$299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

The large format version of the Kindle, the $489.00 DX, pictured above, is capable of displaying native PDF files.

The large format version of the Kindle, the $489.00 DX, pictured above, is capable of displaying native PDF files. So what's preventing the cheaper and smaller model from doing this?

Oh Amazon. You taunt me. Like Lucy Van Pelt, just as about I'm about to kick that darned football, you yank it away and I fall on my ass.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry' link below for more.

As reported by ZDNet's Andrew Nusca, Amazon decided to face the economic realities of the global recession and dropped the price of its overpriced Kindle 2 e-reader's cost to $299.00, down $60 from its original price of $359.00. Well, it's a good start, but that's not good enough.

Over the last week I've been playing with the Kindle 2's big brother, the $489.00 Kindle DX. In addition to a significantly larger screen area, the DX has one additional feature the Kindle 2 does not currently have -- the ability to display native Adobe PDF files, the lingua franca of rendered document formats.

No, I didn't buy a Kindle DX. Amazon sent me one to evaluate, weeks after all the top priority consumer electronics columnists (The Mossberg and Pogues of mainstream media) got theirs to play with. I was going to do a thorough review of the DX just like I did with the Me Too Kindle 2 Review but after tonight's announcement, I decided I wasn't going to bother. If Amazon has decided they aren't going to send me equipment on a timely basis like the rest of the mainstream press there's no point in me going through the effort to dissect the damn thing again, because the Kindle DX is yesterday's news. Nobody will care how in-depth my writeup would be at this point. Everything about the DX that needs to be said has been said ad nauseum.

Instead, I'd like to point out that I really, really like using the DX, but not because it's bigger or has slightly more than double the amount of book storage. The PDF feature is so compelling, that if the Kindle 2 was upgraded to the DX's software, I'd buy a Kindle 2 in a heartbeat.

Yes, really. I know I've bitched and complained about the Kindle being too expensive, and closed source, and has no expansion capability, and that it doesn't have Wi-Fi, but the PDF feature alone is what makes the DX worth the price of admission. At least for someone like myself, who has access to huge amounts of material on PDF.

You see, I happen to work for this really big technology company, which publishes all of its technical documentation and educational material in paperback book form as well as PDFs, which can be downloaded for absolutely free. Recently, they published a CD-ROM compilation of many popular books they've published about Mainframes, 120 in total including all the latest Linux on z/Series material, which I would love to stuff a Kindle with so I could read it at my leisure. It cost a whole 5 bucks for them to send it to me. There's so much good stuff on the IBM Redbooks site that you'll need several lifetimes to get through it all.

There's also tons information on  web sites and online content I would love to be able to refer to on a electronic reader, because anyone can print to PDF files. Virtually every desktop Linux distribution can do this as a built-in "Print to PDF" option as part of the printing subsystem in GNOME and KDE, and if you use Windows, you can download PDFCreator, which is an Open Source implementation of Adobe Acrobat.

But I don't want to have to spend $489.00, or $190.00 more just for PDF capability. Sure, the bigger screen is nice, but I'd be just as happy with a Kindle 2 with the DX's software stack. I understand you can email a Kindle a PDF file and then Amazon will convert it for you (and probably munge the formatting and art in the process) but given the fact that they can be several megabytes in size, particularly once you get into the several hundreds of pages, it seems rather silly. And it costs 10 cents per document to do it. With the DX, all you need to do is hook it up to the USB port via a connector cable, drag and drop, and bada-bing, you're reading PDFs.

Amazon, do the right thing to the early adopters who bought Kindle 2s, and to the rest of your prospective customers. Don't make them shell out an extra $190.00 so they can read PDFs. The big screen is nice, but not everyone wants it or finds it practical. How big a backpack do you really want me to carry?

Should Amazon update the firmware on the Kindle 2 so it can read PDF files like its big brother, the DX? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Disclaimer: The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


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