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