Beta Reading Using A Kindle (Or Kindle Reader) by Johanna Harness

14 Mar

So you want to beta read that manuscript on your Kindle, do you? 

Yeah, I can’t blame you.  Writers spend enough time sitting at computers.  Why not read in comfort?

First off, you don’t have to own a Kindle.  You can download Kindle reading apps for other portable devices too. My top choice for reading Kindle books is my iPad.  For reading on the run, I like my phone.  I have an old, clunky 1st-generation Kindle (the kind with the back cover that keeps falling off), but I can’t stand the scroll bar after getting used to a touch screen.  I upgraded to the Kindle Touch, but returned it because the screen responded so slowly.  Plus?  I thought reading .pdf files on the new Kindle would be cool. Nope.  It wasn’t.  The pdf transferred to a print too small to read.  Making the text bigger meant it shifted off the screen.  Maybe I missed a setting or two and there was a way around this, but I try not to pay money for gadgets that make me want to throw them across the room.

So this isn’t a wild endorsement of Kindles. Rather, it’s a record of what my beta readers and I did with the readers we already owned.

First of all—you with the manuscript—you need to change it into a Kindle file.

You have options and I’ll list them here from most complicated to least:

  • Use Calibre or a similar program.  Writers use these to work on final ebooks they release to the public.  If you already have experience on this level, go with what you know.  Your results will be beautiful.
  • If you already use Scrivener, compile your manuscript as a Kindle eBook.  Is it worth it to buy the program just for Kindle formatting?  Probably not, but use it if you have it.
  • Convert your doc by emailing it to your super-secret email address for converting files. (More on this in a second.)

Now let’s make sure you don’t get charged for converting or receiving documents.

  1. Log in to Amazon.
  2. There should be a menu on the left side.  One of the menu options is “Kindle.”  Hover over that and you get a submenu option: “Manage Your Kindle.”  Click that.
  3. I always have to log in again at that point.
  4. On the next screen, in the left menu, under the header “Your Kindle Account,” there’s an option:  “Personal Document Settings.”  Click that.
  5. Look at your settings for “whispernet delivery options.” You can limit the charge through whispernet 3G or you can do like I do and keep whispernet disabled.  This means you’ll have to use an existing wireless connection (or USB) to get your personal documents.  This works for me.  I don’t need to use their 3G service and I don’t want to accidentally use it if my kindle can’t find my home network for some reason.

Find your super-secret Kindle email address.

  1. From the “Personal Document Settings,” page, find your “Send-to-Kindle Email Settings.”
  2. You will see at least one email address–more if you have more than one device registered.
  3. If you don’t have an address here, make sure your device (or reading software) is linked to your account.
  4. Make note of the Kindle address you want to use.

Add emails to your list of approved senders:

  • From the “Personal Document Settings” page, look at your approved email list.
  • You can only receive documents from addresses on that list.
  • At a minimum, make sure your return email address is there.
  • If writers are going to send files directly to your kindle, make sure to add their addresses here.

If you still need to convert your document:

  • Send it to your own [Kindle name in the above super-secret kindle adresss]  (Subject line: “Convert”)
  • I usually just send this as a .doc file.  It might work with other files.
  • Amazon will send you an email when the file is converted, along with a link to the file.
  • Go to that link.  Deliver the file to your own Kindle reading device.  Make sure you like the way it looks.

Email the file to your beta reader.

You can either send your kindle book to your reader’s Kindle directly (easiest) or email the file and let the reader send it on to the super-secret Kindle address.  When you send to the kindle, there’s no need for subject or message.

After you send, refresh your Kindle and the file should show up.  (It took a few minutes longer than I thought it should, so don’t despair if it’s not immediate.)  If it doesn’t show up after a few minutes, check the archives from your reader.  It sometimes ends up there.

Please note: If you are sending files from a PC, you may need this free program to send files:

Delete the file when you’re done reading.

From the “Personal Documents” page, you’ll see a list of files.  The book you’re reading will appear here.  When you’re done with it, delete it.

This is the method I’ve used with beta readers and it’s worked for us.  It’s really not as difficult as it sounds once we’ve set things up. Please do share your experience in the comments.  Any tips and tricks I haven’t covered? Know of any similar tutorials for Nook?  Do you use iPads in creative ways?  Do you use dropbox or cloud for this?  I’d love to hear what works for you.


