A Kindle for the guest room

A Kindle for the guest room

When I went on vacation, I took books with me.

For that matter, when I went to the grocery store, I took books (plural) with me. 😉

However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate having books to read when I visited someone. Like many people, I read every day…but there is definitely something cool about reading a book you don’t own, provided by someone else.

When people come to my house, my floor to ceiling library is one of my favorite things to show them…but honestly, it may concern some people. 🙂 It certainly can be a bit intimidating, especially to the casual reader. Things are categorized and alphabetized, and it’s obvious that some of the books are old and fragile (more than a century old, in some cases).

With the popularization of e-books, things are different.

You can read an e-book with no risk of degradation, so borrowing one should feel a lot safer.

Also, let’s face it: some people are going to prefer to read e-books. There are the advantages for those with print challenges, for one thing, like the ability to increase the text size.

We know we have a guest expected to visit us in late December (in addition to our adult kid). I wanted to provide books…that person is going to be here for close to two weeks, and it’s hard to carry that many books.

So, we are setting up a Kindle for the guest room.

I was a bit surprised to see other people mention that they had a “guest Kindle”, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

It does open up some questions, though. I thought I’d take this post to give you tips and guidance on how to set up a Kindle for guests to use.

We have a

new generation Kindle Paperwhite
at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*

that neither of us are using as our main reader, and we are going to dedicate it to this purpose (it can be a loaner for people as well). I’m going to tailor this to that device, but a lot of the advice I am giving you would work with other Kindles as well. In this post, I’m not going to be talking about the Kindle Fire: for me, this idea is really about books.

The first thing you need to decide is how much access you want the guest to have. I do want to give them access to all of the books on the account…that’s part of the fun for me. 🙂 I like being able to share literally thousands of books (we have over 4,000 items in our Kindle Cloud/archives…that’s not half as many paperbooks as I have…but it’s growing). You might not want that. You might have books that you don’t want people to know that you read (or even that you own).

I’m going to describe how I did it first, giving access to all of the books in our Cloud, but I’ll also tell you how to limit it to books of your choice.

However, I don’t want the person buying more books on the account. It’s not just that I don’t know this person very well, but it’s that the money would come out of our payment methods. Even if the person wanted to pay us back for buying more books, that just complicates things by bringing money into it.

My goal? Give the person access to the books on our account, but not the ability to get new books on the account.

Before I do that, though, I should mention the set up. We did register the device to our Amazon account, and connect it to our wi-fi network (this one doesn’t have 3G). If you are going to use a used Kindle for this purpose, you might want to reset it to factory defaults first. That’s not something you do lightly: it wipes everything off the device that you’ve done to it, including deleting wi-fi networks and personal files. For a guest device, that might make sense, though. I may do that after each time someone is here. To do that: Home – Menu – Settings – Menu – Reset Device.

The next step is to allow access to your Cloud, but not to the Kindle store:

Home – Menu – Settings – Device Options – Parental Controls

Under Parental Controls, tap “Restrictions”.

The first time you do this, you’ll need to enter a password. Make sure you can remember this password. Write it down somewhere secret, if you need to do that.

At this point, you have four options:

  • Web Browser
  • Kindle Store
  • Cloud
  • Goodreads on Kindle

I don’t mind if the person goes on the web, but you can turn that off if you want. I did turn off the Kindle Store. I left on the Cloud (so they can download books we’ve already “bought” on the account). I left Goodreads on Kindle turned on at this point…I may turn it off, though. I’m not sure if that allows the person to rate books and such.

The two key ones: store off, Cloud on.

Now, my guest has access to all of the books in the Cloud, but can’t buy new ones from Amazon.

Easy enough, right? 🙂

Putting on the Parental Controls, by the way, stops someone from deregistering the device, or resetting it to factory defaults.

I’ve gotten some freebies I think the person may like. This visitor also speaks German as their first language (although they are fluent in English and Spanish). I’m going to set the interface to German, just as a courtesy:

Home – Menu – Settings – Device Options – Language and Dictionaries

If you haven’t done it yet, you may also want to review what Cloud Collections you have (for more information, see Understanding Cloud Collections). I’ve created one just for books in German, so that will make it easier for our guest to find them.

Now, suppose you don’t want your guest to know that you have certain books…is that possible?


With the latest update, we got Kindle FreeTime on the Paperwhite. That will let you to just choose certain books to be available (and visible) on the device.

Home – Menu – Kindle FreeTime

Similar to Parental Controls, you’ll have to enter a password to make changes here. You need to set up a profile (you’ll be asked to choose a birthdate…and, I think unnecessarily, a gender). You then check the books to which you want the guest to have access. That’s it: just those books will be available. You then tap “Start”, and just those books will show.

