A Guide on How To Use Your eReader (Nook, Kindle, or Kobo) From Buying and Reviewing Ebooks to Managing Your Digital Library
Ereaders are the gift du jour for moms, dads, grandparents, teens, and everyone in between. Many models are offered by Amazon and Barnes and Noble at affordable prices, and a whole host of multi-use devices like smartphones and tablet computers include ereading apps for free. But when you get one of the devices, the learning curve can be very confusing. As my husband’s grandmother exclaimed when she received the Kindle Fire for Christmas, “Elizabeth, all that came was the cord. Where’s the instruction booklet?”
This is a general guide to how ereaders work and the best practices for readers relying more on digital books than trips to a local book store. And I promise, once you get the hang of it, you’re going to love the convenience of ebooks. I don’t know ANYONE who learns how to use an ereader wish they never received one in the first place….okay, maybe only because now they spend a lot more time reading…:)
In this How to Use Your Ereader Guide (click any question and it will take you to that section):
How Do I Buy My Books?
How Do the eBooks Get On My eReader (Kindle, Nook, or Kobo)?
But I was emailed an ebook that I won online, how do I put it on my ereader?
Oh my goodness, I have 100 ebooks on my Kindle or Nook!!!
I don’t remember what I wanted to read next, there’s just too much to choose from!
Do I have to rate and review the ebooks I read?
This FREE/$.99/$4.99/$9.99 ebook is full of mistakes!
All of this classic literature is FREE, why aren’t the new ebooks free too?
Is the eReader really worth all of this trouble?
First step with EVERY ereader, from Kindle to a Nook to a Kobo, is to register the device to an email address on their website. Turn on the ereader and it will walk you through this process.
If you’re using an ereading application, like Kindle for your iPhone or iPad, same deal. This is the way the online bookstores keep your purchases attached to you. Your digital library is locked away on their servers at all times. By logging in with your email and password you are opening the door to your private digital library, so to speak.
This is important to understand before you start. You might not want a universal family email address associated with your device. Why? Because most families do not share ereaders…for very long.
I bought a Nook Touch last August. This Christmas, I purchased an ad-supported Kindle. My husband has inherited my Nook Touch. Okay, I tricked him one night when he finished a paper book in the Wheel of Time series and wanted the next but it was 10:30 at night, so I quickly downloaded the sample of the next book to my Nook, handed him that and well, I never got the Nook back. Oh, and my credit card had a $7.99 charge on it the next morning….
Anyway, after a few hours, my husband became curious about exploring the rest of the device and was surprised to see some of my reading habits. Needless to say, the library of books is attached to the email address, not the device itself. You can un-register devices and associate them with new email addresses so when you upgrade and your son inherits your device, he doesn’t get access to your adult-oriented library. And your husband doesn’t tease you for reading erotic fiction… just saying.
The email address is the key to the digital library. Choose an email address you plan to keep. Use unique email addresses from the beginning so you can keep your digital library separate from other family members’ libraries.
Did you know? The Indie Chicks Cafe is full of ebooks from a variety of genres? Visit the Bookstore and FREE Books tab at the top to load up your ereader with great escapes from everyday life.
Wireless internet is the primary delivery system for ebooks to devices. When you purchase a book either through the ereader or on the bookstore website, when the ereader is connected to the internet on a wireless network it will automatically sync. Synching just means the website and the ereader make sure they each have the same ebooks loaded. It takes just a few moments and you’ll see a synching message or icon.
All of the online bookstores have you register a credit card with the email address you sign up with, so you can purchase ebooks with one touch and then a confirmation click on the device itself. The ereader will recommend books for you based on the books you read. It’s a great customer service tool you have 24/7; the equivalent of going to the local bookstore and saying “I just read this, do you have another book like it?”
That is the easy way to get ebooks onto your device: by only buying ebooks through the company that sold your ereader, the ebooks will wirelessly load onto the ereader. Now, you can turn wireless off to save battery power. So if you purchase an ebook and it doesn’t show up on your Kindle or Nook, make sure your wireless is turned ON before you panic.
Also, if you hear or read the term “cloud,” that refers to your digital storage area on the bookstore’s online servers. Amazon uses the term Kindle on the Cloud to refer to ebooks you read on your PC or Mac computer, but technically, anything you digitally “own” kept as part of your inventory attached to a login is a cloud system. This is why if your Kindle or Nook get destroyed by your toddler (so far, my daughter has tried and both ereaders have proven nearly indestructible), you don’t lose your ebook files.
But I was emailed an ebook that I won online, how do I put it on my ereader?
If wirelessly is the easy way, there must be another way to load ebooks onto your ereader. It’s called sideloading.
The cord that came with your ereader probably looks similar to the cords you use to charge your cell phone on one end. This is called a micro-USB cord. On the other end is a traditional USB ending (your cell phone charger’s other side is the part you plug into the wall, and yes, if your cell phone charges with a micro-USB tip, you can use your cell phone charger to charge your ereader. I do this all the time.).
