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Kindle Troubleshooting 101: If You Can’t Open Any of Your Kindle Books….

Here’s the kind of situation that I tend too easily to ignore (once I have solved it) because it seems like it must be a fluke that isn’t going to occur often enough to bother bringing it up here at Kindle Nation. But after I experienced it twice in my first two weeks with my new Kindle DX, two things occurred to me:

  1. This is a problem that Amazon should fix so that it does not keep happening.
  2. It’s definitely worth passing on the “fix” in Kindle Nation so that my fellow Kindlers can avoid the feelings of panic and despair that have come over me twice now as a result of a sudden and inexplicable inability to open any of the Kindle editions aboard my Kindle DX.

Here’s the problem: suddenly none of the Kindle books, periodicals or blogs that are displayed on my Kindle DX Home screen will load. When I click on any of them with the Kindle DX 5-way, a message appears on the screen telling me that the Kindle is unable to open this document and referring me to my Manage Your Kindle page at Amazon.com, via my computer, so that I can fix the problem (I wish I had made a screenshot, but alas my panic was too intense to think of such things!). I go to my Manage Your Kindle page at Amazon.com, but it tells me nothing, and everything appears to be fine with my Amazon.com account, credit cards on file, etc. I notice, meanwhile, that my Kindle does open my Personal Docs and my Audible.com audiobooks, so it seems clear that there is not a hardware problem.

I called Kindle Support at 1-866-216-1072 and it quickly became clear that

  1. The problem had nothing to do with anything that I could address through my Manage My Kindle page; and
  2. It is such a common problem that the the support guy to whom I was speaking was able to cut me off 10 seconds into my description of the problem to start focusing on the fix.

He said that the problem was a “file index corruption” problem that has been occurring “in a few cases,” and the solution is a simple hard boot or restart of the Kindle.

So here’s the simple solution, should you face the same lack of access to your Kindle library:

  1. From your Kindle’s Home screen, press the Menu button on the side of the Kindle.
  2. From the Menu listing, use the 5-way to select “Settings.”
  3. From the “settings” display, press the Menu button again.
  4. From the Menu listing, use the 5-way to select “Restart.”

(You can also initiate a restart by holding the power switch to the right continuously for about 20 seconds, letting it go, then sliding it to the right again, but this takes longer and puts more wear and tear on the Kindle’s few moving parts).

Your Kindle will then take about two minutes to complete a hard reboot, during most of which you will see the Amazon Kindle silhouette graphic of the figure sitting under a tree reading. A progress bar will appear on the screen about halfway through, and toward the end of the reboot you will briefly (and cruelly!) be shown a nearly empty Home screen with the words “Showing all 0 items” at the top and “Archived Items (0)” just below it.

How Many Copies Can You Download When You Buy a Kindle Book? We’ll Let You Know….

“We face new situations every day and quite frankly we’ve never run into this problem before, but now that you’ve raised the issue please know that it will be addressed directly.”


Dan Cohen at the Geardiary.com blog goes into great detail sharing a blow-by-blow description of his difficulties getting a straight story from Amazon on several kinds of limitations that Kindle customers may face in downloading a Kindle book more than once.

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Another way to do higher math using the Kindle

Thanks to faithful Kindle Nation subscriber Bob for this helpful follow-up to this week’s Kindle Nation post, Kindle DX Secrets: It’s a Calculator!

Hi Stephen,

In your most recent Kindle Nation, you mentioned how to do basic Math on the DX. There is another way that I use on my Kindle 2 by going online.
Most folks do not know that if you go to Google and type in ANY complicated Math expression into the search bar, Google will automatically give you the answer at the top of the search list. (Google folks are heavily into Math.) You can do the same on the Kindle.
Go to Experimental, Basic Web, Bookmarks, Google. Type in 5*log(32) by using the SYM button to put in the parenthesis and the * symbols where * means multiply, and then click on search. You’ll see the first result listed is 5 * log(32) = 7.52574989
If you type in 5^32 (on a calculator, the carat symbol means to perform an exponent, so this is 5 to the 32nd power),
you’ll get back the answer 2.32830644 x 10 to the 22nd power.
I’m not sure how many people would use this, but it’s may come in handy some day for someone.
Love the newsletter!


