26 Nov 2007 mbrubeck   » (Journeyer)

PDF on Kindle

I've seen plenty of good commentary on the Amazon Kindle. Robert Love's hands-on review and follow-up cover both Linux-hacker and regular customer views. But there's one question that I haven't seen answered elsewhere: Why doesn't the Kindle support PDF natively?

I think the answer is simple: The Kindle's 800×600 e-ink screen has too few pixels to render a typical PDF file readably, and its refresh rate is too slow for comfortable scrolling. The only practical solution for most PDFs is to extract the text and convert it to a reflowable format like HTML (which Kindle users can do with Amazon's $0.10 wireless service or free PC-based service). The US$700 iLiad (with 64% more pixels) is much better for PDF reading, but will still run into trouble with some files. It seems that the current generation of ebook readers comes with a decision—cheap, e-ink, or PDF: choose any two.

The refresh problem is one reason I'm not sold on e-ink. I'm curious to compare the Kindle screen to my XO laptop, which seems like an interesting compromise between normal LCD and e-ink displays.

Disclaimer: I work for Amazon, but I don't know anything about the Kindle except what I learned from the user's guide and from playing with one at the office.

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