Hey, it feels good to give any time of year. This time of year, though, a lot of people are thinking about ways to share with friends, family, and the community.
While I do think community giving is a personal decision, I wanted to give you a couple of websites that could help you with that. GuideStar lets you search for 501(c)3 non-profit groups by keyword. We’ve used Changing the Present. You can give donations in other people’s names, including choosing, say, literacy as a category to find a cause. You can also select charities you would like others to gift in your name.
Amazon also has a program where people can go through their site to make donations. I had suggested something like this when I proposed the Give a Kid a Kindle scholarship…people being able to donate to charities through Amazon.
Amazon’s program is Holiday Giving with Amazon Payments, and you can donate to a number of well-known charities.
Prices change frequently, but I wanted to give you an idea:
- $=Up to $10
- $$=$11 to $50
- $$$=$51 to $100
- $$$$=More than $100
You may have decided to give a Kindle as a gift…yay! You might still be thinking it over.
I think for a lot of people it can be an unforgettable, life-changing present. The increased accessibility of the adjustable text size, text-to-speech, and autoturn can give back the gift of convenient reading to someone who has lost it due to physical challenges.
The access to thousands of free books could give a young person a widened perspective that could change the future.
The first thing for you to know is that a Kindle comes with a thirty day guarantee. If you aren’t sure if the person will be able to use it easily, try to wait until close to the gift-giving occasion to have it delivered.
Second, you can specify that it is a gift when you order it, and it will arrive unregistered. However, if you have a Kindle already, consider adding the person (if it is someone you trust) to your account. If you do that, you can share books. The newly registered Kindle will have access to previously purchased books, so take that into account…no secrets in the Kindle store.
Now, let’s talk about the different Kindles.
There are two Kindles being sold new by Amazon. They have quite a few things in common, and only a few differences. They both:
- Have wireless downloads (where available) of books
- Have text-to-speech (so they read aloud to you, except when blocked by a publisher)
- Use e-ink screens
- Have access to thousands of free books directly from the Kindle store
- Have batteries that hold a charge for a long time
- Play mp3s and audiobooks
- Have automatic back-up for books bought from the Kindle store
Either device is a great reading experience, and a wonderful gift. They are easy enough for non-techies, and gadgety enough for the family geek.
Kindle International (AKA Kindle 2 International) ($$$$)
- Convenient size (6″ diagonal screen, about 8″ by 5″)
- International wireless access (in some countries)
- AT&T wireless in the USA
- 1.4 gigabytes available to user (about 1500 books) on board
- Allows conversion (or native reading) of pdfs
- $259 (international charges additional, depending on country)
This Kindle is best, in my opinion, for casual readers. It’s the latest version (as I write this), although the only innovation since the Kindle DX is international wireless access (in some countries). It’s relatively small, light, very easy to operate. If you are looking for a gift for someone who reads for fun at home and on the road, this is the one.
Kinde DX ($$$$)
- Professional size (9.7″ screen, about 10.5″ by 7″ overall)
- US wireless only (uses Sprint)
- 3.3 gigabytes available to user (about 3500) books on board
- Native reading of pdfs (or conversion)
- Inclinometer: turn the Kindle sideways, the text goes to “landscape”
- NEW VERSION DUE NEXT YEAR (with international access)
- $489 (Amazon only ships this to US addresses)
This is for people with serious reading to do: business documents, textbooks, medical journal articles, that kind of thing. The size isn’t too big to carry around, but it won’t fit in a purse as easily. It’s larger size enables it to display pdf files (a popular format) without conversion more effectively: tables and graphs and such will look better. A doctor who has to read a lot of medical journals (you can subscribe to the New England Journal of Medicine) would find this a better fit, as well as people who need to see tiny detail, like maps, charts, and manga (Japanese comic books, basically).
Note: This model is likely to be discontinued (perhaps after being discounted) next year, when the international DX is introduced. This is based on a statement from Drew Herdener, Amazon’s director of Communications.
