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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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Kindle DX Sold Out

Kindle DX Sold Out

Kindle DX Sold Out

I recently checked Kindle DX product page at Amazon.com and surpirse -surpise! It’s sold out for another 4-6 weeks. Kindle 2 is still readily available for overnight shipment. It looks like Amazon and me have underestimated demand for it.

I’ll keep monitoring Amazon.com website and keep you updated when it becomes available again.

Airplane didn’t brick my Kindle this time

Recently I took another transatlantic flight with my family. I was reading Wolves Of Calla on Kindle DX, my wife was reading Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on Kindle 2. Unlike previous time both devices survived the flight just fine.

It’s worthwhile to note that TSA folks made me take both Kindles out of my carry-on and run them through the security scanner separately just like they do with notebooks. But they’ve let them through without any problems of course.

Foreign Affairs and Detroit Free Press on Kindle

According to official Amazon Kindle Blog two good periodicals are not available for subscription on Kindle:

Since its founding in 1922, Foreign Affairs has been a leading forum for serious discussion of international affairs. Experts from across the political spectrum offer timely and incisive analysis on the most crucial issues affecting foreign policy and the global economy. New subscribers to Foreign Affairs will enjoy a 14-day free trial.
The Detroit Free Press is Michigan’s oldest and largest newspaper and known for its comprehensive news coverage of metro Detroit and Michigan. The winner of eight Pulitzer Prizes and three national Emmy Awards, the Free Press is a trusted source of information on GM, Ford and Chrysler, as well as on international auto news.

Foreign Affairs On Kindle

Foreign Affairs On Kindle

Detroit Free Press On Kindle

Detroit Free Press On Kindle

Agatha Christie, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #17

Agatha Christie is often referred as the “Queen of Crime”, due to the crime novels and short stories featuring  the famous detectives Hercule Poirot and and Miss Jane Marple. Lots of her works have been adapted into films, television and radio; according to the Guinness Book of World Records, she is as bestselling writer as William Shakespeare. Now, Amazon has a wide selection of Agatha Christie’s works in Kindle edition.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published in 1920) was the author’s first published novel. A typical sample of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, it investigates a murder in an isolated manor, with suspects concealing  facts about themselves and unexpected plot twists.  Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective, was first introduced in this novel; he proved to be a very long-lived character, appearing in 32 other novels and  51 short stories following his debut. “The key to the success of this style of detective novel,” writes Elizabeth George in her Introduction, “lies in how the author deals with both the clues and the red herrings, and it has to be said that no one bettered Agatha Christie at this game.”

The Thirteen Problems is a short stories collection first published in UK in 1932. The first chapter, The Tuesday Night Club, was actually published in 1927 and introduced then another famous character, an elderly Miss Marple; though an amateur detective, she solves the mysteries and reveals the crimes that have nonplussed the police. “it is always Miss Marple’s quiet genius that names the criminal or the means of the misdeed. As indeed is true in subsequent gatherings at the country home of Colonel and Mrs Bantry, where another set of terrible wrongs is related by the assembled guests–and righted, by Miss Marple.”

Agatha Christie by Mark Campbell is a good book to read if you want to learn more about this prominent woman, her works and film adaptations.

Agatha Christie on Kindle

Agatha Christie on Kindle

Amazon Kindle in more libraries

In May I wrote a post about library usage of Amazon Kindle. Recently Lone Wolf Librarian did a more thorough search and uncovered at least 15 libraries that lend Kindle eBook readers to their patrons. Here are just few:

  1. Mary White, Director of Howe Library in Hanover, NH - The Kindle Library Loaning Page. Lending out Kindles since Jan 14th, 2009.
  2. Sparta Public Library in Sparta, NJ have 2 Kindles for lending.
  3. LaCrosse Public Library lends out 1 Kindle.
  4. Rancho Mirage Public Library lends out Kindles, although its unclear whether its internally or patrons can take them home.
  5. Texas A&M University Libraries have 18 Kindles (add your name to the waiting list here)

If Amazon were to come up with some kind of library-oriented solution that would streamline the process and eliminate the need for librarians to constantly register/deregister devices (to prevent useres from accidentally ordering books like this one) they would make a killing because:

  1. Libraries would buy devices and books wholesale
  2. More people would get introduced to the device and end up buying one for personal use.

Believe it or not most of the general public doesn’t know that Kindle is. I often get asked what is that device that I’m reading from in parks and other public places.

Kindle 2 Drop Test

Kindle 2 Drop Test

Kindle 2 Drop Test

While I’m on the topic – here’s Kindle 2 drop tested the same way as other Kindles – 30″ on some kind of hard surface. Click on the image to view the video.

Unfortunately I had the chance to conduct several such tests myself. Fortunately the outcome was positive and I can still use my device. Unfortunately there was no high-speed camera filming it so I can’t post my personal results.

Here are links to drop tests of other Kindle models if you are curious:

Kindle DX drop test

Kindle 1 drop test

Kindle DX Drop Test

Kindle DX Drop Test

Kindle DX Drop Test

In case you were wondering how durable Kindle DX is… Click on the image and watch. I’ve done some measurements on screenshots and it looks like it’s being dropped from 30″ height on some kind of hard surface. This simulates a common real-life scenario of Kindle being dropped from waist height as happy owner dashes to that bus or just gets careless in some university hallway.

