Reading PDF documents in Kindle 2

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Other than ebooks, lots of people want to read PDF documents in their Kindle 2 / Kindle 3. However, since the Kindle 2 cannot display PDF documents natively (Kindle DX can do that however), the big question to many Kindle 2 owners is therefore how to make it work ? One simple answer is to use the conversion service by Amazon.com, however this method is not the best one. I hope this blog post can provide a good answer to some of you.

1. Let Amazon.com do it for you

As mentioned, Amazon.com offers a service to let you just do that. You send your file to your Kindle email address and after a few minutes, Amazon will send the converted file (with .azw extension) to you (via Whispernet). It cost some money to do that, or if you want to do it free, send your PDF document to the free Kindle email address. With this approach you can also save the file and transfer to your Kindle 2 with the USB cable – i.e. it works prefectly if you’re outside US. The only trouble with this method is the converted file is actually not easy to read at all … if your PDF document is full of graphical images and illustrations.

2. Hack your Kindle 2 to do it

Yes, you can hack your Kindle 2 to convert PDF document automatically … just install the Savory tool by Jesse Vincent. This tool converts every page of the PDF document into images and you can read it in portrait or landscape modes.

I like Jesse’s implementation a lot, but I don’t want to hack my Kindle 2 … and I don’t like to uninstall the hack before every software upgrade.

3. Convert to Mobi file format

Kindle 2 supports many formats such as .Mobi, .prc and .txt format, so you can also install file conversion programs to convert your PDF document to .Mobi files. I tried this before with the Calibre opensource tool. And there is another tool from MobiPocket.com that can do this as well. Unfortunately, the converted PDF document looks pretty much like the .azw format – i.e. not that readable for image-heavy PDF documents.

4. Convert to images without hacking your Kindle 2

That method is similar to the second approach above, but you don’t need to hack your Kindle 2. Just download the PDFRead 1.8.2 from the mobileread.com website, install it and convert your document with the profile parameters (check image below). Transfer the converted document (a .prc document) to your Kindle and it’s done. The upside of this approach is the very readable output (including Chinese document as well !!). The downside is you cannot perform text search with this image-based document, and many times you need to zoom in to read the details.

Check the images below …  hope you find this useful and enjoy your PDF documents.

Update 1: Amazon announced a firmware update to support native PDF reading in Kindle 2. Check my blog post for the step by step upgrade procedure.

Update 2: Amazon also announced Kindle firmware 2.5 to cover PDF Pan and Zoom.

Update 3: Get your Kindle 3 to have all the PDF functions.

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17 thoughts on “Reading PDF documents in Kindle 2

  1. Blue

    Hello,

    I’m trying to convert a password protected pdf to any format kindle 2 accepts . I’ve tried so many softwares ( PDFRead , MobiPocket Creator .. etc ) , they can not open the file , and I’m getting some errors instead ,,

    Please note that the file contains text and images ..

    P.S. The PDF file was purchased legally by myself , and I already have the password and can open in it in Adobe reader .

    I would really appreciate your help in this issue ..

    Regards,

  2. Michael Post author

    Hi Blue,

    Sorry I have not tried it and I don’t think it will work. So you may need to get a non-protect one, or “print” the protected PDF to another PDF without password …

    Cheers,

  3. Gui Ambros

    Awesome article, thanks a lot! I’ve been chasing information about Kindle’s support to PDF files for quite some time, and you just made my decision easier (to not wait for the DX) =)

    Really appreciate. Thanks a lot!

  4. Michael Post author

    No, Malcolm, don’t think there is a good way to read PDF in portrait mode, other than getting the Kindle DX.

  5. benjavi

    Thank you thank you thank you

    Was on the point of selling my K2 and spending $$ on the DX.

    PDFRead did the trick, as the other methods you mentioned weren’t able to properly convert a pdf I have. Now I have a .prc that I can read in landscape mode. Image is perfect.

    My opinion is this is the best way to convert a pdf to kindle without all the glitches other conversions produce.

  6. Melissa

    I am trying to e-mail a pdf document to my amazon kindle website to have transfered to my Kindle and apparently the file is too large to e-mail (it’s 22 MB). The e-mail was returned as undeliverable. How can I get around this?

  7. Michael Post author

    Hi Melissa,

    Indeed a 22 MB file may be too big, even you can transfer it to your Kindle, the load time of the PDF file will be very slow in your Kindle. One way to transfer this big file to your Kindle is to use the USB transfer method (i.e. just copy it from your PC to your Kindle, once connected with USB cable).

    If the file is too big, on the other hand, you can split it into multiple smaller files and then send / transfer to your Kindle again. Assuming your PDF file is not password protected, you can “print” your PDF part by part to create new PDF files (e.g. page 1-20 to file1, page 21-40 to file2 etc.). To do this, you require Acrobat Writer, or freeware like PDF995, or PDFill.

    Hope it helps.

  8. randygland

    well i suggest you leave the article up, as kindle 2.5 still doesn’t allow us to read our password protected pdfs. pfft.

  9. Dr's

    The information is really good but how do you open to read the files once you have transferred them using the USB? Help please. I need to read these files on the kindle.

  10. Michael Post author

    Once transferred, the PDF will be listed in the home page as one of the documents / books. The left hand side of the document name will also mark as “PDF”. Hope it helps.

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