Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kindle 2 Gets Native PDF Support and 85% Longer Battery Life

Amazon just announced a software update for the Kindle 2 to give it native PDF support and increased battery life with the wireless on by 85% (at least for the new Global Kindle). I just checked and unfortunately, the update has downloaded onto my Kindle yet, so I can't report on how well the PDF viewer works. Details coming soon. In the meantime, here is Amazon's description of the new features:
  • Built-in PDF reader: Your Kindle can now display PDF documents without losing the formatting of the original file. Send PDF documents directly to your Kindle (via your @Kindle address) or drag and drop PDF files from your computer to your Kindle (when connected via USB). Learn more.
  • Longer battery life for Kindle (Global Wireless): You can now read for up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to 2 weeks.
  • Manual screen rotation: The Kindle screen can now manually rotate between portrait and landscape views so you can see the entire width of a web page or magnify the page of a PDF file. The page-turn buttons work the same in either orientation, and the 5-way controller movements are switched to match the orientation. Learn more.
  • Option to convert PDF files to Kindle format. If you prefer to have your personal PDF documents converted to the Kindle format (so that they can reflow), type "Convert" in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your @kindle.com address.
Kindle (U.S. Wireless) and Kindle (Global Wireless) users can go to Archived Items on their Kindle and download the Kindle User's Guide, 4th Ed., which now documents all the features of Kindle Software 2.3.
Read Amazon's press release here.

Having an older version of the Kindle 2, I'm not sure if I'll get the battery boost, but the PDF reader should still work. More on this once Amazon updates my Kindle.

If you have a Kindle and don't want to wait for the automatic update, here are directions for how to update it manually.

UPDATE: I just did a manual update to my Kindle. Here are a few initial impressions after playing with it a few minutes:
  • PDF files are now natively supported. They look small, but academic articles are almost readable in landscape mode, but I wouldn't recommend this as a good platform for extended reading of these types of documents. (Larger screen eBooks such as the Que should be ideal for this. Until then, I'll stick with reading PDFs on my laptop/netbook -- or better yet, print them out.)
  • The screen rotation works great. It took me a minute to figure out how to rotate the screen. I finally realized you activate this feature by pressing the "Text" key (the one that adjusts font size). Then simply select the orientation you want and you're good to go. It works very well and not only for PDFs, but for any reading you do on the Kindle.
  • The navigation buttons are not ideally placed for reading in landscape mode.
  • Viewing the Kindle in landscape mode really emphasizes how much wasted, empty space there is around the screen. The Kindle could be and should be a much smaller device. Or better yet, keep the same form factor and put in a larger screen.
  • Text-to-Speech now has a female and male voice option and you can choose the reading speed (slow, medium, or fast). This was a surprise in the update that I didn't see mentioned anywhere.
Overall, this is a nice update and expands on the usefulness of the Kindle. Like the recent Kindle for PC software, these features are obviously intended as a counter against Barnes and Noble's Nook. As such, they are a nice example of the effects of introducing a little competition into a marketplace can do. Consumers benefit and technology advances.

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