Flash! I try the PDF zoom

Flash! I try the PDF zoom

One of the new features in the Kindle version 2.5 upgrade is the ability to zoom and pan on pdfs (portable document format) files.

I’ve used pdfs on my Kindle quite a bit: the curricula we use at work are in a pdf format, and having it on my Kindle has been great.  I’ve generally converted them (Amazon will do that for you for free) to a fully functional Kindle file.

That way, I can search (which I definitely want to be able to do), make notes, and, importantly to me, use text-to-speech.  I find that listening to it in the car on the way to a class can be a great way for a quick review.  Oh, I wouldn’t learn it that way initially, but it’s a good refresher.

When our Kindle 2s got native pdf reading in a previous update, I tried it…but found it wasn’t really for me.

I don’t tend to read a lot of books that have heavy-duty graphs or intricate images.  Since we’ve had the Kindle for PC option, I’ve used that to look at images, when necessary.

Honestly, the unconverted pdfs just tend to be too small for me to see well.

Well, intrepid explorer that I am, I thought I’d try the zoom for you.  ;)

We were going on a walk through a large park where they had installed some art exhibits.  The walk was going to be a couple of miles or more.

I downloaded a pdf of the map the park had provided.  The map was 2,277 KB.  I also had it sent directly to the Kindle (I was in a bit of a hurry).  Pop quiz: how much did it cost me (a US Kindleer using US wireless) to send that document directly to my Kindle?

Forty-five cents: fifteen cents per meg (roughly a thousand kb), rounded up.

I wasn’t able to see how long it took for it to be sent, but even converting a file, it’s usually under a minute or so for me.  In the beginning with the Kindle 1, it could take hours, but that hasn’t been my experience in…oh, certainly months.

Here was the first negative: it literally took about twenty-two seconds to open the file.  It filled the screen, with some white (and I use that term loosely…whatever color the normal background it) border space.  The text was much too tiny for me to read…I would say I would have needed a magnifying glass, if it was on paper.

The next thing was to try the zoom.  I hit the Aa button.  My choices were:

  • fit-to-screen (the default)
  • 150%
  • 200%
  • 300%
  • actual size

I chose 200%.  I got a selection box, which I could move around with my 5-way.

Tip: if you hold down the shift (up arrow key) when using the 5-way, you can make in move in much smaller increments. 

 Here was another negative: it took more than twenty seconds (again) for it to enlarge that section 200%. 

A positive: once it was enlarged, it looked great!  I could read everything just fine, and had someone else look at it: yep, no problems. 

There are also “position bars” along the bottom and right-hand edges to show you if there is more above you, below you, to your right and to your left.  That was helpful.

Another negative, though…even moving to another section took a long time to repaint it…one of the sections (with a lot of dark) took twenty-five seconds.  It seemed to me like the more dark there was, the longer it took.

You could hit the Back button, and it went immediately back (well, part of a second…like a normal page turn) to the original image.

Then, Home got me right back to the homescreen, as you would expect.

So, my overall impression: as my offspring would say, “meh”.  Just like with the browser, it could be used, and it might save you at times, but most of the time, it would be a lot of work (for an image as intense as that map).

My feeling is that it would be much more effective with, say, a table full of numbers.  There wouldn’t a lot of black, so it would move from magnified section to magnified section much more quickly. 

A computer (even a tablet computer) is going to be better at this point for intense, natively-read pdfs…but I like my Kindle for converted pdfs.  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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4 Responses to “Flash! I try the PDF zoom”

  1. nic Says:

    how does the new update help with pdf reading for school text books? is it fine? are the tables fine? and are things like math symbols not affected?
    should i chose the sony prs-300 instead? thanks

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, nic!

      The tables would be fine: they have been since Kindles have been able to read pdfs manually (that came with the release of the Kindle DX, and was given to the Kindle 2 in an update…Kindle 1s can’t do it). Similarlly, math symbols will look fine…a pdf will look pretty much like it will on a computer (but without color, active hyperlinks, and a few other things).

      The issue, though, is that the image can be quite small. Most pdfs are not formatted for a six inch screen.

      The Sony PRS-300 has an even smaller screen, at 5 inches, so it would be harder to read on that. That model, which is called the Pocket Edition, does cost twenty dollars less, but has a lot fewer capabilities (including the fact that the Sony can’t do wireless download). A closer equivalent is the Sony Daily Reader Edition, PRS-900BC which does have wireless and a somewhat larger screen…but is also $349.99. There is a 9.7″ Kindle…you can get a refurb from Amazon for $369.99.

      The update, as you probably saw in my article, allows you to zoom on an image…but it is slow.

  2. rochman Says:

    You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.

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