Scott Hanselman

Screenshots: Amazon Kindle 2 gets Better Battery Life and Native PDF Support

November 25, '09 Comments [31] Posted in Reviews
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I love my Kindle. I've talked about this before in my quest for the perfect ebook reader:

It's always come down to this. If you want to read PDFs, get a Kindle DX. The screen is larger and it's just better for 8.5x11 or A4 documents. The Kindle 2 is for novels and the DX is for documents. At least, until now.

Today the situation just got a little blurrier. My Kindle 2 has been firmware version 2.0.3 for a while now. However, soon you'll get 2.3 pushed to you over wireless, or you can go get it yourself manually if, like me, you can't wait.

Manually installing is trivial. Download the update, copy it to the root of your Kindle 2 via USB, go to Settings and hit Update Kindle. It'll take about 5-10 minutes.

Not only does the Kindle 2 get a built-in PDF reader, you also get longer battery life. How? Well, I love my Kindle, truly, but it's true that if the 3G radio is on and you forget about it, you'll find a dead Kindle in a few days, usually just before a trip. Nothing more embarrassing than telling the dude in the airline seat next to you that "my book has a dead battery." ;)

The new firmware is smarter about when it turns the radio on and they say: "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." I have yet to test this, but I can say that with the radio off, yes, it'll be on standby for a week or two, easy.

You can also manually rotate the Kindle 2 screen, previously a DX-only feature.

Here's how things look on the Kindle 2 with a PDF using the older firmware, then using the new 2.3 firmware. The first PDF I'm using for A-B testing is "Producing Open Source Software" from http://www.producingoss.com. I also use the free ASP.NET MVC chapter from http://tinyurl.com/aspnetmvc.

Now, a pile of screenshots because there's no other way to get the point across. Forgive me.

NOTE: You can click any of these images to get the FULL 800x600 resolution screenshot directly from my Kindle 2.

Firmware 2.0.3 - a PDF converted by emailing to my Kindle

screen_shot-29642

Firmware 2.3 - Same PDF viewed with the Native PDF Viewer

screen_shot-10326 screen_shot-10328

Firmware 2.3 - Wrox Book Cover viewed with the Native PDF Viewer

screen_shot-10322

Firmware 2.3 - Wrox Book viewed with the Native PDF Viewer ROTATED

screen_shot-10324

Firmware 2.3 - Wrox Book viewed with the Native PDF Viewer

screen_shot-10323

Most importantly, is Code readable? Well, yes and no. It's readable, but it's not comfortable. It depends on the code and on the way the PDF is formatted. In the Wrox PDF example, the code was formatted kind of gray, which doesn't help given the Kindle screen. The important thing to note is that PDF formatting and fonts appear to be respected 100%. If it's clear and readable on your PC, it'll at least be readable on the Kindle, assuming the limitations of the screen hardware.

Note that when you rotate the screen (with the font button) that you can see the layout and text more clearly, but you'll only see the top or bottom half of the page. When you hit Prev/Next Page you'll move up and down the page before you actually turn a page. It's not perfect, but it's something.

Firmware 2.3 - Wrox Book with Code and Tables viewed with the Native PDF Viewer

 screen_shot-10329

Firmware 2.3 - Wrox Book with Code and Tables viewed with the Native PDF Viewer ROTATED

screen_shot-10330

Conclusion

For a standard A4 or 8.5x11" page, it's not really easy to read on a 3.6 in (91 mm) × 4.8 in screen. Expect to read PDFs rotated.

Your Kindle 2 just got a new lease on life. This is totally new, free functionality for your Kindle 2. It's now a competent PDF reader. If you're a coder or a PDF reader, be thrilled. Now go get it.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:12:18 AM UTC
Awesome! Thanks for letting me know about this.

I'll be testing out the PDF reader soon.
Scriv
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:17:38 AM UTC
Just upgraded my kindle. PDF looks much better now.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 10:18:44 AM UTC
I'd love a Kindle, but unfortunately the Amazon book store's range is crippled in Australia, rendering it useless. If you live in America it's great, but the rest of the world gets shafted. I realise this is likely the fault of the publishers, but it doesn't matter whose fault it is; the Kindle still is useless here.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 10:58:01 AM UTC
You sure? You check out the international Kindle that came out last month?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:04:23 PM UTC
I had my credit card out the moment I heard about the DX going international. Then I realized it was the standard kindle, not the DX, so I promptly re-walletted my card...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:21:39 PM UTC
I've been thinking about getting a Kindle or Sony and after the Engadget news yesterday about the new Kindle firmware. I think the Kindle is a firm lock.

The one question I haven't been able to answer is: In the case that something goes catastrophically wrong with the device and it loses all data, do I have to buy all the books again, or is there some way to back them up to the computer? I'm not so concerned with novels as say computer books where they cost almost as much as their paper bound brethren.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2:59:26 PM UTC
Scott,

Thanks for the awesome writeup! I have been monitoring the progress of the Kindle over the past few years, but was reading articles about the difficulties with PDF's. Have you used the new firmware to open DRM-protected PDF's? Many local libraries are offering E-books as downloads, and I wondered if Kindle would open them if they were side-loaded?

Thanks!

Rob
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 3:35:08 PM UTC
The native PDF support looks awesome, still think I would prefer a DX though as I tend to be reading technical stuff.

I am hanging on for the Kindle 3 DX or whatever you would call it before my purchase. Hopefully they will do what everyone wants and give it a touch screen keyboard and get rid of as much of the bezel as possible.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 3:53:27 PM UTC
My Sony reader allows me to buy ePub and PDF books from multiple vendors. The Kindle and Nook lock you into a single vendor for reflowable texts.

