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10 Cool Things You Can Do with Your Kindle Fire

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Did you know that you can email documents, load your own content, and sideload apps with the Kindle Fire? Scott McNulty, author of The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, offers a list of ten cool things he loves about the Kindle Fire.

As the author of The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, it will come as no surprise that I'm a fan of the device. The Fire can do many, many things, but I've been asked to limit myself to just ten of my favorites. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Read. This one might be a given, but the Kindle Fire is a great reading device. It is about the same size as a paperback, not too heavy, and because the screen is backlit you can even read on your Kindle Fire in a dark room. Amazon's WhisperSync technology syncs your current location, notes, and highlights to Amazon's servers. Anytime you open that book on a supported Kindle device (either one of the many Kindle apps available for a number of platforms or any of the hardware Kindles) it'll open to where you left off.

  2. Better with Amazon Prime. You've probably heard of Amazon Prime, the $79 membership program that gives you two-day shipping on many Amazon.com items, but did you know Prime membership makes your Kindle Fire even better? Prime members can stream an unlimited number of movies and TV shows from Amazon Prime Video in the Video section of your Kindle Fire. Plus, Prime members can borrow a book once a month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library right on your Kindle Fire at no additional charge.

  3. Apps. Having an app store for your device isn't unique nowadays, but the Amazon App Store does have a few neat futures you won't find anywhere else. Every day Amazon gives away a paid app for free. This is a great way to load up your Kindle Fire with some high quality apps without breaking the bank. The Amazon App Store also allows you to test drive certain apps on the App Store website (no on-device demos of apps, yet). Clicking on the green Test Drive Now button opens a browser window with the app running inside of it. Click around, test out the app and decide if you want to purchase it before you spend a dime.

  4. Email documents. Did you know that your Kindle Fire has an email assigned to it? You can use this email address to send files to your Kindle Fire wirelessly. First you set up an approved list of senders to prevent spam, and then you can email text documents, PDFs, Word documents, and more to your Fire. Amazon's servers either convert the document to Kindle format or, in the case of PDFs, just pass the file along to your Fire. The file is stored on Amazon's servers, which means you can delete it from your Fire to save space but you'll always be able to re-download the document whenever you want from the Amazon archive.

  5. Load your own content. There is a common misconception that the Kindle Fire only supports movies and books purchased directly from Amazon.com. It is certainly very easy to fill your Kindle with content from Amazon, but you can also load your Fire up with ebooks, movies, music and pictures right from your computer. You'll need a mini-USB cable to do this, which isn't included with the Fire. Chances are you have one lying around your office though, since lots of computer peripherals use the same cable. Plug the cable into your Fire and the other end into a USB port on your computer. The Fire will go into USB Drive mode and show up in your computer's file system as an external USB drive. Double click on the Fire drive icon, and you'll see a bunch of folders with names like Music and Books. Just drop your files into the proper folder, and when you disconnect your Fire from the computer your content will be waiting for you.

  6. All your music. The Fire only has 6GB of space that can be used to store content. That isn't too much space, but yet I can listen to any of over 16,000 songs in my music library (which take up something like 80GB). Did I use dark arts? Nope, I just uploaded all of my music to Amazon's Cloud Drive (basically storage space on Amazon's servers). Everyone with an Amazon account automatically gets some free space in their Cloud Drive, with additional space available for a small fee. Upload your music to your Cloud Drive using Amazon's uploader utility, and it will all show up in the Cloud section of the Kindle Fire music app. This does require that you have a WiFi connection to listen to your music, but since the music is streamed from Amazon none of it takes up any space on your Fire.

  7. Sideload apps. Your Kindle Fire runs a heavily customized version of Google's mobile operating system known as Android, which you may have heard of. Google has an app store with lots and lots of apps for Android, many of which aren't available on Amazon's app store. Amazon only offers a select subset of apps on their official store, but you can "sideload" apps from other sources onto your Kindle. The whole process is a little too involved for this article, but I outline it in my book (see what I did there?).

  8. Lock it. As you start to use your Kindle Fire more and more, you'll fill it up with your content and lots of information about yourself (email, contacts, documents). This is great, but what happens if you lose your Fire or it is stolen? Someone will have access to all your content and information. They'll even be able to purchase more content from Amazon with your credentials. This can be averted by setting a lock screen password. Go into the "More settings" section and tap "Security." Here you can turn On, or Off, your lock screen password. Make it complex!

  9. Gift giving. If you want to be very popular, why not give the gift of a Kindle Fire? Normally, when you purchase a Kindle Fire from Amazon, it is automatically registered to your Amazon account. It is also shipped to your door in a box that proudly declares a Kindle Fire is inside. If you want to ship an unregistered Kindle Fire in a plain box to the lucky person you're buying one for, be sure to look for the "This will be a gift" checkbox on the Kindle Fire's Amazon product page. Check it and the Fire won't be registered to your account and will ship in a plain box.

  10. Manage Your Kindle. Technically, this isn't a feature of the Kindle Fire, but it is something that most Kindle owners aren't aware of. You can manage a number of your Fire's features via Amazon.com. Point your browser to http://www.amazon.com/myk/ and log in with your Amazon account. From here you can add email addresses to your approved sender list (for use with the document emailing feature), manage your subscriptions, and even download purchased books to your computer so you can manually transfer them to your Fire in case you can't connect your Fire to the network for some reason.

These 10 items are just a small glimpse at all the cool things you can do with your Kindle Fire. Have a favorite tip or trick I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments.

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