It looks like it passed the test. Not that I would like to conduct one myself…

Joseph Conrad, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #16

Joseph Conrad is famous not only for his works adapted into well-known films such as Apocalypse Now and Sabotage; he also stands out as he was a Polish-born novelist who learned to speak English fluently in his twenties and then wrote in English, too. Many books are available now in Kindle edition, some of them for free.

Heart of Darkness first appeared as a series in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899 and was published as a novella in 1902. It was partially based on Conrad’s experiences in the Congo as he served as a steamer captain. Though the book is famous on its own, Francis Ford Coppola made it even more well-known, having adapted the novella into Apocalypse Now changing the Congo to Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. “Assigned by an ivory company to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior, Marlow makes his way through the treacherous forest, witnessing the brutalization of the natives by white traders and hearing tantalizing stories of a Mr. Kurtz, the company’s most successful representative.”

The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (published in 1907) is set around the life of Mr. Verloc, a London businessman and spy. The book is different from other Conrad’s works as it does not deal with the usual seafaring themes; instead, it is considered a political novel since it describes revolutionary groups and anarchists. Alfred Hitchcock had adapted the book for his movie Sabotage released in 1936. “This absurdist story is noted for its adept characterizations, melodramatic irony, and psychological intrigue.”

Lord Jim (published in 1899-1900 in Blackwood’s Magazine) is believed to be based on true facts, though Joseph Conrad never admitted that openly. As a ship with pilgrims travelling to Mecca is about to sink, the crew members abandon the vessel and the passengers. Having faced the court for this crime, the first mate Jim redeems his guilt in a remote settlement in the Indonesian archipelago. “The novel, which explores the nature of the human spirit, is a delicately crafted picture of a character who reaches the status of literary hero.” The book was twice adapted into movies: by Victor Fleming in 1925 and by Richard Brooks in 1965.

Joseph Conrad on Kindle

Joseph Conrad on Kindle

Kindle DX to have WiFi in the future?

Kindle DX WiFi

Kindle DX WiFi

Kindle DX was taken apart by RapidRepair.com recently. Kindle Zen took a closer look at these photos and suggested that Kindle DX’s PCB is wired for WiFi chipset and antennae. It’s quite possible that Amazon would sell WiFi Kindles in countries where it will not be able to reach an agreement with wireless operators. In the past Jesse Vincent speculated about possibility of 9.7″ Kindle based on Kindle source code and was right.

I wouldn’t hold my breath any time soon about WiFi in US version of Kindle because that would be a completely new device and Amazon has already released two during last three months. This caused some anger among Kindle 2 users who felt that their devices almost immediately became outdated when Kindle DX was released.

Kindle DX Screensaver Hack

Folks at mobileread.com have updated their screen saver hack to work with Kindle DX. It allows you to replace default screen saver images (mostly of famous writers) that appear when Kindle goes into sleep mode with any set of images of your own choosing.

You can download binaries and source code here. Installation is very similar to other Kindle “feature enhancing” hacks:

Instructions for use:

1) Plug your Kindle DX into your computer.

2) Copy “update_DX_screensaverhack-install.bin” to the root of your Kindle DX.

3) Optional Steps:

3a) Change directories to the “system” folder.

3b) Create a new folder called “screen_saver”

3c) Place any 824×1200 PNG image files into the system\screen_saver folder that you just created.

6) Unplug your Kindle DX.

7) Press the “Menu” button on your Kindle DX and select “Settings.”

8) At the Settings page press “Menu” again and select “Update Your Kindle.”

9) When the “update” is done your Kindle DX will reboot and you are done.

If you choose not to do step 3, the system will create the system\screen_saver folder for you and place the default screen savers in it. You can then remove or replace these, or mix them with your own — it’s up to you.

To go back to the default Kindle DX screen savers:

1) Plug your Kindle DX into your computer.

2) Copy “update_DX_screensaverhack-uninstall.bin” to the root of your Kindle DX.

3) Unplug your Kindle DX.

4) Press the “Menu” button on your Kindle DX and select “Settings.”

5) At the Settings page press “Menu” again and select “Update Your Kindle.”

6) When the “update” is done your Kindle DX will reboot and you are done.

More Information:

You can change images at any time, but you must reset your kindle for them to appear (press and hold the slider for 15 seconds). If there are no images then a blank screen will be shown when you go into sleep mode.

As with the K2, JPG/PNG/GIF files all work . You can use JPG, PNG, GIF, any size, although obviously 824×1200 works best. Smaller images are anchored in the upper left corner.

If you would like to restore the original screen savers without removing the hack, simply delete the screen_saver folder and reset your kindle, and the folder will be recreated with the original images in it.

Any official kindle DX updates that patch the file will fail (gracefully) if this is installed (ie. 2.1 to 2.1.1). Use the remove procedure, to restore the default screen savers, then apply the official update, and all will be well.

This hack is compatible with Unicode Font Hack and you can install and uninstall both independently of each other.

