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

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

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

TOPICS: Amazon

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.

Topic: Amazon


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Great writeup, but...

    Much thanks, Jason, your usual great blogpost... but I really do not see the point of these readers... Like you, I have tons of books on pdf and chm(and thanks for the heads-up reminder on the IBM Redbooks, that had slipped my mind...), but since I have to carry a laptop of some form with me anyway, what would I need a reader for?... the reader does not do anything that the laptop cannot do, and the laptop has functionality all over the reader... the only advantage the reader had was size/weight, and now the netbooks have eliminated that advantage... I am ready to buy a netbook, waiting for more models to come out with the -280 chip, and that will pretty much eliminate the reader in my case... at least one Netbook producer is getting ready to deliver netbook models with the tablet-style swivel screen... I use 'doPDF' for my convert-to-.pdf printer (free/no tags), and 'Foxit Reader' for my .pdf reader (free/very tiny/very fast)... now I just put my 1000+ .pdf, .chm, .etc books on a usb flash drive and I am good to go, and that works when I do not have my laptop, being at school/game/where-ever, usually around a computer just about everywhere... computers already have all the reader software, especially the reader software that the readers do not have... I believe you will see the bottom drop out of reader prices before long, and in the end they will be practically giving them away... netbooks already selling below the reader prices... netbooks may have killed the reader... thanks again, please keep up the great work, and have a good day/week/weekend!!...
    • eInk

      it save the eyes and battery. Why is this always first thing people forget?
      • Not fogotten......

        Just not important enough to justify a specialized high cost function which everyone already has on any portable PC.
        linux for me
        • When eInk becomes cheap...

          and quality color displays are possible... they will replace digital photo frames, ad posters, and probably find countless other uses. eInk has plenty of potential.

          Amazon is missing the boat here by charging so much for the razor when they can sell blades, but at least they are improving the technology.

          For me, staring at LCD's for a long time results in a headache. I can't wait until eInk technology matures.
    • PDF on Book Readers

      The real issue for PDF on book readers is the inability for the PDF to re-flow the text. I buy all my ebooks as PDF , and usually read them on my PC, when I travel I have a Sony reader I take with me. I purchase almost all of my books at kirtasbooks.com, $1.95 for a digital download. You can even invest in a book, they call it Invest in Knowledge. You pay an extra $10 and they digitize the book, send you a paperback of it, and then you get 5% of every sale after that. I have invested in three books so far, and am already making money on my investment
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    I think your tangent about Amazon waiting to send you a
    sample Kindle was a little distracting and somewhat
    unprofessional. It's a brand new device that's just been
    released less then a month ago - Amazon is not going to tie
    up 1,000 of these devices to send out for every tech blog /
    magazine / publisher to evaluate. Brush off your bruised ego
    and move on, there are worse things in life than Amazon not
    considering you to be at the top of the technology-writing
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    To mlongue1,
    Netbooks are great but to get the 24/7 wireless on them as the Kindle has (along with its 'experimental' web browser, which I use frequently), it would cost you an additional $720 per year at $60/month for 24/7 wireless.

    To Jason,
    The cost of sending a PDF to your Kindle 2 is now 15c per file per megabyte and an add'l 15c per megabyte above that, rounded up. Some PDFs are very large.
    You can convert it yourself though with free utilities like MobiPocket Creator (Windows) or Calibre or Stanza.

    I'm totally with you about native PDF support for the K2 now since every other 5" to 6" e-reader can do that now with the proper licensing from Apple. We also know the Kindle can autorotate when zooming in on images.

    The PDF readability would be terrible though unless it does rotate (but why not?)

    And as for your fit about getting the Kindle late, many of us write blogs and are looking for in-depth reviews, as the first ones were seldom in-depth.

    I'd like to read your take on this in detail. I did get one and enjoy the DX well beyond my expectations but I don't recommend it unless people don't mind the larger size. I now use my Kindle 2 only when out on the streets because it's so nicely portable and not likely to draw undue attention when I bring it out to read while waiting here and there.

    - Andrys
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    I would greatly appreciate being able to read pdf's natively. I think it would make many Kindle 2 owners happy and not feel used by Amazon because they wanted the easy of use of a small portable reading device with great battery life. If Amazon feels they need to charge me a small amount for an upgrade, then so be it.

    If Amazon's decision to read pdf's natively is to buy Kindle DX, then I will go to another device like a netbook.
  • Aw...diddums

    Bad old Amazon did not send me the free evaluation version of their device in time so I'm not going to even review it!

    Pathetic, it really is.

    Serial freeloader.
    The 'G-Man.'
    • Free?

      It costs $489.00. I have to send it back after 10 days, like everyone else who's got one to look at (presumably). They won't even allow me to buy the evaluation unit, which was brand new and I had to crack the packaging on.

      Evaluation units are the only way to get hardware on time so it can be reviewed for the consumers so they can make educated purchase decisions. If I don't get it on time, I'm just six weeks late with my analysis. I'm just being asked to be treated like everyone else.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    Perhaps I am confused, but one of the main pushes for this devices is in schools. The cost of textbooks is out of control. The downloadable version of textbooks is much more affordable, kill less trees, and definitely weighs less. This device that I have wanted for over a year, and am still waiting for it to come into my price availability, is wonderful. I have had the ability to use it for a couple days and loved it. Portability is easier than a laptop.

