How to get the most out of your new Kindle

This year, did Santa give you a Kindle e-reader in exchange for the obligatory carrot, mince pie and glass of sherry left out on the sideboard? If so, welcome to the digital book revolution. The latest Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite are Amazon's best eBook readers yet.

They're also pretty easy to use – but Amazon doesn't pack a printed manual, and Amazon's website doesn't necessarily emphasise the simplest way to do things, either. That's where we come in. Here's what you need to know to get the most out of your shiny new Kindle – without spending a single extra penny.

Join a network

If you bought a Wi-Fi Kindle, go to Menu > Settings > Wi-Fi Networks, scan the list for your home wireless hotspot, choose it, and then enter the password. You can also do this from a public hotspot, although once you get home you'll need to add your personal network later. Kindle Paperwhite 3G owners can get started right away using the built-in Whispernet cellular connection. If you've got a 3G Kindle, feel free to skip the Wi-Fi step for now, although you may want to add your wireless network later, as it's usually faster.

Register your account

Next, go to Menu > Settings > Registration. Follow the on-screen prompts, which will vary depending on whether you already have an Amazon account. If you do, and you've purchased Kindle books before, you can begin loading them via Archived Items on the home page. Give it a moment first; it will say Archived Items (0) for a little while, and then start populating it about a minute later.

If you don't already have an Amazon account, you can create one right on the device and begin shopping for books. The Kindle comes preloaded with the users' manual and a couple of dictionaries, but we bet you want something a little more exciting for your first eBook.

Grab some free books

Amazon makes it easy to buy books in all genres, but you could also spend several lifetimes reading nothing but free classics. Anything pre-1923 is in the public domain, and therefore out of copyright. That leaves you with more than two million choices. To begin with, you can grab many popular ones right from Amazon's site.

But what about the rest? The Kindle doesn't work with ePub files; instead, head to Internet Archive (archive.org), click on a book, and click Kindle (beta) to download it to your PC. Then connect the Kindle via the included USB cable and drag the file to the Kindle's Documents folder. The same thing works with Project Gutenberg at gutenberg.org; in this case, choose Mobipocket as the format. If you bought a 3G Kindle, you can also email books directly to your device; go to Menu > Settings > Device Options and look at the bottom of the screen to find your Kindle's email address.

Borrow some other books

Joining Amazon Prime costs £49 per year, but it gets you free one-day shipping on millions of items Amazon sells (and free first class delivery on the rest). It also gives you access to the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one book per month. The selection here includes most bestsellers, plus thousands of others. To access the Lending Library, head to the Kindle Store on your device, and select See All Categories.

Adjust the display

Even if you don't know it off the top of your head, you probably have a preference for font style and font size – think about recent paperbacks you've read, and what kind of type you prefer the most. The way it works on the Kindle is you make adjustments while actually reading a digital book.

Tap or select Menu, and then tap “Aa.” From there, you can select the font style, including eight different sizes and three font choices (regular, condensed, or sans serif). You can also choose font spacing, which gives you three settings each for both line spacing (small, medium, and large) and the number of words per line (default, fewer, and fewest). As far as adjusting the display contrast goes, you're out of luck; there are no such controls on Kindles. The latest displays are good enough that you shouldn't really need them, though.

Install free Kindle apps across your devices

One of the best things about the Kindle is its app ecosystem. Amazon has provided free apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, and Mac. Install Kindle apps on whatever compatible devices you own, and you'll be able to synchronise your eBooks, subscriptions, and current reading across them all. If you're like most of us, you'll still prefer reading on the Kindle whenever possible, thanks to its E-Ink display, long battery life, and svelte design. But this will ensure no matter what device you're in front of, you can keep reading the same book right from where you left off.

Know how to reset your Kindle remotely

If you ever lose your Kindle, there's really not much a thief could do with it – other than check out what you're reading, and possibly buy you more Kindle books with your stored credit card information. Still, you'll want to deregister the device as soon as possible. From a desktop browser, log into your Amazon account. Click on Your Account > Manage Your Kindle > Manage Your Devices (on the left). Next to the picture of the appropriate Kindle, click Deregister, and you’re done.

Have a favourite Kindle tip we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.