Managing Your Free Kindle Books, Part Two: Choosing Wisely and Pre-Organizing

This is the second in a three-part series. Part One is here. Most of the information in this series of posts is specific to the Kindle line of e-readers  and the Amazon bookstore.

In Part One, we looked at an overview of some of the problems that can be caused by having too many books on your Kindle or Kindle Fire. The same is true of the Kindle for PC app for your computer or mobile device. While this is just as true for paid books as it is for free ones, the nature of free tends to tempt us to overload our Kindles.

It is also interesting to note that even if a Kindle is not actually malfunctioning due to too many books (freezing, inability to download or highlight,etc.), many people find that as they get more and more books on their Kindles, the device runs much more slowly (slower page turns, slower search, etc.).

So how do we deal with this? The answer is not to avoid free books! There are some great bargains in the free offerings and I have discovered some tremendously gifted authors through their free books, authors such as Hugh Howey, Keith C. Blackmore,and many others.

What we can do is choose more wisely what books to put on our Kindle.  Why is this important? Because the best way to organize is not to put books (paid or free) on the Kindle in the first place that you are ultimately not going to read.  Think of it as pre-organizing and a way cut down on the Kindle clutter.

Keep lists of the books you want to read:  This is as simple and as old-fashioned as it gets. Write down the name of the title and the author. You can make this as low tech (pen and paper) or as high-tech (MS Word, Evernote or even Notepad for the Kindle) as you are comfortable with. Personally, I use Evernote and have a TBR note where I jot down the title and author, a link to a buy page or the review that first caught my eye. That way, I don’t forget about the book, but don’t have to download the sample to remember it. I can then check the book out at my leisure.

Recommendations:  Nowadays, the free books offered on any given day normally number in the hundreds. There are a lot of websites that list free books (EreaderIQ, Kindle Nation Daily, Books on the Knob, Pixel of Ink and many, many others). An internet search for free Kindle books will bring up pages of blogs and curated lists that can help you find books that interest you. Most of these sites give you the ability to search for books in certain categories and genres. Amazon lists the top 100 sellers, both free and paid.

Don’t have time to search through hundreds of free books to find what you like? There are also a lot of places you can get recommendations for free books without having  to sort through the listings. Most genre groups on social networking sites like GoodReads and Shelfari have a place on the message boards that is dedicated to free books of that particular genre.  And if you are looking for a particular author, check their blog, website or Twitter account: Most authors who offer their books for free on the Kindle let their fans know.

Read the reviews:  This is especially important for people who like to find books, then wait to find them free. Good, honest reviews can help you make a decision about whether to download a book or not. Yet, given some of the recent controversies over fake and purchased reviews, it can be difficult to know whether to trust them or not. If you are unsure, click on the reviewer’s name and check out the other ones that they have written.  Look for warning signs: all reviews for the same author, all five-star reviews, or if tis is the only item the person has ever reviewed. Ultimately, remember that reviews are simply the opinion of the person writing the review.

Read the samples: Often, reading the sample of the book can give you a clearer idea about whether you will like the book or not. Do you like the writer’s style and syntax? Are there grammar and spelling errors? The sample can give you an actual feel for the book.

With free books, however, you do not have the opportunity to send a sample to your Kindle or your app.  However, you can still read the sample on your computer by clicking on the Look Inside feature. And, using the feature means that’s one less sample cluttering up your Kindle. Here what it looks like for the The Man Cave Cookbook, which is free periodically.

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Sometimes, however, samples can cause as many problems as they solve. Some people have pages and pages of samples on their Kindles. Those samples take up space and memory and must be indexed, just like books. In other words, too many samples can cause the same problems as too many actual books!

Fortunately, there are several ways to help organize your samples.  One method is to send all your samples to one place. That can be your Kindle app on your computer or phone. That way, you can read a sample when you have a spare moment to read, but not enough time to get immersed in an entire book. If you have more than one Kindle, you can designate one for all your samples.

If you want to keep your Kindle totally uncluttered by samples,  you can send them to the Cloud Reader instead of your Kindle. As seen in the picture below, samples on the Cloud Reader show their covers, which can give you a visual jog to help you remember the book.

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In Part Three, we will discuss organizing your TBR pile, including more ways to organize books you haven’t even downloaded yet. Note: Due to a family emergency, part 3 was never written.

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Managing your Free Kindle Books, Part One: The Problem with Free

This is the first in a three-part series. Most of the information in this series of posts is specific to the Kindle line of e-readers  and the Amazon bookstore.

A while back, I did a post on where to find free books for your Kindle. A few more are listed in this article on tips for the new Kindle Owner. When I bought my first Kindle in 2008, free books were very few and generally, offered by major publishers or their imprints. Back then, with few freebies and books going for an average of $9.99,  it made sense to grab every free book that was available. And there were some good ones: I got Tess Gerritsen’s The Surgeon (the first book in the Rizzoli and Isles series) and  Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter  as just a couple of my early free books.

Now, it’s a different landscape. With Amazon’s KDP Select publishing, literally hundreds of free indie books are offered daily. The number of blogs, websites and newsletters letting you know the daily free books has multiplied exponentially. Even Amazon has made it easy with a list of the top 100 bestsellers, free and paid, on their website.

So now, the TBR pile (your stash of To-Be-Read books) has become a problem of its own.

This is where the difference between digital and physical books becomes quite clear. For a print book reader, the TBR pile was self-limiting. As some point you literally run out of room, your books fall off the nightstand, or the bookshelf simply will not hold anymore.

For book lovers, digital books didn’t have that problem. No cluttered piles of books. Promises of storage for 2000 to 3000 books on your Kindle.  And, with e-readers that had expandable storage options like the first generation Kindle, you could just keep adding more and more books.

Or so it seemed. Try finding a particular book when you can’t exactly remember the name of the title. What happens when you can’t even see all your books in your archives? What happens when your battery won’t last through a book because it is constantly indexing? What if your Kindle starts to malfunction because it is too full? (And yes, that actually happens!)

So now, it seems, the problem has reversed itself: Instead of asking where do I find free books, people are asking where do I find good free books and, more importantly, how do I organize them all? Who would have ever thought that managing free books for the Kindle could actually be considered a problem?

Are you tired of sorting through lists to find free books that are actually worth your time? Maybe you are one of those people who like an uncluttered Kindle home page. Maybe you have so many books on your Kindle that you can’t find or organize them all. Maybe you are tired of books that are badly written, unedited or badly formatted.  Or, perhaps, your Kindle is actually starting to slow down or malfunction because of the sheer volume of books you own.

Over the next few blog entries, we will try to address solutions to some of those problems.

Next time in Part Two: Choosing more wisely and finding sites that will help you do just that.

And in Part Three: Organizing your Digital TBR Pile. Note: Due to a family emergency, part 3 was never written.