15 Things I Just Learned About the Amazon Kindle

• Its eBooks have DRM (filetype: .AZW), but it supports unprotected Mobipocket books (.MOBI, .PRC), .TXT files, HTML, and Word. Some files can be transferred over USB, while others have to be emailed to the special per-device Kindle email. (More on that later.)

• It has a web browser, under the "Experimental" banner.

• You can download text and other files to the device from the web for later storage. I downloaded young master Doctorow's story "Printcrime" from the Overclocked site via the Kindle's browser and was reading the plaintext version in about 45 seconds.

• It can play Audible audiobooks, but cannot download them over the air using the "Whispernet" EV-DO service. They must be downloaded using the Audible manager, then copied to the Kindle via USB.

• The Kindle can play MP3s copied to its internal storage (180MB user accessible) or SD card, but only on random shuffle. Music can be played in the background while you read or shop the Kindle store.

• Kindle also features "Kindle NowNow," a human-powered search query system powered by Amazon's Mechanical Turk distributed work system. NowNow is free.

• Blog subscriptions cost $2 a month with a 14-day free trial. However, you can browse directly to the blog using the "Basic Web" browser for free. Basically, you'll pay for RSS, but not the web.

• Mobipocket DRM'd files will not work on the Kindle.

• PDF is not supported. At all. Even via the conversion process.

• GIF and JPEG are supported filetypes. Hello, manga!

• There are only two fonts: Caecilia and Neue Helvetica, both from Linotype. You cannot select which font to use to read (the book texts are in Caecilia), but can select from six font sizes.

• If you email a document directly to your Kindle, Amazon will charge you a $.10 per document conversion fee. You can choose to avoid that fee by using the free Kindle service that will email the file back to you, which can then be copied via USB. Update: The pay service took about 15 minutes to convert and broadcast a simple text-only .DOC file; the free copy, sent before I sent the identical file over the pay service, has still not arrived. Update 2: Okay, it actually arrived pretty quickly, but routed back to the email I use for my Amazon account, not the one I sent it from. That puts it in the neighborhood of the pay service.

From Amazon:

If you are not in a wireless area or would like to avoid the $.10 fee, you can send attachments to "name"@free.kindle.com to be converted and e-mailed back to your computer at the e-mail address associated with your Amazon.com account. You can then transfer the document to your Kindle using your USB connection.

• The shape of the Kindle makes sense when you hold it, but the color isn't all that great. White plastic is going to get dirty, too.

• The conversion by email, both free and pay-for, isn't instant by any means. I'm actually still waiting on my files to show up after about five minutes. It hasn't shown up in the "Pending" list on Amazon.com's Kindle management page, either.

• You can't use the scroll wheel to move down content, even on the web. You must use the page forward and back keys. It's confusing.

Bonus 16th Update: Having copied over .DOC, .TXT, .RTF, .PDF, .GIF, .JPEG, and .PDB files directly to the Kindle via USB, only the .TXT file showed up for viewing.

The .DOC file I sent over the air to the Kindle arrived as a .AZW, the Kindle format, which implies to me that the only two file formats this thing can read natively are .AZW and .TXT. That's a huge bummer.

Join the Conversation


  1. No PDF (even DRM-free PDF) == fail.

    I was excited about the wireless capabilities, and while the price is high it’s still within range. I guess I sort of understand why Amazon doesn’t want to support PDFs (I’m sure that this device is a loss-leader for them). But if I can’t read business documents, white papers and research papers on this thing it’s just not worth it for me.

  2. Bummer that it does not support pdf directly but one can always convert pdf’s to Word which can then be converted to the Kindle.

  3. This is yet another device not enough people will buy.

    A reader needs to work with every file format out there.
    It needs to support DRM for the file types that need it but be open enough to still accept file with no DRM.
    Removable media, yes.
    USB connectivity, sure, but you don’t need it if you have removable media. If it brings down the price, leave it out.
    Wireless? it’s not really necessary. It’s ok if it’s not locked to any service provider.
    Web browsing, no, it just jacks the price up.
    Audio, no, it just jacks the price up.
    For the people that want wireless, web and audio, make a separate model with the extras.

