Your Kindle e-reader isn’t the kind of gadget you upgrade all that often, and you might have one that’s been serving you well for years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you know everything that Amazon’s e-reader can do. Here are some of the lesser-known features and settings you can play around with on your Kindle, from enabling the dark mode to remapping device buttons.
Amazon has seen the light and updated the Kindle software so that you can now use actual e-book cover art on the screen when the device is in standby mode. It’s available on all relatively new Kindle devices, though you do need an ad-free model for the feature to be available, and it’s still rolling out. Open up the main Settings screen, then tap Device Options and Show Cover. Most e-books, magazines and comics support the feature.
A select number of e-books written in English support a Kindle feature called X-Ray, which really shows off the advantages of books in a digital form, where available. It links together clips, themes, characters, images, and more for the title you’re reading, and can help you make sense of particularly dense tomes. While you’re reading, tap near the top of the screen to bring up the toolbar, then tap the three dots to see if the X-Ray option is there.
One reason you might pay extra for the most recent (2019) Kindle Oasis 3 is that it’s the only Amazon e-reader that can change the screen warmth—making it easier on your eyes at night, and making it feel more like a worn paperback to look at. If you have the Oasis 3, you can open Settings and then go to Device Options, Display Settings, and Warmth Schedule to have the screen hue shift based on the time of day or any timings you like.
The “experimental” browser on Kindle devices has barely been touched by Amazon for years, so we’re assuming it’s not a huge priority for the Kindle development team. A lot of pages won’t render properly, but the built-in Kindle browser can be useful for quickly checking up on basic sites. From the home screen, tap the three dots (top right) then Experimental Browser to launch it. Type the URL you want in the Web box at the top.
A small but very handy change that Amazon has made to the Kindle software recently is the ability to group e-books together on the library screen, if they’re from the same series. It makes a lot of sense and helps give you a sense of progress as you work your way through whatever series you’re reading. From the Settings page, tap Device Options, Advanced Options, and Home & Library, then select Group Series in Library.
If you subscribe to Amazon-owned Audible’s audiobook platform, you can switch between reading e-books and listening to them on select titles—assuming you’ve bought both versions and have a pair of Bluetooth headphones hooked up to your Kindle. With an e-book open on your e-reader, tap near the top of the screen to bring up the toolbar, then tap on the headphones icon (bottom right) to start listening to it.
Amazon Kindles don’t always refresh the entire screen completely every time you turn the page, in the interest of speed and battery life—which can sometimes leave a few ‘ghost text’ effects behind. To make sure the screen gets fully reloaded every time you turn a page on your e-reader, open up the Settings screen and then choose Reading Options. Turn the Page Refresh toggle switch to On, and see if you prefer the change in refresh rates.
Kindle devices have a brightness slider that you can bring up by tapping the Settings button on the toolbar (tap near the top of the screen if you can’t see it). However, scrolling up and down the brightness slider in small increments isn’t always going to be the sort of adjustment you need. If you’d rather jump to the brightest or the least bright setting on your e-reader in an instant, just press and hold on the minus or plus button.
As on your smartphone, setting up a passcode for your Kindle e-reader stops random strangers and close family members alike from picking up your device and playing around with it. It perhaps wouldn’t be the worst security breach in history, but someone else could still access your reading history and make purchases from your account. From Settings on the Kindle, tap Device Passcode to add this extra layer of protection.
Like most software these days, the Kindle operating system has a dark mode you can switch to if you want to rest your eyes or just need a change. The switch is behind Settings on the main toolbar, which is always visible on the home screen and can be brought up inside an e-book by tapping near the top of the screen. For the time being though, this is only available on the Oasis 2 (2017), the Paperwhite 4 (2018), and the Oasis 3 (2019).
The Kindle is fully set up to let you share e-books you’ve purchased with your partner and your kids, where necessary. From the main Settings page on the e-reader, you can choose Household & Family Library, Add a New Person, then Add Adult or Add Child. Alternatively, you can set up your Amazon family and the people in it by going to the Amazon Household page on the web and configuring your accounts from there.
If you’ve splashed out on the premium Kindle Oasis e-reader, you can remap the buttons on the side of the device so they have the reverse effect when it comes to going forwards and backwards. Open up the Settings screen on your Kindle Oasis, then tap Reading Options and Page-Turn Buttons to set your preference, either Default or Reverse. The preference is then applied no matter how the device happens to be oriented.