Browsing the archives for the files tag.
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How Do I Preload Books onto a Kindle I’m Giving as a Gift?

eBooks and Publishing

I’m collaborating with a group of five other science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction authors on a contest that will give away a new Kindle Fire loaded with about a dozen great books. (More on that later, when the contest is ready to announce.) One of the questions we’re deciding on is how we want to give someone  a Kindle with books already on it.

This turns out to be kind of tricky. When someone receives a Kindle, they have to register it to an Amazon account. When this happens, according to Amazon, all previous content (whether purchased or manually loaded) is wiped from the device. This means that you can’t just order someone a Kindle and have it show up with the books you want on it, and it also means that if the person who’s getting the Kindle is going to register it, you can’t have it delivered to yourself, manually load up the books, and then give it to that person. This holds true regardless of whether you’re gifting a new or a used Kindle.

Fortunately, there are several workable approaches. Here are the ones I know of. Please note that in most cases, it’s helpful to indicate when ordering a new Kindle that it’s a gift so that it isn’t automatically registered to your account. With a used Kindle, the recipient just has to re-register, in most cases.

1. Amazon gift card
This is the least creative approach, but it’s also the easiest: just buy an Amazon gift card to go with the Kindle. This lets happy recipients choose and buy books on their own. It’s no good if you want to include specific books rather than just suggestions of what to buy, and it doesn’t help if you want to load books that don’t come from Amazon’s store (including, if you’re an author, your own–unless you want to pay Amazon to buy your own books, which considering you receive a 70% royalty in many cases might be a perfectly good option too).

2. Books delivered after the Kindle is registered
This one’s pretty easy as well. In addition to buying the Kindle for your gift recipient, you buy the books, but indicate that they’re gifts and specify who to. Once the new Kindle is registered, the recipient receives those gift books on the new Kindle. Again, this one’s no help if you’re not including books from Amazon itself.

3. Send files
Kindles read not only Amazon’s .AMZ files, but also other formats, including .MOBI and .PRC (general eBook formats that aren’t limited to Kindle books); .DOC and .RTF files from Microsoft Word and other word processors; text files; HTML files; graphics formats like .JPG, .GIF, .PNG and .BMP (not good for reading); and Adobe Acrobat .PDFs. (Regarding .PDFs, a warning: many are designed for 8.5″x11″ paper and have to be shrunk down to a painful and sometimes unreadable size to be shown on Kindle). Any of these non-Amazon file types can be sent or given to the new Kindle owner through e-mail, download, thumb drive, CD-ROM, file transfer, or any other means that you would normally use to send files.

Once received, the files will need to be transferred onto the Kindle, usually using the Kindle’s USB cable. (However, Kindle owners can also use my #4 option, below, to send books and documents to their own Kindles, providing they’ve “whitelisted” themselves as described.)

4. Email via @free.kindle.com
My favorite option for getting files onto a Kindle, because it doesn’t require plugging in a USB cable or even being physically present, is to use Amazon’s @free.kindle.com e-mail address. This is a free (no surprise there) e-mail address provided to every Kindle user by Amazon, and it delivers files and eBooks via a wireless connection. There’s also a @kindle.com address that works over 3G for 3G-capable Kindles as well as over wireless, but documents sent that way are sometimes subject to a small charge to the recipient, so I always stick with the free version.

The one limitation of this approach, which is a sensible one, is that the Kindle owner must pre-approve (“whitelist”) the sending e-mail address before anything can be received this way. All this does is approve the e-mail account being entered to send documents or books to the Kindle, so unless you’re worried about the sender sending a bunch of things you don’t want, there’s no real danger to it. Approved e-mail addresses can also be deleted at any time.

To whitelist a sender, the recipient needs to follow these steps after registering the new Kindle:

  1. Navigate to https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage#pdocSettings and log in if prompted
  2. Scroll down to near the bottom, where you’ll see a link that says “Add a new approved e-mail address.” Click this link
  3. In the dialog box that appears, enter the sender’s e-mail address.
  4. Click the “Add Address” button

Once this is done, the sender can forward books that will appear automatically on the recipient’s Kindle the next time it’s connected to a wireless network. Note that it takes a few minutes after starting and connecting to the wireless network for the Kindle to check for new items, find them, download them, and display them. Wireless connectivity has to be turned on through the Kindle settings for this to work, of course, but most users will already have it on.

Don’t send books or documents before the whitelisting is complete; they’ll just vanish into the void. Once this process is set up, though, it’s an easy way to get documents onto other people’s Kindles. This can be very handy not only for gift giving, but also for critique groups, work-related documents, sending articles for friends to read, etc. It’s one of my favorite underutilized Kindle features.