    Just give me a $200 reader with good contrast and DPI that lets me read without getting a headache.

  4. I’d love one of these but think I’ll wait until the things been broken (or fixed) DRM/PDF/JPG/TIF wise; comes in a choice of wood, leather, brass or stone finishes; is available in Europe, fits in pocket, costs less etc.. I really would love an excuse to put this in my Christmas list, perhaps next year.

  5. Now, I’m not out to trash e-books or Amazon. But the demise of the book was suppose to happen 30 years ago, and e-books aren’t new or anything. I’m thinking, for $400, this isn’t gonna do printed books in either.

    I read e-books on my Palm Z22. Yeah, it has a tiny screen, but variable sized fonts help, and the flow of reading isn’t interrupted much by frequently “turning” the pages. Also, I can easily download software and free books for it.

  6. Clearly the white plastic, integrated “Kindle Store” and uniform content pricing are meant to emulate iPod. Alas, also the DRM.

    Also, compared to an iPod, doesn’t seem like an outrageous price.

  7. I would pay $150-300 no questions asked for legitimate electronic book reader no questions asked. But none has ever been developed. It needs to be open to all available formats.

    More than anything else have a solid open and free SDK so any developer can build software to interface with the device. I don’t understand why CE companies don’t fckng understand the fact that the only company that has ever been successful in producing a CE device that is locked to a software is Apple, and that is because they know how to develop software (although it doesn’t excuse them, at least ipods are useable).

    Sony has been trying this for years and failing, hell my LG chocolate phone is packed full of amazing technolgy made absolutely worthless by being locked to LG.verizon software. UGH!

    My left eye for a company who will produce functional CE devices!

  8. “The .DOC file I sent over the air to the Kindle arrived as a .AZW, the Kindle format, which implies to me that the only two file formats this thing can read natively are .AZW and .TXT. That’s a huge bummer.”

    Umm, if you read the product pages, it natively supports .AZW, .TXT, .MOBI, and .PRC (and apparently only non-DRMed MOBI and PRC files).


    So the short version — buy this, and convert unDRM-ed ebooks as in Baen to nonDRM-ed Mobi. I wouldn’t buy any DRMed books from Amazon or anyone else, period.

  9. Not being able to read PDF files is just so stupid I cannot believe it. Probably not available outside the the US anyway.

  10. so, wait: up near the top you say “PDF is not supported. at all. even via the conversion process.”, but aren’t there converters to convert PDF to mobi format? wouldn’t that work?

  11. Their promo videos don’t inspire and the thing looks about sexy as the label maker I bought at Target yesterday. If Amazon had gotten this product right (and the opportunity is certainly out there) this would be truly revolutionary. This seems like a hodgepodge of crippled capabilities with a pricepoint too high to establish a real market. Perhaps they’re okay with failure in version 1.0 because they can afford a learning experience?

    I’ll wait for my Apple Tablet. As much as I lust for the unrealized potential of ePaper, I’ll be perfectly content to read in bed on the bright screen of a small/light, uncrippled computer.

  12. Is not being able to read PDF files really that stupid? All of the reviews I’ve seen of PDF on Sony and other ebook readers was considerably less than stellar due to the form factor issue (PDFs out there tend to be formatted for screen sizes much larger than typical ebook reader screens).

    @Franko…the conversion process he tested out was the wireless one that doesn’t require using a computer. So, no, you apparently can’t e-mail a PDF to Amazon and then have it wirelessly appear on your device.

    What you can apparently do is convert the PDF to Mobi and then transfer it from your computer to your Kindle.

    It will be interesting to see if the Mobipocket dekstop client supports the Kindle, which would be very nice as they have really come a long way in that functionality to where it comes close to being iTunes for ebooks.

  13. Gitbo@8

    But the iPod supports direct loading of MP3s which are much more likely to be there than DRM’ed content. (At $1 a pop who’s going to fill up a 80 GB iPod).

    This piece of junk on the other hand is so control freakish that you can’t even dump RTFs on it without paying/(or running it past) Amazon for the privilege.

