Kindle 2 Adds Native PDF Support; New Kindle for Windows

Ama­zon has added native PDF sup­port to the second-generation Kin­dle e-reader.

The Kin­dle DX, which has a larger screen (9.7 inches vs. 6 inches on the Kin­dle, 2nd gen) and a higher sticker price ($489 vs. $259), has had native PDF sup­port since its launch.

The new sup­port for PDFs on 2nd gen­er­a­tion Kin­dle devices is part of soft­ware ver­sion 2.3, which does not run on the orig­i­nal Kin­dle devices. This soft­ware will be auto­mat­i­cally down­loaded over the air, but Kin­dle own­ers who are as impa­tient as I am, can man­u­ally down­load the upgrade soft­ware and install it over a USB con­nec­tion to their Kin­dle. The soft­ware and instruc­tions are avail­able at: Kin­dle Soft­ware Updates.

The PDF reader works well. The PDFs retain all of their design and con­tent. How­ever, there are some lim­i­ta­tions. Unlike the Kin­dle DX, the Kin­dle 2 does not auto­mat­i­cally rotate the screen when you rotate the device. (Some review­ers of the Kin­dle DX have said that the auto-rotation is slug­gish and unpre­dictable, but it still might be eas­ier to deal with than the clicks required to rotate the screen man­u­ally on the DX or on the Kin­dle 2.) Once you rotate the screen, the image of a portrait-format PDF file fills up approx­i­mately two screens worth of scrolling on the Kin­dle. This works fine, and makes the PDFs read­able, but it might be nice if you could zoom in on a PDF the way you can on an image in Kindle-formatted books.

For geneal­o­gists, the native PDF sup­port makes the Kin­dle 2 a much more inter­est­ing device. You can now down­load pub­lic domain books from Google Books or take your society’s newslet­ter along in an instant-on portable device. No wire­less access is required while read­ing, and the radio for Whis­per­Net, the free cell phone-based access, can be turned off for use on air­planes or where there is no cell phone signal.

Another recent Ama­zon release is a Kin­dle for PC, which allows you to read books you’ve bought for the Kin­dle on your PC. (Kin­dle for PC runs on Win­dows XP (Ser­vice Pack 2), Win­dows Vista, and Win­dows 7. Kin­dle for PC syncs your read­ing loca­tion between Kin­dle for PC and your Kin­dle. You can share Kin­dle books with up to six Kin­dle read­ers or Kin­dle for PC soft­ware pack­ages. A Kin­dle for the Mac is in the works for Mac OS X users.

This beta release is admit­tedly not ready for gen­eral use. It is miss­ing key fea­tures such as the abil­ity to copy or even high­light text, and the abil­ity to … um search! Links also do not appear to work, which is very frus­trat­ing. Ama­zon promises updates to address these and other gaps and requested fea­tures. There is no way to pur­chase books from the Kin­dle for PC inter­face. You will need to do that on your hard­ware Kin­dle or on Amazon.com using a web browser. For licens­ing rea­sons, you can­not use the Kin­dle for PC soft­ware to read news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, or blogs, only books.

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