Of course, this approach doesn’t work for sending books purchased on Amazon; for that, try one of the earlier methods.

That’s all of the ways I can think of. Did I miss any?

Photo by sundaykofax

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Why bother organizing papers?

Strategies and goals

In my recent article The Eight Things You Can Do With a Piece of Paper, I talk about some principles for taking the stress and difficulty out of organizing the piles of paper that can sometimes grow unwanted around our homes and workspaces. But that article didn’t really address the question of why someone would want to put the time and effort into organizing papers in the first place. For instance, if a person has been used to living in the midst of stacks of paper for years, why shouldn’t that person just continue doing so?

Well, certainly not everyone needs to organize papers, and even people who can benefit from it might do better to avoid it if by doing so they can get some more pressing things done. For instance, if it’s between organizing papers and working on broken ideas to address a serious problem with anxiety, I say let the papers pile up.

Still, here are some benefits of organizing papers for those of us not in that kind of position:

  • It helps you capture tasks, responsibilities, ideas, and resources that otherwise might be hidden or forgotten
  • You will probably find you can get rid of a lot of papers you don’t need, freeing up space and simplifying your environment
  • Organized papers look better and are more motivating for most people than piles, drawers, or boxes of papers
  • Things you didn’t know you had or forgot about can often surface during the organization process, not uncommonly including money
  • The wonderful feeling of “THERE that thing is!”
  • When you actually need some of the material you’ve organized, it will be easy to find it
  • You can make much better use of information you have on paper when it’s collected by subject and easy to find
  • Even a small amount of organizing work can help create a sense of satisfaction, order, and empowerment

Keep in mind that just organizing papers once in a major effort isn’t success: success is building a habit of keeping papers organized as they come in so that they are immediately available when they’re needed. Conveniently, this habit can be built up by regularly–ideally, every day–grabbing a few papers and taking care of them. You don’t have to make a massive initial effort to get things organized; it can just become a regular part of your day.

Photo by jasra

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The Eight Things You Can Do With a Piece of Paper

Strategies and goals

In my recent post about getting files organized, I mentioned the importance to me of having something I could do with every piece of paper I processed. The set of options I consider is mainly based on Dave Allen’s process as set forth in his organizational book Getting Things Done, which I can’t seem to shut up about in posts lately. More on that book in a separate post. For now, I thought I’d briefly list all of the options I consider when I pick up a random piece of paper and ask myself “What should I be doing with this?”

I use closely-related variations of this for e-mails, physical objects, ideas, recollections that I need to do something, and anything else in my life I might need to deal with. By putting something through this process, I can take it off my mind because I know I’ve captured it and know what to do next. If you know everything that I might do with a piece of paper, I can make it stop nagging me.

click to enlarge

  1. If it’s not something I ever expect to need, use, reference, provide to someone else as documentation, etc. I recycle it (or if it’s non-recyclable for some reason, throw it away).
  2. If it’s something that I want to have for reference but I don’t already have a file folder for it, I make a new folder for it and file it, even if it’s a whole folder for one tiny piece of paper.
  3. I file it in an existing folder if I want to keep it for reference and already have a file folder for it.
  4. If it’s something I’d like to read but there’s no task that needs to be accomplished and no deadline for reading it, I put it in my to read pile. Things that need to be read in a specific period of time I treat as tasks: see #6.
  5. If it represents something to do that can be done within 2 minutes or less (your cutoff can be a bit shorter or longer if you want), I do the quick action it requires, then file or recycle it. I do this even if the action is low priority, because it will take me less time to follow up right away than it will to decide, make a task, maybe file the paper, and come back to it later.
  6. If it represents something to do that can’t be done quickly, I make an entry in my task system, then take the paper and recycle it, file it, or put it in my “action-related materials” tray. Making an entry in my task system includes even things that I just might want to do someday. The items I’m not sure of just go on what Allen calls a “someday/maybe” list.
  7. If it goes in a special location (like a schedule I want to put up on the fridge), including a special “reference” location (like the tray I have for my son’s drawings), I put it away where it goes (or put it in a pile to be brought to such locations as soon as I get up).
  8. If it’s part of a body of material I need to keep for a while but seriously doubt I’ll need to reference (like paperwork from an old business that should be kept for a few years just in case a former client needs to know something), I put it in a box of archived papers and store the box.

I treat things that need to be forwarded to someone else as a subcategory of “actionable items”: the action is that I need to get it to the recipient. It generally won’t take me more than a couple of minutes to put something in an envelope, address it, and put it in my outgoing mail. If forwarding it is more involved (something that needs to be packed and shipped, something I need to bring to someone by hand, etc.), I make a task for it and put the thing to be forwarded in a special place I have for “action-related materials.”

