Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Amazon finally adds native support for PDF, increases battery life - Update5

(You can skip to Update 1, Update 2, Update 3, Update 4, or Update 5 by clicking on one of them.)

Amazing. I'd been waiting for this, and the last shoe to drop would be support for ePub.  Since they own Lexcycle, who makes Stanza, which focuses on ePub, it should not take long to make that decision as it'll be key this coming year.

Amazon adds native PDF support to Int'l Kindles and boosts battery life 85% in that model 85%.  They will also upgrade existing Kindle 2's to varying degrees.
' "Kindle, already the #1 bestselling, most wished for, and most gifted product on all of Amazon.com, is now even better" with 85 percent more battery life and a built-in PDF reader," said Ian Freed, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "These two significant enhancements are available now."

Amazon also announced today that previous purchasers of the new Kindle will also receive the 85 percent battery life improvements with wireless on, and native PDF support via a firmware update automatically delivered via Whispernet wireless.

Native PDF support will also be available for some earlier versions of Kindle via an automatic Whispernet wireless firmware update." '
The language is somewhat confusing.  They mention "previous purchasers of the NEW Kindle" getting the firmware update while the native-PDF support "will also be available for some earlier versions of Kindle" via the Whispernet update.
  I suspect the Kindle 1 won't be included in the native PDF support.

There's no mention of the battery improvements for older Kindle models.

I'll be looking at this further.

UPDATE 1. - 11:06 AM.  (Original posting 11/24/09 at 10:47 AM)
Here's much more info at the Amazon Kindle Updates page.   I've added emphases in bold or italics for items affecting older models for the U.S.
' Kindle Version 2.3 Highlights
The latest update brings several improvements to Kindle (Global Wireless), Kindle (U.S. Wireless), and Kindle DX devices.

Kindle (Global Wireless) and Kindle (U.S. Wireless)

* 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.
  [ Does not include older U.S. Kindle 2. ]

* 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.
  [ Excellent.   We'd keep the original to check layout and use reflowed text for a copy that we can mark up or annotate, be able to use the inline-dictionary for, and search the Kindle for the content within that PDF. ]

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.

Kindle DX
* Better cropping of PDF files: In landscape orientation, white margins of PDF documents are automatically cropped to maximize the amount of content shown on the screen.

* 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.

* View pages longer: We've extended the time before Kindle DX switches into screensaver mode — from 5 minutes to 20 minutes — giving you more time for reviewing your content.
  [ Also excellent. ]

Here's the page and section for getting the update manually if you don't want to wait for the automatic updates.

Well, *I'm* jazzed !

UPDATE 2 - 12:15 PM. (Original posting 11/24/09 at 10:47 AM)
  Kindle forums are reporting that the PDF enhancements really work well, with the landscape option and margins-handling improvement having very good effect.
  HOWEVER, those who are using screensaver- and font- "hacks"
  1.  will have to uninstall them before being able to do the update
  2.  will not be able to re-install them with the new firmware update until the authors of the unofficial improvements (erroneously called 'hacks') can make them work for the new firmware version.

UPDATE 3 - 8:42 PM. (Original posting 11/24/09 at 10:47 AM)
  A Screensaver re-install fix was announced, at MobileRead Forums, by jyavenard, who has updated the packager to create firmware for Kindles with version 2.3, linked the packager with additional instructions for those providing unofficial improvements, and has already repackaged and linked to the screensaver enhancement for Kindles using the new firmware update -- Kindle 2 U.S., the Kindle Global, and the DX.

 Re the alternate, darker font sets by Ted Inoue, it will take some time for him to run through the various sets but he's planning on it.

UPDATE 4 11/26 - 10:29 AM (Original posting 11/24/09 at 10:47 AM) -
  (Am not changing official posting time for this one.)
Alternate Font Sets for firmware update v2.3
  These work for v2.3.2, v2.3.3 and v2.3.4 as well.
  Edge777 at MobileRead forums has posted links to font files he made for alternate darker font sets that work with the new firmware update.   Ted Inoue will be working on his very popular set as well.

UPDATE 5 11/30 (Original posting 11/24/09 at 10:47 AM)
  Ted Inoue has completed the updating of all alternate font-sets from his popular series, and you can see the descriptions and download links on his site. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. Stinks for us early adopters (Kindle 1).

  2. Yes, but then you've had a good e-reader for a longer time than others. I went to the Kindle 2 early because of the huge change in the e-ink display panel's capabilities.

    It is faster and for that reason, among others, it can directly address words on a page rather than just rows -- the never-ending pop-up boxes of several choices, one on top of the other just annoyed me no end and it was all a slow process.

    The navigation in the Kindle 2 is still sort of pokey but you can at least get to a word, and the dictionary summary for the word your cursor is on shows up underneath.

    I think the Kindle 1 is a big problem to provide PDF support for, for the reasons above. And rotating the unit and respacing everything optimally on a device on which you can't even address directly a word -- that is probably too difficult, not to mention that a slow screen like the Kindle 1's wouldn't be able to handle PDFs well.

    I realize it feels lousy though. Refurbished Kindle 2's are going for $219 and they would be able to take advantage of the new firmware update. You could sell your Kindle 1 for $140-$150 based on the SD slot and a user-replaceable battery.

  3. Andrys,

    This is great news. I'm a bit confused by one part youve posted however. Am I understanding correctly that the firmware update will NOT improve battery life for US version Kindle 2s?

    If so, this sounds pretty crummy. I'd rather have better battery life than PDF support.

