Tag Archives: Kindle

The Amazon Social Club

One of the things I love about my Kindle is the ability to annotate my reference books with highlights and notes. While most ebook reading devices and apps offer these capabilities in one form or another, Kindle kicks it up a notch by also offering the ability to share those notes with others. All of this takes place on the Kindle users site.

Kindle site landing page.

This site does more than just save your annotations. It’s a place to connect with other Kindle users and share notes, review and edit your own annotations, keep track of your Kindle library and more.

Your Books screen

In the Your Books section, you’ll find all your Kindle books listed. You can rate them, set your reading status and decide whether you want to make your status, ratings and notes public. Using the filters at the top of the list, you can quickly change the list’s view.

Book page showing annotations

Here you see the book page for my copy of My Evernote [great book!] showing details about the book at the top and annotations below. The yellow quotation marks identify my highlights and the blue identify highlights from other Kindle users. Notice there are links to take me directly to that spot within the book, to delete the highlight and to add a note if I want.

So, how do I put this to use? First, I look at the people I’ve friended to see what they’re reading and check their annotations to see what they found interesting. This helps me decide which books to purchase. For reference and how-to books, I look for tips as well as reviews. And, since it’s often easier to add notes from my desktop than an onscreen keyboard, I’ll often add notes to a book from here. If it’s a book I haven’t read yet, I’ve been known to add notes to remind me when there’s something specific I want to look for in the book. I’ve also used it to annotate a cemetery index (personal document converted to Kindle format) with notes on things to check during a planned visit to that cemetery.

Kindle Desktop Reader (Mac)

If you’re a serious note-taker, you might want to take advantage of Kindle’s free desktop reader app. Not only can you highlight and add notes, you can copy/paste selected text to other apps, get definitions of the highlighted word, do a lookup in Wikipedia and connect to this book’s page at Shelfari – more on that in a minute.  This app is a free download from Amazon.

The Kindle user site isn’t the only social book goodness from Amazon. There’s also Shelfari. It’s sort of a GoodReads for Amazon books. Although I find GoodReads more useful for finding interesting things to read and connecting with others to discuss books in general, Shelfari is still quite useful. One thing that stands out is that each book listed in Shelfari has a crowd-sourced page where any user can add information. This ranges from ratings and reviews, to discussions and details. The information added in the Book Extras tab is accessible to Kindle readers from within the book itself.

A Shelfari book page.

If you’re an author with a book for sale at Amazon, you can use this page to add character and location descriptions, build a glossary, add the table of contents and other information that your readers might find useful. That information will be available to them from within the Kindle book (when they’re connected via 3G or Wi-Fi). Your book page can also be a useful marketing tool to connect with your readers by taking advantage of its social features.

Amazon is way ahead of other major booksellers for many reasons. These tools for annotating and sharing your notes along with the social platforms that welcome book lovers show their commitment to their customers. Take advantage of these capabilities to get the most out of your device/book investment.


Send to Kindle

While I wait for my new Kindle Paperwhite to arrive, I’ve been experimenting with the formats and options available to put my own documents on my current Kindle Touch. I have two motives here. First, I want to be able to move research documents to my own Kindle for reference purposes and second, I want to share family stories with my family via their Kindles.

Kindle e-Ink/Paperwhite readers can hold a thousand or more books on the device, making them great portable reference libraries for the researcher. And, with Amazon’s Personal Document Service, you can email documents to your Kindle as well as Kindles belonging to your family. There are a lot of Kindles in my family and this is a great way to “publish” family stories just for them.

The challenge here is finding the best format for the content I want to send to those Kindles. It won’t matter how good the story is, if it’s hard to read or all jumbled up, my family won’t touch it. And, if I’m using it for reference, I want something easy to read myself.

Kindle readers can read PDF documents along with its own Kindle format. This could be a good option if you want to maintain a fixed layout for your images and text, however when building your document, you will need to reduce the page size to the size of the Kindle screen – most are in the 3.5″ x 5″ range. Other problems with PDFs on the Kindle are that the reader cannot change fonts or take advantage of many of the device’s features like annotations and Whispersync. For reference purposes, I want to be able to highlight, add notes, lookup definitions and such so PDF isn’t the first choice for any research notes I want to keep with me.