Plug the ereader into your computer and it will pop up as if you had plugged in any other USB storage device, such as a flash drive/thumb drive, a digital camera, or a cell phone. You can copy ebook files over to the ereader from your computer. Just copy and paste the file into the Books or Documents folder on your ereader. Nook, Kobo, and Apple’s iBookstore all open and use .epub files. Kindle will open .mobi and .prc.
Nook, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, ereaders and apps = EPUB
Kindle ereaders and apps = MOBI
All ereading devices will open up PDF files, but there could be issues with how the text appears. I have a few fanfiction PDFs that don’t display 100% properly on my Nook or my Kindle. The last sentence of each chapter is moved to the front of the chapter, so it’s a little jumbled. I don’t recommend relying on PDF formats of books if another format is available.
Hang in there. If this is confusing, you don’t ever have to sideload a book. The important part to know is that you CAN. After a few weeks of owning an ereader, you’re going to realize there are communities of authors, publishers, and readers who offer free ebooks all the time. Every day there’s a deal to be shared. Every day! Ebook sites, blog hops, etc. From gift cards to ebooks to ereaders themselves, there is no shortage of sites and social media groups giving away free stuff.
Word to the wise, keep a copy of the ebooks you sideload onto your ereader on a computer or storage device. If you sideload an ebook file and something happens to the ereader device, the file is caput. Only the ebooks you purchased through bookstore websites are typically kept in their cloud system for you to access anytime. The exception to this rule is if you use a cloud service with the bookstore company to store general data, but that still won’t automatically download to your replacement ereader device through synching. You will have to download and sideload the file separately.
Finally, even if you aren’t going to sideload files, still learn the file types your ereader can read. There are only a handful of websites that sell multiple formats of the same book, such as Smashwords, but as ereading catches on, this will happen more and more. Let’s say you purchase an ebook straight from the author’s or publisher’s website, you need to know if you need .epub or .mobi.
The best practice? If both file formats are available for one purchase, download both. You never know when you’ll change devices.
Yes, yes you do and it only took a few hours. And you have space for hundreds more! Don’t panic. You just need to organize your library a bit.
Let’s discuss archiving vs. deleting.
Archiving. Each ereader will give you the option to archive a book. This means the ebook is removed from your ereader device, but it is still in your cloud (the online library associated with your email address). This is like cleaning out your closet at the end of winter and putting your winter coats into a storage container for the attic. You can redownload the book to your ereader by selecting it on the bookstore website and then synching.
Deleting. You also have the option to delete a book. This permanently removes the book from your account entirely. I only recommend you use this option on a free ebook you downloaded and didn’t like. This is giving away your winter coats to Goodwill at the end of winter because you’re moving to Florida. The only way to get the book back is to buy it again.
Archiving moves an ebook back to your account at the online bookstore. You can download it again to your eReader (Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) another time.
Deleting an ebook permanently removes the ebook from your account. Only way to get it again is to rebuy it. Don’t do this to any ebooks except for maybe free downloads you didn’t like.
Aside from archiving and deleting, the new generations of ereaders also let you organize your ebook books on the device itself. Most will let you create what is called a collection and you put books into it.
I have a Pride and Prejudice collection where I store all of the fan fiction and published continuations that I read. On my Ad-Supported Kindle, it is a pain in the butt. The keyboard isn’t touch, so I confess that I don’t care for the Amazon system. My Nook Touch was far easier, I just connected my Nook to my computer, made a file folder and dragged the books I wanted there into it. This organization was understood by the operating system on the ereader. I tried that with my Ad-Supported Kindle and it didn’t work.
I agree this is a problem. Ereaders and ebooks have suddenly become the 1,000-channel digital cable subscription where we’re just too paralyzed to choose anything. My suggestion is to join an online reading community. The top sites are Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari.
All of the sites let you manage your book library. This includes any paper copies you have. You sign up, with an email address, and type in books you own or would like to own. You label books “read,” “to-be-read,” or any other label that helps you curate your book library. You can rate and review books, helping their system to recommend other titles you might enjoy and helping other readers looking for a good book to cheer up their weekend. You can also join virtual book clubs, using forums and discussion boards to talk about the books you’ve read with other readers.
Don’t try to add all of your books at once, unless you’re that kind of person. Go a little at a time, and over a few weeks you’ll have a good handle on what you’ve already read, what you haven’t read, and what you could be reading. You also don’t need to use all of those sites, just pick one. I like the interface of Goodreads personally because I have more control over the labels I can assign my virtual book shelves and there isn’t a limit to how many books I can add.
No, you do not. Your ereader might recommend that you do so, and depending on the kind of reader you are, that might be important. If you prefer reading as a past time, I suggest you rate and review what you love, like, and hate. Only skip the books you’re indifferent about. The computer systems at the bookstore will use this data to tailor the book shopping pages to your tastes.