    How many books will fit on an 8 GB SD? Pure text, with zip compression roughly 16,000 copies of War and Peace. Project Gutenberg has 17,000 titles on one DVD (assuming about 4.7 GB). Toss in the text of the wikipedia as well. Either you do it at $0.1 a pop ($1,700) or for free. Think about if the Bookeen or Sony threw that in for free.

    You might argue about DRM, but the lack of reasonable non-DRMed content will kill the Kindle.

  14. “This piece of junk on the other hand is so control freakish that you can’t even dump RTFs on it without paying/(or running it past) Amazon for the privilege.”

    Um, no. You can convert the RTF to Mobipocket and then transfer via USB with no charge and no DRM.

  15. I just realized something, if the EVDO doesn’t explicitly shut off the Kindle is DOA. If you can’t use it on a plane you just lost a large chunk of your market.

  16. “I just realized something, if the EVDO doesn’t explicitly shut off the Kindle is DOA. If you can’t use it on a plane you just lost a large chunk of your market.”

    There is a physical Wireless switch that can be turned on or off specifically for situations where Wireless should not be in use.

  17. Monopole #15

    I didn’t say they had emulated it well, only that several of the design elements were obvious homages to apple. How long until it’s being called “the iPod for books?”

    I agree the white looks crappy. But my iPod doesn’t get dirty. (Until I load a Christina Aguilera video.)

    I’ll prolly NOT buy one of these, only because I want to wait until I know someone has done it right. But I don’t have an iPhone either.

  18. I forgot to mention the Not Another EBook reader.
    NAEB … BAEN backwards (no business affiliation)

    ripped from the site:
    Operating System: Linux
    Applications: MP3 player, Ebook Reader
    Notes: On release of our version the ebook reader software will support ebooks in the following formats: RTF, HTML, PDF and PRC, both secure and unsecured. (Mobipocket)
    Price: $375.00 plus shipping. Includes: 1 1GB SD Card, 1 set of earbuds, 1 usb to mini-usb cable, a leather cover and a wall recharger.

  19. The NAEB is just the buyers club for the Cybook. Main advantage that Kindle has over Cybook, aside from the wireless, is that Kindle appears to have much better features for annotation with the keyboard, etc.

    I was waiting today to decide whether to by the Cybook or Kindle, and placed my order for the Kindle.

  20. Okay, here’s something I learned reading the Kindle manual which is genuinely annoying. Amazon is really pimping the ability to subscribe to newspapers/magazines for $10+/month depending on the newspaper. Except,

    “Newspapers and magazines are also stored in Your Media Library but not permanently. Most publishers allow Amazon to store seven issues of their periodical for retrieval although this number varies by publisher.”

    So apparently if I want to keep that issue of the New York Times that has an article I want to reference over a few weeks, too bad … all I can keep are the last 7 or so issues. Apparently they won’t delete it from the Kindle device itself, but then I’m going to have to fill up my device just with old newspapers.

    Also, with blogs, news and magazines, if you make any annotations, and then remove the blog, newspaper or magazine from your Kindle, they toss out the annotations even if the issue/entry is still save Your Media Library on Amazon’s service.

    Another reason simply to never by content from Amazon, but rather get the content elsewhere and convert to DRMfree formats and add to the device via USB.

    Also, there isn’t any file space for your own documents on Amazon’s server. So say you decided to send your doc to Amazon so it converts the doc and then wirelessly adds it to your Kindle. Then you delete it from the Kindle. Then you a few weeks later you decide you want that doc again. You have to resend it and pay for it to be converted all over again.

  21. In Newsweek Steven Levy said “Though Bezos is reluctant to make the comparison, Amazon believes it has created the iPod of reading.” While “the iPod of …” has become a cliché to describe any product with a semblance of distilled design sensibilities emanating from Cupertino, there is one fundamental strategic reason why Kindle won’t be like the iPod: content. I explain why here:

    “Why is the new Kindle eBook reader from Amazon and not Apple?”

  22. Were you able to make some lofi no-javascript version of google/yahoo maps work on the kindle ?
    That single feature would make it complete for me. Although I have to say, I have no idea how vertical scrolling would work with maps.

