Is a kindle good for this?
April 7, 2012 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Kindle questions: 1) I want a device that I can read (mostly) 8.5" x 11" PDFs on without much scrolling (as opposed to page turning) and 2) use to look up prices of things (not just books) on Amazon and other sites. The iPad is great for these except it's too heavy to lug around and a bit too bright to read for hours and I'd prefer no monthly bill for price checking. I'm in Canada if that makes a difference. Is the Kindle appropriate and if so, which one? Also, is it easy to transfer my PDFs too? Can I access Dropbox, for instance? Thanks.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Technology (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The large kindle is the only ereader I've seen that handles pdfs in a pleasant fashion, imho. I don't know if they still make them.
posted by fshgrl at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2012

The Kindle DX is big, and works wonderfully for reading PDFs at almost real size. That is why I got one and I love it. It has free 3G access to the Amazon store and the e-ink is great for reading. You can send files directly through a cord, or you can send them via email for a fee.

Things you might not love: It is big and I am not sure how it compares with the iPad for weight. And while you can use the web browser to go to other sites besides Amazon, you won't want to -- the browser is unbelievably clunky. (I think they do that on purpose so you don't use too much of your free internet.)
posted by feets at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2012

I can only answer the first question -- I think the regular Kindle will be too small for what you're looking for. I have to read PDFs on it for work sometimes, and the type is usually way too small unless I make it landscape, which then requires scrolling. The Kindle DX might be what you're looking for.
posted by cider at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2012

The regular Kindle isn't going to be what you want for reading PDFs or doing price checks on Amazon.

I have a regular Kindle, and I love it SO MUCH... but only for reading books. Its experimental browser is clunky and painful at best, and I have never enjoyed reading PDFs on it. Somehow they always turn out wrong or unsatisfactory, regardless of whether I transfer them straight over, use Calibre, or convert through Whispernet.

I mention this because you note that the iPad is "too bright to read for hours." To do what you want, you will need to get the Kindle Fire - which is backlit just like the iPad, not grayscale like the regular Kindle's e-Ink deal.

The weight difference between the Kindle Fire and the iPad is negligible. People make a big fuss over the Kindle weighing 14.6 ounces (413 grams) versus the iPad's 18.9 ounces (535 grams), but let's get real: it's not that big a difference. It's roughly equivalent to the weight of a Snickers bar.

The Kindle doesn't have Dropbox access (the Fire might, I don't know). You have to transfer PDFs either by emailing them through Whispernet or by connecting to your computer with a USB cable.

Basically... I don't think you will be happy with either a Kindle or a Kindle Fire, based on what you're looking for. Be happy you have an iPad, they are pretty awesome!
posted by ErikaB at 12:35 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote against kindle for reading PDF's. But, I have had good success converting PDF's to Kindle format with Calibre, which makes them much more readable.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:39 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

Confess, Fletch... thanks for that link.

I should have clarified that I have these files as PDFs but I have no issue converting them to another format in order to read them as non-PDFs. What appeals to me about the Kindle is that it's small/light, and the e-ink.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:43 PM on April 7, 2012

i just got the htc flyer (recently discontinued) and LOVE it! (i got it on ebay for $300 with stylus and the 360 case...which is awesome in portrait or landscape) it does everything the kindle can do and much more. i use it mainly for art stuff, so the pressure sensitive stylus is a must have for me..maybe not for you(?), but you can use it to write notes on basically any kind of, text files, pdfs...7" tablets are super great and the size is super convenient...just pinch to zoom...i use it for web browsing all the time, so letter size shouldnt be a problem. samsung has a 7"android tab as well...
the kindle is probably not what you want...its far less an 'android computer' than it is an 'amazon store' roommate just got one (the fire) and i played with it a bit last night...its kludgy, mostly for books and movies from amazon (tho it does run apps from the amazon store)...and it doesnt have access to the android market (now 'google play')
as for your last note: the screen on the flyer will get comfortably dim...reading on it for a long time shouldnt be an issue...oh and the battery life is least a full day of near-constant use)...but it's def not like a dedicated eink screen.
you should def go to an electronics store and check out these things in person tho...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2012

Response by poster: sexyrobot, the problem with that plan is that I have to pay for a dataplan. I already have an iPad and as much as I love Android, I don't think I need another tablet.

I have been to stores but no one sells the Kindle so I haven't played with one.

99% of the time I'd be reading screenplays, which have a strict format which I'd want to stay intact. Anyone know if that format would remain when converted to whatever file format Kindle requires?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:54 PM on April 7, 2012

Response by poster: Damn, I just tried using Calibre converted to Mobi (that's what kindle reads?) and it loses its format.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:02 PM on April 7, 2012

Yes, mobi is what kindle reads. I guess I should have mentioned that the formatting isn't correct. The main advantage to me is that you don't have to zoom or scroll.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:10 PM on April 7, 2012

You're in Canada, you might want to check out the Kobo:

It can read pdfs, but I don't have one myself, so I can't speak to scrolling/page turns/how they display. Eink screen, lighter than an iPad, and ... well, it probably wouldn't help you in terms of checking amazon prices. But if you have a smartphone, maybe install the kindle app, and use that to price-check?
posted by inging at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2012

The Nook Color booting into a Cyanogenmod Android off an SD card handles PDFs very well (Dropbox folders to sync, ES File Explorer for browsing local network drives, Calibre for reading and local bookshelves, etc.)... but the screen is just too small. The 7" display is just insufficient for full-page PDFs. Since Android handles it so well otherwise, though, that means any good-sized Android tablet (that you can root) will work well. I've got my eyes open for one of the reputable 10.1" tablets. Honestly, I think even a 10" display is too small for poring over standards PDFs and such, but the few 12" ones I've seen are all pretty beastly.
posted by introp at 1:23 PM on April 7, 2012

I've read PDFs on the Kindle DX and it works well. Even seems to automatically reduce the margins so the text takes up more of the screen. And the Kindle DX is lighter than the first generation iPad by a noticeable amount but that may not be true once you put them each in a case, depending on the weight of the case.

