Updated: Until today one of the biggest differences between the Kindle 2 and its top wireless e-reader competitors — aside from sheer availability during the holidays — was the inability to use the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) device for native PDFs. Some PDFs could be converted to read on the Kindle but as some users know all too well, the process was flawed; some of my own efforts came out garbled and unreadable. (It’s not that Amazon couldn’t do it: the Kindle DX, which is also getting some updates, came with it.) That shouldn’t be an issue any more: Amazon says that the Kindle 2 units shipping now have native PDF and 85 percent more battery life when wireless is on.
The latest Kindle 2s already in use will get the battery and PDF upgrades by the device’s wireless Whispernet network; the earlier model will get native PDF the same way. The convert-to-Kindle option will still be available. Details about how to check for the firmware update or to get it manually are here.
We asked Amazon for some clarification about which Kindles are included. It can be difficult to parse a release about Kindle because Amazon’s language and that of the outside world can vary. We like Kindle 2, the PR team prefers 6-inch Kindle. When international roaming was added, we called that device Kindle Global. When Amazon stopped selling the U.S. edition, it all became Kindle 2 (or just Kindle) while for Amazon, the version I bought early this year is an “earlier” or “U.S. wireless” Kindle — and the one being sold now is “newest” or “latest generation” or “global.” What it boils down to:
— If the Kindle has wireless coverage only in the U.S., the firmware upgrade should provide the native PDF reader and manual screen rotation, allowing users to pick manually portrait or landscape screen displays.
— If the Kindle has global coverage, the update covers that and extended battery life for use with wireless turned on.
— If you have a first-gen Kindle, you’re either satisfied, it’s a doorstop or you need to start hinting for that present. The latest Kindle isn’t a K3 but it does have a lot more than you’re getting now.
— KIndle DX users get better PDF behavior.