    There are textbooks that have been converted for Kindle but are not available to just go to and read online.

    I still hold that this is a good investment for college bound students ... and one that over time will definitely pay for itself. But Amazon should add the PDF feature to both versions.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    I got a Hanvon e-book reader (made in China). This little gizmo has no Wi-Fi, but it reads pdf files up to 4MB as native format, in addition to txt, htxt and several graphics formats. Ability to read pdf solves one more problem for me: ability to read documents in any language, for example Russian or Chinese... Just download the document you want (in any format), print to pdf (make sure to save the fonts in the document!) and bingo: the reader will use the document fonts and display it with excellent quality!
    As an added bonus, it is about 30% less expensive than Kindle-2!
  • Math - ur doing it wrong

    "$299.00, down $59 from its original price of $359.00"

    That's 60.

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

    I don't like Amazon anymore after I bought Kindle 2. Announcing DX is coming just 3 months after released kindle2? That is very wrong. I would have hold on my Kindle 2 purchasing if I knew there is DX coming. At least that would've given me a choice to consider. But Amazon did not want to give the customers that chance. Worse yet, they don't want to make Kindle 2 to be PDF native, even though we all know that it is possible. I know that their intention is not to affect DX sales. I am very disappoiting about Amazon's practice. I will not buy any products from Amazon from now on.
  • They will never do it.

    This has been my complaint about the Kindle since it was launched. But asking Amazon to allow the Kindle to read anything they're not selling is like asking Microsoft to stop trying to extend and coopt web browser standards or office file format standards. In fact, I predict that allowing the DX to read PDF was an oversight, and that the next version will "quietly" retire the PDF capability. An author friend of mine refuses to confine his digital books to Amazon format, and castigates his Kindle-swooning friend for not being able to read his standard PDF books.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    I won't be buying the DX or regular until the device has folders so you can organize content and will read pdf. I will use my Samsung tablet and SonyStyle until then.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    It DOES read pdf, you simply have to email the pdf file to the kindle autoresponse service, and within 30 seconds it comes back to you translated to asw format for the Kindle. Same thing for MsWord docs.
    Also, what do you mean it doesn't have wi-fi??? It certainly does!!! I cancelled my broadband service when I got my Kindle (before you got yours) because I can read the websites I follow directly on my Kindle, and I can read/reply to my yahoo emails, and also send my txt updates to my twitter account. The keyboard on the kindle is easy to use, even with 61-year-old fingers, like mine.
    Also, I can listen to mp3s on my kindle too.

    apparently you are either LYING about having a Kindle or you never really USED it. I also got mine for free from an online book company who wanted me to review it as they were considering making their books available through Amazon. When I let them know that the Kindle would take (translated) pdf files, since the book company already provides pdfs to its users (for a small price), they decided not to enter into an agreement with Amazon, and I still have that Kindle, but I'm going to get the textbook version in a few months after any bugs have been 'worked out'.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    P.S. I had a netbook (the hp mini with 160g hdd, webcam, etc etc). It just does not have the clarity that the Kindle has, and frankly, even though it is 'small' it also 'too large'... much larger/heavier than the Kindle.

    AND to read a pdf on the Kindle, you simply need to email the pdf to the kindle server where the file is 'translated' into asw format and sent back to you via email in about 30 seconds (which means of course that their system is just changing a header... a header that my team in the Ukraine could crack quickly, but why bother, when Kindle translates it for free?
    I had about a two-day 'adjustment' to using the Kindle, now I have about 150 books on it and I will NEVER go back to 'physical books'... and as for old dogs/new tricks, I'm 61 years old.
    I can read for HOURS more than I could if I had a 'physical' book, because of the etext design which is REALLY easy on the eyes.
    Hurrah for the Kindle! Note: I AM organizing a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, however, because they tell me I cannot sell or give away my 'ebooks' because they are, apparently, not covered by the copyright laws but by some drm laws. It is my stance that the e-books have ISBN numbers, therefore they are BOOKS and ARE covered by copyright laws. Since I started out in publishing (did the original layout/content editing of the first release of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" etc), I think I will WIN this battle. Time will tell.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    Tell your friend that the Kindle WILL read pdfs. Apparently you must know a lot of stupid people if they own a kindle and do not know that all they have to do is email the pdf to the kindle server which will send it back in about 30 seconds 'translated' to asw format. Same thing with Microsoft word docs.

    You are just jealous.
  • RE: $299 Kindle: Great, now make it read PDF!

    I work in the technology industry, spend about 12-14 hours a day staring at a computer screen. Yet I can come home and read my kindle (at the gym on the bike/treadmill, in bed, on the sofa, at dinner (who cooks anymore not me))... for HOURS more. No eye strain AT ALL. the Kindle design is very easy on the eyes, and perhaps is actually GOOD for the eyes, because even after 20 hour days, I now get up in the morning and can SEE from 'minute one', very unusual for 61-year-old eyes.
    I love my kindle, but still am suing Amazon for treating the e-books as though they are controlled by DRM and not by copyright laws. The books have ISBN numbers after all. I should be able to sell them or give them away, and I WILL win this lawsuit, having NEVER lost a class-action lawsuit.