Kindle 2 firmware update to read PDF files

Amazon released the latest firmware update (version 2.3) for Kindle yesterday (2009-November-24), and couple of new features are extremely important and exciting for Kindle 2 users. Here are the details as well as the steps, findings.

New firmware features for Kindle 2

  1. Longer battery life for Kindle (International version): You can now read for up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to 2 weeks (i.e .the same as before).
  2. Built-in PDF reader: Your Kindle can now display PDF documents without losing the formatting of the original file (it works but not all files, see below).
  3. Manual screen rotation: The Kindle screen can now manually rotate between portrait and landscape views so you can see the entire width of a web page or magnify the page of a PDF file. The page-turn buttons work the same in either orientation, and the 5-way controller movements are switched to match the orientation. (See more below)
  4. Option to convert PDF files to Kindle format. If you prefer to have your personal PDF documents converted to the Kindle format (so that they can reflow), type “Convert” in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your address. (I don’t see any difference on the Convert feature, but will test more)

Upgrade your Kindle 2 firmware, wirelessly

  1. First of all, some preparations – make sure you have a fully charged Kindle 2, unless your Kindle 2 is connecting to your computer. Check the current version of the firmware (go to “Home”, press “Menu”, select “Settings” and check the bottom of the page). If the version number is 2.2 or lower, you shall upgrade to the latest version to enjoy the new features.
  2. If you want to apply the new firmware manually (e.g. you don’t have access to the wireless network), check out the steps recommended by Amazon in their support page.
  3. Now, turn on the wireless connection (go to “Home”, press “Menu”, select “Turn Wireless On”), then select “Sync & Check for items”. It will then take 15, 20 minutes to download the new firmware as well as checking any new books to download.
  4. Once it finished to download the top bar of your Kindle may show “No new items” – it just means there is no new books to download, but your new firmware may has already downloaded. You can check it to see whether there is a new item in the menu – go to “Home”, press “Menu”, check if there is a new item “Update your Kindle”. If yes, then your new firmware is downloaded.
  5. Now select “Update your Kindle”, your Kindle will apply the firmware and restart the device. Another a few minutes, your Kindle is upgraded. Again, check the firmware version to see if it is version 2.3 (go to “Home”, press “Menu”, select “Settings” and check the bottom of the page). In addition, every time you turn on the Kindle from sleep mode, you will see a word “Opening” flashing …
  6. To test it out, simply send a PDF file to your Kindle via your personal Kindle email address – After a few minutes, try “Sync & Check for items” in the “Menu” again, and Amazon will download the PDF file to your Kindle. You will see a new file in your Home menu with a “pdf” in the left hand side. Select it and you shall see your PDF file with all the formatting in place !! (Somehow, one of my PDF files was not displayed correctly, but it is one with all graphics …). If the PDF file page is too small, try the new screen rotation function come with the version 2.3.

Screen Rotation

The Kindle screen image can be rotated so you can see the entire width of a web page or magnify the page of a PDF file.

Here’s how to lock your screen into portrait or landscape mode:

  1. Press the “Text” key (i.e. “aA” key, next to “SYM”) located on the bottom row of the keyboard. Screen Rotation is displayed at the bottom of the menu.
  2. Move the 5-way to select one of the four options to lock the display in a set orientation – Portrait; Landscape with the keyboard on the left; Portrait with the keyboard at the top; Landscape with the keyboard on the right.
  3. Press the controller to confirm your choice.

However, you can view Kindle Store pages only in portrait mode.

Hope it helps and enjoy this Thanksgiving Day gift from Amazon !! And if you don’t have the Kindle 2 yet, it is probably the best time to have one

Update 1: With this new version, you shall be able to read PDF with other languages (e.g. Chinese PDFs, Japanese PDFs) as well. Just make sure your PDF writer has all the languages / fonts installed. Then print the source file (with large font size, and narrow margin) to PDF and transfer to your Kindle will do.

Author: Michael Yung

Michael possessed over 30 years of experience in Information Technology with focuses on complex application development, database technologies and IT strategy. He also spent the last 20 years in Internet technology, eCommerce development / operations, web usability, computer security and Public Key Infrastructure technologies.

21 thoughts on “Kindle 2 firmware update to read PDF files”

    1. Hi Roofghost,

      Yes you can read PDFs now after the upgrade (as you can see from the screen shots). Can’t find a zoom function, but the landscape mode reading helps.

