January 13, 2012, 8:42 AM — Amazon has just made your Kindle a lot more useful for things other than reading Kindle ebooks. Yesterday it launched a new Windows extension called "Send to Kindle" and the name says it all. This program helps you send documents to your Kindle device (a Mac version is in the works).
So what does this mean? Well Kindles have always had the option of displaying "Personal Documents" that you could deliver to your device by emailing them to an address assigned to your Kindle account. It worked but it was kind of cumbersome. Option 2 was to attach your Kindle to a computer and drag files over. Again, cumbersome.
Send to Kindle does two things. First it adds an entry to Windows Explorer's context (right click) menu. So if you have a PDF file you want to read on your Kindle, right click on it, choose Send to Kindle from the context menu and in the resulting pop-up choose which Kindle devices you want to send the PDF to (assuming you have more than one). You can even opt not to choose any devices and the file will just go into your "Kindle Documents Library" in the cloud for later access (you can find you cloud on the Amazon site under "Manage my Kindle."). You can also specify that you don't want the file stored in your cloud library, just sent to your Kindle.
In addition to PDF files, you can send .doc, .rtf or .txt files, various image files (.jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp) and .mobi ebook file formats. Not, unfortunately, epub files. There's also a size limit of 50 megs. PDFs get sent to the Kindle unchanged but other files are converted to Kindle format.
The second function of Send to Kindle is allowing you to print to your Kindle. Basically what this does is print a document to PDF and send it over to the Kindle all in one step. I found this immediately useful on the web. Say you purchase something online while you're at work and you wind up on a page that displays your receipt. Rather than printing to the office printer, you can just Send to Kindle and you'll have a copy of your receipt stored in the cloud and on your device. This is also a good option when you come upon a really long online article that you're interested in reading. Send it to the Kindle and read it in comfort later on. (If you do this a lot, a service like InstaPaper is probably a better option.)
So Send to Kindle is convenient, but it brings along another new feature. Documents that get converted to Kindle format will now sync between Kindle devices. That means last page read, bookmarks, notes and highlights are all shared across devices. Start reading on your iPhone at work, pick up your Kindle Touch when you get home and the Touch will know where you left off. This has always been the case with Kindle books purchased through Amazon but as far as I'm aware, this is a new feature for Personal Documents.
This means you can purchase an ebook at another store, and as long as it's available in .mobi format, or can be converted to .mobi format, you can send it to your Kindle and it'll behave exactly like a Kindle ebook.
You have to be a bit careful though. Every time you use "Send to Kindle" it creates a new file in your Personal Documents Library. So if you want a document to be on your Kindle Fire and your iPhone you need to send it to both devices at the same time. Otherwise you'll end up with multiple copies of the same book in your library and Amazon will treat them as separate books and won't sync between them. The alternative is to send the book to one device and then head to Manage My Kindle on Amazon.com and use the "Deliver to..." function to push the book to other devices.
I made this mistake while testing and it was a bear to fix. In the end I had to delete the book from all devices, reboot all devices (to clear some kind of cache, I imagine), then delete the extra copies of the book from my Documents Library at Amazon.com, and then finally push the single remaining version of the book to all my devices.
It's also important to note that "Send to Kindle" only works with actual Kindle hardware or Kindle apps that support personal documents (that means iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch). Let's hope Amazon shares the love with other platforms soon.
Send to Kindle won't change the world or anything, but it's a darned convenient (free) program to have if you're a Kindle user.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.