Unicode Font Hack for Kindle DX

Fine folks at the-ebook.org (translated version) have found a way to mod Igor’s python script so it can create valid custom updates for Amazon Kindle DX. I’ve compiled Kindle Unicode Font hack with the updated tool and verified that hacks work on my Kindle DX. Everything works fine – there are Unicode characters in both books and basic web, hack installs and uninstalls just fine and is safe to use.

Just as before there are 2 versions of the hack: one based on liberation fonts that have fewer international characters (no Asian characters) but preserve serif styles and one with droid fonts that has more characters but turns everything into sans-serif.

I have updated Unicode Fonts Hack page with new download links and instructions. Enjoy!

Kindle DX Unicode Font Hack

Kindle DX Unicode Font Hack

Arthur Conan Doyle, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #15

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, DL was a British author born to an English father of Irish descent and an Irish mother.  Though having chosen the profession of a physician at first, he later took up writing, thus becoming the author of the famous stories and novels about Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger. Many of these are available now in Kindle edition.

Sherlock Holmes: the Complete Collection includes 4 novels:

and 5 short stories collections:

In The Lost World Conan Doyle introduced another prominent character, Professor Challenger; a real person, professor of physiology William Rutherford, whom the author met at Edinburgh University,  is believed to be his prototype. During an expedition to South America, Professor Challenger and his teammates find “the lost world” where prehistoric animals still survive. “As one of the most important works of dinosaur-related fiction, The Lost World is highly recommended for those who are interested in dinosaurs or those who are fans of the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle.”

If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating writer, you may want to read The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Andrew Lycett. With an intention to show Conan Doyle’s full life, the author comes with a well-organized and detailed biography. “Lycett combines assiduous research with penetrating insight to offer the most comprehensive, lucid and sympathetic portrait yet of Conan Doyle’s personal journey from student to doctor, from world-famous author to ardent spiritualist.”

Arthur Conan Doyle on Kindle

Arthur Conan Doyle on Kindle

Unicode on Kindle DX via PDF

With Kindle 2 if you wanted to read books that contain non-English characters like Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew etc you had several options:

  1. Use Kindle unicode font hack to replace default Kindle fonts with ones that support wider range of Unicode characters.
  2. Convert it to set of JPEGs and read it in the picture viewer.

With Kindle DX option 1 is ruled out for the time being since Unicode font hack doesn’t install on it. (Update: Unicode Fonts Hack now works on Kindle DX as well). However because Kindle DX supports PDF natively there is another way. PDF supports “font embedding”. This means that fonts that are used in PDF file are stored within the file itself or at least a subset of font that describes all the characters that are actually used. So Kindle can display Russian text in PDF files even though there are no Russian fonts on Kindle DX itself.

Luckily creating PDF files is easy as printing documents. There are dozens of PDF “converters”, “creators” or “writers” out there that all work in a similar way. They are installed as virtual printers that instead of printing documents on paper save them on your PC in PDF format. So any file that can be opened in program that supports printing (and 99% of them do) can be converted to PDF.

Kindle DX Russian Text

Kindle DX Russian Text

I tested several such programs and all of them produced files that I could read on my Kindle DX. Visually files produced by all of them were identical and of similar size (on disk). The only difference is how particular program behaves itself on PC. In the end I went with PDFCreator because it’s easy to install and use and doesn’t come with junkware.

  • PDFCreator from SourceForge.net. Easy to install (just a single installer). Runs without problems and only offers to install Yahoo toolbar and default search when it’s installed. You can easily opt-out of it. Uses GhostScript (which is included in installation) for file conversion. User interface looks a bit crude but it is not a hindrance.
  • CutePDF by Acro Software Inc. Requires you to install the printer driver and Ghostscript separately. Printer driver installation is not Vista/Windows 7 friendly as it requires you to disable UAC (user account control) which requires a reboot (and then another one to turn it back on). There is not proper excuse for such sloppy software writing in 2009 when Windows Vista has been around for years. Otherswise the converter works fine.
  • PrimoPDF by by Nitro PDF Inc. Single installer that installs everything you need. Doesn’t have a problem with Vista/Windows 7 UAC. During installation you are subscribed to a mail-list you can later opt-out of. Runs ok except that on my Windows Vista machine Adobe Acrobat Reader would crash if you configure PrimoPDF to launch it to view newly converted file.
  • Pdf995 by Software995. You need to install 2 separate packages in order to software to run. It also shows an ad every time you convert a file unless you purchase ad-free version.

There are many more free and paid PDF converters out there. I’ve reviewed just a few free ones. If you think you know of a better one – drop a comment here and I’ll take a look.

You can see a sample (click to zoom) of Russian text that was downloaded from lib.ru, copy-pasted into Microsoft Word, font bolded and converted ot PDF using PDFCreator.