  4. Benchcrafted,

    Amazon's software update page says, "Longer battery life for Kindle (Global Wireless)"

    They tend to list the U.S. Kindle when it's involved, for the update items. While they could have made an error there, it's not too likely.

    The extended battery life is mentioned in terms of how long it lasts when wireless is 'on'...

    That indicates they have a control mechanism in that wireless techology so that the Kindle doesn't keep trying to connect as it tends to do, draining power.

    It may be that only the new modem,compatible with AT&T's international wireless technology, gives the ability to control this more easily.

    Just a guess though!

  5. Benchcrafted,
    While I have a few subscriptions and I do use the Kindle web browser, I turn wireless Off when I don't need it.

    Battery life for both the K2 and the DX I own has been great. The PDF capability is crucial as more schools, libraries, and businesses use PDFs to distribute information.

    I think the drain will be less when the wireless is 'on' in a passive way. But if someone is constantly using it to slowly surf, then it would likely still be a drain under those circumstances -- just not (anymore) when it's sitting there unused as has been the case when wireless is On.

  6. I updated my Kindle manually from abroad with no problems. The only downside appears to be that since my archives don't work i didn't get the new user manual.

  7. Cairo Typ0,
    I just came back from time in your neck of the woods. Loved doing my tourist thing there, and at the Red Pyramid I talked with a couple who are living there as you are but exploring the scene. They'd been at Valley of the Kings and I was going to go there soon. Have enjoyed your blog.

    Sad that Egypt isn't Kindleized yet as far as wireless access or even sale of the Kindle at all there.

    You can get the new user manual by downloading it from the user guide pages. This can always be found in the right hand column of the blog under 'Kindle Support Info' - but here's the shortcut to the direct link to the latest user guides:

    Thanks for the real-world info !

    - A (another oft disobedient 'no-photos!' person)

  8. Andrys,

    Okay, I think I must be misunderstanding the term “reflowing.” I thought it meant that if, for example, I converted a research article PDF with columnar tables that the format would be readable on the Kindle 2 screen as if it were in paper format (i.e., with column alignment intact, etc.). However, (assuming I did the conversion correctly) that’s not what happened. Am I (once again) just off base? Thanks.

  9. Batman,
    The text is re-flowed as needed for more optimum viewing on smaller screens. Google describes why they offered ePub editions after offering PDF versions:

    'EPUB is a lightweight text-based digital book format that allows the text to automatically conform (or "reflow") to these smaller screens.'

    To read more from them on this, see http://bit.ly/googbks.

    They explain their conversion process really well.

  10. Andrys,

    Sorry to be so thick-headed, but I'm still unclear on what I should expect from this process. The information in the table columns from the journal article I sent for conversion is not lining up properly on the Kindle 2 display, even when viewed in landscape mode. Am I expecting something that's not the intent of the conversion process? Let me know if it would help for me to try to send a screenshot so you can see what I’m referring to. Thanks for your help.

  11. Batman,
    No prob! Before they had native support of PDFs, we HAD to have our PDFs converted to be able to read them on Kindle 2's.

    The problem with that is that the PDF's shining virtue - replicating the layout of a printed page - was/is not a feature of any PDF "conversion" process.

    The conversion gets the text and -tries- to get a reasonable facsimile of a chart or diagram but usually fails in a big way.

    However, because conversions don't focus on being replicas of original layout, they re-flow the text in a way that will suit the size of your screen. Conversion processes using re-flowed text do what is possible, via the programming (Calibre, Stanza, MobiPocket Creator). Multi-column books usually don't come out well, especially if there are side-bars, and special tables are not handled well.

    Benefits of converting a PDF for the Kindle 2 are that you can make annotations, use the in-line dictionary, use text-to-speech, change font sizes, and do Kindle-type searches of the book.

    This is why when I wrote about the new native support of PDF (layouts) AND read that they would Convert the PDFs if wanted
    (because for the Kindle 2 6" screen, the real layout of an originally-intended 8x11" sheet can be unreadable vertically and sometimes even in landscape mode)),
    I added this comment under the Amazon announcement language:

    "[ Excellent. We'd keep the original to check layout and use reflowed text for a copy that we can mark up or annotate, be able to use the inline-dictionary for, and search the Kindle for the content within that PDF. ]"

    So the Conversion is just an added choice now (instead of the only option as it had been before, for the K2) in order to get the larger fonts for easier reading and the usual Kindle study features.

    I hope that's clearer.

  12. To quote Homer Simpson, "D'oh!" Yes, that makes sense. I was for some reason thinking of all type as "text" instead of some being more like "data" in a practical sense. Seems like whatever large-screen reader I get next year will probably handle things sufficiently for proper viewing, though. Thanks for the clarification; for an educated guy, sometimes I'm still not too bright...“sigh” ;-) . Take care.

    P.S. I hadn’t even considered the availability and benefit of the on-board dictionary for this type of article, so double thanks! One curious thing I noted - the Text-to-Speech menu is available in my unconverted document, and briefly tries to engage when clicked, but then brings up a message saying, “There is no more text to read in this item. Text-to-Speech is now exiting.” I don’t have any paid content with Text-to-Speech disabled - do you know if the menu option is always available on all content, whether or not it’s enabled?

  13. Batman, it's all confusing, as far as I'm concerned.
    Re a large-screen reader, I just read that iRex's large-screen, due late November, just quietly disappeared from view. Delays.

    Re text-to-speech, I've no idea whether the menu option shows it as available or not when reading a book with publisher-disabled t-t-s. None of the books I have has it disabled.


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