So, which one to pick, the DX or the K2i? Some people actually have both: the K2i for novels and popular non-fiction, the DX for work or school. I’d lean towards the K2i for most people, but you may have a specialized giftee who’d prefer the DX. Since there was a recent update that enables the Kindle 2 international to read pdfs natively, that’s less of an advantage for the KDX. However, the larger screen can make a difference on pdfs, since you can’t enlarge the text (except by making it landscape).
We now have two discontinued Kindles. If you buy them from Amazon, you’ll probably be getting a refurbished Kindle. I’d be fine with that, by the way. Refurbished will typically mean it was returned, and yes it may have had a a problem. However, they’d only sell it again if they could fix the problem, right? That means this individual item has been reviewed by a repair crew…sort of like a “certified pre-owned” version. Refurbs are cheaper, and that’s an advantage.
All Kindle books work on all models (discontinued or not), although some look better on the bigger Kindle DX.
Personally, I’d be reluctant to buy a used Kindle from someone I didn’t trust. The risk is that the Kindle has been stolen. If it gets recovered at some point, you’ll lose the Kindle and your money. I’m comfortable with a refurb from Amazon, but not necessarily with something from eBay or Craig’s List or a flea market.
Kindle 1 ($$$$)
- Not available new from Amazon
- Can be purchased refurbished from Amazon for $149.99
- Pluses: SD card, user-replaceable battery
- Negatives: No text-to-speech, smallest memory, other interface differences
The big draw here is the price. There are certainly Kindle 1 loyalists who wouldn’t consider a different model. I liked my 1, but I do like my 2 better. If money for the initial purchase is a key issue, this is the best model for you.
Kindle 2 ($$$$)
- Also retired (replaced by the K2i)
- First of the second generation Kindles
- Identical to the K2i, except a different modem…it doesn’t work wirelessly ouside the US, and uses Sprint instead of AT&T in the US
- $219 refurbed from Amazon
You can save $40 (at time of writing) by buying a refurbed Kindle 2 instead of a new K2i. You won’t get international wireless, but you will get Sprint in the US (which has better coverage than the K2i’s AT&T…although AT&T will be better in some American locations).
Gifts for the Kindle owner
Maybe somebody bought themselves a Kindle (can you blame them?) or they got one as a gift already or one family member is getting them a Kindle this year and others are giving “go-alongs”.
Fortunately, there are a lot of choices. Personalized, posh…even cheap.
Amazon has over two hundred items in its Kindle covers store (although they aren’t all actually covers).
Most people probably have a cover already, but getting a new cover would not be a bad thing. There are covers for different purposes. I strongly recommend a cover to protect the Kindle, especially in drops…and they can be aesthetic as well.
Here are a few:
For people who like gadgets: M-Edge Platform: I use this one. It’s synthetic leather, and flips into a reading easel. It comes in different colors ($$)
For the pack rat: M-Edge Journey Kindle Bag: this one has pockets and an over-the-shoulder strap ($$)
Skins are basically fancy stickers that cover the whole Kindle (except the screen and buttons and edges). They provide some protection, but they are much more about the appearance. There are all kinds for all different tastes, and you can even get them customized. They do go on and off pretty easily, so even if somebody already has one, they can switch…oh, and they are hypothetically reusable. One more thing: I trimmed the custom one from my kid, so my TrackItBack sticker shows (more on that later). I’m not artsy-craftsy at all, but it was reasonably simple to do.
There were more than a thousand results in the Amazon Kindle store skins search I used.
Classy: a lot of people like the Van Gogh’s Starry Night design. ($$)
Booklovers: a bookshelf full of punny titles (War and Peas next to 20,000 Leeks Under the Sea) Gelaskins 6″ ($$)
Sci fi: abstract black and white design ($$)
There are two other sites you might want to try.