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Now that I’ve had the chance to use both devices it’s time for a small comparative review.
Let’s compare their specifications side-by-side:

Specification Kindle DX Kindle 2

Kindle DX Landscape

Kindle DX

Kindle 2

Kindle 2

Size 10.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″ (+86%) 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″
Weight 18.9 oz (+85%) 10.2 oz
Display Size 8″ x 5.5″ (+164%), 9.7″ diagonal 4.75″ x 3.5″, 6″ diagonal
Display Size Percentage
59% (+20)
39%
Display Resolution 824 x 1200 (+106%) 600 x 800
PPI 150 (-11%) 167
Usable storage 3.3Gb (+136%)
1.4Gb
Supported formats AZW, TXT, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, AAX, PDF AZW, TXT, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, AAX
Connectivity EVDO 3G, USB, 3.5mm stereo mini-jack EVDO 3G, USB, 3.5mm stereo mini-jack
Price $489.00 (+36%) $359.00

So for 36% more money you get double amount of display pixels, more than double storage and display area, less than double size and weight to carry around and native PDF support to boot. Sounds like sleek deal? Actually this depends on your lifestyle and usage patterns.

I mostly use Amazon Kindle for reading books and periodicals. Often I do it on the go. So for me Kindle 2 is ideal. It fits perfectly into my jacket pocket so I can always have it with me. So far I’ve had trouble filling 1.4Gb of K2 storage with books. In fact given average Kindle eBook size of 1.5Mb and price of $9.99 you need to spend $8,500+ on books to completely fill up flash memory on Kindle 2 before you’ll need to archive books away. If you plan to stuff Kindle DX with books prepare to spend $20,000+

Screen size. Large screen looks nice. That’s for sure. However 6″ screen of Kindle 2 is quite enough to read most of the content you would want. Kindle DX’s screen is so large that if I got a little distracted while reading a book it would go into sleep mode before I can finish the page. Although DX is quite heavy it’s still comfortable to hold and use, at least of a right-handled person that I am. However when I go out and want to have something to read between several appointments K2 wins hands down. If you are into comics or manga, large screen can come in handy as well. Ability to go to landscape mode can be useful with small fraction of books as well. It should also be noted that screen on Kindle DX seems to have better slightly better contrast and fonts seem to be heavier and darker.

Non-English books support. In Kindle 2 you can use my Unicode Font Hack to install international fonts. This way you can adjust the font size as you like while you read. The down-side is that it’s a hack and although Droid fonts that I used contain a lot of characters, they don’t contain them all. You can also browse international websites. With Kindle DX you can use one of the many options available for converting your book to PDF with embedded fonts and read it on your Kindle DX. You can’t change the font size on the go but you can pick the right one to begin with when you convert the book. This doesn’t solve the problem of international characters in websites however. (See update below) Technically the same solution was available for Kindle 2 as well – you could either convert books into batches of JPEG files or use Savory hack. However these solutions would not work too well because of the small screen size.

Update: Unicode Font Hack is now fully supported by Kindle DX. So on DX you can either go PDF way or replace default fonts and have non-English characters in .mobi, .txt files as well as converted documents and web-pages.

If you need to work with literature in PDF format especially the kind that has a lot of illustrations and math formulas – then you definitely need Kindle DX. There is no way any converter would produce decent results that will look good on K2 screen. Either the text will be too small or graphical contents will be messed up. You can take a look at side by side comparison of Kindle DX native PDF rendering and Amazon document converter processed document on Kindle 2.

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2 PDF Support

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2 PDF Support

In this usage scenario Kindle DX absolutely rules. Perhaps Amazon should introduce configurable idle timeout option on the settings page as comprehending large page full of formulas can take a long time and the device will go into sleep mode.

Bottom line

If you like to read on the go and portability is important to you – go with Kindle 2. If you need to work with PDF files or graphically intensive content that K2 can’t display properly because of lack of support or small screen size – go with Kindle DX.

In the perfect world we would have Kindle Touch that would be the same size as Kindle 2 but with 100% area used by eInk touchscreen with multi-touch pan and zoom that would support PDF and have WiFi connectivity on top of 3G for unrestricted browsing but then we would also have pocket-sized fusion, world peace and the answer to life the universe and everything…

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Haruki Murakami, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #14

Haruki Murakami began his writing career much later than most authors; he finished his first novel when he was 29. Since then, as if to catch up, he has proved to be very prolific and penned a lot of fiction and non-fiction works. Some of them are available now in Kindle edition.

Kafka on the Shore (published in 2002) is a complex novel with two different, yet interrelated plots about a run-away schoolboy and an elderly finder of lost cats. After the novel had been released, the readers asked thousands of questions concerning its meaning on the official website, and Murakami personally answered many of them. He emphasized that Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader.” For the novel, Murakami received Franz Kafka Prize and World Fantasy Award.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a collection of short stories written between 1981 and 2005; it gives the reader a great opportunity to follow the evolution of Murakami’s style, often allegoric and surreal. As Murakami himself noted, “I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.”

After Dark (published in 2004) is a classic Haruki Murakami novel with extensive attention to detail both in characters and settings, themes of loneliness and fate, and vivid pictures of Japanese urban life. “Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.”

Haruki Murakami On Kindle

Haruki Murakami On Kindle

Kindle As Father’s Day Gift

Kindle As Father's Day Gift

Kindle As Father's Day Gift

For some time now Amazon has been running “Kindle. Let Data Read and Relax” ad. I actually think that it does make sense. If your finances let you spend $359.00 or $489.00 on Father’s Day gift chances are your Dad is at the age when he:

  • likes reading and has enough time for it.
  • would benefit from large fonts and/or large screen of Kindle DX.
  • will appreciate the simplicity of it’s usage and the fact that you don’t need to use computer at all to get new books.