In looking at book reviews to make your own purchasing decisions, you can guard against review system abuse by publishers and authors in a few ways. The biggest way is to see if the reviewer has any other reviews by clicking on the reviewer’s name. This works both for the 5 and 1 star reviews. Unfortunately, there are jealous authors and publishers who will make fake accounts to put bogus 1-star reviews and unethical authors who will make fake accounts to post bogus 5-star reviews. It doesn’t mean that every reviewer who only has one review is a fake, most readers don’t remember to review the books they read, or prefer to do so on a site like Goodreads.
Just know that the review systems on most online bookstores are governed about as well as the Wild West was. Use your gut; if the review seems awfully one-sided, it probably has an agenda.
Price alone is never going to dictate quality. The publishing world is in a flux right now, though arguably, it’s always in a flux of some
sort. The higher priced ebooks are usually what is called “traditionally published.” They are the authors you are used to seeing for sale at your local book store or grocery store if they hit the NY Times Bestseller lists. They are not always perfect. Formatting issues and typos are still a problem for traditionally published books, maybe not as much as the independently published books, but still, a universal problem for books in general.
Think about your own emails and how often you still find a typo or two, and you were sure you checked it! Now think about a document that is hundreds of pages long. For an ebook, there’s pages and pages of code on top of that you can’t see. I’m not saying you should settle for a shoddy product, just keep in mind that publishing quality is more of a spectrum now that the entry cost (the cost to produce the digital product) is much lower than the cost of a physical paperback or hardback.
Our world is faster than it has ever been. Pressure from readers to get that next book from their favorite author, a bad economy, and just a general need to make profit has nurtured a system of cutting corners all around. You, the reader, must be wary.
Download a sample first. If you don’t spot glaring issues in the first 20% of the ebook, chances are good the book is fine.
If you did not download a sample first and notice problems, and it’s within 7 days of purchase, you can probably return the ebook through the bookstore website. FYI, with the synching ability, your ereader bookstore knows how much of the book you read. So if you’re a fast reader, don’t buy ebooks, read them, and then return them on a regular basis. Eventually, you will get caught and break some obscure Terms and Condition agreement you clicked “Yes, I agree” on.
You can always leave a review about the problems you see to warn other readers as well. Or you can just chalk it up to human nature. That is a personal call.
Keep in mind, if you enjoy a book but didn’t enjoy the typos and rate it low, the review system you use is going to think it was the book’s subject matter that you didn’t like. For example, if I give Pride and Prejudice a 2-star review because I didn’t like the typos in the version I read, but love the story, Amazon isn’t going to recommend Sense & Sensibility to me. Now, if I find another ebook version of Pride and Prejudice that is typo free, and give that 5-stars, more than likely I just confused the system. But there is a chance the algorithms will realize it was the publisher of the public domain material that I don’t care for, not the material itself. No one really knows how sensitive the recommendation systems are, but they can be a handy tool if you love to read.
At the book store, a Pride & Prejudice paperback is a few dollars because there was a cost to print it. What wasn’t paid for was the story. Public domain laws vary by country, but generally stories printed a long time ago, not controlled by the author’s estate, are free for anyone. You can sell it. You can use the words as art. You can even write a new story, using those characters and injecting some zombies into the picture (that story, then becomes your copyrighted material, at least the parts that aren’t already in the public domain).
Initially, ereader companies used the public domain content to help entice readers to purchase their ereader device. The ebook market is now flooded with public domain content. Some of the more obscure works charge a few dollars for the ebook, to compensate for the costs of transcribing the content into a digital format. But if you’re wondering why literature’s greatest hits are now free for your Kobo or Kindle, but not free at the bookstore, it’s because the content is public domain and the price you pay is to cover printing or formatting costs. Your money doesn’t go to Jane Austen’s relatives.
Even though I am a published author, less than a year ago I thought an ereading device was a stupid purchase. I did. I’ve been reading on my computer for years, and I already had the Kindle and Nook apps on my laptop. Why did I need an ereader?
Truth is I didn’t need one…until I had one. At all times, my purse holds my keys, my wallet, my cell phone, and either the Nook or Kindle. Always. I read waiting for my son in the middle-school pickup line. I read when I take my daughter on a lark to the mall’s play area because it’s raining outside. I never have to worry about being in the mood to read the book I have with me, because I have ALL of them with me.
I prefer the e-ink displays because my eyes already spend too much time with my backlit laptop screen. Backlit refers to a screen that lights up. E-ink ereaders, like the lower cost Kindle and Nook models, do not have a light source. To read on e-ink devices you must have light just like a paperback. The Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and now Nook Glow don’t require another light source to read. I love that when my eyes are tired because I’m not wearing my glasses, I can just make the print bigger with a touch of a button. I don’t have to fold over pages anymore to keep my place. For non-fiction books, I can take notes and highlights right there, and export the file to a word document.
Once you learn the features of ereaders, it’s hard to go back to just paper books full time. There will always be a place for paperback books, certainly. Currently for our family that place is the thirteen cardboard boxes we still haven’t unpacked from our move last September.