kindle work?
The Amazon Kindle is a device designed mainly for reading books. It is produced by Amazon and allows users to read ebooks purchased on Amazon, library ebooks, and personal documents available as PDFs, ePUBs, Microsoft DOC(X), and MOBI files.
Kindle devices are connected to your Amazon account, so when you purchase ebooks online (via Amazon.com or on your Kindle), they’re wirelessly delivered to your device as soon as it is connected to the internet.
There’s also an Amazon Kindle mobile application available for Apple, Android, and Windows devices. The app also syncs regularly to ensure that all your digital content is present across your devices.
What are the benefits of getting a Kindle?
There are so many benefits of owning and using a Kindle e-reader (not the Fire tablet):
- It’s designed for reading: It looks like paper books but is better because you can increase the font size, change the font entirely if you hate it, check what unfamiliar words mean, and more. You won’t be distracted by any notifications from social media while you read.
- Ebooks tend to be cheaper: Owning a Kindle means you can get some books for less instead of always buying a hard copy version.
- Benefit from ebook sales and get ebook credits: With my Kindle, I can quickly snag a Kindle book when it’s on sale – no shipping fees needed. I also get ebook credits (more on this later!) whenever I buy a Kindle book. I can then use my credits to buy another book later when they hit the threshold.
- Travel with your library: No need to bring 10 physical books on your backpacking trip – just pack your Kindle and load it up with books. Once they’re downloaded, you’ll have them whether there’s wi-fi or not.
- Get library books on your Kindle: With Overdrive, readers in the US can easily download library holds to their Kindle.
- Their battery lives last forever: Well, at least for a few weeks. You won’t need to charge your Kindle daily. And if you don’t have ads on yours, the battery will last even longer. I charge my Paperwhite once every three weeks or so, and I read every day.
- Kindles are easier to read in the dark: With their gentle backlight, you can read a few chapters before bed without needing to turn on your book light or night light.
Which Kindle should I buy?
There are currently five types of Kindle readers (specifically for reading) available. Besides those, there are also the Amazon Fire tablets (which are multi-functional tablets like the iPad or Samsung tablets).
I’ll compare the Kindle e-readers, so if you want a Kindle mainly for reading, consider these options:
- The basic Kindle: This is the classic fuss-free Kindle. Until a few years ago, it wasn’t even backlit, which gave it the appearance of a real paper book. It’s super lightweight and compact and is perfect if you’re on a budget and just want to read on your Kindle. It’s wi-fi enabled (all Kindles are) and comes with 16GB of memory.
- Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite Kids: These two are essentially the same – both Paperwhites, but one is designed for kids in terms of the software. The kids Kindle comes loaded with a free Amazon Kids+ subscription (similar to Kindle Unlimited, but different selection of books), a 2-year warranty, a free cover, and no ads. The Paperwhite is a fancier and sturdier Kindle. It has a stronger backlight and is waterproof. If you like reading in the bath or have extra cash to splurge, I totally recommend the Paperwhite.
- Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition: This is just the Paperwhite but with wireless charging, an auto-adjusting backlight, and 32 GB of memory. The normal Paperwhite is available with 8 GB or 16 GB capacity. If you like to be extra fancy and are really into wireless charging, go for the Paperwhite Signature Edition.
- Kindle Oasis: I think of the Oasis as the clunkier Kindle option, but so many people love their Kindle Oasis. This one has page turn buttons if you’re not into touch screens. It also has a stronger front light, an ergonomic design that makes it easier to hold, and a champagne color option.
- Kindle Scribe: The Kindle Scribe is for readers who like to annotate. It comes with a pen and looks pretty much like real paper! Amazon has plans to integrate Scribe with Office 365 so you’ll be able to import your Microsoft documents easily.
How to use a Kindle
Here are more questions answered about how Kindles work and tips for using them.
What do you need to use a Kindle?
To use a Kindle successfully, you need two things:
- A wireless internet connection to download books to your Kindle
- An Amazon account (with an attached payment method) to purchase the ebooks
Is there a monthly fee for Kindle?
Nope. A Kindle is a one-time purchase. However, you will need to pay for each book you purchase on Amazon.com. Also, if you sign up for Kindle Unlimited (everything about Kindle Unlimited here), you’ll need to pay a subscription fee monthly for that.
How do you get books on a Kindle?
There are several ways to get books on your Kindle:
Buy books on Amazon.com
Select the Kindle option before you click purchase, not the hardcover or paperback. Amazon will deliver the ebook straight to your Kindle.
Borrow books from your library
This applies to US customers and can be done through Overdrive (full tutorial here).
Get Advance Readers Copies from NetGalley or Edelweiss
Both sites will send you free ebooks of yet-to-be-published books if you review books on a blog or social media.
Send PDFs and other documents to your Kindle email
You can find your send-to-Kindle email using the steps below:
Go to Content and Devices > Scroll down and click on Personal Document Settings and you’ll see your Kindle email addresses for all your associated devices.
Use or edit them as needed and follow the sending instructions.
Are the books on Kindle free?
No, most books on Amazon are not free. You have to buy them.
What is the average price of a Kindle book?
