Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Converting content to your Kindle

As a service to my readers, I have compiled a conversion guide that will help you in converting your documents to Mobi, a format readable by the Kindle. To get started, look for the format you wish to convert from (highlighted in bold) and follow one of the conversion options underneath. You will find links to the tools you need under Conversion Tools.

How to convert from…

CHM (Microsoft Compiled HTML Help)

Use AutoKindle to convert straight to Mobi.

Use CHM Decoder or ABC Amber CHM Converter to convert to HTML and then follow my HTML instructions.

Use ABC Amber CHM Converter to convert to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.


Use Calibre, Mobipocket Creator, or AutoKindle to convert straight to Mobi.

Use PDFCreator to print to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.


Use Calibre, PDFRead, Mobipocket Creator, or AutoKindle to convert straight to Mobi.

MS Word

Use Mobipocket Creator to convert straight to Mobi.

Use PDFCreator to print to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.


Use Calibre, Mobipocket Creator to convert straight to Mobi.

Use PDFCreator to print to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.

LIT (Microsoft Reader)

Use Calibre or AutoKindle to convert straight to Mobi.


Use Mobipocket Creator to convert straight to Mobi.


Use Calibre or Mobipocket Creator to convert straight to Mobi.

PDB and PRC (Palm)

Use AutoKindle to convert straight to Mobi.

Use ABC Amber Palm Converter to convert to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.


Use Calibre to convert straight to Mobi.

Use PDFCreator to print to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.

For all other formats

Try to use PDFCreator to print to PDF and then follow my PDF instructions.


Conversion Tools

Calibre (freeware) is the mother of one-stop solutions for your eBook needs, and I quote from their website : “Calibre is meant to be a complete e-library solution and thus includes library management, format conversion, news feeds to ebook conversion, as well as e-book reader sync features and an integrated e-book viewer.” Calibre can convert from Mobi, LIT, EPUB, ODT, HTML, CBR, CMZ, RTF, TXT, PDF and LRS to EPUB, LRF, or Mobi. Give it a try!

PDFRead (freeware) by Ashish Kulkarni (with its latest incarnation due to Nick Rapallo) is an excellent tool  for converting PDF and DJVU documents, Comic Books (CBR, CBZ), and even a directory of images to several eBook formats such as IMP, RB, OEB, HTML, LRF and Mobi. It is very powerful in that it supports a variety of pre and post processing functions such as trimming borders, auto-deskewing, etc… This is also very much a specialized tool for those who want an *exact* copy from their PDF or for content that contains lots of images, complex layouts  or non-textual content; however, this comes at a price. PDFRead essentially takes photo “snapshots” of each page in the PDF, so what you see in your eBook reader will be basically an exact copy, but you lose text-search and dictionary look-up capabilities since every page is an image and not actual text. For those that want the ultimate in faithful conversions and don’t care about the pages being images, or if you have content that needs to be touched up and fixed, this tool is highly recommended; I personally use this tool a lot.

Mobipocket Creator (freeware) by Mobipocket.com is an excellent tool for converting HTML, MS Word, PDF and Text documents to Mobi. It’s very intuitive and easy to use, just make sure that when you install you choose the Publisher Edition option. One thing to be aware of, however, is that Mobipocket creator is geared more towards textual content, so if you’ve got lots of images, complex layouts or non-textual content, you should try PDFRead instead.

CHM Decoder (freeware) by GridinSoft is an excellent tool for converting CHM files to HTML. It’s very intuitive and easy to use; highly recommended. 

ABC Amber CHM Converter (30-day trial) by Process Text Group is a tool that can convert  from CHM to PDF or HTML. If you need to convert from CHM to HTML then it would probably make more sense to use the free CHM Decoder instead. On the other hand, if you want to convert from CHM to PDF then this should work for you though I’ve never tried it myself.

ABC Amber Palm Converter (freeware) by Process Text Group can convert your Palm (PDB and PRC) files to PDF and several other formats.

AutoKindle (freeware) is a tool hosted on SourceForge.NET for converting  CHM, Palm (PDB and PRC), PDF, Lit, and HTML files to Mobi.

PDFCreator is a tool hosted on SourceForge.NET that allows you to create a PDF from any program with printing capabilities; if you can print it, you can create a PDF. This includes your word-processor, spread-sheet, accounting program, you name it. Once installed, PDFCreator acts as a printer, but instead of printing your content it creates a PDF file for you. Highly recommended for those who have no other recourse.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Kindle 2 - ReKindled

As you may already know, Amazon is now shipping the new Kindle 2 e-book reader. To make things easier for my readers, I’ve compiled all of the information necessary in order to make a decision on whether or not to buy this sexy new gadget, including my own hands-on review. If in the end you do end up buying, please be a good samaritan and help support my site by purchasing it here; after all, a lot of long hours went into creating and maintaining this article. Thank you for your support!