      Hope it helps.


  1. Quick question:
    I have the Kindle 2 with version number 2.2.1 currently operating. My question is when I send my PDF documents to my personal Kindle email address to have them reformatted…does it cost me money? Does Amazon charge my account a small fee…and if so, how do they administer the fee, by the size of the PDF document or the number of times I send in an email in?



    1. Hi Ryan,

      Yes it will cost you money (US$ 0.99 per megabyte) if you send to your personal Kindle email for conversion and then transfer to your Kindle via Whispernet. Or you can send to your free Kindle email, then download to your PC and transfer to Kindle … details here.

      Of course, you can always upgrade to firmware 2.3 and then you can read the PDF directly.

      Hope it helps.


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Indeed there is problem to display PDF with Chinese characters, as there is no native Chinese font with the PDF viewer. To view Chinese documents, currently there are two possible way – (1) Hack your Kindle to display Unicode, search for it and you can find it; (2) Convert the Chinese document to image files (I did it before).

      Hope it helps.


  2. Hi Michael,

    Thks for the advice back in Feb about reading Chinese with Kindle 2. Today I just come across the following blog :, which says as now Kindle supports native pdf reading, we can read the pdf converted from Asian text (say by Open Office I suppose).

    It also clarifies this means the UTF font hack is no longer needed.

    This view is quite different from your comment before, so I would really like to come back to you again. I have been reading pdf converted from Chinese text for the past couple of years with my Sony ereader PRS-505 without any problem, so I would really hop at least Kindle 2 can match that capability.

    Thanks very much.


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the update. I just tried again and yes I can read a PDF with Chinese characters. I think what you need to take note are – make sure your PDF writer has all the fonts installed, and your source file with very large font size and narrow margin. Then you can print the source to PDF format and forward to your Kindle to read.

      The speed is still too slow for me, so I will still wait for the native support of Chinese document / ebooks. I believe it will come true within this year.

      Hope it helps.


  3. Hi Michael,

    Thks for your prompt reply. It’s really good news to have your confirmation. I believe the process you so describe is exactly what I have been doing to feed to the Sony ereader, by selecting a font size of usually 24 or 26 before I output to pdf.

    Of course It will be nice if later this year Kindle will come up with native support for Chinese document. And nicer if the price will also come down a bit due to the competition from other devices. I just realise Kindle DX is now selling for almost double the price of Kindle 2, which is not very reasonable to me. (The problem is I will definitely prefer DX over Kindle 2 for its close to A4 format).



  4. Hi Michael,

    Recently, my friend gave me a Kindle DX (U.S. Wireless) to me but I live outside US.

    That kindle is registered under my friend account. My question is:

    1. Do I need to deregister my friend account in order to read kindle magazine purchased under my account ?

    2. If so, Are there any ways to deregister my friend account on kindle ?

    3. If not, Any suggestion to use my kindle under my friend account ?

    Many thanks,


    1. Hi,

      Yes, your friend need to deregister the Kindle from his account, within the Amazon website. (One cannot deregister a Kindle from the device). Then you log on to your Amazon account, and add this Kindle.

      Hope it helps.


  5. Hi,

    After I do that, I can buy books with my amazon account and read it in the kindle even when account on the device still registered to my friend’s right ?

    Thanks πŸ˜€


  6. Hi,
    I have problem with reading some of my pdf files on my Kindle DX. Most PDFs are displayed correctly, but in some of them only first 2 pages are visible.
    When I open this files on my PC via USB everything is OK, and I can see whole document.
    Best regards


    1. Hi Radek,

      I thought Kindle DX supports PDF file already … so your problem is with the old firmware or after you applied the latest one ? Another possible case is the PDF files are too big or too complicated. Lastly, not sure I understand your “open this files on PC via USB” … why you need to open those files via USB ?

      Hope it helps.


  7. Michael,
    I tried to use Mobipocket Creator to creat a chiese PDF file to prc file. Using UTF as encoding. I can see the chinese on my machine using the Mobipocket reader. However, I cannot see the chiese on my kindle 2. I check the kindle version if 2.5.6. Any ideas?

    Thanks a lot.


    1. Hi Light,

      The Kindle 2 does not support Unicode font yet … unless you hacked it. So for now, no native Chinese document reading. In summary, wait for the version that support Unicode, hack your device, or turn your document to PDF.

      Hope it helps.


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