I’m finding documents saved in Word format (.doc or .docx) convert very nicely to the Kindle format. Here’s an example of a document created in Pages [Mac] then exported to Word format and sent to my Kindle via the desktop app.

Word document exported to Kindle.

The image you see was created from scanned photos and documents using Photoshop Elements and inserted into the Pages document. The image is set as an “inline image” – a Pages term for keeping the image connected to the paragraph associated with it – and set so text doesn’t wrap around it. Notice the “I” in the paragraph following the image appears out of place. Next time I will add a blank paragraph (hard Return) and attach the image to that. It will still stay within the flow of the article, but the text below it will appear the way I want it.

Once I had my document the way I wanted it, I used Pages export function to export it to Word format and sent it on its way to my Kindle via the Send to Kindle desktop app. This free app is available at Amazon for both Windows and Mac users. I’ve got mine sitting on my Mac’s dock and all I have to do is drag and drop a file onto the app’s icon to start it on its way.

Send to Kindle app for the Mac.

There is also a Send to Kindle extension for Chrome, with extensions for Firefox and Safari coming soon (according to an August 2012 announcement).

If you are an Instapaper user, you can collect articles throughout the day and have them all sent to your Kindle at the time you specify. Instapaper insures the articles are formatted for the Kindle and ready to enjoy as soon as they are delivered. You will need to add the Instapaper address (detailed instructions at the site) to your Personal Documents Settings so it is authorized to send content to your Kindle before you can take advantage of this option.

Whether you are sharing your family stories with other family members or building your own reference library, knowing how to create your own documents and send them to a Kindle gives you the flexibility to make your own content available to yourself and your family. Oh, and if you’re looking for useful research reference books in Amazon format, check the “research essentials” tag at Moultrie Creek Books. Unfortunately, some of these books haven’t been published in digital format – yet.

Tech Notes – 7 September 2012

Tolomato Lane near the City Gates

This weekend my home town, St. Augustine, celebrates its 447th birthday with parties, re-enactments and other activities.

Moving from the historic to the technical, the big news this week was Amazon’s introduction of its newest readers and tablets. I “watched” the event at The Verge. They were using the WordPress LiveBlog plugin to post updates and photos from the event. It allows multiple authors to post live updates within a single post and automatically refreshes the reader’s view as new updates are added. It could be a useful tool for reporting from a genealogy conference or event . . .

Amazon introduced a new e-reader, the Kindle Paperwhite, with both a Wi-Fi [$119] and a 3G [$179] version. This device has a brighter screen and includes a built-in light for reading in low-light conditions. They have increased the screen resolution which makes the text even clearer. These devices can be ordered now for October 1st delivery. The basic Kindle got an update with more font choices and faster page-turning. It also got a price reduction to $69. The 3G keyboard Kindle [$139] remains part of the Kindle inventory.

The Kindle Fire got a significant update with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It also got a price reduction to $159. It can be ordered now with a September 14th delivery.

The new Kindle Fire HD offers two sizes – the standard 7″ screen and a larger 8.9″ screen. Both screens are HD quality and are combined with dual stereo speakers and Dolby audio. The processor is faster and the Wi-Fi system has been improved – including using two antennas – to make it even faster too. Bluetooth capability will allow you to use an external keyboard and there’s an HD camera on the front of the device which can be used with the Skype app to make video calls. The Kindle Fire HD  (screen resolution is 1280 x 800) is available September 14th and there is both a 16GB model [$199] and a 32GB one [$299].

