Improving Readability of PDFs on the Kindle

A university student who I met through a DSA assessment recently got in touch to say that she was having difficulties reading PDF documents on her Kindle Keyboard. She was finding that the text is too small and this is causing eye strain. Also the small text is exacerbating chronic pain in her neck as she is having to hold the device close to her eyes.

A quick read-through of the Amazon help files reveals that their recommendation is to use the device in Landscape mode. However, as my student points out, this still results in many PDFs being too small to read, particularly those that you a multi-column layout. Although it is possible to zoom and pan this is not always an efficient or practical way for everyone to read documents. The solution to this on most devices is to reflow the text thus allowing a significant increase in font size without losing text off the edge of the screen. Unfortunately the Kindle (Kindle Keyboard in this case) rather surprisingly does not have a reflow feature and instead Amazon offer a quick conversion service. Amazon have an instruction page on how to use this service but it essentially involves sending the PDF to [your kindle name] with the subject “convert”. The resulting document will be sent directly to the Kindle if connected via WiFi and to the email address associated with your Amazon account.

If the Amazon service is not meeting your needs then free software is available which performs the same function. One option which I’ve heard works well is the snappily-titled K2pdfopt which is designed to excel at handling multi-column PDF files.

For maximum readability it is also important to get the contrast right as PDFs can often be presented using a very pale font. Many users have found that the text in PDFs is easier to read when the contrast setting is set to the darkest option.

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