There are millions of free books out there on the internet, many of them stored in the PDF format. But reading PDFs on a Kindle ebook reader is a dismal reading experience. There is, however, a quick, easy and little-known way to turn those PDFs into the Kindle format, making them much more readable and able to take advantage of many key Kindle features.
What’s wrong with PDFs on Kindle?
It’s perfectly possible to send a PDF to your Kindle using Amazon’s email service (I’ll show you how shortly) and read the book. However, when you open a PDF on a Kindle ebook reader, all you’re getting is a facsimile image of the page. The document isn’t reformatted for the device.
This robs you of several key Kindle features, such as the ability to change the font size of the text. If you find the font is too small to be readable, your only option is to pinch and zoom the text, but that means dragging around the page on a sluggish e-Ink screen, which is a terrible reading experience.
Reading in PDF format also means things such as indexes don’t work, preventing you from jumping to the relevant chapter in non-fiction books. The search functionality is also much reduced, making it less easy to find particular words or phrases. You can’t highlight passages of text or make annotations, either.
In short, if you’ve got a book in PDF format, you really should convert it to the Amazon Kindle format to make it more readable. Here’s how to do it.
How to convert a PDF to Kindle format
It’s generally easier to do this from a PC or a Mac, but it can also be done from tablets and smartphones.
- Find your Send to Kindle email address. If you don’t know this, click on this link to manage you Amazon devices (you will need to sign-in to your Amazon account), then click on your Kindle device and the email address should be printed there.
- Now on that same screen, click the Preferences tab, scroll down to Personal Document Settings and click the down arrow next to it, then scroll to the Approved Personal Document Email List. Check that your regular email address (not your Send to Kindle email address from step 1) is stored here. If not, click the link to add it.
- Now open your email software. Put the Send To Kindle email address in the To field and – here’s the key bit – put the word ‘convert’ (without the speech marks) into the Subject field. If you don’t add convert, it will simply send the document to your Kindle in PDF format.
- Attach your PDF to the email in the normal way (usually by pressing the paperclip symbol) and send the email.
- Open your Kindle ebook reader and, as long as the device is connected to the internet, the converted book should appear in your Kindle library.
It’s worth noting there’s a Send to Kindle app for mobiles, PC and Mac, but once set up, I find the email method is easiest.
Does this work for all PDFs?
Most ebooks in PDF format should convert to Kindle format using the method above. This works for both books you’ve bought in PDF format and those available from the library sites that have gazillions of out-of-copyright books to download. It won’t work with any password-protected PDFs, however.
This method tends to work best with books that are lightly formatted. Texts with lots of special formattings – such as programming textbooks with indented computing code – can prove problematic, but it’s certainly worth trying.
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