    PS: I had post anonymously, create and account seems to be broken 🙁

  23. Brian Carnell (16):

    “This piece of junk on the other hand is so control freakish that you can’t even dump RTFs on it without paying/(or running it past) Amazon for the privilege.”

    Um, no. You can convert the RTF to Mobipocket and then transfer via USB with no charge and no DRM.

    This device can only be successful if it sells to and is widely used by a non-technical user base. For a lot of them, RTF = “A file I can read just fine on my computer, so why doesn’t it work on the Kindle?”, Mobipocket desktop client = “Huh?”, and USB may or may not be a known term. They’re not going to track on which formats can be copied directly, which ones have to be run through a converter (and which converter to use), which ones have to be routed through Amazon, and which ones can’t be used at all.

    This is going to be especially frustrating for one of the obvious subgroups of people who should be the Kindle’s early adopters: readers who are already into e-text and audiobooks. They’ll already own texts in other formats, and will want to transfer them to the Kindle so that they don’t have to carry around multiple devices. This is not a good moment to have complex and persnickety format requirements.

    Readers will default to the not-very-technical terms they do know: “You can’t just copy stuff to it — they make you send everything through Amazon, and then they charge you for it,” and “This thing doesn’t work. It sucks.”

  24. As has already been said: no PDFs == fail.

    Too bad, it says on Amazon that they worked on this for three years. Since it can’t deal with multiple formats, can’t play mp3’s without shuffling (!?), and has the other limitations mentioned, I’m guessing it won’t sell.

    The REAL bummer, is that market research will yeild from this that “people don’t want a digital book”, and no one will touch developing a good version with a ten foot pole for like, a decade.

  25. I for one think it’s failed from the start– a book is a perfect form, like a bicycle, and any improvements will only be incremental tweaks. The basic form works too well, and electronic versions serve the seller more than the consumer.

    I see more hope in recyclable Durabooks (Cradle to Cradle) or, if a complicated electronic solution to a simply-solved problem must be had, something that’s not like a book. As it is, this Kindle thing is like a less-functional laptop that adds costs and does less, or a less flashy iPhone.

  26. A lot of these weird limitations make sense (fcvo “sense”) if you assume that Sprint required them in order to keep the Kindle from being adapted to purposes for which one would normally use a cellphone.

  27. There are PDF to RTF converters available.
    Has anyone tried them to see how the output
    looks on Kindle?

  28. The eBook will never succeed completely until someone comes out with a reader that is waterproof so you can read in the bath.

  29. I’ve no idea where the misinformation about the PDF comes from, but it’s appeared in a lot of blogs and such.

    The Kindle DOES SUPPORT PDFs– even natively. I routinely email pdfs to my Kindle and it has no trouble whatever.

    You need to get your facts straight. The one thing I will add, though, is that graphics-heavy PDFs don’t look great. But text-only ones work without a hitch.

    1. Anonymous, I think you’re mistaking “supports PDFs if I send them through Amazon’s email transcoding service” for “supports natively.” It would only be native if you could copy the PDF file directly to the device and it could be parsed. You can’t.

  30. Guys there is a way of converting PDF files to PRC format and it does not involves converting PDF to text and then trying to port it PRC.

    Basically some people have written a script which converts your PDF(any kind, it may be just a collection of scanned images) reflows it to fit it on kindle’s screen(you can change the settings) and then generates a zip file containing PNG snapshots of the pages(formatted to fit on the screen of kindle). Then using another tool called png2pdf you can convert it back to pdf, which you can then convert it PRC format using Mobibook creator Advanced edition and voila, you will get amazing display of that pdf on Kindle(way too better then Amazon’s own experimental pdf conversion process).

    This workflow may sound tedious, but it effectively makes Kindle a PDF capable device.

  31. Minor point: blogs vary; some are indeed $2/month, but most are $1/month (well, $1.99 and $.99, but that’s being pedantic).

