Amazon Kindle Review (With an Eye on Bible Study)

In books, reference, technology on March 8, 2008 at 4:23 pm

kindleSo, here it is. I’ve been using the Amazon Kindle just a few short weeks and it has certainly beat out any expectations I had. It’s not perfect, but we’ll get into that. There are plenty of other reviews of the Kindle out there, but this one is with a focus on using the Kindle as a Bible study tool.

What is a Kindle

I get asked this question a lot as people come across me using this “we only pretended to study the iPod while designing this thing” device. Its main function is to be an e-reader, to let you store multiple books on one device and provide you with a display that is not draining on the eyes after hours of reading. You buy a book (or find free a book) and download it to the Kindle, then you read through it just like you would any normal book, using the buttons on the side of the device to turn the pages forward and backward. Two things set the Kindle apart from other e-readers that have come out in the past: Amazon created it so you know the publishers will be following closely to keep up with their good friends in Seattle and it includes the ability to connect to Sprint’s cellular network and download the books from Amazon.com anywhere you can get a Sprint signal. These are great features, but personally, the thing that set the Kindle apart was the QWERTY keyboard that was included on the device, this allows you to take notes in the margins and highlight passages that interest you. I scribble a lot of notes while I read and now I can go back and read over them and even search through them since they are all electronic.

What Kind of Books Can You Put on the Kindle

From the Kindle you can browse the current selection of books offered at Amazon.com for the device. I will say at this point, the selection of “Christian” books is fairly slim although I don’t necessarily read the types of Christian books you would find in the Christian book store (see my library at LibraryThing). A nice feature to the Kindle is the ability to put your own books on it. There are lots of free books that you can download in html or pdf format that you can put on your Kindle simply by email them as attachments to yourdevicename@free.kindle.com. A few minutes later, you will get an email back from Amazon with a properly formatted azw file to download to your Kindle via USB. I’ve found quite a few books at ccel.org that I’ve been meaning to read through but haven’t because I didn’t want to read them on my desktop computer. Here’s a quick overview of the process:

  1. Download a book to your computer, try Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.
  2. Compose an email to yourdevicename@free.kindle.com and add the PDF file as an attachment.
  3. Plug in your Kindle to your computer with the USB cable.
  4. After you get an email from Amazon with the azw file attached, download that attachment directly to the “documents” directory on your Kindle. That’s it!


Even though these books are free, people still had to spend some cash to get it up on the web, it might be a good idea to make a donation to the websites so that they can continue to offer these great services to us.

What Does the Kindle Mean For Bible Study

I have two versions of the Bible on my Kindle, the NASB and the ESV. Both of them have very awkward navigation methods. When you open the Bible, you start on whatever page you last left off on. This is difficult because if you are in the middle of a chapter, you will have no idea what chapter you are in or what book you are in. The book/chapter reference is not displayed anywhere on the screen except at the beginning of a chapter. The way around this is to change your habits a little and make full use of the search feature. When you want to read Ephesians 3, simply hit search then type in eph 3 and hit enter. You probably won’t be as fast jumping around the Bible on the Kindle as you would with a paper Bible but once you get the hang of it you won’t have any problem keeping up with sermons or Bible studies where the leaders jump from passage to passage. If you know you are going to be in three or four passages and want to flip back and forth between them, you can bookmark each one and jump between bookmarks easily.


I’ve touched on the cons of using the Kindle for Bible study, now for the pros. Search-ability. Can’t remember that verse you were reading earlier? Type in a word or two and you’re all set. This comes in handy when you’re away from a computer. You can also search any notes you’ve typed into the device, so if you are taking notes for a particular study, it might be good to tag your notes. For example, my Bible study group is going through Desiring God, so I’ll use the term “DG#” to indicate a particular note is for a chapter # in the Desiring God study. This is nothing new, you can do all this from any computer, but having it in a device that weighs almost nothing and has a battery that lasts close to a week is pretty cool. Searching will look through every book/note on your Kindle but the first result comes from the book you are currently reading.

A Few Tips

For any Kindle owners, here are a few things I’ve picked up during my use:

  • All of your notes are stored as txt files so you can download them to your desktop and read through them.
  • Don’t wait for the screen. The redrawing of the screen takes about 0.5 seconds but the Kindle will buffer any commands you give it during the redraw period. For example, if you know how many clicks of the scroll wheel it takes to get to the “Add Note” command you can click on that and begin typing your notes before the screen catches up with you. You can get really fast if you trust yourself and command the Kindle before waiting for the screen to catch up. Typing is similar. Don’t wait for your letters to appear, just type away and don’t wait for the screen to catch up.
  • You can press the Next Page and Prev Page buttons multiple times before the screen redraws. So, if you know you want to jump three pages away, press the Next Page button three times quickly and you will jump that many pages away without having to redraw each page along the way.
  • Make good use of the search function, it’s much faster than navigating.
  • If you create your own books, be mindful of the title you use, if you are creating a reference book, you may want to add a “ZZ” to the beginning of the title, that way all books that start with ZZ will be at the back of your list.
  • Keyboard shortcuts are very helpful. Learn em. A list is here.
  • You can take screenshots on the Kindle and make them your screensaver. I took a screenshot of a passage in 2 Peter that I’ve been memorizing and now it is my screensaver so I can memorize it.
  1. Jason:
    I also posted some thoughts on this subject on my blog (though without the benefit of actually having a Kindle to try it on!).


  2. Thanks Sean, I came across your blog a while back while looking around for Kindle Bible study references and I appreciated that posting.

  3. […] already available for the Kindle (ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB, etc). They all cost less than $10. This article outlines some good suggestions for using the Kindle for Bible study. As with any other book, you […]

  4. I am in love with my Kindle and have been floored by what a great Bible Study tool it is!

  5. One quibble with the review…

    “When you want to read Ephesians 3, simply hit search then type in eph 3 and hit enter.”

    I’ve yet to see a version of the Bible for the Kindle where book / chapter searches like this work. I have the NASB, HCSB, and NET versions of the Bible on my Kindle. A search like “eph 3” returns no results. I’m reduced to going back to a table of contents (the NASB has a nice one) or, worse yet, having to create one myself out of bookmarks.

  6. Great Tips! I am very happy with my Kindle and look forward to many happy hours of reading. Thank you

  7. Nice review. I’ve been thinking about purchasing a Kindle with a heavy deciding factor based on the Bible study experience, and while other sites made it sound extremely cumbersome, you make it sound usable.


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