What do you think?

Do you think Kindle is good Father's Day gift?
View Results

Kindle DX Disassembled

It has been a while since Kindle 2 was disassembled and now Rapid Repair did the same to Kindle DX.

Kindle DX Disassembled

Kindle DX Disassembled

Here’s the scoop of Kindle DX components:

  • The battery is 3.7V Li-Pol 1530mAh. Battery capacity is identical to one used in Kindle 2. MC13783VK5 is used as battery management chip also identical to Kindle 2.
  • CPU is MCIMX31LDVKN5D M91E CTAK0915B by Freescale Semiconductors which is the next revision of the one used in K2. Is uses ARM11 microprocessor core. It can run on core clock frequency of up to 533Mhz.
  • Samsung 916 K4X1G323PC-8GC3 EMA188A5 is a 128 Megabyte mobile DDR SDRAM chip. This is the same as in Kindle 2
  • Samsung 840 K4M28323PH-HG75 AAH055BE is a 16 Megabyte mobile SDR SDRAM chip. Based on the fact that it’s located right next to Epson eInk controller chip (see below) I would dare to guess that it’s used as “framebuffer” memory. I could be wrong though.
  • eInk controller is Epson D135211B1 F09090125.
  • Flash chip is Samsung 907 KMBLG0000M-B998. It is 5 Gigabyte MOVI NAND + NAND + MCU.

Except for the flash and slightly upgraded CPU all other components are identical to ones used in Kindle 2. That’s why Amazon was able to release it so soon after K2 was released.

Kindle DX PDF Support Review

Ok. Lets take closer look at PDF support in Kindle DX.

Getting PDF files on Kindle

You have two options here: either connect Kindle DX to your PC via USB and copy the files over or send the file to your Kindle email address just like any other personal document. Amazon web service is smart enough to know which device supports PDF natively and will just send the file over without conversion. You will need to pay $0.15 per megabyte transferred. Unfortunately you can’t download PDF files directly to your Kindle since in this case Amazon will pay $0.12 per megabyte and you will pay nothing. When on Kindle DX, PDF files are treated just like other personal documents – they are not archived to Amazon servers when you delete them.

Displaying and navigating PDF files

PDF files are always displayed in ‘fit-to-width’ mode  whether screen orientation is portrait or landscape. You can’t zoom in or out or pan horizontally. While this will not be a problem for most documents it can render some completely unreadable. 5-way controller seems to do nothing when viewing PDF files. Because of the nature of PDF format implementing text-to-speech and variable font size properly would be next to impossible so I wasn’t surprised to find that these features are not there.

Of course you can still email you PDF file to free document conversion email at @free.kindle.com and then import into Kindle. Font sizes and “read to me” will then work however for PDF documents the result of such conversion is usually not visually pleasing.

When navigating PDF files you can:

  • Go to next and previous page.
  • Go to page by number via menu command. Total number of pages is displayed in the bottom portion of the screen.
  • “Go to Beginning” and “Cover” menu commands both seem to take you to the first page. This makes sense since PDF format doesn’t have a concept of cover or beginning of text unlike eBooks.
  • You can search within the document and iterate search results. Search terms will be highlighted as you view the pages. You can’t see all search results at once.
  • You can add bookmarks and navigate them as a list.

You can not:

  • Follow any internal and external links from PDF documents. While you can see things that look like links (underlined text in different font for example) they will not work – there is no way to select them. In PDF functionality and appearance are separate. You can think of it as JPEG screenshot of web-page – the seem to be there – but there is no way to know where they lead since Kindle PDF viewer doesn’t implement the functional part of links.
  • There are two ways table of contents is generally implemented in PDF files: either as a set of pages that contain links to sections and chapters (and as described above links don’t work) and as a separate data structure that is not displayed as part of the document. Adobe Acrobat usually displays these tables of contents  in the navigation bar to the left of the document. Kindle DX doesn’t seem to use this either. This was a bit of a surprise for me because having worked with PDF format I know that it would take average software developer one day to write code that will extract this table of contents and make it usable by the viewer. Hopefully this will be addressed with some future update.
  • Annotation and highlighting is also not possible in PDF files.

So if you have a document with small number of pages – it’s no problem – you can just page back in forth. For large documents you need to either use in-document table of contents and then use “Go to page” menu command and keep creating bookmarks or searching for chapter titles and keywords. If the document relies only on out-of-document table of contents then you are in real trouble.

It looks like PDF documents are not indexed globally so you can’t search them from the home screen. Perhaps Amazon decided that indexing them would strain resources of Kindle DX too much. Or perhaps this feature will be enabled with some future update.

Page turn speed is visually the same as when reading eBook. It takes some extra time to open the document itself and after that page turns are fast.

To summarize: Kindle DX did to PDF documents exactly opposite to that it did to paper books. It turned books into things that are interactive and easy to navigate and search while PDF documents were reduced to functionality close to the one of paper document.

Types of PDF documents that can be displayed

Obviously it’s impossible to implement PDF standard on a device such as Kindle DX when size, weight and battery capacity impose limits on the amount of memory and computing power. Nevertheless Kindle does a great job at supporting most of PDF features.

Obviously regular text is implemented properly.

