Mind if this early adopter lends a hand? Herewith are my favorite Kindle Fire apps, most free or under $5.
NEWS GATHERING 101: To me, the most magical thing about a tablet computer is its ability to bring the world to your hands through so-called "content aggregators." These are focused, customizable search engines that show what's popping on websites, magazines and newspapers.
On the Kindle Fire, the best news aggregator is Pulse. It presents horizontal strips of story headlines, updated daily, from individual sites you've preselected as favorites. Just slide with a finger to browse and tap to open. I use Pulse to keep up with music (Filter), tech (Popular Science, Engadget) and culture (The New Yorker).
More interested in what people are wearing than saying? ChannelCaster Pro mashes light, gossipy content with a social twist and lotsa glossy pictures.
For a fresh news approach, load the multilingual World Newspapers aggregator or the one dedicated just to UK (United Kingdom) Newspapers. Fewer translations needed with the latter.
And while not quite the funny pages, the Comics app turns a Fire into a pretty sweet playing field for comic books and anime. Most titles sell for 99 cents to $7.99, though there's usually a few for free.
NO POSTAGE REQUIRED: While not much to look at, reading email is efficient with Enhanced Email. This full-featured, lightweight client offers support for multiple accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) in a single app. And with a little fussing in settings, Enhanced Email pulls down Exchange mail without a password.
GIMME MUSIC: Thousands of Internet radio stations are just a tap away at the TuneIn app for the Kindle Fire. Search by content category - adult contemporary to world music, plus news, sports, talk and podcasts - and also by geographic location. (The Philly section serves up almost everything that's on FM, including HD channels, and also on AM, with the notable exception of KYW. For that news station, you gotta go to the rival and lesser app Stitcher. Stupid.)
The paid version, TuneIn Radio Pro, is worth a few bucks as it also records and stores audio streams for listening when you're off the wi-fi grid. (Posted complaints that the recording part doesn't work are out of date.)
Clear Channel's iHeart Radio app is that mega-chain's noble attempt to keep listeners on board. Full-color album art often pops up as a tune plays, though a promised on-screen lyrics enhancement is missing.
Also worthy on the Kindle Fire, the Sonos remote-control app (free), which works with Sonos music-streaming gear; Pandora, now pulling as many listeners as some broadcast radio stations; and dedicated apps for on-demand Rhapsody and Rdio subscription music services.
The free Old Time Radio app, offering radio dramas, comedies and variety shows of the pre-TV age, from "insurance investigator at large Johnny Dollar" to "The Lone Ranger," "Our Miss Brooks" and "The Life of Riley."
TV/MOVIE TREATS: Gotta start here with Netflix, 'cause this streaming TV and movie service works like a charm on the Kindle Fire and is probably the most popular paid ($8 a month) entertainment app on earth. Truth is, Redbox and Verizon's newly announced streaming rival will have to jump through hoops of fire to match the Netflix ecosystem, with your subscription content available and synchable on a gazillion different devices.
Better in theory than practice, Jazz Tube brings video clips from mainstream, mostly Blue Note label artists to the Fire. But each time you select one, there's a tedious wait before connection is made to YouTube.
The Flixster app is a movie lover's best friend, offering previews of newly arriving, currently in or coming eventually (there's even a trailer posted for the Dec. 14 release "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey").
Local movie times can be found, too. And if you've bought and registered any UltraViolet-enhanced Blu-rays or DVDs - say "Hangover Part II," "Dream House" or "The Thing" - the movies will now stream smoothly through Flixster to your Fire.
A SlingPlayer app invites you to "tune-in" on the tablet anyplace where there's a wi-fi connection to remotely change channels, watch shows and even set the DVR on your home TV rig. The app costs $29.99 and requires home installation of a Slingbox SOLO or PRO-HD Internet-connected box ($150-$250). But golly gee, it works!