Update: since I first wrote this article, Amazon added the ability to set up a household from their website; initially, you could only do so from a recent Kindle. I’ve updated the article to discuss these steps in addition to doing so from a Kindle.
Amazon finally allows you to share ebooks with your family, using the Family Library feature in the latest version of the Kindle software. But this feature may be a bit confusing to set up. Here’s how to do it.
First, find if your devices are compatible with Kindle Family Library. You’ll find the minimum software you need for each device to be able to access Family Library content; the minimum version to manage Family Library settings; and which devices support Child profiles.
You can set up Family Library on a Kindle if you own one of the following devices:
- Kindle Paperwhite (2nd generation)
- Kindle (7th Generation)
- Kindle Voyage
- Kindle Fire HD
- Kindle Fire HDX
- Kindle Fire HDX 8.9”
- Fire HD 6
- Fire HD 7
- Fire HDX 8.9
You’ll want to check the software version on your device (on a Kindle, tap the menu, then Settings, then tap the menu again, and tap Device Info; I’m not sure where the settings are for the Kindle Fire), and update it if necessary. You can download the software for all of Amazon’s devices on this page. Follow the updating instructions on the page where you download the software.
There is no way to set up Kindle Family Library from the Amazon web site, or from a device running a Kindle app (such as an iPhone or Android phone), so if you don’t have a recent Kindle, you simply cannot use this feature. I find this surprising for two reasons. First, Amazon is saying that they have this great feature that is supported by every device they’ve ever made, but you can only turn it on if you have a recent device. Second, the settings are a bit confusing, and would be a lot easier to manage on the web.
I managed to set this up yesterday, from my Kindle Voyage, so my partner and I can share our content. She uses a Kindle Paperwhite (1st generation), an iPad and an Android phone; I have the Kindle Voyage, and also use my iPhone and iPad occasionally.
To set up Family Library on a Kindle that supports managing Family Library settings, tap the menu, then Settings. Tap Registration and Household. Then tap Household and Family Library. You set up a “Household” from this screen; add each person, entering their Amazon email address and password. What’s important is that, after they have signed in, they tap Devices and choose on which devices they want to see the shared content. The creator of the Family Library must also tap Share All Books and activate the feature to share their entire library; if not, you can choose to share individual books from your Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon’s web site.
You can also set up a household, and invite an adult to it, and add children from the Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon’s web site. Click Invite Adult, and follow the instructions. The other adult will need to sign into their Amazon account, but children don’t need accounts; you just create profiles for them.
Remember that, later on, if one of you gets a new Kindle, or adds a new device – such as an iPhone or iPad – to their account, you need to go back to these settings and select it in the Devices settings.
Unfortunately, if you ever want to change any of these settings – remove someone from the household, add a new device, etc. – you must do it on one of the newer Kindles. You can’t manage any of this on Amazon’s web site, where you have many settings for your Kindle and its content.
So you can finally share books that you and other members of your family have bought. This makes the Kindle a bit more useful, and it’s been too long in coming.