The Kindle is great for reading books, but you might not know that it's also a fantastic tool for students. When used correctly, it can operate as a portable tool to keep all your books, notes and research in one place. Here's how to turn a Kindle into your new best friend for school or university.
Image by UBC Library
To take advantage of these tips, you'll need a Kindle or one of the Kindle apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Since the Kindle is easily the most popular ereader, we decided to concentrate on its features here, but many of these basic tips apply to other ereaders or reading apps.
Put Textbooks On Your Kindle To Save Weight
Ebooks are great because you don't have to lug around your giant backpack with six textbooks in it every single day, and they're also fantastic study tools when they're used to their full potential. Since everything you do in a Kindle book syncs to the apps on desktop and mobile, as well as the Kindle itself, you'll always have your most important notes and highlights with you.
Many textbooks are available on Kindle, though you shouldn't necessarily expect them to be cheaper -- textbooks remain expensive because they're aimed at a specialised market. That said, for some subjects you can do very well: a lot of classic texts in subjects such as literature, philosophy and history are public domain and available free of charge. You can also find free books in a number of fields. For example, this list on GitHub is a great place to find free books to get your education started.
Send Other Stuff To Read To Your Kindle
For most subjects, you're probably reading more than just textbooks. You can send all your digital reading materials to your Kindle using Amazon's Send to Kindle service. Send to Kindle can send articles from a website to your Kindle with a click in Chrome or Firefox, or you can send documents (including Word documents and PDF files) from your computer or email address. You can even forward emails, your syllabus, and your schedule to your Kindle if you need it. It's incredibly handy to consolidate all your reading materials into one place, so make use of the Send to Kindle feature whenever you can.
Highlight What Matters And Take Notes
One of the Kindle's best features is the ability to highlight and take notes in any book. Even better, you can see what others have highlighted and where they've written notes.
Highlighting blocks of text lets you create your own collection of terms and ideas you want to return and study later. To highlight, just tap a word and drag the cursor across the entire section you want to highlight. On the tablet apps, you can then select different highlight colours to help organise notes within a book. For example, you could use different highlight colours for different tests to make it easier on yourself when you're reviewing those highlights later. You can also see where other people have highlighted in the book by turning on popular highlights. Just head into your Kindle's Settings and turn on "Popular Highlights". You'll see these highlights as dotted underlines in your book.
Likewise, you can also add your own notes directly in your book at any point as well. Just tap and hold the place where you want to make a note and select the note option. Type your note in and it saves it in the book and online so you can access it from anywhere.
Your highlights and notes are always available on your Kindle itself and online here, so it's an incredibly powerful tool for studying because you can easily share your highlights with fellow students. You can even send those highlights over to Evernote if you like or just snag the plain text file directly from your Kindle.
Organise Your Books With Collections
Collections are a subtle feature, but worth mentioning since many people don't know they exist. As the name suggests, Collections allow you to organise your books in any way you see fit. Since the Kindle doesn't have a way to organise your digital shelves, Collections lets you group all your books together by class, subject, or any other categorisation you find useful. It's incredibly helpful if you have a lot of ebooks or documents and you need to find them quickly.
To create a collection, head into the Collections menu, tap the "+" sign, and add any books you want. You can organise them and add more books over time.
Use X-Ray And Smart Lookup
The Smart Lookup and X-Ray features are easily my favourite tools on the Kindle because they allow you to read more about any given topic, without leaving the page you're on (or switching to another app on the tablet versions).
Smart lookup is simple: just tap on a word and the Kindle will look up the dictionary and Wikipedia definition. This means you can instantly research a word without losing your place in the book.
X-Ray provides a broader overview of a search term rather than just a basic definition.Tap the X-Ray button in the app (or tap on a word and then select "X-Ray" on the Kindle) and you're shown a list of where the word appears in the book you're reading. You get a summation from Wikipedia, but more importantly, you can look up other places important terms and characters appear in the text. So, if you're reading about Abraham Lincoln, you can instantly see where else he's mentioned in the book in front of you, key concepts like "absentee ballots," or "The Battle of Antietam", and other important people like Abner Doubleday or Carl Schurz. Basically, if you're reading a textbook with a lot of complicated terms, or a lot of different important people, X-Ray can make it easier to keep track of those all those terms.
If you really want to drill those concepts home, you can make your own set of flash cards in certain books. When you're looking at an X-Ray page for a print replica textbook (books will list this in their description if they retain the rich formatting of the hardcopy book), just tap the flash card button and your Kindle will automatically create a series of flash cards you can use to test yourself on a glossary of terms. Likewise, if you've been highlighting and adding notes to your textbooks, you can turn those notes into flash cards are well.
X-Ray and flash cards are special features in certain books, so they're not available all the time, but when they are, they're worth using.