  32. I don’t see why it would fail if its not marketable to non-technical people. Being a competent computer user is not really even that rare anymore. Even still, non-technical users will probably not buy it for its ability to read business documents, check email, or even care much about all of these IP issues. They will buy it for what its marketed as; namely, a way to acquire and view amazon content, periodicals, and blogs without buying hard copies or relying on some secondary network connection. My mother for instance, wouldn’t buy a clock radio because its barely documented ability to intercept the audio of broadcast TV stations, so there would be no reason for her to complain about how easy or hard it is to use that functionality.

    The concerns presented about IP and book trading and all that other mess are concerns that technically minded people have, not what little old ladies in book clubs have. You guys are projecting. None of your concerns about viewable content are concerns that people who cant figure out how to use a document converter, or plug in a usb device, will likely have. You cannot lump all these things together, and then treat them like real problems that a whole lot of individual users are going to have, because they are concerns of two mutually exclusive groups; people who know how to set the time on their VCR, and people who don’t.

    At most, the likely concerns they would have, are the initial cost of the device, the long ass line they will have to wait in to get their hands on one, and the inability to find some book they want that amazon hasn’t gotten around to providing via the kindle store.

    For the technically minded people who want more control over their content usage, they can convert and upload their own content. For little old ladies and other non-vcr time setting folks, IP issues are all but invisible, and price and content availability are annoying, but not deal breakers.

  33. The last post has it 100% Correct. You techno- geeks really need to get over yourselves. You are not the market for this product. People who have little or no technical knowledge will buy the Kindle because it is a convenient and easy way to read books, newspapers and periodicals — and to have all three with you for ready access at home and at work and in between. It is really quite revolutionary. It’s not for techno-geeks, it’s for the rest of us. It’s a bit pricey, but I’ll certainly get one, And my life will be simpler and better for it. So will millions of others. The price will come down.

  34. I bought my kindle since I am going to Asia to an area that has internet access but very few booksellers that have recent English books. As long as I keep a credit card with a US address, I can download books from the web.

  35. what difference does it make if it does not support PDF files. the amazon website does not even say that it will support this type of file. besides, wasn’t this device suppose to be for book-lovers to be able to have a new book on hand whenever they want? sure it’s expensive but wait a little while and a new version will come out soon. patience is a virtue and it could save money. remember the original ipod and how much that cost?

  36. I’m impressed you figured out all the different ways to convert and transfer content – it’s not well described in the user guide or in the main Kindle pages online.

    But overall I think the device is quite good for a first release. Kudos to Amazon.

    If you’re interested, here’s my customer experience review of the Kindle.

  37. PDF is actually supported (even though not offically apparently)via the free conversion process. You email a pdf and get back azw format. takes about 2 minutes to get an email with a link to download the converted file.

  38. The real question is WHEN will the Kindle support PDFs without any conversions? If they are planniing to do that with a new hardware release, then it would be much more marketable.
    I have hundred of not thousand of self created PDF files that I would wamt to use in the field. These files have color in them and a few standard text styles such as Ariel and New Times Roman.
    I should NOT need to take a laptop into the field just to display color, PDFs, and play some MP3 files / audio books. Plain text Email to and from anyone with an email address would also be nice.
    My Compaq PDA with scaled down MS OS can do all that with some attachements, but the PDA screen is too small to read long term in a practical sense. A newer type tablet computer might be able to handle it, but the price is far too high for those portable devices. If Apple does bring something to the market and they do it right, they just might have a winner.

  39. Yes..PDF to rtf kindle conversion is done, I have done this for my ebook from kindleconversion.

  40. the irony is, the kindle user guide is distributed by pdf. guess that’s one ebook reference you won’t be carrying around on your kindle (without a lot of messing around as described above). for some reason that just cracks me up.

  41. I wrote a windows app a couple of months ago now that handles all these formats including PDB files using some of the stand alone converters listed here. The app figures out the filetype from the extension and then figures out the correct workflow itself making this a 2 step process. Select your source file and select where to save it. It is still beta and I update it once or twice a week but I myself and some others have found it very useful so far.

    Here is a link to sourceforge

  42. I just got the Kindle 2 and sent in a PDF for conversion. I sent it in both for the free conversion and the pay conversion. It has been 5 hours and no sign of either one of them. That can be a problem!

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