I've been reading a draft Ph.D. thesis on my new Kindle DX; reading technical material like this is exactly what I bought the Kindle for.

Uploading documents in pdf format onto the Kindle is now as easy as plugging it into my computer via the provided USB/power cable and dragging the files into its “documents” folder. But the corollary to that is that I can only drag the files directly into the documents folder; sadly, the Kindle does not support any directory hierarchy, tagging, or other means of organizing its documents.

The Kindle's pdf support has been justly criticized for not allowing user control of scaling — obviously it can scale pdf files, but the only choice the user has is whether to use portrait or landscape mode (determined by tipping the device). In portrait mode, For a Ph.D. thesis, it automatically strips away the margins of the page, maximizing the useful screen area; strangely, in landscape mode, it does not. Maybe it reaches some maximum resolution and never expands beyond that? Anyway, for a thesis, with the thesis formatting requirements of large fonts and wide line spacing, it works well enough. I'm not convinced that it would work as well for technical papers in which the authors have worked hard using all the typographic tricks at hand to pack their papers into the typical conference ten-page limit.

The screen is sharp and clear even in bright sunlight. It needs an external source of light (like a printout would). It's grayscale rather than color but that hasn't been a problem for the material I've been viewing so far. Physically, it's a lot smaller than a laptop, and I expect the battery life to be much better than the (poor) laptop battery I now have, making it a better choice for reading in airplanes and airport lounges.

It has a rudimentary web browser, with data transfer over the cell phone network. Of course that wouldn't work in places where that network is unavailable (my parent's house, or anywhere overseas). But mostly I've been keeping the network turned off anyway, and doing my web browsing on my laptop. For the free non-technical books that are available for download on the web, but not in Kindle's own proprietary format (such as Cory Doctorow's fiction) I've found that .prc/.mobi format seems to work well.

Overall reaction: too early to tell how regularly I'll use it in the long term, but quite promising. It's quite usable now, and the biggest deficiencies (lack of file structure and lack of pdf zoom) are software rather than hardware issues so I have some hope they can eventually be fixed.


Eventually, one of the following years, I'll probably buy a gadget like that, I'm waiting for it for years. I'm waiting for cheaper and more open models, lighter, sharper, etc. I'd like to know how well you can read technical papers in PDF on it, and how much time batteries last for such usage.

livejournal user leonardo_m, there are lots of people, who would add "me too" to your comment, including me. I researched on some Chinese products, but cost seems to be a limiting factor of them all.

Ability to read ASCII and pdf in their native format would be desirable too.

The Kindle DX can do text, html, and pdf natively — that's one of the reasons I waited for it rather than getting an earlier one for myself.
None: kindle graphics

Seeing the Sony version of Kindle and the like, I was disappointed by the low level visuals. Whereas, in a Acrobat Reader one gets a brilliant, sharp and beautiful view of text and mathematical symbols, the kindle gives a pale, "aliased" (i.e., extremely non-smooth characters) and overall very unattractive graphic capabilities.

I'd rather stick to my laptop until the visuals are improved.

I've actually found the kindle dx to be pretty great for normal books and for pdfs (except those which have the funny book binding style text offset which fudges the margin cutting bit). Its great enough currently, and yes, the next generation will be amazing, but this is what is currently out there, and of those that currently exist, it is the best!
In your experience, how well does the Kindle do for marking stuff & taking notes on documents (PDF)?
So far I haven't really tried it — I've been keeping the notes off the Kindle.

Can you take notes on the Kindle? The lack of ability to write on the documents (with a "pen") has been one thing that makes the Kindle seem not so appealing to me for technical reading.


Now that I think about it, though, maybe that's a bad habit. Having a centralized location for notes on things I'm reading is probably much better than having them scattered throughout the papers themselves. Hmm!

It has a tiny keyboard for taking notes, but the screen is not touch-sensitive.