Probably the most popular is DecalGirl: they have 319 Kindle 2 (and Kindle 2i) skins and 131 Kindle DX skins. ($$)
http://www.skinit.com SkinIt doesn’t seem to have as many choices, but they have more licensed designs (ones for sports teams and movie characters and such…although they aren’t all available for the Kindle). They also will make custom skins from a design you send them: I have one on my Kindle that my “kid” made for me. ($$)
An extra power cord is a utilatarian gift: one for the office, perhaps? This one fits both the Kindle 6″ and DX models: Amazon Kindle Replacement Power Adapter. ($$)
It’s worth noting that Kindles do hold a charge for a long time, but playing music, text-to-speech, or having the wireless on will drain them more quickly.
I use my White Rapid Car Charger ($) quite a bit…it’s a real bargain at $3.27 (at time of writing)! I’ve never seen it charge it all the way up to full, but it works great for really long car drives with the text-to-speech going. That’s good for the current Kindles.
One of the concerns people have with a Kindle is running out of power when “off the grid”, whether that’s being on the Amazon for a month or in the Post-Apocalyptic World. What a difference a Kindle would have made for Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode, Time Enough at Last, right? Until…it ran out of juice. Well, one alternative is solar charging. In the next couple of years, there will be a panel you have on the back of your e-book reader (maybe integrated when you buy it), but for now, you can use the Solio. It doesn’t provide continuous power like a wall outlet. What you do is charge it up in the sun (and this one is a hybrid…it can also be charged from the wall), and then use it to charge the Kindle. It’s also a good secondary power source to carry with you when charged, just in case. You’ll also need this: iGo Tip A97. Together, they are close to $100 ($$$) without tax and shipping, but a lot of people would think this was a really cool gift…even if they never actually used it. :) If they did…even better! Note: the Solio can not be shipped outside the US, and it does not work for the K1.
There are several types of audio people listen to on Kindles: text-to-speech (not on the K1), music, audiobooks, and so on. The K2 and later models have much better speakers than the K1, but they certainly may still need amplification…or in some cases, you may want to wear headphones so other people don’t hear that…um…particular…story.
A Kindle has a standard 3.5mm (“mini”) audio jack, just like an iPod. It’s not BlueTooth: you are going to plug something into it.
Headphones range from serviceable but inexpensive, like the Coby CVE92 Isolation Stereo Earphones ($) (about $5 at Amazon as I write this) up to the super-dee-duper audiophile whiz-bangs, like the AKG K 450 Premium Foldables, close to $200 ($$$$).
FM transmitter: I listen to my Kindle for hours a week. Mostly, it’s text-to-speech, but I do listen to songs now and then. Any car with an FM radio (pretty much every car nowadays) can use one to send the audio through your car radio. FM transmitters don’t always work well, but I’ve found one I like. It’s the Coby 745 ($$). You can tune through the full frequency range…that’s important, because you need to find a spot without a radio station…not easy where I live. You can also still plug something else into the 12v (“cigarette lighter”), so I can charge the Kindle while I listen. You could also broadcast through a home system, of course.
You can also use a portable speaker. This one is highly-rated and gadgety: iHome Rechargeable Mini Speaker ($$). You would have to charge it up before heading to the beach to share The Island of Doctor Moreau with friends…I don’t think the Kindle can power anything. Sure, you were probably thinking Lord of the Flies would make a better beach read. Just be aware that the Golding book is still under copyright: believe it or not, if you were playing it for a crowd of strangers, you’d be infringing on the copyright owner’s rights.
The Kindle is like a paperbook: you need an external light if you want to read it in the dark. I actually have a couple of them: one I carry with me when I go out, one at home. The one that I hear the most about is the Mighty Bright Light. ($$) I actually use this super cheapie, the Push Button Robotic LED Reading Light. I don’t usually get it from Amazon, just because the shipping is so high on this particular item: it costs thirty-nine cents, but the shipping is $5.49! I’ve been able to find them other places for a buck or two. I do like that you push a little button and it unfolds…reminds me of the martians in War of the Worlds. $
Stuff to read
You know, I was going to use the word “Content” for this section, but ironically, “stuff” seemed less…”stuffy”.
