Should You De-Synchronize Your Kindle?

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September 26, 2016

Should you de-synchronize your Kindle? As my lawyer might say, it depends.

Synch_ButtonLet me explain. Amazon makes it possible for you to read a book that you have purchased on whatever reading device that you happen to have with you at any time, as long as two requirements are fulfilled:

Requirement 1: Amazon software must be installed on all reading devices.
Requirement 2: An internet connection must be present.

When these two requirements are met, Amazon allows you to access your whole library of books that you have purchased through the Kindle store no matter where you am or what device you happen to have with you at the time.

Very cool.

For me, it means being able to fire up Drive or How We Decide or Iconoclast while waiting for a haircut or for a movie. My Michael Connelly novel is with me during rain delays and long lines at the supermarket. Synchronization means that I have achieved a state of multiple-platform nirvana wherein all my books are with me all the time.

Even better, I don’t have to remember what page I was on in any of them. The mother ship at Amazon always offers to “synch to furthest page read” when I open a book on a different device than the one I was reading on last time. This way, I never lose my place and the reading experience becomes, as Jeff Bezos would say, “frictionless.”

Except when my wife is reading the same book on her Kindle. Then, the “furthest page read” may not be MY furthest page read; rather, it may be HER furthest page read. The synchronization feature also means that her highlights appear in “my” copy of the book. In this case, the ability to share books among multiple Kindles/devices registered to the same account creates a conflict with the ability to synchronize one’s reading among those various devices.

This conflict raises a special problem for teachers who may be leveraging the ability to load books on multiple devices and make more texts available to more students for the same price. What to do?

I only recently learned that you can “de-synchronize” the Kindles and other devices registered to a single account, and if the downside of synchronization is just too great–Josh keeps underlining all the text in everybody’s copy of Old Yeller–then it is easy to take care of the problem.

Just go to the page at Amazon called “Manage My Kindle” and scroll to the bottom, where you will see a link named “Manage synchronization between devices.” This is where you will find the following guidance from the Amazon team (see below, #1):

“You should turn synchronization off only if:
* You and someone else are reading the same book, AND
* The Kindles are registered to a single account”

The recommendation seems sound, if a little bossy. So many advantages of the Amazon Kindle system flow from the synchronization feature that it only makes sense to keep it on (which is the default setting) unless it is creating a problem for you.

If you decide to “de-synchronize” because you want each device in the classroom (or at the house) to operate independently of the others, then look for the button on the right that allows you to “Turn Synchronization Off” (see illustration, #2).

Synch Screen

Click for larger image

Remember, teachers, that turning off synchronization does not in any way interfere with your ability to load books onto Kindle, or with the students’ ability to highlight passages or make notes. Those highlights and notes will simply be stored “locally,” saved only on the specific Kindle on which they were made. They can still be accessed by your or the students by tethering the Kindle to a computer with the USB cord and accessing the text file where those notes and highlights are stored.

Now, sometimes it might be cool to have multiple students commenting and highlighting a book across multiple devices. That might even become a best practice for Kindle/ereader use in the classroom. A literature circle or book club of kids take on a read together, share their notes and highlights, and then each create a summary piece of writing explaining a passage or two that received particular attention from the group. Or make the marked up text a group project, finding six passages that seem significant and each making a comment that the teacher could read and respond to or even grade.

Hint: one special power of the synchronization feature is that the highlights and comments that are made in the text by an individual or a group are available for viewing online here after login. Sign in and look at the column to the right; there you will find a icons for “Highlights” and “Notes.” Students could be required to put their name at the end of each note they create, and the teacher could browse these notes easily without have the Kindles handy or any file transfer reqquired.

So, in the end, whether you keep your devices synchronized or not just “depends” on the kind of reading experience multiple readers on a single Amazon Kindle account want to have.

  4 comments for “Should You De-Synchronize Your Kindle?

  1. Susan Ignelzi
    December 26, 2014 at 12:08 am

    I purchased 3 kindle fires kids edition for my grandsons and set them up under one adult account. Whispersync synced all that the kids did and they ran out of space quickly. Didnt even make through the day/
    Their Kindle stopped working on the wifi and they could do nothing. They hadn’t even downloaded many apps at all. Hopefully this will cure the issue of all 3 syncing and sharing the small 8 GB os spapce each unit has. If anyone has experienced this please let me know

  2. paul
    July 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Oh, just discovered another problem! One of our iPads shows the three test bookmarks– but without any text in them!

    I realize that WS has been around for several years, but it doesn’t seem ready for prime time!

  3. Paul
    July 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Appreciate your sound, thoughtful, intelligent writing on this issue.

    I tried WhisperSync recently… what an absolute mess!

    Bookmarks vanishing (permanently), bookmarks and locations not updating, synching working only some of the time, only working on certain devices some of the time, synching logic seems off in some cases, too…

    I’m not messing with it any more– too many hassles, taking up too much time!

  4. Laura
    May 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’m very interested in this question, but from a slightly different angle. I am in the exciting position of being able to purchase ereaders for my middle school book group. The administration wants to go with Nook because B&N is willing to use the Purchase Order process and Amazon isn’t. One of the greatest advantages of the Kindle is the sharing of one book among multiple devices. I don’t think this is possible with the Nook, but I’m having trouble finding that answer. Do you know?

    Thank you so much!

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