Kindle DX properly supports embedded fonts into PDF files. And this means that you can convert your favorite non-English book into PDF and read it on your Kindle! I’ve tested it with a PDF that I’ve downloaded from the Internet and it worked (see screenshot). There are several “PDF Writers” that install as virtual printers and would allow you to convert any document English or not to PDF that will be viewable on Kindle. I promise to test several of these packages and report results.

Kindle DX Russian Text

Kindle DX Russian Text

Math formulas are displayed properly. There is little surprise there since PDF decomposes formulas into a collection of simple shapes and pieces of text that require only core PDF functionality to display. I used short math guide for LaTeX (FTP) to test formulas and it displayed perfectly on Kindle DX.

Kindle DX Math Formula

Kindle DX Math Formula

Graphics are displayed properly and with high resolution. Picture-intensive PDFs look much better than featured Kindle DX books. Obvious exceptions are 3D graphics and animations. Yes, PDF format supports these but Kindle DX can’t display them properly. You can compare this screenshot to how this file will actually display in your acrobat reader. If Kindle can’t provide proper rendering for some aspect of PDF file it is indicated in the bottom portion of the screen by message “Some elements on this page could not be displayed“. It is unreasonable to expect Kindle to support such kind of graphics.

Kindle DX 3D PDF

Kindle DX 3D PDF

Although it can only display 16 shades of gray Kindle DX seems to correctly support color-spaces even DeviceN and Separation. It also correctly supports PDF transparency.

Tables are rendered correctly. This is very similar to math formulas. In PDF tables are represented as a bunch of words and lines. Same is true about charts. You can get the idea by looking at the following screenshot from Bank of England quarterly report.

Kindle DX PDF Charts

Kindle DX PDF Charts

Kindle DX PDF Tables

Kindle DX PDF Tables

Forms are correctly displayed but are not editable.

Conclusion

Kindle DX offers comprehensive support for most PDF format features. It’s probably as good as it can get taking into consideration hardware limitations. Lack of zoom, pan, link and table of contents support are a major minus that renders some PDF files unusable to one degree or another. Fortunately to me as a software developer it doesn’t seem as something that can’t be fixed by a software update.

Kindle DX is a Calculator

Looks like I’ve found a new Easter Egg in Kindle DX. I’ve just tested my Kindle 2 and it doesn’t seem to do the trick with 2.0.3 software.

If you type mathematical expression like 2+2 in the search box on the home page the result shown would be result of this expression. See screenshot:

Kindle DX Calculator Easter Egg

Kindle DX Calculator Easter Egg

I’ve played around with it and it seems to support following operations:

  • Basic math: plus, minus, multiplication, division, power (^) and square root (sqrt)
  • Parenthesis
  • Trigonometry: sin, cos, tan, atan
  • Division by zero yields infinity result (∞)

I found this by sheer chance as I was trying to use search to find one of the two hundred PDF files I’m testing Kindle DX with right now by a portion of it’s name (6-2-3). Turns out Kindle DX doesn’t index file names but it did tell me that 6-2-3=1 :)

Kurt Vonnegut, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #13

It is rather difficult to name a certain genre Kurt Vonnegut’s works might belong to; to me, they are a mixture of science fiction, black comedy and philosophical fiction. Being honorary president of the American Humanist Association, he also promoted humanist beliefs and social reforms through his books. Some of the novels are available now in Kindle edition.

Cat’s Cradle (published in 1963) is one of the most famous Kurt Vonnegut’s books; it’s my favorite. In 1964 the novel was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel; to express appreciation of the novel  the University of Chicago awarded the author his Master’s degree in anthropology. In the center of the plot the writer places “ice-nine” – a newly-discovered matter that can cause freezing of water once it has been in contact with it, thus leading to a global catastrophe on the Earth. The substance was created by Felix Hoenikker; though a bright scientist, he is an amoral person who does not care about the way his discoveries, including the atomic bomb, might be used. “Vonnegut’s madly amusing imagination is in full play here, and the novel is a triumph of contemporary satire.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (published in 1969) is an anti-war science fiction novel. Though often subject to censorship, the book was nominated for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award in 1970. It tells the story of American soldier Billi Pigrim who was taken prisoner of war in World War II and brought to a slaughterhouse in Dresden. A fantastic thing happens then as Billi is kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and learns to travel in time.  “In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.”

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday (published in 1973) is a satirical novel with the title taken from the popular slogan of  Wheaties breakfast cereal. In the book, though,  this phrase is said by a waitress every time she serves a customer a martini. One of the main characters, Dwayne Hoover, is brought into madness by a book written by Kilgore Trout, an unknown pulp fiction writer. “Breakfast of Champions is a slippery, lucid, bleakly humorous jaunt through (sick? inhumane?) America circa 1973, with Vonnegut acting as our Virgil-like companion.”

Kurt Vonnegut On Kindle

Kurt Vonnegut On Kindle

Symbol Keyboard Shortcuts gone from Kindle 2?

As I was comparing Kindle DX and Kindle 2 I’ve noticed that some of the keyboard shortcuts that originally worked in K2 now don’t. Pressing Alt-6 used to type question mark, Alt-7 – comma, etc. Now these don’t seem to work in my Kindle 2. It looks like this functionality got disabled with one of the software updates: 2.0.1, 2.0.2 or 2.0.3.

