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.