1) Install another browser that is quicker. Suggest Dolphin, but there are others you try.
2) Overdrive for library books. Its not as nice as the stock reader, but definitely easier to download and use.
3) Flipboard (to personalize your newspaper/mags). Change the update setting to manual or once a day ( to use less battery.)
4) Open Explorer (to manage downloaded and sideloaded files)
No, you cant hide apps. But you have 3 screens. Try using one of the side ones for the apps you want to access frequently.
As far as not displaying newly available material, go to Settings, then Home (its at the bottom under App Settings), think the third one down (Clear Daily Shelf) will clear all your download links for new material.
FYI, "live" wallpapers that move use more battery.