By Brad Moon
Don't own a smart phone and looking for a way to access your e-mail on the go? There are a few choices: an iPad comes to mind, or a laptop. Unfortunately, both are rather bulky to be lugging around, they're expensive and if you need access outside of free wi-fi zones, they require investing in a data plan through a telecommunication company as well as even more expensive 3G versions (or a 3G modem). If you only need occasional e-mail access and you're not worried about downloading and reading attachments, there's a very reasonable alternative available from an unexpected source. A Kindle.
Make sure your Kindle is connected to a network (either 3G or Wi-Fi), then click your "Menu" button and select "Experimental." Although it occupies a gray area because it's not the intended use of buying or downloading Kindle books from Amazon.com, the web browser is provided by Amazon (albeit as an "experimental" feature) and you can use it to browse the web -and access web e-email- without incurring charges. The experience is slow and painful compared to the regular methods, but it is free, at least so long as you are within the US and you don't try to download attachments (which incur a Whispernet transfer fee and may not be readable on the device anyway).
Starting from your Home screen (you can't be in book reading mode to do this), from the "Experimental" menu, navigate down to "Launch Browser" and select. With no mouse, the browser uses the Kindle's navigation arrow keys to move over buttons one click at a time. After each click, the E Ink display has to redraw, making rendering pages very slow compared to what you might be used to; but outside of those limitations, it works remarkable well. If you use a POP mail client, the Kindle isn't exactly set up to run 3rd party software, but if you forward your e-mail to a web client like Gmail temporarily, you'll be able to access it on the go through your Kindle
Enter the URL of your web mail client of choice in the URL bar. In this case, it's Google's Gmail. Because Kindle lacks a mouse, use the navigation button to move your cursor to an active element on the display (such as the URL bar or Username). When you are successfully within an editable element, the cursor will change to a pointing finger. At this point, you can use the Kindle's keypad to enter information.
While you're at the login screen, click "Menu" and bookmark this page. That way, the next time you want to log in to your e-mail on your Kindle, you don't have to go through the step of keying in the site's URL.
Your e-mail address is going to include the "@" symbol, which you access via the "Sym" button on your Kindle's keyboard.
Once you log in to your web mail, Kindle's experimental web browser does a good job of rendering the layout, at least with Gmail and Yahoo Mail. If you find the elements too small for easy navigation, click the "Menu" button and you'll be presented with "Zoom In" and "Zoom Out" options.
Outside of the restriction on attachments, you can send e-mail from your Kindle too. Remember that you must use that navigation button to move your cursor into each box (until the icon becomes a pointing finger), then type away. Moving around is the hard part. Once you're in a text entry box, entering data is no worse than typing with a BlackBerry. You may not want to be firing off a dozen in a row, but given the cost (which is nothing), it's a nice perk to have for occasional e-mail access on the go.