The big story is the new larger Kindle Fire HD. They have all the functional goodness of their smaller cousin, but with a larger screen showing a 1920 x 1200 pixel display. The Wi-Fi version is available with either 16GB [$299] or 32GB [$369] of storage.  The 4G LTE wireless version offers all the goodness of its Wi-Fi cousins with high-speed wireless too. The 32GB model will sell for $499 and the 64GB model sells for $599. The wireless service for these devices is $49.95 a year and includes 250MB a month, 20GB of Amazon Cloud storage (in addition to the free storage you get for all your Amazon content) and a $10 credit in the Amazon app store. When you consider that 250MB  service for the iPad starts at $15/month – and is only 3G speeds – this is quite a deal. These devices are expected to ship November 20th.

There’s a lot more Kindle stuff to talk about, but that will be saved for later postings.

One news item from yesterday that all ebook readers will enjoy is the settlement of the ebook price fixing case against Apple and several major publishers. The settlement returns the pricing process to the “normal” method where retailers buy books from publishers at the wholesale price, then set their own sale price. With luck, we buyers should see lower prices, sales and other enticements.

SlideShark has a new app for the iPhone/iPod Touch that will let you post your PowerPoint presentations at the site, then view them on the device. And, you can use the device with AirPlay to present the slideshow to others.

MacWorld has a great article – especially for Windows users with iPhones – listing easy ways to get your pictures off your iPhone.

WordPress released an update – v. 3.4.2 – with both maintenance and security fixes. This is a mandatory update and should be performed as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already, stop by the bookstore and read my interview with Denise Levenick discussing her new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Tech Notes – 31 August 2012

Breakfast view at the Beachcomber.

The storms have passed through and we’re looking forward to a relaxing Labor Day weekend here at the Creek. Our friends on the Gulf Coast haven’t been so lucky. A donation to the Salvation Army or Red Cross will help those who are now cleaning up the damage Isaac left behind.

I’ve been putting Evernote to work as a tech reference library and it does a beautiful job. Whenever I find an interesting how-to article, I just clip it to my How-To notebook with appropriate tags so I can find the information when I need it. Here are some of the things I’ve added this week:

The Wall Street Journal has equipped their journalists with smartphones to supply their new section – WorldStream – with short video news stories. The journalist records a video report using the phone’s camera and sends it in for editorial review before its posted to the WorldStream site. The Republican National Convention was the event they planned as the kick off for this new site, but Hurricane Isaac is also getting a lot of WorldStream attention. The video clips are about a minute long and are used to add “color” to the day’s “big” stories. I was surprised to see Cameron McWhirter’s reports from Biloxi – some even in my old neighborhood there – showing that effects of the hurricane. You can see for yourself at the WorldStream site. Wouldn’t something like this be a great addition to the big genealogy conferences? Hmmmm . . .

According to James Tanner, FamilySearch is hard at work digitizing family history books from the Family History Library and several others. You’ll find them included in the catalogs at FamilySearch. I noticed the Allen County Public Library is mentioned as one of the collections included here. You’ll also find they have their own section at Internet Archive.  All of this is good news for researchers as it makes access to these publications much easier.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Genealogysstar/status/241171387463647232]

Kobo Books has negotiated an agreement with the American Booksellers Association that will give independent booksellers the opportunity to sell Kobo e-books along with their reader devices and accessories. This partnership will begin this fall in 400 bookstores. Kobo plans to support the program with in-store merchandising and marketing. As the e-book market continues to grow, this will help independent bookstores survive and provide e-book devotees (like me!) with a way to browse for interesting reads and enjoy the personal service a small bookseller provides. Of course, there will also be indie online booksellers – like here at Moultrie Creek Books – supporting niche markets with a personal touch.

More book news . . . there’s a settlement in the ebook price fixing lawsuit. According to Ars Technica, “the Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster will award consumers monetary compensation if they purchased e-books from those publishing companies between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012.”

[tweet https://twitter.com/arstechnica/status/241220227956887554]

[tweet https://twitter.com/PublishersWkly/status/241126959298535424]

And we’re starting Kindle watch – in preparation for next week’s announcements from Amazon, here’s some of the juicer tidbits from around the net. Since both Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire are listed as “out of stock”, I’m wondering if the new devices will be available for purchase the same day as the announcement (next Wednesday).