One other point, since you complained about screen brightness on the iPad: you can dim the screen in system preferences. You don't want anything with an eink screen if you're planning to browse the web to look up prices. It's too slow and clunky.
posted by Jeff Howard at 1:27 PM on April 7, 2012

You can see a Kindle in Staples/Bureau en Gros in Canada, a Kobo in Chapters, Best Buy and Future Shop, a Sony in Best Buy or Future Shop.

If you can edit the pdf to make it a pdf on a smaller page size, an e-ink reader is great.
posted by jeather at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2012

I've been frustrated by reading PDFs on a eInk-based ereader (a Sony, FWIW) and the research I've done towards eliminating that little problem all points towards a tablet. Most PDFs I use are based on scans, and that means for comfortable 1:1 reading you need a decent-sized screen, as close as possible to a piece of foolscap paper as you can get; add a built-in browser and you've moved beyond anything that most ereaders can do at the present time. Doesn't mean that won't change in a few years, but at the moment I would stick with the iPad. Or maybe get a big-screened eInk ereader like the DX feets mentioned above and make margin notes of the titles you'll want to price check at a later time?

One thing that has helped me reading PDFs is the ability to play mohel and snip margins with briss; I'm often still stuck zooming or squinting a little, however the ability to reduce the document area without converting or otherwise affecting the file does make a difference. But what do I know from mileage?
posted by Chichibio at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2012

Kindle Fire, definitely. I had a Kindle 2 and reading PDFs on it was a giant pain. You can drag and drop PDFs onto your Kindle Fire and they're formatted much better; you can zoom in and out to reduce the amount of scrolling you need to do. You can access Dropbox as long as you're connected to wifi, since the Kindle Fire doesn't have 3/4G.
posted by anotheraccount at 4:18 PM on April 7, 2012

Kindle Fire does an okay job reading PDFs, though for multi-collumn docs with small text I find myself wishing for a larger screen, so it'll depend on the doc.
posted by Artw at 4:50 PM on April 7, 2012

I agree with Artw, I have to read a lot of research papers and all the scrolling and zooming on the Kindle Fire is annoying.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:05 PM on April 7, 2012

I have to agree with everyone, the eInk Kindles, except for the DX perhaps, have too small a screen to read PDFs, and the interface is too clunky to do much zooming or scrolling with them.
posted by JHarris at 6:51 PM on April 7, 2012

If you email yourself to your free kindle email (usually attach the PDF and write 'convert' in the subject line it'll usually come out nicely formatted.
posted by jourman2 at 11:13 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The email converter puts pretty severe limits on the size of the PDF that it'll convert, and while results are often good it depends heavily on how the PDF was constructed.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

?...not all android tablets require a data plan...theres even some that have 3g that dont require you to activate it if you dont want...confused you WANT a data plan?...theres a sprint 3g version of the htc flyer if you do....another note in its favor: you can highlight any text you want (not like 'select' (tho of course u can), but like with a highliter pen)...theres a button on the stylus for this...also you can scribble notes in the margins, cross out stuff, whatever...just like real paper...its really slick. You should check it out on youtube...(if you like, i'd be willing to send you a screenshot of any pdf you send me if you want to see how the formatting holds up...)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:33 AM on April 8, 2012

Use the free kindle app on your iPad to play with different methods of converting the PDFs to kindle compatible formats.
posted by msbrauer at 7:01 AM on April 8, 2012

Response by poster: sexyrobot, the 3G Kindles come with free 3G.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:02 AM on April 8, 2012

Ahh...i see...the 'free 3g' on the Kindle ony applies to amazon products though...while you can use it to check prices on the amazon store or download ebooks from them, its not for surfing the internet or downloading your own files, whenever/ will still need to do that over wifi or wired connection.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:48 AM on April 8, 2012

Actually, on the Kindle 3/Keyboard and earlier, browsing is free over 3G. Amazon foots the costs. This does not apply to the Fire, and may not apply to later eInk Kindles.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on April 8, 2012

If I was in your situation, I would definitely get a Kindle DX. I have they Kindle Keyboard 3G and love it! Reading is so easy and enjoyable with the eInk. I definitely want to get the DX when I am back in school and reading textbooks/papers more frequently.

Yes the internet access is very slow, but free, and you can use Dropbox. ( I am not sure why people above say the internet doesn't work over 3G, because it works for me, which is nice for checking emails/wikipedia on the go.

Just to note, I am also from Canada.

Good luck!
posted by Huck at 10:42 PM on April 8, 2012

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