Throw Out the Kindle Baby, But Keep the Bathwater

Technology blogger Mike Elgan posted a very smart piece – Elgan: Why the iPhone doesn’t matter – in which he argues a strong point, much more elegantly, that I have been making since the Kindle first appeared: that the device is almost always secondary to what it connects us with. While he focuses primarily on the iPhone, he carries the point over to this smart observation about the Kindle and its baby-faced assassins:

A similar phenomenon is happening with other devices. For example, the Amazon Kindle is by far the best selling e-book reader. But the Kindle hardware device is nothing to write home about, especially the first one, which was a piece of junk. What’s great about the Kindle, and the thing that makes it “better” than the Sony Reader and even better than all the color “Kindle Killers” that have been demonstrated in the past year, is the Amazon Kindle Store. Hardware doesn’t matter. Network is everything.

Kindle DX Drop Tests, Intentional and Otherwise

Although I said in my Kindle DX review last week that I lacked the courage to put my new Kindle DX through any intentional drop tests, it turns out that it did not take long for such a test to occur on its own. On Saturday morning I was getting back into my car at Starbucks in Cushing Square and the DX slipped out of the makeshift holder I had improvised for it. My naked and wholly unprotected 19-ounce Kindle DX experienced a straight vertical fall of about two feet, directly onto an asphalt parking lot surface. Fortunately it landed, just as I would, on its backside. I sheepishly picked up the Kindle DX, checked for dents, cracks, or scratches, determined that it remained pristine, and placed it on the empty front passenger seat beside me.

Although I did not have time to arrange for candid video of my personal Kindle DX drop test, it may come as no surprise to you that Amazon has posted its own video: of its own Kindle DX drop test, not mine. You may view it here.

Wire Up and Tag Kindlepedia to Educate Yourself Any Time on Any Topic

First, a tip of the hat to Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent for creating the Kindlepedia tool discussed here and for Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly for bringing it to my attention by featuring it on his program recently, and to old friend, author, teacher, fellow traveler and classmate of Len’s and mine Ned Stuckey-French for getting my thoughts percolating about the pedagogical possibilities here.

I can’t imagine that there is a single Kindle owner anywhere in the world who is not already familiar with Wikipedia, the online crowd-sourced encyclopedia with over 13 million collaboratively written articles, about 2.9 million of them in English. In addition to the fact that it is the 7th most popular website in the world according to Alexa, Wikipedia is a very high-profile part of the Kindle experience already, since it is featured as a prominent channel for any user-initiated Kindle search along with Google, the Kindle Store, the Kindle’s onboard dictionary and its library of ebooks and other documents:

The opportunity for readers to move quickly and easily — using the Kindle’s absolutely free wireless 3G web browser — between content on their Kindles and the kindof supplemental references and information that they will find on Wikipedia is bound to enrich the educational usefulness of the Kindle, and not just for college students. My 11-year-old son moves seamlessly between his life and Wikipedia explanations of the few remaining things he does not understand, and I am learning more slowly to do the same. By leaving the door constantly cracked between any content that we are reading and Wikipedia’s rich universe of information and content, the Kindle offers astonishing potential for us to place the words that we read in the kinds of rich historical and cultural contexts that makes them more vivid than they could ever be in a traditional book, no matter how much we may love print on paper.

But Wikipedia is more than just a place to visit for a few seconds here and there in the margins of one’s reading experiences. The rich and extensive content to be found there is worthy of reading time all its own, and offers inquisitive readers an opportunity to move organically — or whimsically, for that matter — across dozens or hundreds or thousands of “articles” in ways that allow the construction of remarkable aedifices of personal knowledge and contextual understanding. Thomas Wolfe may have arrived at Harvard in 1920 with the dream of reading every volume in the university’s Harry Elkins Widener Library, but I cannot help but think that he might have enjoyed his self-education more, begun it earlier, and avoided the constant need to wash the dust from his hands if his times had allowed him access to a Kindle with an always-on Wikipedia connection.

