The Kindle 3 provides one of the best electronic reading experiences as of right now. Sure, it can’t beat other electronic devices out there in terms of what the device is capable of but many people seem to forget that the Kindle is a dedicated eBook reading device first and foremost. One of the feature that many users seem to love and hate at the same time is the ability for the Kindle 3 to load PDF documents. Since PDF documents are still widely used in today’s world, it only made sense that one of the most popular eBook reading devices out there on the market be able to handle these types of documents. Well, it can. However, the PDF reading experience on the Kindle 3 is far from perfect. Far, far from it in fact. With a little leg work though, the experience can be somewhat improved.
The main problem with reading PDF documents on the Kindle is very simple to understand: the document was not meant to be read on such a small screen! Simply put, think of each page of your PDF document as an image, rather than a page of words (such as an eBook, for example). That “image” is pretty much always bigger in size than what the Kindle’s screen can display for you. Therefore, in order to fit the entire page/image on the screen, it must shrink it. This creates a very uncomfortable setting because now, the actual words on that image are a lot smaller (sometimes beyond readable in portrait mode) when compared to reading it on your PC.
Kindle’s Native Solution
The Kindle does give you a few native options to improve the PDF reading experience but it’s still not good enough for many users, including myself. However, by using these alternatives rather than third-party solutions (which I’ll go over next), you get to retain the look and feel of the original PDF document as much as possible. This is very important if your document includes pictures, tables, graphs and any other styling elements within it. Basically speaking, the more complicated your PDF file, the more you want to stay away from performing any kind of conversion on it. Therefore, go over some of these obvious tips first to see if it can help improve your reading experience.
- Enabling landscape mode. This is the simplest and best native solution offered by the Kindle. By going landscape mode, you have more screen estate going from left to right but you sacrifice height. Landscape mode helps give your PDF document a little more breathing room, sort of speaking. If your document has two to three reading columns a page, enabling landscape mode can definitely help a lot.
- Setting the darkest contrast. This is an option that I pretty much always enable every time I try to read a PDF document on my Kindle natively. The default option leaves the text very light in color (light gray). Having to squint your eyes to read the small words adds to the problem. By setting the contrast level to the “darkest” option, the words should appear much more black in coloring and much more crisp/sharp as well.
- Zooming. This is pretty much the deal breaker as many users can tell you. By default, the PDF will fit to your Kindle screen (showing the entire page). However, once you venture into a different view by zooming in (150%, 200%, 300%, Actual Size) , your Kindle screen will be separated into several quadrants (see picture below for a simple example of what I mean). So, you first read quadrant 1. You reach the end of the text for quadrant 1 so in order to continue reading the sentence (yes, I said sentence), you move to quadrant 2. Once finish there, you return back to quadrant 1 and continue with the process. After you finish reading the text from both quadrant 1 and 2, you move on to quadrant 3 and 4, etc. You use the navigational buttons to switch quadrants and let me tell you, it is a big pain to read a document using this method. Basically, you have to switch between quadrants half a dozen time just to finish reading a sentence! It’s total madness. Sure, the text will be a lot bigger when zooming in, obviously, but the reading experience has been hampered to the point that I’m not even sure how on earth anyone can enable zooming to read a full PDF document.
Converting Your PDF for Text-ReflowA recent comment by a user reminded me that Amazon offers a free PDF conversion service for all Kindle members. You basically attach your PDF to an email, type “Convert” in the subject line and Amazon will do the conversion for you. Find more information on how to perform this simple feat by going over this article. Depending on your preferences, you may want to use this method by default when doing PDF conversions and failing back to Mobipocket if things don’t go right or vice-versa. The choice is up to you. Just know that you have other options at your disposal!
The biggest problem with reading a PDF on the Kindle is that you cannot control the text size as how you could when reading an eBook bought from the Kindle store, for example. Being able to re-size the text is called text reflow. Without this feature when reading a PDF document on your Kindle, you either have to tough it out and read the text as is (enabling landscape mode and the darkest contrast option is pretty much all you have) or you have to zoom in, which as I have pointed out above, is a complete waste of time.
Start it up after installation and you’ll land on the homepage.
Under the Import an Existing File section, select the Adobe PDF link. Click on the Browse button to locate the PDF document you will be converting. Also note the output folder location. By default, this will be your Documents folder. Hit the Import button.
Mobipocket Creator will then begin importing your document (do not worry, your original PDF file will be untouched). More importantly, it will extract any images it can find within it. You can head over to the My Publications folder within Documents to check it out. Once the document has been imported, we still need to convert it for our Kindle device. Before doing so, Mobicreator Creator allows you to edit a few data pieces about your document file. You can change the cover image, create a table of content, along with editing the eBook’s own metadata such as publisher, author and description.
I find it usually unnecessary to edit anything. When you are ready for the conversion, select your PDF file and press the Build button on the top toolbar. The next window allows you to choose any compression or encryption options if necessary. The defaults should suffice. Finally, hit the gray Build button to kick off the process.
You can now either manually browse to the output folder location or hit the OK button within Mobipocket Creator (the default option of “Open folder containing eBook” should have been selected). Once inside the folder, you should see a bunch of files along with all the extracted pictures. What you are looking for is the file with the .PRC extension. There should only be one. Connect your Kindle to your PC and import this PRC file to it. The file should then be added to your library! Open the document and you should notice that it can now be controlled just like a regular eBook.
Please understand that PDF documents can have a very complicated structure. Therefore, if you will be performing any kind of conversions on them, results will vary depending on what it is you are trying to accomplish. In other words, nothing is perfect. Your converted document may have text reflow available but there may be little to many spelling errors and whatnot. Many images may be preserved but other elements such as tables, graphs and other types of picture file may be lost or displayed very weirdly when reading on the Kindle.
There are definitely other ways of converting your PDF documents to your Kindle but I found the Mobipocket Creator method to be the most simplest, fastest, and hassle-free. If your main goal is to be able to resize the text within the PDF on your Kindle, definitely give this a try. If anyone has even a better way to convert PDF documents, please share your ideas in the comments section below!