Kindle Firmware Version 2.3
Amazon has finally released an update for the Kindle with version number 2.3. This update comes over 6 months after the release of bug patch firmware version 2.0.3. This is the first firmware update for existing and new Kindle 2 (US Wireless), Kindle DX, and Kindle 2 (Global Wireless) users that actually adds features (unlike previous 2.0.x patch that removed Text-2-Speed functionality from some ebooks).
The primary new features for the Kindle 2 (US Wireless and Global Wireless) are:
- Longer battery life with wireless on. This feature has been reported to be for Global Wireless users, but does seem to exist for US Wireless Kindle 2′s as well according to some articles.
- Native PDF reading. Long at last, all Kindle 2 users can now natively view PDF files without having to first convert to another format.
- Manual screen rotation to portrait or landscape. You may now rotate the screen manually in 4 different directions (2 landscape, 2 portrait).
- Ability to convert PDF files to Kindle format. While this does not actually seem like an entirely new feature, you may convert PDFs to native kindle format by typing “Convert” in the subject of the email when submitting your PDF to your @kindle.com address. This will obviously not work with local USB transfers.
The primary new features for the Kindle DX are:
- Better cropping of PDF files. Documents are now properly cropped to maximize use of the screen real estate, and show less white margins.
- Ability to convert PDF files to Kindle format. Like above, this does not seem like a new feature, but does let you explicitly convert the PDF to the Kindle format, instead of just sending down the PDF.
- View pages longer. Screensaver comes on in 20 minutes instead of 5 minutes.
Icon for PDF Files
At first, the update seemed unavailable to me via WhisperNet (and of course wireless was turned on and there was a signal). Since the firmware just came out, I assumed Amazon was rolling this out in phases over the population as many tv settop box companies do. A quick search showed that the firmware update was available from Amazon’s Kindle Help website for performing manual updates via USB. Amazon has made three firmware versions available, each corresponding to the type of Kindle you own. Kindle 1 users are not eligible for this update unfortunately (the latest version is 1.2 for Kindle 1).
Once you’ve downloaded the appropriate .bin file, be sure to copy it to the Kindle via USB. Plug the USB cord into your computer, and drag the file over to the base path. Do not place the .bin file in a subfolder, or you will be unable to update the Kindle until you do put it in the top root path. Now eject/disconnect your Kindle. The “Update Your Kindle” option in the Settings Menu should be available to you now. The update takes about 5-10 minutes.
Loading the first page of a PDF
After you’ve updated it, you should be on Kindle 2.3. This can be confirmed at the bottom of the Settings page.
My build number is 399380047. Yours will probably be different if you have the Kindle 2 Global Wireless edition, or a Kindle DX.
Cover image loaded for first page of a PDF
Once you’ve added PDFs to your Kindle (by either emailing them to your @kindle.com address, or dragging them into the “documents” folder via USB), you will see the word “pdf” next to items that are PDFs. This is similar to free samples that you download, which show “sample.”
It appears that the PDF rendering engine requires a “conversion” to an image for each page in the PDF, which appears to occur on demand. When you click into your PDF, it will show a message showing the page you last left off on, indicating that it’s loading it.
Shortly after (about 3-5 seconds) it will load the page. The first page seems to render more slowly than successive pages in the current document.
It’s not that simple though
Text in a PDF is not very legible on such a small screen
An unfortunate downfall with PDFs on the Kindle 2 is that the text is incredibly small in most cases since it’s trying to squeeze a larger format onto a smaller screen. Most PDFs are formatted for larger print, and were not necessarily laid out in a way that allows fonts to be more legible on a smaller screen.
However, Amazon included the ability to change to landscape mode to make this more legible. Press the Aa key to change the screen orientation. When you choose a landscape mode, you will notice that you can now read the text more comfortably, however, you will now have to scroll the page once or twice to see it completely.
Viewing part of a PDF's page when in Landscape mode
In most of my tests, I have only been able to see 1/3rd of the page at a time. Do note that Amazon changes the functionality of the cursor so that the directions make sense, depending on which orientation mode you’re in.
This can be very annoying when your PDF has a lot of blank pages separating chapters, or padding various areas (such as the front of the book) because you have to skip 2 or 3 pages per blank page.
Thanks Amazon, it’s a start!
But let’s hope this is the beginning of a slew of new updates on a regular basis. There are numerous basic features that users are clammering for that would make this the killer eBook platform. (You do have a lot of competition now Amazon. You want to keep up right?)
Some things I hope we see in the near future:
- Basic Folders. Let’s face it, I can’t navigate all these custom documents, purchases, and free books. I need the ability to stuff these into real folders (and not some weird tag hacking junk). A long list, ordered by date or name, is unacceptable!
- Book Lending. Even though publishers are disabling this feature on the Nook in droves, I think it’s an awesome idea. This would attract a ton of people to the eBook world, because a large complaint they have is the inability to let a friend read it when they are done.
I’m an easy man. Only 2 necessary features!
More can be read about the latest Kindle firmware update via these articles:
How about your experiences?
What are your experiences updating to the new 2.3 firmware, and do your PDFs look fantastic?