Product Specifications

GeneralLaunchNovember 19th, 2007February 9th, 2009
Dimensions (LxWxH)19.1 × 13.5 × 1.8 cm134.62 x 9.144 x 203.2 mm
Included AccessoriesPower adapter, USB 2.0 cable, Book coverPower adapter, USB 2.0 cable
DisplaySize6” diagonal6” diagonal
Resolution (HxW)600x800600x800
ColorsGrayscale (4 shades)Grayscale (16 shades)
MediumElectronic PaperElectronic Paper
HardwareCPU400MHz Marvell PXA255532MHz ARM-11 Freescale MCIMX31L
Storage256MB (180MB Avail.)2GB (1.4 GB Avail.)
SD Expansion SlotYesNo
SoftwareOSLinux 2.6.10 basedLinux 2.6.22 based
BatteryType3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, BA1001 model3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, S11S01A model
Life3 days w/ wireless on4.5 days w/ wireless on
Charge Time2 Hours4 Hours
NavigationSelect wheel, next/prev/back buttons5-way control button, next/prev/back/home/menu buttons
TTS (Text-To-Speech)NoYes
ModemEVDO/CDMA AnyDATA wireless modem w/ fallback to 1xRTTEVDO/CDMA AnyDATA wireless modem w/ fallback to 1xRTT
USBUSB 2.0 portUSB 2.0 port
Headphone3.5 mm stereo jack3.5 mm stereo jack
PowerAC AdapterAC Adapter
MediaSupported FormatsKindle (.azw), Text (.txt), Unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc), MP3 (.mp3), Audible (.aa)Kindle (.azw), Text (.txt), Unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc), MP3 (.mp3), Audible (.aa, .aax)

 Kindle 2 vs Kindle 1 - Quick Comparison

Thinner: At .36 inches, it’s 25% thinner than an iPhone

Quicker: Pages now turn 20% faster

Lasts Longer: Lasts 25%  longer

Easier to read: Displays 16 shades of gray (versus 4)

More Storage: Can store approximately 1,500 books

Better navigation: With the new 5-way controller

Better dictionary: Automatic definitions when you highlight a word

Text-To-Speech: Have your Kindle read your book to you in a male/female voice

Less Fuss: Harder to accidentally press a button

2 Kindle or not 2 Kindle?

Owners of the original Kindle will absolutely love the new Kindle 2. Gone is the boxy odd-looking contraption that was angled to approach the feel of a book but in practice simply felt wrong. Let’s not even talk about the slider / wheel navigation system that seemed better suited to navigating the book’s menu rather than its pages. Oh, and remember the horrific button placement that led to the constant annoying accidental page-turning every time you picked it up? Well goodbye to the old and in with the new!

You had me at “Hello”

The Kindle 2 comes bundled with a charger and USB 2.0 cable. As I took it out of its packaging, I immediately thought “iBook”. It looked like an oversized iPod; white, thin, sleek and amazingly light yet sturdy. The Kindle 2 has a very “clean” look to it, as if the design geniuses at Apple hand a hand in its creation. The corners are now rounded instead of angular and the keyboard has been revamped to look more like a regular keyboard in its arrangement; the keys no longer rectangular but small and round. The navigation buttons have been completely overhauled, the wheel and slider completely gone and replaced with a 5-way controller that only ever-so-slightly protrudes from its casing. The buttons no longer occupy the entire length of the device, instead they are much smaller and feel tighter, so they’re harder to trigger if you accidentally press on them. The slider power/sleep switch and 3.5mm stereo headphone jack are located along the top side, volume control on the right, and USB port on the bottom.

The back is flat, smooth brushed-aluminum with stereo speakers at the bottom. One thing missing is the SD slot, but this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker considering the much improved 2GB storage capacity and the ability to offload content that you no longer need. Frequent flyers will surely miss the ability to be able to easily switch wireless mode on or off since this functionality is now purely software-driven through a menu option. Also, the battery is now inaccessible a-la iPhone/iPod but when the time comes Amazon will replace it for free assuming it’s in warranty; otherwise they charge $59. For those Kindle owners wondering how they would be able to reboot without removing the battery, don’t worry; you can do so by holding the power switch for 14 seconds.


After charging it for four hours, I was pleasantly surprised as the charging indicator located at the bottom of the device goes green, indicating a full charge; this is one of the many design touches that makes the Kindle 2 a much more enjoyable experience than its predecessor. I turn on the Kindle 2 and skim through the user-guide, navigate through the menus, and experiment a bit in order to acclimatize myself to the new feel. The first thing I notice is that the display is so much crisper thanks to the 16 shades of gray, especially when viewing images such as the screensaver that appears when the device goes to sleep. The fonts are smoother than ever and I genuinely felt awed at how good it looked to the eyes; it genuinely felt as if I was reading a sheet of actual paper - newspaper to be precise. The display screen itself is nowhere near as hardy as the iPhone/iPod, so carrying it unprotected in your backpack is definitely not recommended and will surely result in a scratched surface. I have heard of a blogger that left his Kindle 2 under his pillow and as he climbed into bed he leaned on his pillow with his elbow and cracked the screen. Morale of the story: Invest in a protective cover for your Kindle 2.