Can you please check your Kindle 2 and verify if this works or not and post your Kindle software version. You can see this version in the bottom portion of the settings screen.

…First Kindle DX review

Ok, lets pick up where we left off: My Kindle DX has just arrived…

Unboxing Kindle DX

Unboxing Kindle DX

Kindle DX power up

Kindle DX power up

Post #301…

Exterior & Ergonomics

Kindle DX is much larger and slightly heavier than Kindle 2. In fact If you put K2 on top of DX, K2 would be almost the same size as DX’s screen. It’s still comfortable to hold and flip pages, at least for right handed people like me. Of course it works upside down and it’s usable this way but I will pass on making a judgment on how comfortable such setup would be for left-handed people. One thing for sure – alphanumeric keyboard is not usable this way. Landscape mode is comfortable. As Kindle is rotated, 5-way controller is automatically remapped so left remains left and right remains right.

Amazon leather cover now comes with two magnets to keep itself shut. If you are still using floppy disks from the previous millennium you shouldn’t put them next to Kindle DX if you are using the cover.

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Screen and fonts

It’s large. That’s for sure. 824×1200 pixels. It seems to update faster than Kindle 2 and whiles seems to be slightly lighter. There’s minimal ghosting sometimes just as on my second K2. The first K2 that was bricked by airplane didn’t have ghosting problem. Screensaver pictures seem to be the same as in K2 but upscaled and they do look gorgeous on the big screen. Fonts seem darker. So looks like Amazon took complaints about low contrast in Kindle 2 seriously and decided to address them. Spatial resolution is slightly lower – 150ppi comared to 167 in Kindle 2.

I’ve downloaded samples of some of the “books that look good on Kindle DX’s large screen“… Really they should be called “books that would have looked great on Kindle DX should have looked great on Kindle DX if images were not downsampled to lower resolution… I’ve checked 3 books and none looked as good as screensaver images. You could clearly see that illustrations in these books are much lower resolution than the screen. Hopefully this will get fixed as some point.

There are 7 font sizes just as in previous models. However the smallest font on Kindle DX seems to correspond to second smallest on K2. I can’t say for sure because I have Droid fonts installed on my K2 so that I can read Cyrillic. When font size dialog is invoked there are 2 additional options there that are specific to DX: “Words Per Line” and “Screen Rotation”. The second one is pretty much self-explanatory: you can explicitly select one of the four rotations or set it auto and let the accelerometer control it. “Words Per Line” really controls left and right margin width. Three available options are: default, fewer and fewest. At the moment I don’t quite understand the use of it. If I would want smaller screen area I’d just use K2. As this option is changed inline pictures as downscaled as well.

Screen rotation

Works as advertised – the image rotates as you rotated the device. Refresh time is good. Changing scren orientation is as fast as flipping a page.

Kindle DX Landscape

Kindle DX Landscape

Keyboard

Keyboard layout is QWERTY. Numeric row is merged with top letter row. To enter numbers you need to hold the “Alt” button. If you just need to enter one digit, you can press “alt” and digit in sequence (“alt” is “sticky” just likethe “shift” button). On DX buttons stick out more and are harder to press. Overall I found K2 keyboard more comfortable and easy to use than DX. Except “Next page” button being larger on DX, buttons on the right edge of the device are identical. 5-way controller stick is higher on DX.

PDF support

Kindle DX relies on it’s large screen to display PDF files “as is”, without re-flowing the text (which would be next to impossible with PDF since the format lacks any concept of paragraphs or text continuity).  The only way to zoom that I could find is to switch to landscape mode. It’s not such a big problem because most PDF files that people would want to read are preformatted for either Letter or A4 page size and Kindle DX screen is comparable in size to these formats.

Although there is concept of pages in PDF and you can navigate to any given page, both internal and external links in PDF files are disabled. Structured table of contents that is present in some PDF files is not usable either.

Graphically PDF files look fine and crisp. Rendering time is also good. It usually takes around 5 seconds to open the file initially and after that pagination speed is the same as when reading ebooks.

It’s not possible to download PDF files to your Kindle via WhisperNet. Most likely this is because Amazon pays 12 cents per megabyte to Sprint while keeping Internet connection free for Kindle owners. Given decent support that Kindle DX has for PDF files, abundance of PDF files on the Internet that people would like to download and read and relatively large size of these files it wouldn’t be a good idea for Amazon to enable such downloads.

It so happens that in my past life I spent a lot of time writing software that would process PDF files. Some time later I’ll run a comprehensive test of PDF support in Kindle DX and publish the results here.

Basic Web

Web browsing seems to be that same as on Kindle 2. “Advanced mode” is now called “Desktop mode’”. Basic mode is still much faster and usable than desktop mode. I tried to render BlogKindle.com in desktop mode and DX actually rendered it quite well. The only problem I could see was the lack of PNG transparency support.

Kindle DX Basic Web

Kindle DX Basic Web

9 inch screen definitely makes browsing a better experience.

Text-to-Speech

There are seemingly no changes in this feature. Funny thing that I’ve noticed as I experimented with it that female voice seems to have trouble pronouncing word USB. With male voice turned on is sounds much more natural.