[tweet https://twitter.com/EBookUpdate/status/238429011754242049]

[tweet https://twitter.com/DroidNewsSource/status/241280113780617216]

This week’s spotlight at Moultrie Creek Books is Denise Levernick’s new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes. This book is a must-have reference for archival information and should be a part of every family historian’s reference library.


Tech Notes – 1 June 2012

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  2. Finally! My favorite newsreader is coming to Android. You can sign up to participate in the beta test. I’ve got it on my phone and although there are a few quirks, it’s just as delightful as my iPad version.
  3. Although finding the scheduler can be a challenge, the ability to schedule posts on Facebook pages is a welcome addition. Look for a tiny clock icon at the bottom of the status message box and click on it to schedule your post.
  4. More genea-reading goodness!
  5. Get the YouSendIt app for your Kindle Fire. They’ve also added a UNO game for the eInk Kindles!
  6. Last, but not least – some gorgeous treats for the book lovers.
  7. Have a great weekend!

NOTE: You’ll find the Tech Notes archive at Storify

Tech Notes – April 27, 2012

Here’s this week’s collection of interesting tech tidbits:

  • There’s a lot of cloud storage items in the news this week. Both Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Google Drive were hot topics, but Dropbox, iCloud and Amazon’s Cloud Drive got their share of attention too. If you’re shopping for a cloud storage solution, don’t just use price as your decision point – make sure you read the terms of service fine print too.
  • Need some help designing a book cover for your publishing project? Publetariat has a great series showing you how using the free GIMP graphics application.
  • Flickr users will fall in love with the new HTML5 uploader. The new interface sports a drag-and-drop functionality allowing you to not only add images for upload by dropping them on the browser window, but lets you manage and arrange them BEFORE beginning the upload operation. The rollout to replace this as the default online uploader began today. It will take some time before it’s available to all, but be patient – it’s coming your way.
  • Amazon released their Send to Kindle app for Mac this week. It installs to you system’s tray so all you have to do is drag a file onto the app’s icon and select the Kindle device/app that will receive it. Windows users have already been enjoying this app for some time.
  • I just downloaded a trial copy of Flying Meat’s VoodooPad 5 [Mac – $24.99, iOS – $9.99] to take a look. VoodooPad is a desktop wiki that can manage anything from research notes to project management to system documentation. A couple of things caught my eye that would make it well worth the price: 1) Dropbox sync between the Mac and iOS, 2) Markdown support and 3) export to PDF and ePub. Markdown is the lazy man’s HTML (more on that in an upcoming article) which, combined with graphic support and the ePub export, could mean a really easy way to build an ebook. I should have a review published early next week. By the way, Flying Meat is also the developer of the delightful Acorn photo-editing app [Mac – $49.99] that has replaced Photoshop Elements on my desktop.
  • I received a very nice comment that included some great news on my recent article about PressBooks. Hugh McGuire, the force behind PressBooks, wrote that they were about to release an import feature that would make it easy to import from WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger. Heaven!

That’s the latest news from the Creek. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Family history in your pocket

My Kindle Touch continues to amaze me. I’m constantly finding new ways to put this little reader to use as a research tool. And, while it doesn’t support genealogy database software, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to keep your family history with you wherever you go. Here’s how I do it.

I’m using Reunion for the Mac which has several nice reporting features. I use it to create a Family History Report for the families I’m actively researching and choose the number of generations I want to include. I set the report’s format to rich text (RTF) and save the file. Next, I open the exported report in my word processing app (iWork’s Pages) and reformat it to fit my Kindle Touch’s screen. I’ve created a custom page setup that is 6″ x 8″ with ¼” margins all around and no header or footer. This has been saved so now all I do is select it and the text is re-arranged to fit. [I’m pretty sure you can save custom setups with Word too.] The last formatting step is to select all the text and set the font to Times New Roman at 12pt to insure readability. Finally, save and export the file to PDF format.

