Q: I have an Amazon Kindle and have found it great for reading eBooks from the Amazon store. Recently, however, I downloaded a book from Lulu.com in PDF format – the Kindle’s spec says it reads PDFs. But when I loaded the file onto the device via USB the font was very small and when I pressed the Aa button to make it larger the right-hand ends of lines disappeared off the screen so I have to scroll sideways to read them. Is there any way that I can get the Kindle to display PDFs in a larger font without this happening?
A: Although the Kindle can display PDFs, as you’ve discovered it doesn’t make a very good job of it. When you switch to a larger font the Kindle doesn’t re-flow the text so you end up with the right-hand edge of the page off the screen. The only way around this is to convert the PDF to a format that the Kindle is more comfortable with.
You can do this on your PC by downloading the free Calibre program. This can convert PDFs to the MOBI format which your Kindle will read properly and you can upload via USB.
An easier way is to make use of a little known facility that is available to all Kindle users. When you buy a Kindle it’s allocated its own email address, this takes the first part of the email you use to sign in to your Amazon account and adds it to @free.kindle.com to create a new address. So for example if you signed up to Amazon with firstname.lastname@example.org your Kindle address would be email@example.com. Send a message from your account address to your Kindle address with the PDF attached and put CONVERT in the subject line. What will happen is that Amazon’s servers will convert the file into the Kindle’s native AZW format. You’ll receive a confirmation email when this is done – it takes around 10 minutes – then next time you turn on your Kindle the file will be downloaded in the same way as a purchased book. Because it’s now in the Kindle format you’ll be able to change the font size and the text will re-flow correctly.
With either of these methods there is a slight loss of quality in the conversion process – line breaks and indents in particular tend to go astray – but for the most part the text remains readable.
Originally featured in PCU140