The Shining Path of Least Resistance


Kindle as a PDF Reader

Posted by mattray on January 17, 2010

I’ve long been a PDF packrat of sorts, stashing things to read later when I have more free time. I’ve been taking advantage of OSX’s “Print->Save As PDF” feature and have quite a stash of things to read. I recently received a Kindle for Xmas and figured I’d try to use it as the PDF e-ink reader I’ve been looking for.

Unfortunately the PDF reader built into the Kindle is quite limited. There’s no zoom feature so the vast majority of PDFs I have are essentially unreadable since the text is so small. It seems that with just a little work the PDF reader could be made much more useful. PDFs have to be formatted almost exactly right or they’re too small to be readable.

After a bit of Googling around (and seeing similar complaints), I came back to Stanza, a reader/tool that I’d used for converting PDFs for my iPhone. Stanza essentially strips the text from the PDF and does a good job at that, but sometimes mixes in headers and footers into the text. Turning off “Page Transitions” and setting the Layout to “Vertical Scrolling Narrow” seems to give the appearance I wanted. “Export Book As->Amazon Kindle” and it creates a .azw file that can be copied to the device.

I can’t seem to edit the attributes of the PDFs, which means that Stanza uses whatever title and author the PDF had when it was created. This is somewhat annoying since the default author is the user who printed the PDF, but I found a hacky work-around. Take the PDF and “Print->Save as PDF” and reset the title and author. This works for clearing out the original metadata.

When possible, I went back and found the Mobipocket (.MOBI & .PRC) versions of books I had PDFs for, or even the plain text. Technical books or anything with graphs are a pretty poor fit. Reading things formatted for the Kindle are pretty nice, but it’s not the perfect PDF reader. Hopefully the rumored Apple tablet will be better, but I imagine the price will make it prohibitive for awhile.


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