Now, Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent have collaborated on an extremely useful and elegant new application, called Kindlepedia, that allows Kindle readers to create a Kindle “book” within a few seconds from any Wikipedia listing and transfer (download) it to a Kindle either via USB or Whispernet for offline reading and research at one’s leisure. Not surprisingly, given Joshua’s virtuosity with Kindle formatting issues, the resulting Wikipedia-based “book” arrives on a Kindle in an elegantly formatted, easy-to-read state, with external web links intact so that a reader is never more than a click away from extending one’s research even further, including references beyond Wikipedia. Here are the steps, and just for fun I’ll use the Wikipedia article on one of my favorite underappreciated baseball players, Bernie Carbo:

  • On your computer, go to the Kindlepedia page on the Edukindle website at http://www.edukindle.com/downloads/kindlepedia/. (No need to try to do this Kindlepedia procedure directly from your Kindle; I have already tried and it does not work).
  • Type in the URL of the Wikipedia entry from which you wish to make a Kindle “book” in the entry field in the center of the screen or, if you are relatively certain that a brief keyword or phrase will produce the desired article, you can try that:
  • Click on the “Create Kindle Book” button, and within a few seconds you will see a new screen with these buttons in the center of the display:
  • Click on the “download” button and note from your computer’s dialogue box (or a quick file search, for, in this case “Bernie_Carbo.mobi”) the location to which the downloaded file is being be served on your computer.
  • Transfer this “Bernie_Carbo.mobi” file to your Kindle either by sending it as an attachment to your @kindle.com email address (in which case Amazon will charge you 15 cents per megabyte rounded up and send the converted file to your Kindle via Whispernet) or, for free, by connecting your Kindle to your computer via USB, copying the saved file from your computer to the “documents” folder in your Kindle’s main directory via Finder, My Computer, or whatever file management program you use with your computer, and using the “Eject” Kindle command to disconnect the Kindle from your computer.
  • You should now find the Kindle-formatted “Bernie Carbo” book at the top of your Kindle’s Home screen if your Home display is organized to show all documents, most recent first:

As with any other Kindle book, click on “Bernie Carbo” and begin reading or let your Kindle read the content aloud to you. While reading, you’ll be able to click on any live web link such as the Baseball-Reference link shown here

to extend your research to, say, viewing Carbo’s lifetime stats:

Okay, if you are thinking that this great new research tool is going to curse you with an unmanageably long list or catalog of “books” on your Kindle, let’s revisit a Kindle Nation piece from March 9 (which referenced a Kindle Chronicles podcast from March 6) on A Brilliant Way To Apply Tags To Organize Your Kindle Content:

Amazon’s failure to provide user-defined content management folders or labels is one of the major disappointments offsetting the many improvements that we have seen with the Kindle 2, but a Kindle owner named Larry Goss has developed an elegant work-around system that allows him to “tag” any title on his Kindle. To hear his approach, check out the March 6 edition of Len Edgerly’s Kindle Chronicles podcast. Larry’s idea is detailed in the show comments section a little over two-thirds of the way into the podcast. The gist of it is that you can use any Kindle’s annotation feature to “tag” your content by genre, status, or any other qualifier as long as you create “words” that would not otherwise be found in your documents. For example, I might create two tags for science fiction novels on my Kindle, and thus annotate the first page of each either with SWSCIFIREAD or SWSCIFINEW, to signify Stephen Windwalker’s science fiction novels read or unread. Once the annotation is saved, books with a particular tag will display in the search results whenever you enter that tag. Yes, it is a work-around, but I hope you will agree that it is brilliant in its elegant, workable simplicity, and join me in thanking Larry and Len.

For my purposes, I just create a tag, er, annotation, at the beginning of each of these Wikipedia-based books. The first four letters are always “swkp” for “Stephen Windwalker Kindlepedia” and subsequent letters are the briefest and most simple tag for the content, so that for the Carbo content, I simply open the file on my Kindle, choose “Add a Note or Highlight” from the Menu, type in “swkp carbo,” and click on “save note” at the bottom of the dialogue box. Then I will find the content anytime by typing in “swkp carbo,” whereas typing in “swkp” will show me all my Wikipedia-based content and typing in “carbo” will show me all Carbo references on my Kindle. Fortunately, if I forget some of my own tags, I can also access them by selecting opening the “My Clippings” file on my Home screen.

Kindle DX Secrets: It’s a Calculator!

Congratulations to BlogKindle for this very cool Kindle DX find!

Turns out that the Kindle DX works as a calculator, complete with basic math as well as some commonly used trigonometric functions. Just type a formula (2+2, 2*2, 2-2, 2/2, etc.) as you would type any search term at the Home screen and the solution will appear on the top line of your Home display. Who knew? Well, BlogKindle did!

Don’t forget to use the ALT key to make the Kindle DX’s QWERTY keyboard’s top row render numbers.