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I’ve been away for a week in the wilds of Wyoming. For the trip, my suitcase was jam packed as usual, so I was delighted that instead of loading up further with a handful of books, all the reading matter I took was in my Kindle.

On the road is where the Kindle really shows its worth. It’s also where you’ll encounter its limits.

I love being able to stock it with a variety of reading matter and thus have something on hand to read no matter what my mood. Heading off on a trip that’s part holiday, part work, it’s hard to know exactly where my reading fancy will alight. With my pre-stocked Kindle, I had no worries on that front at all.

On the other hand, I’m really glad I pre-stocked my Kindle.  Once away from New Orleans, I had no luck at all with Whispernet, the Kindle’s wireless service. I couldn’t get a link in the Salt Lake City airport, nor in Billings, Montana, and certainly not in the small town in Wyoming where I ended up.

If you live in a remote area, or even a not-so-remote area, before purchasing a Kindle you might want to see whether you can get Whispernet service. Without it, the Kindle is still usable, but certainly not as convenient. You can check the wireless coverage for your area using the Kindle Coverage Tool. Note that although Amazon’s Kindle page mentions there’s no wireless coverage “for Kindle in Montana and Alaska”, it fails to mention that in many other states the coverage is close to non-existent.

Manual downloads

Fortunately, you don’t have to use Whispernet to get content onto your Kindle. Connect your Kindle to your computer via a USB cable and you can download content manually.

When you purchase a Kindle book on Amazon, you’ll receive it automatically if you’re in Whispernet territory and your wireless is turned on. If your wireless is not switched on, you’ll automatically receive the item next time you switch it on in Whispernet range. At the same time, the item you purchase is placed in your Amazon Media Library. Visit your media library, click the Downloads link and choose any of the Kindle content (books, newspapers or blogs), and you’ll see a list of your purchased titles. Click the Download To Computer button and you’ll get a copy of the Kindle item on your computer. You can then click and drag this item into your Kindle.

It’s nowhere near as slick as using Whispernet, but at least it means you can use your Kindle anywhere you have an Internet connection.