Getting the document to the Kindle is easy. All I have to do is email it. Each Kindle device – and the Kindle apps now too – has its own email address. If your Kindle is connected (either by wifi or 3G), you’ll see it appear on the device almost immediately. If it doesn’t, tap the Menu button and choose the Sync and Check for Items option.

Repeat these steps for each of the family groups you want to keep with you.

NOTE: Kindle’s personal document service accepts RTF files, but will convert them to Kindle format before sending them to your device. This will strip a lot of the formatting – especially the indenting – used to make these reports more readable. That’s why I take the time to resize, format and export them to PDF myself.

Notepad Plus

You have the same annotation capabilities with these personal documents that Kindle offers for its books. You can highlight text, add notes and share right on the Kindle. The resulting annotations are synched back to your Kindle library at Amazon. Yes, it’s a manual process to get these notes back into your genealogy database, but the advantage of having that little Kindle with you wherever you go means you can capture those serendipitious tidbits of family history whenever they happen.

But that’s not all . . . For 99¢ you can add Notepad Plus to your Kindle Touch and take long notes, keep a todo list or even a shopping list on your Touch. Amazon doesn’t call them apps, but rather “active content”. They’re a far cry from similar apps on any tablet, but they can still be quite handy when all you have with you is your Kindle.


eReader as Research Assistant: Kindle

My ereader is quickly becoming one of my most useful research tools. Using it, I can carry an enormous amount of research material with me at all times and quickly put my fingers on the information I need. In addition to purchased and public domain books, most devices can read PDF documents too so I can include documents like research notes and reports generated from my genealogy software in my reader’s library.

While all readers have some of the same features, each has its own special functions and methods for implementing them. This article looks at the Kindle Touch, but future articles will discuss other devices. Here’s a look at those features and how you can use them:

  • Search. Kindle’s search functionality works on both ebooks and PDF documents. When you tap the top of the screen on any page, the search box appears front and center at the top of the screen. On the Touch, tapping inside the search box displays an on-screen keyboard to type your search criteria. You can tap Next and Previous to find every instance of your search within the book or document.
  • Dictionary. Tap and hold on any word in a book to display the built-in dictionary. It gives you a definition for the word and offers buttons to display the full definition, highlight the word, add a note or share it. Tap anywhere on the screen and it all goes away.
  • Locations vs. Pages. This is a relatively new feature on Kindle readers and one researchers will find quite useful. Since ebooks are flowing text rather than paged, it’s difficult to use an ebook to find a cited reference that includes a page number. Of course you can search, but now you can go to page numbers on selected books. This feature isn’t implemented on every book but there’s an easy way to see which are. Look at the Product Details section of the Kindle book (in the Amazon store) and you’ll see a field titled Print Length showing a number of pages. Underneath it you should see a field showing the ISBN for the book used as the source for defining the page numbers in the Kindle edition. When you’re reading one of these books, you’ll see both the Loc and Page references at the bottom of the screen as you move through the book.
  • Bookmarks. Who doesn’t love bookmarks? On any page, tap the top of the screen then tap Menu to display the menu options pane. Now tap Add a Bookmark and a virtual dog-ear is added to the top-right corner of the screen. Display the menu again on the same screen and you’ll see Delete Bookmark. Use the View Notes & Marks command to display all the notes, highlights and bookmarks you’ve added to a book.
  • Highlights & Notes. To add a highlight or note, tap and drag across some text in your book. A popup menu appears with Highlight, Add Note and Share buttons. Tap Highlight. The text is now highlighted on your screen and you can easily return to it at any time using the View Notes & Marks command from the Menu. Should you want to add a note, tap the Note button and a Note box appears on your screen with a small keyboard below it. Type your note, then tap the Save button. A note icon appears in your book at the point where the note was added. Tap it to display the note.
  • Public Notes. You can share your notes and highlighted text with your social networks on Twitter and Facebook (when you’re online) using the Share button. A link to the shared passage along with an optional short note is posted to your registered social network accounts. You must first go into the settings for your Kindle and set up your accounts with Twitter and Facebook before this function will work.

