Kindle PDF Support

Native PDF support was initially introduced by Kindle DX and later Kindle 2 also had native support for PDF format.

Why PDF on Kindle?

Of course if you don’t want the PDF format, you can always send it to Amazon and let them convert it into Kindle’s native .azw format (mobi, actually). But there are some pros of reading PDF on Kindle:

  1. You can embed fonts in PDF files. Kindle’s font selection is very limited, but if you read PDF format, you can create the PDF file with your own choice of font. For example, you can choose some beautiful handwriting font. It’s even more useful for CJK language readers.
  2. When reading a technical document with a lot of graphs, data tables, or code snippets, you’d better use PDF to completely preserve the original type setting. Especially for a code snippet, Amazon will convert it into a mess.
  3. If the book has lots of foot notes, PDF preserves the positioning of foot notes well because of its fixed pagination. Mobi or azw formats support font size adjusting and they adapt to different sizes of screen so they can’t guarantee foot notes are still at the footer.
  4. [update on 2011-09-19] After switching to landscape view (press the Aa key on the right of space bar and select screen rotation), Kindle automatically cuts the margins and white areas so they don’t waste the screen space. I don’t know if it was a feature since Kindle 3 or it’s introduced by some firmware update.

Drawbacks of PDF on Kindle

  1. Kindle doesn’t support dictionary look up (correction – it does support dictionary look up but there are some problems. Sometimes Kindle just can’t get the correct word at cursor position) and TTS for PDF format.
  2. You can’t change the size or type face of the PDF format book, but only zoom. Kindle zooms the PDF document to fit the screen by default. Another way is to rotate the screen so you can see larger characters while the page still fits the horizontal screen.
  3. When the page size (actual or after zoomed) is larger than the screen resolution, the scroll bars appear and you need to pan the page. That’s very inconvenient.
  4. When reading a very large document, sometimes it can get very slow to advance to next page, or go back to the previous page. I don’t know if it’s related to Kindle’s memory management or not. But a simple solution is to press “Home” button and to open the book again.

Don’t worry about highlighting and taking notes, though. You can still create hightlights or take notes. So I wonder why Kindle doesn’t support dicationary look up (well) and TTS for PDF format, since it can already identify the words and paragraphs.


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3 Replies to “Kindle PDF Support”

  1. You can’t change the size or type face of the PDF format book, but only zoom. Kindle zooms the PDF document to fit the screen by default.

  2. I was considering getting a kindle since I am on the road a lot. I was not sure because of the pdf support. I primarily read pdfs so this feature is very important to me. thanks for clearing it all up.

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