Kindle book prices vary widely. Most indie-published books, chapter books, and popular classics cost less on Kindle – anywhere between $0 to $7.99. Middle grade books typically cost between $6.99 and $12.99. But buzzier adult fiction titles can cost up to $15 on Kindle, as seen in the screenshots below.
How many books can a Kindle hold?
Thousands! I had my first Kindle for over five years and was a voracious reader but never ran out of space. Most Kindles only hold books with mostly text. You can’t open graphic novels on the Kindle Paperwhite, for example, so the books don’t take up that much memory.
Do purchased Kindle books expire?
No, they don’t. Once purchased, a Kindle book is yours unless you return it within the seven-day period.
When you buy a new Kindle, do your books transfer?
Absolutely! And that’s why you need an Amazon account to use a Kindle. They can save all your content in the cloud and restore it to any new Kindle you sign in on.
What else can I use my Kindle for?
If you have a Kindle e-reader, you can shop for other Kindle books on your Kindle. But besides that, the only thing you can do is read. If you have an Amazon Fire tablet, you can do pretty much anything else you can do with a regular tablet.
Can I watch Netflix on a Kindle?
On a Kindle e-reader, no. On the Amazon Fire tablet, yes.
Do you need Wi-Fi for Kindle?
Yes! Without wifi, it’s impossible to receive your purchased books. You can connect your Kindle to your computer via USB and send personal documents to it that way, but you can’t receive content remotely without wifi.
Once your books are on your Kindle, though, you don’t need Wi-Fi to read them. You can even hold on to library books for longer (without messing up the wait line) by turning off internet access on your Kindle.
Do Kindles give off blue light?
Yes, it does – but significantly less than other tablets or your computer. Research shows that Kindles give off just about the same amount of blue light as your cellphone.
Do Kindles read to you?
Yes, they can – in two ways:
- If you have Bluetooth headphones and an Audible subscription. You can purchase the Audible audiobook and listen to it through Bluetooth headphones from your Kindle.
- Alexa can read your Kindle ebooks to you. You can enable this on your Echo or other Amazon devices.
Do all Kindles have night mode?
All Kindles have dark mode! Even the basic Kindle has a dark mode setting if you prefer darker reading backgrounds. All except the basic Kindle have adjustable night lighting (where the light gets warmer to be easier on the eyes at night).
Can you browse the Internet on Kindle?
On the e-readers, you can browse the internet only to purchase new books. With the Amazon Fire, you can surf the Internet as normal.
A few more questions about how Kindles work
By now, you should have a clearer answer to “How does Kindle work?” – here’s one last round of questions!
What is the last Kindle generation?
The latest Kindle Paperwhite is the 11th generation, released in 2021. The latest basic Kindle is the 11th generation, released in 2022.
Is a Kindle just for reading?
Yes, Kindle e-readers are just for reading.
Should I get Kindle or iPad?
If you’re looking for a tablet to watch movies, draw, and maybe read from time to time, get an iPad and download the Kindle app. But if you’re a big reader looking to read on the go more or at night, by the pool, or anywhere – get a Kindle!
What is the lifespan of a Kindle Paperwhite?
It depends on how well you care for them. My basic Kindles all lasted at least five years. I expect my Paperwhite to last about the same or longer.
Is Kindle Paperwhite good for reading at night?
It’s excellent for night reading. The light is really gentle, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep reading on mine.
What is Whispersync?
Whispersync is an Amazon feature that syncs your place in an audiobook to your place in the Kindle ebook. So, say you buy an Audible audiobook while reading the Kindle ebook. You can switch between listening (as you do household chores, drive, run, etc.) and reading (when you’re ready to cozy up to your book).
How do I find my Amazon/Kindle ebook credits?
I love the Kindle ebook credits. Here’s how to find yours:
Go to Your Account > Click on Kindle Unlimited
Click on Kindle Rewards, and you’ll see your ebook credits displayed
Remember that Kindles won’t stop you from reading physical books – they only broaden your horizon. I still read plenty of physical books, but I love that my Kindle is lighter and can fit in even my smallest purses!
Class is dismissed! Now that you know how Kindles work, go forth and conquer your Kindles. I’m happy to answer any additional questions you may have.
Carol Saller says
Thank you for this incredibly thorough article! Readers should know that you don’t need wi-fi to read books on your Kindle – you only need it to download them. After that, you can turn off wi-fi to read. You can read on airplanes or anywhere. It also saves battery to turn off the wi-fi.
Afoma Umesi says
Oh my goodness! Carol Saller — so honored you read this post! Your book helped me when I was starting as a baby editor. Thank you! And yes, that’s a useful tip to note re wi-fi?
Mattie L White says
Wow! This truly cleared up things for me. I appreciate it. Now, I just need to decide which Kindle will be my first, as well as for my grandson. Using the Kindle sounds like the perfect fit for him to get in his reading and possibly improve his skills.
Afoma Umesi says
The Kids Kindle is great for kids. It’s ad free and comes with a free case and one year of Amazon Kids+. I recommend the Paperwhite for you (it’s pretty much the same as the kids Kindle).