To get out of Kindle FreeTime, tap the menu in your top right corner: you’ll need to enter your password again.

One more use case: what if somebody simply forgot (or lost/had stolen/or it failed) their Kindle, and they want to access their own books?

In that case, they would register the “guest Kindle” to their own account for the duration of their trip. Thanks to Cloud Collections, all of their normal Collections would be available to them.

That’s about it.

Oh, one thing: we have “Whispersync” turned off on our account. My Significant Other and I are sometimes reading the same book at the same time, and we don’t want it to try to sync our reading position. If one person is reading on multiple devices (a Kindle and a phone, for example), Whispersync makes sense. If two people are reading on their own devices, it probably doesn’t. To turn that off, go to


and click or tap

Whispersync Device Synchronization

Now, you can share your love of reading with your guests!

If you have any questions, or thoughts about this for me or my readers, feel free to comment on this post.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)  

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

20 Responses to “A Kindle for the guest room”

  1. Amy Says:

    thank you, Bufo. This was a helpful and timely article. I’m thinking about giving a spare kindle to my niece for her to try out and see if she likes reading on the kindle (she’s one of those who keeps saying she likes reading on paper–me, too! and I like reading on kindle, too). So this article was helpful, too, for my thinking about how to let her try out my books without access to my account. Thank you!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Amy!

      Great! That’s a perfect use for it, and I was thinking about that when I said “loaner” in the post. 🙂 In my experience, the more you love books, the more you love e-books…although there may be an adjustment period.

  2. Amy Says:

    Oops. Sorry, Bufo. Amy is Joanne, I think, in some earlier comments. Frankly, I can’t remember if I wrote as Joanne or Amy before.

  3. Karen Says:

    I love this helpful post. I did not know that about whispersync and since I have multiple Kindles on my account, that will help. My adult son and my grandson (who is 9 and loves to read) both have Kindle Fires I gave them and are on my account. There is still no way to stop the books I buy from showing up on the carousel is there? That drives me nuts!



    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!


      If you use the Kindle FreeTime app on the Fires, you can stop them (or you? I’m not sure if it is bothering you that they show up on the Carousel on your device) from seeing the Carousel…but it may be more complicated than it is worth.

  4. Karen Says:

    Thanks Bufo. I don’t want them not to be able to purchase anything. We give our grandson an allowance and he is learning to budget the money for books or apps but his mom (and her mom) choose different books than I would (trying to put this nicely as they are far right wing and I happen to be to the other side) and I really don’t want them seeing all my purchases!

  5. Nina Soltwedel Says:

    This is an extremely thoughtful way to enhance the hospitality one extends to visitors. Thanks for an interesting and helpful post!

  6. Tuxgirl Says:

    You don’t have to use freetime to limit which books a user can see. You could also just download the books you are okay with sharing, and then turn off access to cloud. For kindles other than the paperwhite2, that is the way to do it (unless its a really old kindle, in which case you want to deregister the device. (And none of the above works on fires….)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tuxgirl!

      I considered adding that one, then didn’t, and kind of went back and forth. 🙂 I’m glad you did. One reason I left it out is that using Freetime also hides Cloud Collections, which some people want to do. You are right to mention it, though, and some may prefer that method.

  7. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I mentioned a few posts back (when talking about cloud collections) about possibly getting a Pw2 to try CC’s out. But I already have 4 Kindles and that would be 5 — a bit much for a single guy (:grin).

    Then your post suggests dedicating one to the guest bedroom, and then the PW2 would slot in nicely as the “fourth” active kindle instead of “fifth” 😀 . Also my sister came to visit with my brother, and while my brother and I were putting up Christmas decorations, she grabbed a paperback off a shelf and started to read. I was afraid she would walk off with it — I don’t lend out my pBooks — they are set up in a DB which is not able to do lending.

    She has an original KF which she hasn’t figured out how to use very well (tech frightens her), but I can buy an ebook version of the pbook for her — so she can take it with that way, and maybe get her started with her KF. Also in the future the guest KF would provide an alternative to grabbing pbooks off the shelves 😉 .

    I got a PR a few hours ago announcing discounts for some KF’s. I guess I’ll wait a day or so to see if there are going to be any promotions for the PW2.

    I do have some questions about how to migrate a couple of non-CC collections (2 out of a total of 15) and their contents from my KT to a new PW2. About 20% of the content was not purchased from Amazon. Anyhow, I’ll send you a private email with those questions — as they probably don’t belong with this post.

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