What about data entry? For our purposes, data entry is just another kind of action. For instance, if you have one business card of someone you may need to get in touch with, entering that card into your PDA or Rolodex or whatever you use is probably a less-than-2-minute action. If you have a bunch of such business cards, you can rubber band them together, put them into “action-related,” and add a task to your list saying “enter business cards into PDA.” If the card is supposed to remind you to do something, it’s probably not doing a very good job with that by just lying around: enter the task into your task system, and include the contact information right along with the task.

Before I could start this process, I got myself a bunch of blank file folders and a label maker (optional), and I set up a good task system that I review regularly (very important! set this up first if you want to use this process) so that no important information will be forgotten or lost.

One great thing about this approach is that I don’t have to take care of papers in any particular order. If I see some papers lying around, I can just pick them up, apply this process, and voila! Gone. If you can cut loise a big block of time, you can gather together every paper you having lying around anywhere, put it all in a big pile, and then just mow through it.

The diagram above can serve as a handy reference if you find references handy. Allen offers a completely different diagram based on the same principles (his) in Getting Things Done.

As a caution, here are some things not to do with a piece of paper if you want it to be taken care of:

  • Put it in a “to file” pile
  • Set it aside to decide on later
  • Try to use it as a reminder for a task rather than creating an item in a task list
  • Hold off from making a file folder because of not being certain about the filing decision. It’s easy to refile things–much easier than trying to keep track of all the half-made filing decisions a pile of set-aside papers might represent
  • Put it back down where it came from.
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Effective Organization and Filing Are … Fun???

Strategies and goals

Partly as a reaction to reading Dave Allen’s organization book  Getting Things Done, I’ve carved three days out of my schedule between this week and next to take care of innumerable little tasks; organize papers, projects, and records; make progress on a couple of small projects; and so on. Today was my first day, and much of it went into getting paper-based information organized. While I’ve had filing systems working in the past, in recent years my system has been “put it in a pile where I can dig through and find it if I really need to.” I had been envisioning filing papers as a Big Job that needed to be done all at once and then repeated regularly, and for me, organizing papers was wasn’t enough of a priority to put in that time at this stage.

Allen’s book has given me a newer and more pleasant perspective on the issue. He points out that papers that haven’t been dealt with, and in fact all things that haven’t been dealt with, tend to be an irritant until they’re taken care of. In other words, one of the immediate rewards of getting my files in order would be more peace of mind. He also outlines a system for keeping files always up to date, with no need to make a big filing push at any time. It was largely this system for paper files that I used to inform my recent post on keeping on top of e-mail all the time.

While it may sound bizarre, filing papers today was actually fun, because Allen’s system helped me get into flow with the filing: in other words, I was continuously involved and challenged in the task, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I could see how well I was doing as I went.

I won’t and can’t reproduce all of Allen’s system here, although I highly recommend his book if you’re interested in getting more control over the many obligations, objects, papers, tasks, priorities, and other elements that pass through your life.

I had actually started filing using Allen’s system a week or two before I began going through large stacks of to-be-filed papers, just to handle some new papers that were coming in. In other words, I’m already treating filing like a habit instead of something to be done every once in a while in chunks. It’s important to handle these kinds of obligations that way to be able to keep up to date once things are off to a good start. Trying to do filing in a “big push” is likely to mean keeping a “to file” pile after that, which will require another “big push” in future. By contrast, Allen’s system depends on setting eyes on a piece of paper once and then trying to decide where it needs to finally go or what it needs to finally do.

I purchased (inexpensively, through eBay) a simple label maker to make the labels for my file folders. While a label maker may sound like it’s approximately as useful as a banana hammock, the difference in clarity and professional appearance of the printed labels on folders compared to the old hand-labeled folders is striking. I can much more easily find a file using these labels. I use a label maker instead of the computer to make the labels because Allen’s system depends on being able to make up a new file instantly with very little fuss, even if it’s just one folder for one piece of paper, and putting labels through a printer is usually too much of a hassle for repeated little jobs like that.

With a stack of fresh folders, the label maker, and a good system, I was able to sit and plow through piles of paper fairly efficiently, and most importantly to be able to decide then and there exactly what to do with each piece of paper–whether that meant capturing a task from it in my task management system, filing it in an existing folder, making a new folder and filing it there, recycling it, etc. Seeing chaos reduced to order step by step like this is powerfully motivating–and well worth trying if you can make the time to get started.

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