After reading Max’ rather euphoric review about the new Amazon Kindle 2 ebook reader, I also ordered the international version of the always-on e-ink reader. The hardware is pretty okay for this price (around €200), so I was willing to put my fear of proprietary DRM-systems aside for once. Today UPS delivered my device, but the initial happiness about the hardware wouldn’t last too long – to be exact, it abruptly ended when I found out there is no way to view PDF-files on the Kindle. After a little online research I discovered an acceptable workflow to upload my PDF-ebooks to the reader: MobiPocket Creator, a free ebook conversion software, turns PDF-files into PCRs, which can be organized and displayed with the Kindle.
Vendor Amazon is offering an official to convert PDFs, but that’s quite expensive: each file sent to Amazon via e-mail costs 10 cents (or 15 cents per MB). The price includes pushing the file to the device wirelessly, but this is still ridiculous. Alternatively, users are encouraged to send their files to firstname.lastname@example.org – the converted document is sent back via mail, but according to reviews this is far from real-time.
So the bottom line is: since the Kindle will not display the widely popular PDF-format, file conversion is the only option. After converting your PDFs (which is a tedious task but still better than paying $2,50 for public domain books) you can upload them to your device via USB-connection. Here’s a step-by-step instruction for the actual conversion process. After downloading Mobipocket Creator, make sure that you install the “publisher version”, which comes with the handy PDF-importer we need.
1. Start mobipocket creator. From the home screen, choose “Import from existing File” -> “Adobe PDF”.
2. Choose the export folder and the language/encoding settings and import the file.
3. Edit the ebook’s meta data, table of contents or the cover (optional).
4. Choose “build” from the main menu to create the ebook.
5. The software creates a new directory inside the export-folder you’ve chosen earlier which contains a number of files: HTML (plus exported images), OPF (open packaging format) and a PRC-file, which is the one we need for our purposes.
You might want to delete the other files after exporting – PRC is a container format which contains the text plus all the images. Use the USB connection to upload the freshly created PRC-files to the “documents” folder of your Kindle (which may also contain subfolders). Turn on the device next time et voilá: your documents are available.
Of course Amazon’s ebook reader should natively support PDF-file format – but for DRM and revenue-reasons this is not likely to happen in the near future. There’s also an alternative conversion software (available for Mac users, too) called Stanza Desktop, but I haven’t tried this tool yet.
My first Kindle impressions: The Kindle 2 is doing a great job as a high-quality text reader. The included GSM functionality saves the user from any complicated setup process, the usability is great (even though the first thing I tried was to touch the (non-touch) e-ink screen), even though flipping through pages instead of scrolling feels quite strange. I was definitely surprised by the fast page flipping and the high image quality though.
And the shop? The book selection is relatively large if you’re a mainstream reader. There are only few magazines available yet which either have to be bought per issue (way too expensive) or via a monthly recurring subscription (14 days trial period). Obviously, Amazon is even charging micro payments for blog RSS feeds – I’m not gonna pay for free content (public domain books also cost about $2,50!) which probably makes me an unruly Kindle customer. But I was looking for a high-quality display, one that’s easy on the eyes even when reading long passages – and this is just what the Kindle gives me, even if that means I have to convert every single PDF I want to read on the device.