Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sending and Viewing PDFs on Kindle

Some time ago, Amazon introduced native PDF reading to Kindle; that is, the ability to read PDFs on the Kindle device. There are pros and cons to viewing PDF files on Kindle though, and it's not always the best option. A big downside for some is that in PDF format, you can't use the Kindle's built in features of changing font size, using text to speech or the dictionary look-up feature. On the other hand, you get to read the document in it's original format. That can be tricky - large pages showing on a small screen can be hard to read. You can scroll and enlarge images (using the 5-way), but it's not ideal.

How to send PDF to your Kindle

You can do it wirelessly or via USB. To do it wirelessly, find your Kindle email address on your Manage your Kindle page. It will be something like
You can also find this address from your Kindle home page. Click Menu > Settings, click Next Page and look for Device Email.

Email the document to that email address, and it will be sent wirelessly to your Kindle. If you're leaving it in pdf format, you don't need to type anything. There is a small cost based on file size if you use the 3G option, or free with wifi. There is a 50MB limit, and there are country restrictions. (see below)

To do it for free, use your Kindle USB to transfer it. Simply plug in, go to your My Computer page, click Kindle. Drag and drop the PDF into the Documents folder.

To change view of the PDF

Font now too tiny? Click Aa and get a few options.  The top line lets you enlarge the page, but you do have to use the 5-way to move the page as you read. It's not ideal for reading, but might be useful for viewing graphs or maps.

I do like the screen rotation a bit better. I pick the second option, which is basically turning your Kindle sideways to read it in Landscape. This shows half a page at a time. You have to get used to Next Page/ Last Page buttons being above/ below instead of left/ right but and is easier to read (see below).

How to convert the PDF

Personally, I prefer to convert. It does lose some of the original PDF formatting, and you may have page footers/ headers/ page numbers showing but I can live with that. I like what I can do with the Kindle formats (font changes, Text to Speech etc) so it's worth it to me.

To convert.... follow the email process above but include the word CONVERT in the subject line. The PDF will be converted and sent to your Kindle wirelessly.
For free conversion, put the word free in the email address (, and the new file will be emailed back to you in a few minutes. Transfer it to your device via USB.


Charges to convert are based on file size. You can set a limit on your Manage your Kindle page. Mine is set to just 50 cents, so I don't spend more than that for a conversion.
  • Kindle (Free 3G + Wi-Fi) user living in the United States: If you transfer personal documents to your Kindle via Wi-Fi there is no delivery fee. If you transfer personal documents to your Kindle via 3G while inside the United States, the fee is $ .15 per megabyte. When traveling outside the United States, a fee of $.99 per megabyte will apply.

  • Kindle user living outside the United States: We'll send personal documents to your Kindle via 3G for a fee of $ .99 (USD) per megabyte anywhere in the world you access 3G service.
Fees are rounded up to the next whole MB and apply to each personal document delivered via 3G to each Kindle. You can transfer personal documents to your Kindle via USB for free at any time.

For more info or recent pricing, see Transferring personal documents

If your file never shows up, check:

i) your spending limit. If you have your limit set too low and you are requesting delivery of a large file, it may be costing more than the limit.
ii) if you're waiting via email, are you waiting at the correct email address?  No matter what address you use to send your email, Amazon will reply to your main registered address
iii) Did you send it from an approved email address?  To prevent spam (anyone emailing documents to your Kindle), you have to use an authorized email address to send your documents to Amazon. You can add/ edit these addresses on your Manage your Kindle page, in the box Your Kindle Approved E-mail List.

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