Navigating is much easier now thanks to the new 5-way controller, allowing you to nudge it in the direction that you want the cursor to move and pressing down when you want to select something. The screen refreshes somewhat faster now (20% faster) as is evident while navigating your cursor through the screen or flipping from page to page. A cool feature I’ve noticed while navigating through the words on a page is that the definition of the highlighted word appears automatically at the bottom of the screen. Further experimentation with the dictionary revealed the newfound ability to lookup any word in the dictionary, not just the highlighted one.

The search button is gone and in its place is a significantly improved search system accessible from the menu. Selecting the Search option takes you to a separate page with many different search options, including the abilities to search the Kindle store, Google, Dictionary, Wikipedia and Web in addition to your Kindle 2 content. You can also access search capabilities by simply typing from wherever you are, bringing up a small text search area at the bottom of the screen allowing you to search on the fly.

Newspaper subscription is no longer the laughable affair it was with the original Kindle, so much so that I’ve actually cancelled my dead-tree subscriptions in favor of the wireless delivery. Aside from the obvious environmentally friendly aspects, the fact that I no longer have to deal with all those piles of newspaper lying around occupying valuable real-estate is such a relief, and I don’t have to worry about whether or not my newspapers are going to be there every morning or if one of my less virtuous neighbors is enjoying it instead. The front page contains a two-column list of sections (eg. Front Page, International, Sports, Real Estate, etc…) that also displays how many articles are contained within. Selecting a section results in a list of articles containing a brief two or three-line excerpt. Selecting an article allows you to read the article which can be browsed using the Previous/Next page buttons. You can also quickly skip to other articles by using the 5-way controller. There are no ads to wade through, keeping the newspaper content compact and easy to navigate.

Blog readers will enjoy the ability to subscribe to and browse through their favorite blogs on the Kindle 2. There are a few gripes when it comes to handling the presentation, but nothing that a software update can’t fix. For example, there’s currently no way to tell apart which parts of the blog you’ve read and haven’t read which I find just a tad bit annoying, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed via a software update should it prove to be an issue to a majority of users.


Text-To-Speech is a much-touted feature of the new Kindle 2, but I’m not really sure who’s going to use this since visually-impaired people will still need to look at the screen in order to activate it. Powered by technology from Nuance (the makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking), the Kindle 2 offers the user a choice of male or female voice as well as the ability to choose a reading speed. The voices are really not bad, but you can tell they’re computerized. Pages turn automatically as the device reads to you, but the implementation isn’t perfect since the computer doesn’t know where to pause at times. Text-To-Speech is a feature that was initially advertized as being always accessible, but Amazon has recently conceded to the Author’s Guild and will be modifying the Kindle 2 in order to allow authors to disable this feature, preventing users from having the device read to them.

The Kindle 2 comes with the same experimental features as the original Kindle, namely the browser and mp3 player, but they haven’t been enhanced and remain awful to use. The browser is only useable on the simplest websites and the only control you have over the mp3 player is the volume.

Amazon has provided a service for converting content to a format readable by your Kindle, but it’s not perfect and for anything other than simple documents I would suggest reading my article on Converting content to your Kindle instead. For a $0.10 fee, you can send the file you want converted to youramazonusername@kindle.com and it will be delivered to your Kindle wirelessly. They also offer a free service where you can send the file you want converted to youramazonusername@free.kindle.com , but they will email the converted content to you instead and it’s up to you to copy it from your PC to your Kindle. Keep in mind that their conversion service will only accept Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP files.


I do a lot of technical reading and subscribe to a couple of newspapers as well as my favorite blogs, and the Kindle 2 hasn’t failed to impress. The ability to free myself from the physical bulk is such a relief, and the fact that the Kindle 2 is so much more useable now turned me into a true believer. The steep price is definitely an issue for most people, and I still believe that content should cost much less. For example, one of my technical books is listed on Amazon with a list-price of $49.99 but priced at $38.99; the Kindle edition, on the other hand, is priced at a whopping $31.99. That’s a savings of only $7 versus the hard-copy; not a real incentive to buy. Kindle editions of the New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, on the other hand, usually go for only $9.99, so you may save on average a whopping 50% or more.

Amazon has listened to its customers and delivered a completely redesigned interface that works. If you can afford the price-tag, then you can’t go wrong with what may possibly be the iPod of e-book readers. When you're ready, buy it here!