Software

Apart from PDF support, changes to font size dialog, picture viewer mentioned above and additional game mentioned below Kindle software remains the same. Kindle DX comes out of the box with firmware version: 2.1 (337560062). Source code for Kindle DX is already published by Amazon and I’ll take a look at it. What seems important is that it has a separate section for Kindle DX sources code. On this basis I would speculate that next version of software for Kindle 2 is going to be 2.0.4, for Kindle DX it’s going to be 2.1.1. These will come from separate branches of code so I wouldn’t hope too much for PDF support being ported to Kindle 2 any time soon.

Hacking

Unfortunately Kindle DX was unresponsive  to the “old way hacking”. When I created a small “update” using Igor’s tool to dump the system log along with full directory listing to the root of Kindle drive the “Update Your Kindle” menu item remained disabled. Either Amazon has changed the format of the update files or they’ve come up with some way to digitally sign them to prevent hacking. Either way this means no unicode fonts for Kindle DX for the time being :(

Easter Eggs

I did a quick check on Kindle 2 easter eggs.

  • Minesweeper is still there. It’s accessible by pressing Alt–Shift-M in the home screen. If you press G after minesweeper is started you can play GoMoKu (it’s like tic-tac-toe but on a large board and the goal is to get 5 in a row). Kindle is actually a very good GoMoKu player. I played it twice and so far the score is 1-1 even though human player always gets the first turn.
  • Picture viewer is also there. To activate it connect Kindle via USB cable to your PC and create “pictures” folder in Kindle USB disk. Create subfolders there and copy pictures. Subfolders will become “book” names and pictures will be pages. JPG, PNG and GIF files are known to be supported. Once you’ve copied the files, disconnect the USB cable and press Alt-Z in the home screen – you should see your picture folders among books now. Scaling options have moved from the main menu to font-size dialog. Kindle DX will never try to stretch image to fit the screen but it can downscale to either fit width, height or screen. You can also display image at actual size and use 5-way controller to navigate the image. Screen rotation is also supported.
  • Symbol keyboard shortcuts are gone since numeric row is merged with the top letter row.
  • Hidden settings are still there. Typing “411″ and “611″ (using the alt-key) open corresponding settings pages.

Conclusions

Kindle DX is a nice device. Perhaps it’s not as much better as people hoped it would be but Kindle 2 sets the bar quite high. For day-to-day book reading I would still recommend Kindle 2 because of greater portability. If you can’t get by without PDF support and don’t want to use Savory hack (that would add similar or better level support than what’s available in 2.1) – Kindle DX is right for you. Hopefully with time there will be digital media that would take advantage of Kindle DX’s large screen.

Stay tuned for more detailed reviews, second impressions etc…

My Kindle DX has just arrived…

FedEx just delivered my Kindle DX! Stay tuned for hands-on review. It will come a bit later today…

Kindle DX Package

Kindle DX Package

Coincidentally this is exactly 300th post on this blog.

Newspapers going digital in 20 years, textbooks – by August, 2009

Two interesting pieces of news surfaced recently:

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, gave a speech on Sunday titled “The Future of Newspapers: Moving Beyond Dead Trees.” Here are some interesting excerpts from it, courtesy of The E&P Pub:

What we call newspapers today, I call ‘news organizations,’ journalistic enterprises, if you will.  They’re the source of news. And people will reach it if it’s done well, whether they do it on a Blackberry or Kindle or a PC.

I can see the day maybe 20 years away where you don’t actually have paper and ink and printing presses. I think it will take a long time and I think it’s a generational thing that is happening. But there’s no doubt that younger people are not picking up the traditional newspapers.

Personally I could bet that newspapers will stop using XV century technology sooner than 20 years from now in most of the industrial world. It will be the same story as with film cameras being replaced by digital. The new technology is going to become much cheaper and it is already more convenient to use. Personally I always hated to unfold and page though newspaper although I suspect Murdoch was referring to “younger people” who are younger than I am… Yes, Kindle may cost $359 or $489 today but lets not forget that in 1990 0.0768 megapixel black-and-white digital camera cost $1,000.

Over in California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced initiative to make digital textbooks for subjects such as geometry, algebra , trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, life science and earth science available to high-school students by August, 2009 when new school year begins.

Currently California is in the middle of financial crisis facing 24 billion dollar budget deficit. According to the official announcement with textbooks costing $75..100, a school district with 10,000 students can save up to 2 million dollars.

Official press release can be found here.

Arnold Schwarzenegger On Digital Textbooks

Arnold Schwarzenegger On Digital Textbooks

rupert-murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Kindle DX starts shipping today.

Today Amazon starts shipping Kindle DX eBook readers. As of now the reader is still in stock and the if you order it within the next hour, Amazon promises that it will ship today with overnight delivery tomorrow. Mine is already in the pipeline and expected to ship soon. So you can expect some first impressions from me tomorrow.

In an effort to promote Kindle DX, Amazon created a special section on their website for books “that look good on DX’s 9.7″ screen. It includes such books as: Akiko on the Planel Smoo, The Digital Photography Book, The Cook’s Illustrated How-to-Cook Library, etc.