Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kindle Fire for Academics

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas this year and have been busy customizing it for academic use. It isn't really marketed as an academic tablet, but I prefer it over the iPad (which is) for its cheaper price tag and lack of distracting games/accessories (although those can easily be installed).

Out of the box, the Kindle Fire is not ideal for PDF reading, which is what a lot of scholars will be doing. While there is a Kindle PDF reader installed, it is minimally outfitted, without the ability to take notes or make bookmarks. Below I explain how to outfit your Kindle Fire with applications that, in my opinion, make it better for academic work.


1. Free the device. The first step should be for you to set up your device to install non-Amazon applications. Click on the little gear icon at the top right of your Carousel home page, click "More", then scroll down to "Device." Click on that and select "Allow installation of applications from unknown sources", and choose "On."

2. Sideload apps. The best thing to do now is to get File Expert. Installing this (just search from the App store) will let you navigate the file structure of your Kindle and open *.APK files and automatically install them. This is important because there are lots of apps not showing in the Amazon App store. This video can show you how to do this.


3. Get the Dropbox app. This application will allow you to download files you've saved to Dropbox, since chances are, you haven't gotten all of your reading materials from Amazon-approved sources which show up in the Carousel.

4. Ditch the Carousel launcher. I'm using Claystone launcher, which I've divided into home pages for Reading Tools, Internet Tools, and Entertainment. There's also the Go Launcher available, and a few others. (A short post on Claystone, with screen shots.)

5. Get ezPDF reader and/or Adobe Reader. I prefer the former because it lets me bookmark and make note that I can export, but my guess is that I may encounter files that are more easily read on Adobe, so I've installed both. I have these, plus Amazon Kindle and Quick Office all available on my Reading Tools home page.

6. Use Screen Filter. The Kindle Fire is different than the standard Kindle because it doesn't use e-ink. While this means I can watch video podcasts (I use BeyondPod for that), it also can make reading difficult due to glare. Screen Filter lets you adjust the brightness of the screen even more than the Kindle factory settings (it essentially puts a haze over your screen).

At this point, my wishlist for the Kindle includes apps for Sanskrit translation, like the Monier-Williams dictionary, but I don't think that's likely. My best bet is just to find searchable versions of these texts that I can access on the device.