As I write this, it isn’t possible to give someone a book directly from the Kindle store, unless they are on your Amazon account. Amazon says,
“While gifting is not yet offered in the Kindle store, we are working to make it available in the near future.”
People can put Kindle books on a Wish List (see this earlier post), but you can’t buy them directly from there (again, unless you are on the account).
You can, however, give them an Amazon gift card/certificate. You can do it in odd amounts, like $9.99 (a common price for a bestseller at the Kindle store), and then suggest what they get with it. That works really well, I think. Start here. $-$$$$
There are literally hundreds of thousands of Kindle store books, plus magazines, newspapers, and blogs. For more information on blogs (which tend to be cheap and fun…I think they are a good value, even though you may be able to get them for free on the web), see this earlier post. If you do have access to someone’s account, er, um… this blog might make a good small gift (ninety-nine cents a month). ;) It’s the one you are reading now. $
For magazines, look here. There are more than one hundred times more blogs than magazines, but they do have some variety. I have a subscription to Analog Science Fiction and Fact and I like that…in fact, I don’t always finish it before the next month’s issue comes. $
Newspapers are great for someone learning a foreign language, or keeping up with the news from another country…as well as ones from the USA, of course. $
This idea is one that I’ve done myself, and is personal and inexpensive. Go to the free book sites (like FeedBooks.com, ManyBooks.net, Gutenberg.org…). Get an SD card or a flash drive. Now, you are going to download books for the person…text files or mobi files are fine. The personal part is in picking books they’ll like. How are they going to get them on the Kindle? With a K1, they can use the SD card directly. With the others, they’ll put your digital storage in the computer, move the files there, and then connect the Kindle to the computer using the USB cord. It’s not that hard, really. :) I have directions in this earlier post . I call this a “lit mix”.
You could also spend $49.95 and get the Best-Selling Classic Books Library from MobileReference. It requires a little more work…you have to unzip a file and put it in the Kindle’s documents folder, but someone with average computer literacy could do it. It’s 3000 works, and even though a lot of them are short stories…yow! From Little Women to Tarzan to War and Peace, it’s a great collection!
You know that backlight some people want so they can read their Kindle books in the dark…without a booklight? Here you go…and it’s only $278.99! Of course, it’s also the 32gb iPod touch. $$$$
The Kindle can play audiobooks from Audible.com, so how about a gift membership? $$-$$$
Flingshot monkeys are hilarious! You stretch this little stuffed animal monkey (with a mask and cape), let it fly, and it makes monkey noises! Seriously, this is fun in the office…well, some offices. ;) $ They have other animals, too.
The Roku SD player is something I wasn’t sure I’d like (kind of like the Kindle), but turned out to be great! I’m planning on a post about whether TV watching and reading are self-exclusive, but if you know somebody who watches TV and reads, this is a great gizmo! It works with Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand (and Major League Baseball). Basically, it’s a little box that puts streaming video on your TV. It’s really well-designed, very easy to set up (it has a built-in wireless to connect to your home wireless network) and use (just a few buttons). You can watch old TV (I’ve been working through The Dick Van Dyke Show from the beginning) and movies…oh, about two years old and more from Netflix. It’s the stuff you can watch instantly on your computer, but it looks great on the TV! We dropped our premium channels, so it’s really saved us some money. So, not the latest releases, but a lot of quirky stuff and things that are slightly older.
Yes, I have the Star Wars Darth Vader Electronic Bank ($$$) on my nightstand…surprised? ;) This is one of the coolest Star Wars toys (and that is a large category) ever! I don’t use it as a bank, but you press the button, you get James Earl Jones saying, “Impressive…most impressive. But you are not a Jedi yet” and then he raises the lightsaber…and it lights up! Seriously, 13″ tall!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.