    Notes and highlights viewed at my online Public Notes page.

  • Social Sharing. Using Kindle’s Public Notes feature, you can share your book notes with your connected friends or family. This requires that you first find and follow others via http://kindle.amazon.com, then turn on Public Notes in the Reading Options settings on your Kindle. This doesn’t give your followers access to every note or highlight you added to every book. You check Make Reading Status Public from your book list on the site which then activates the checkbox for Public Notes which you then also check. You can change a book’s status at any time.

My book list at Kindle's "social center".

These capabilities also work in the Kindle apps for iOS and Android devices as well as the Cloud Reader and your annotations will by synched between devices as soon as a device comes online.

It doesn’t take long to get comfortable with these features. By maintaining a collection of reference material – with annotations – in your Kindle library, you can now have your research with you whenever and wherever you need it. And, all this research goodness weighs less than half a pound and fits into my bag. Yeah, I’m lovin’ that!


How would you like to send a web article to your favorite e-reading app to read at your leisure – and without the distractions found on most web sites? You can with dotEPUB. With this delightful service, you just install a bookmarklet (an extension for the Chrome browser) in your browser then whenever you find a blog article or web site that you would like to read later, just hit the bookmarklet and dotEPUB will download the content in either ePUB or Kindle format.

dotEPUB blog article in iBooks (ePub format)

Installing the bookmarklet on an iPhone/iPad is a bit more difficult but the actual “sending” effort is simpler since the iThing will ask which app you’d like to use to open the article. The example above shows a recent Gazette article opened in iBooks. You determine if you want the content you send to ePub format to include images and hyperlinks. It can make the processing time longer depending on the number of images included in your sent content. For example, sending a photo gallery page could take a long time and generate a very large file.

Same article in Kindle app (Kindle format).

dotEPUB can also send web content in Kindle format as shown in this example. I have two bookmarklets on my iPad – one for each format – and decide which format I want. If I’m using the service from my desktop or another computer, I can then use Kindle’s Personal Document Service to email it to my Kindle device. Dropbox can quickly move the documents to iThings or NOOK Color/Tablet devices.

Now, if Calibre would just give me a “recipe” for combining a collection of dotEPUB articles into one ePub file, I could build my own personal weekend magazine to enjoy at my leisure . . .

Emailing Kindles

The Kindle (Fire, Touch, app, whatever) appears to be the hit gift for this Christmas. This is great news for family historians because it means you can reach out to even the most digitally-challenged member of the family through their Kindle. Earlier, I wrote about Kindle’s Personal Document Service. Yesterday, Amazon updated the Kindle app for iOS and it now includes access to the Personal Document Service. iPad/iPhone users will see a notice identifying their device’s Kindle address once they’ve updated.

Take advantage of your family get-togethers through the holidays to collect the Kindle addresses for your family members. You’ll also need to tell them to add your email address to their list of authorized contributors. With luck, by New Years you should be able to “publish” directly to those Kindles with one email message.

To manage your personal document library, use your browser to log into your Amazon account. Click on Your Digital Items just above the shopping cart icon at the top right side of the screen. When the new screen appears, click on Manage Your Kindle. Now a screen appears showing your library of Kindle books. In the left sidebar, under Your Kindle Account, click on Personal Document Settings. A screen similar to this one appears.


As you can see, I have both an iPad and a Kindle reader registered in my Amazon account. Many families have multiple devices registered to a single Amazon account. Each device has its own email address. Kindle automatically assigns a generic address (like fred_12345@Kindle.com) but you can edit it so it’s something easier to remember. Further down the screen you see the list of email addresses that are approved to forward documents to your Kindle devices/apps. Notice the mobile@postmaster.scribd.com address. Scribd has been very proactive about working with e-readers so this allows me to easily send Scribd documents straight to my Kindle. Notice that you can add and delete addresses at any time.

Look for design information and project ideas to take advantage of this publishing opportunity here at the Gazette. Now that most all my family is Kindle-connected, I’ll be working on lots of projects to share our family’s history with them.