The first Kindle e-reader was released in 2007, and the popular product line has continued to evolve with upgraded models ever since. But with each new release, you might be left with an old model that you don’t know what to do with.
Instead of throwing it away, here’s what you can do with it. From a DIY smart home display to a homemade electronic message board, these projects will show you how you can upcycle your Kindle.
What You Will Need to Upcycle Your Kindle
The projects listed here do a fantastic job of repurposing an old Kindle. Some will work on the software end of things to change what the Kindle can display. Others include adding functionality with electronic components like an Arduino.
In most cases, however, you will need to jailbreak your Kindle. Practically, this means making changes to the software to remove restrictions placed by the manufacturers.
Here is everything you need to know about jailbreaking.
If you feel comfortable following instructions, it’s not too complicated. And the benefit of saving another tech device from ending up in the landfill is a huge benefit.
1. Smart Home Display
The e-ink display on a Kindle is unobtrusive and easy to look at. It’s also a really valuable electronic part that can be used to display more than just books. In this case, it’s perfect for a DIY smart home display.
Matt Healy had a few design goals in mind when figuring out how he wanted to upcycle his Kindle. The display needed to show data about upcoming deliveries, weather, calendar events, and general notes, all in a timely fashion. The solution that was chosen was to pull a screenshot from a website at an interval of once every minute.
The Kindle 4 was used in this case, which can be brought for less than $30 second-hand. It’s the only piece of hardware you need. The rest involves following some not-too-difficult instructions to set it up.
Once mounted on the wall, it looks beautiful and minimalist. A wonderfully satisfying upcycle project and completely free if you have an old Kindle lying about.
2. Literary Clock Kindle Display
A Kindle e-reader plus a literary clock equals a match made in heaven. For every minute of the day, your Kindle can display a quote from a book that tells you what the time is.
That’s 1,440 minutes, and quotes, to be exact. Luckily, the hard work has already been done behind the scenes; all you need to do is follow some installation steps.
Project designer Jaap Meijers found most of his quotes from a list compiled by the Guardian newspaper. He then turned these quotes into images and wrote a script that would retrieve the right quote at the right time. After jailbreaking your Kindle, you will need to install these files and scripts onto the device.
The only piece of hardware used is a Kindle 3 WiFi, a very early model that has a keyboard attached. You can try to find this model second-hand from eBay or ask around to see if anyone will donate you one. However, other people have been able to make the clock work on later touchscreen models.
You can find the complete guide on Instructables. And for a lovely web version of this clock, check out the work of Johannes Enevoldsen.
3. Kindle Music Reader
For musicians, iPads are proving to be the perfect alternative to carrying around paper sheet music. You can even buy foot-switches that work with an iPad to flip pages wirelessly. But buying a tablet just for this is purpose is far too expensive, especially when you can use a Kindle instead.
To build this project you will need an ESP8266 for wireless communication. After jailbreaking your Kindle, there are several pieces of software you will need to install that allow you to run custom scripts. You can download the scripts on the project’s Instructables page, where you will also find the configuration steps.
On the hardware end, you will be building a simple two-button switch circuit. It’s not complicated and can be redesigned to suit your needs.
4. Kindle Fire + Raspberry Pi Monitor
Kindle Fire was another line of e-readers/tablets that has since dropped its Kindle name. Despite this, old Kindle Fire tablets are still about, and people are still looking for ways to upcycle them. That’s how this Kindle Fire was turned into a monitor for a Raspberry Pi.
It works by connecting your Raspberry Pi to the internet and using the Microsoft Remote Desktop app. Of course, you can’t simply download the app to your Kindle, so you will need to download an Android APK file for the app.
Head over to the Instructables page for detailed instructions. Once you have the monitor up and running then you can use it as you see fit. For models with slow refresh rates, using it for relatively static displays is appropriate. This could include displaying live data, calendars, computer stats, temperature, art, and more.
5. Kindle Fridge Message Board
Are you sick of dealing with social messaging apps or work slack channels? With people trying to contact you all the time, communicating online is becoming a chore.
To turn that around, you can try this: a Kindle-powered message board that you can send emails to. Fun, light-hearted, and potentially very handy.
With a Kindle mounted to your fridge, anyone with its email address can send it a little note. The message is then displayed till the next email comes in. It’s the perfect way to reuse your old Kindle.
For this project to work, you will need to run a web server on a Raspberry Pi, alongside installing a few dependencies. Peter Vojtek, the creator of this great little project, has documented the process on his website.
If you’re after an easy way to attach your Kindle to the fridge, a couple of strips of magnetic tape should do the trick.
Don’t Throw Your Old Kindle Away
Devices like the Kindle receive new upgraded versions all the time which sadly push old models out to the landfill. Luckily, for people who love DIY, there is another option.
With a little ingenuity, an old Kindle can be turned into a host of creative projects. It's the perfect device to upcycle, and these awesome projects prove it.