Amazon Kindle does e-mail and more

Don't tell Amazon, but its e-book reader does e-mail, RSS feeds and calendaring

In all the marketing blather about Amazon.com Inc.'s awesome new Kindle e-book reader, you won't hear "e-mail," "RSS feeds" or "online calendars" mentioned at all.

Well, they do use the word "e-mail," but only to tell how to convert and install a document (something that happens via e-mail and costs a dime per document).

The device is marketed as a wireless e-book reader. Its best feature is a free broadband wireless connection, which is designed to let you browse and buy books, as well as subscribe to magazines, blogs and daily newspapers, which are downloaded automatically.

You can also surf the Web, but this "surfing" is also optimized for the greater good of enhancing your experience while reading books and periodicals: They point you at reference works and more things to read online.

The Kindle comes with a low-key, "experimental," largely nonconfigurable Web browser. Called Basic Web, the Kindle browser supports cookies, JavaScript and SSL, but doesn't support plug-ins like Flash or Shockwave, or even Java applets. It can't read XML pages, either.

These limitations -- plus the fact that you cannot install third-party applications (except for an app that gives you access to the Audible.com store for buying audiobooks) -- means that using the Kindle's browser for everyday tasks like e-mail, RSS feeds and calendaring is impossible.

Or is it?

I've discovered that the applications Google Inc. designed for cell phones actually work on the Kindle. They're clunky, funky and slow. But if your laptop dies during a business trip -- or if the Kindle is the only device you happen to be carrying, it's great to check your e-mail, free RSS feeds or calendar.

I'll give you URLs to the resources I mention, but you can find direct links on my new Kindle page, which I will maintain and expand indefinitely. Please feel free to use this page as your Kindle browsers "start" page. The URL is: http://elgan.com/k.

You'll also need Gmail, Reader and Calendar accounts to do all this. Once you're signed into one of them from your Kindle, you'll be able to access the rest without logging in again.

Note that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first set of tips on how to do e-mail, RSS feeds and online calendaring from a Kindle ever published.

Gmail on a Kindle

Using Gmail on a Kindle is slow, even slower than on a phone. However, the page is much bigger. So reading, for example, Computerworld e-newsletter subscriptions, is on balance better on a Kindle than on most cell phones.

Like everything else on the Kindle, e-mail is presented one page at a time. There's no such thing as scrolling down. To see what's below, you click one of the "Next Page" bars.

I believe Amazon plans to add e-mail in the future. Why? Because it devoted an entire key to the @ symbol (even such common punctuation marks as the comma and the question mark don't get their own key). In the meantime, Google's free mobile version of Gmail is the best option for using e-mail on a Kindle.

From the Home screen, use the Select wheel to choose Menu at the bottom, then select Experimental. Choose Basic Web, then press the Select wheel to bring up the Enter URL box. The box should already have "http://" after which you can type m.gmail.com, (or go to my Kindle page) then press the Select wheel on the Submit option to enter.

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Mike Elgan

Computerworld
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