Plus, I can make Open ePub books myself (it's just HTML+CSS and some special XML in a renamed ZIP file).
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 4:59:41 PM UTC
Hey Scott, I've been really thinking on getting the international version for reading programming books on the go. I was wondering, do you know if there is any plans to include MSDN magazine content on the kindle? That would definitely convince me to get one.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 5:35:04 PM UTC
Nice update Scott, I'm this close to buying the new Kindle.. my wife's still asleep.. should do it before she gets up I guess!!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 5:54:41 PM UTC
I wanted to buy a e-reader to read pdf documents and now it looks like this is the one.

Is Kindle password protected? I may be reading several confidential documents.

Srikanth
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 6:14:03 PM UTC
The eReader market is heating rapidly. Lots of promised devices coming out soon. The bigger the screen the better. The Kindle DX is a better choice than the smaller Kindle, if you can afford the higher price.

Check out the QUE from PlasticLogic.com. Very slim and large screen. Might come out early 2010.
Asus & Samsung have eReader plans.

Personally, I prefer handheld computers with large color screen which can be used as an eReader like:
- Samsung UMPC Q1
- The screen/computer from alwaysinnovating.com

- If you don't mind a physical keyboard and $1300 price tag, the Sony Vaio X Series is a cool notebook. VERY light and slim. With a 11.1 LCD/LED screen, everything is crisp. I wish they use the technology, rip out the keyboard and make an ereader out of it. It would be killer.

The problem with e-ink readers is that they don't display images with details properly. Plus you need external light source to read in a dark room.
Abdu
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:08:48 PM UTC
Great writeup Scott. Like you said, it isn't comfortable but it's something. I hate reading books on the PC so this will help.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 12:14:47 AM UTC
This is great update, I didn't even imagine that Kindle 2 will ever get native PDF.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 4:07:59 AM UTC
pdf is awesome, but i'll wait for the Nook and .epub support.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 1:01:42 PM UTC
Some sources say the battery life has been increased 85% while that's an amazing figure it leaves me wondering what the previous firmware was like. Was it poorly made or have they truly just optimized it as much as possible.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 2:51:24 PM UTC
How did you captures these screenshots? Camera?
Thursday, November 26, 2009 8:53:11 PM UTC
Scott, can you try if it does support drm secured pdf files?
Friday, November 27, 2009 1:19:01 AM UTC
Pete - The battery life gains aren't impressive if you consider they are just keeping the 3G radio OFF more often. ;)

I captured the screenshots with SHIFT-ALT-G on a Kindle. They support screenshots.

DRM PDFs - sure, send me one?

EPUB - Want Epub on a Kindle? Just use Savory.
Friday, November 27, 2009 2:29:51 PM UTC
The one thing missing here is your rating between the 2 and the DX, I'm planning on buying one, shoudl I wait for the DX to go international, or is the 2's PDF support close enough?
Friday, November 27, 2009 5:55:31 PM UTC
"DRM PDFs - sure, send me one?"


Nice. That made me smile. :)

Savory is cool, but I'm still not sure why I'd pay more for the Kindle than for the Sony reader (the Daily will also have 3G downloading), just to jump through more hoops to get the content I want. I guess it depends largely upon usage patterns--my Pocket is a nice size, and runs for two weeks easily on a charge, giving me plenty of opportunity to fill it up with more content, though non-reflowable PDFs are even harder to read on it (due to its size) than on the K2. If you read a lot of fixed-layout PDFs, the Plastic Logic Que looks like it will be a pretty impressive product (fully 8½"×11", all the important native formats, plus it's bendy).
Monday, November 30, 2009 6:32:20 PM UTC
How do you feel about Nook? Do you think Kindle2 is still better?
Monday, November 30, 2009 9:58:56 PM UTC
I also want to hear your opinion about Barnes & Noble's nook. I am about to buy an eBook reader and I am debating between the kindle and nook - any suggestions?
Tuesday, December 01, 2009 2:06:11 AM UTC
I am kind of disappointed with the fact that I can not zoom in on a PDF. For some tech books the pages are large and when they are displayed on the Kindle 2 the text becomes small and unreadable. You can flip to landscape mode but in most cases this does not help very much. By reading other blogs I can see that I am not the only one annoyed by this. Hopefully Amazon will take note of this issue and do something about it.

If the Nook or Sony reader have better PDF support then I would probably think about switching. Of course I could buy a DX but I think the price is ridiculous. I can't justify the cost.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009 2:44:34 PM UTC
Too bad Kindle DX is not internationally available
Think Kindle 2 is just too small to read technical books efficiently
Tuesday, December 01, 2009 6:13:34 PM UTC
Scott, Did you get a chance to play with the new Dell Zino HD?
Praveen
Wednesday, December 02, 2009 9:22:33 AM UTC
When you load a pdf file with bookmarks like in wrox pdf book are these enable in kindle?
Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:45:23 AM UTC
I think you will be interested in reading this story.
<a href="http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/12/analyst-apple-tablet-launching-in-spring-to-crush-kindle.ars title="Analyst: Apple tablet launching in spring to crush Kindle">
Monday, December 28, 2009 11:09:26 PM UTC
I also want to hear your opinion about Barnes & Noble's nook. I am about to buy an eBook reader and I am debating between the kindle and nook - any suggestions?
Monday, December 28, 2009 11:09:50 PM UTC
I also want to hear your opinion about Barnes & Noble's nook. I am about to buy an eBook reader and I am debating between the kindle and nook - any suggestions?

thanks
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.