Posted by on March 14, 2012 in ebook, reading, writing


Tags: , , , , , ,

21 responses to “Beta Reading Using A Kindle (Or Kindle Reader) by Johanna Harness

  1. Patsy

    March 14, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    Cool, thanks!

  2. Janis McCurry

    March 14, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    This is solid gold. Thanks, Johanna.

  3. John Ross Barnes

    March 14, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    This is So much better than Beta Reading on the pc(even with kindle for pc) and especially if you have more users in your house than computers.

    I ‘m very glad you figured out, or already knew about the Free email to kindle program when you sent to me because I have both the free Kindle for pc and an actual Kindle – And without the Free E-mail to kindle program doc would show up on the pc Kindle, but Not on the actual Kindle machine.

    I’ve also had the same issure with a book I got for free from Amazon – there on pc, not on the “Real” Kindle. – no idea why that happened.

    Thanks for this post and for making it possible for me to read your work on the kindle, not just on the pc.

    No wonder the Warm Fuzzy critters all love you, Johanna!

    • johannaharness

      March 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM

      Aw. . . thanks, John. So glad you’re one of my beta readers. 🙂

  4. Liz Fredericks

    March 14, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    Out of the ballpark on this one, Johanna! Thank you very much for the step-by-step. I use writeway and I think there’s a corollary to scrivener in terms of formatting a manuscript. I’ll check it out.

    • johannaharness

      March 14, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      I’d love to know what you find out about writeway! 🙂

  5. ramblingsfromtheleft

    March 14, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    Good grief, Johanna!!! Whoever knew of such things? My techno-skills might be lacking, and I might get one or two procedures wrong, but the idea that we can do this is so exciting. Thanks so much for this tutorial. It is a real keeper for me 🙂

  6. Peggy Staggs

    March 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    What a great idea AND how to do it all in one. Thanks.

    • johannaharness

      March 14, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      You’re welcome, Peggy. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Meredith Conner

    March 14, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Thanks for posting these steps Johanna.

    • johannaharness

      March 14, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      You’re welcome, Meredith. I hope someone tries this. 🙂

  8. Elspeth Cooper

    March 14, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    I proofread on my Kindle as follows: convert the manuscript’s stylesheet to use 16pt Times Roman, 1.5 linespacing, and A5 paper size with left/right margins 0.7cm, top/bottom 1cm, then print to pdf (I use CutePDF for this, but I believe you can download a similar utility from Microsoft’s website). Connect the K via USB, drag and drop the pdf into the docs folder, and you’re done.

    Note: if you use a font other than Times, you might need to go up or down a point size, but I find this gives me a readable pdf that pages nicely.

  9. jill barville

    March 14, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    As soon as I got my first e-reader in January my second to-do (after downloading a few books) was to give my waiting beta readers a Kindle-friendly manuscript. I tried a pdf file first but it had some issues.

    Since I didn’t own any conversion software and I could already read and write html, I saved my document as a filtered html file and then renamed it to a .txt file and transferred it via the USB cable. This only takes a minute or so as long as you don’t use graphics or a bunch of formatting.

    For a plain text MS this was “good enough” for my beta readers but there are a few html code tweaks you can do to force new pages, etc.,

  10. Mary Vine

    March 14, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Thanks for the great information, Johanna!

  11. klynwurth

    March 14, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    This is amazing, Johanna! Thank you!

  12. Robin Connelly (@RobinConnelly)

    March 14, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Some good information here.

    Do you know if you can do the same on a nook? Or any other E-reader?

  13. JC Rosen

    March 16, 2012 at 6:13 AM

    What a fantastic resource! I was the blind being led, but you did it clearly and gently. Thanks so much, Johanna.

    Take care,

  14. Clarissa Southwick

    March 17, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Johanna, Thanks for the great instructions. I have done this on my kindle a few times, but it’s always been a trial-and-error process. It’s wonderful to have everything spelled out like this for future reference.

  15. johannaharness

    March 19, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    I am so late getting caught up here! Thanks so much for the added possibilities. Robin–I would guess that there are similar ways to do this on the nook, but I don’t know more. I wish I did.


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