How-To Geek

How to Read PDF Files on Your Amazon Kindle (Version 3)


If you’ve got one of the newer Kindle devices, you’ve got the ability to read PDF files built right in—very convenient, but how does it work? Let’s take a quick look at how to get them on the Kindle.

Note: this isn’t exactly rocket science, and the majority of Kindle owners probably already know how to do this, but we figured we’d cover how to do it anyway just in case you’re considering buying a Kindle.

Reading PDF Files on Your Kindle

The first thing you’ll want to do is connect the Kindle to your PC with the USB cable, and wait until the screen changes to the USB display. At this point you should see the drive show up in My Computer on your PC.


Head into the Kindle drive, and you should see a “documents” folder.


Just copy your PDF files into here…


And then Eject the device using the Safely Remove Hardware icon.


You can unhook your USB cable at this point, and the new PDF should show up.


You’ll find that some PDF files look great, and some other ones don’t look as good—just depends on how they are formatted.


You can mess with the size of the display, but your best bet is to switch the Screen Rotation using the Aa button—landscape mode helps make small fonts readable without a lot of panning around.


In case you’re wondering about the book in the pictures, it’s Focus by Leo Babauta, and there’s a free version available.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/25/10

Comments (32)

  1. Seyru

    It’s nice, but something really useful would be explaining how to convert PDF to ebook format so you can enjoy the full font support of the kindle (changing size, spacing, etc.), personally I use mobipocket creator but it would be nice to know of other options

  2. Edrei

    For the most part, a lot of PDF files on a Kindle result in very small (and barely readable) text. The best way to deal with it it still to convert it to MOBI. However, I’ve found that there are still formatting errors when it comes to converting PDF straight to MOBI.

    The best way I’ve found is a two step conversion process using Calibre (which is also the best program to manage your ebook library). First to convert the PDF to LIT and then from LIT to MOBI, both with the preprocessing option turned on. This way, the PDF conversion won’t get the odd truncated formatting and you can treat it like any other ebook.

    Also I found that while Mobipocket Creator can do all this, you still get some formatting issues like the lack of paragraphs which can be very annoying. Also you get a lot of unnecessary files created while using Mobipocket as well.

  3. jon_hill987

    I tend to convert the pdf to mobi using Calibre. It does not work for every pdf, I’ll have to try going via .lit next time as suggested by Edrei .

  4. Terry Dunn

    I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for a while. I see them everywhere. They are very popular. And I see it’s amazon’s best selling product too.


  5. Jim Riske

    My question is: Can I take notes (and save/export them) on that pdf?

  6. Sean

    Im getting a Kindle 3 for xmas and can’t wait. I have looked at quite few others .. Samsung, Sony etc but think that the Kindle is by far the best value and the books seem cheaper on Amazon than other sites.


  7. Searock

    You can Update your old kindle so that it supports reading pdf. It also now supports password protection.

    Link :

  8. johnclark

    The kindle is great I crop my pdf and then convert them to mobi format

  9. bonedog73

    Thanks! I’ve been thinking of buying a kindle for the wife for Christmas and was wondering if it was still a huge pain to get pdf’s to the kindle. Now I know how simple it is! Would be better if it could do it over wifi though.

  10. kuk

    This thing is slow compare with ipad zoom. I hate it when reading pdf…I regretted buying it.

  11. Alex

    Edrei, what do you mean by preprocessing options?

    This is ridiculous, is it really that hard to read a pdf on kindle?

  12. dr02

    Is there anyway around the problem of locked due to copyrights; example, downloading from a library?

  13. Steve

    @Alex, I believe it is now called Heuristic options.

  14. Mike

    I want to ask the same question to Edrei that Alex has… What do you mean by preprocessing options? There are a lot of options and I’m not sure which you are refering to.
    Many thanks,

  15. Mike

    Ooops, just caught Steve’s reply there… is that what you are refring to? Heuristic? If so, I’m on it!

  16. Rich

    I d/l a ton of good books in pdf format but the printing is so small it’s impossible to read and if expanded to 300% you have to scroll every line so I will have to chg to mobi- .

  17. Mike

    Rich, I’ve converted quite a few using Calibre but the formatting is, more often than not, destroyed!
    Hence the question above… I’m hoping to find a more reliable way to convert PDF to MOBI… I have found another piece of software but not tried it yet.
    I did try the PDF to LIT as described above, with Heuristic ON, but I just get an error about 15 seconds in!
    So, does the above actually refer to heuristic ON or not?

  18. Ashley

    Edrei: That was so helpful–thank you so much! I just tried this out on a 300-page PDF, and it worked like a charm. Absolutely perfect. I’m ridiculously happy right now! ^^

  19. Dani02

    I have a problem to read figures and tables.How to solve with it?

  20. Martin

    @Dani02, have you tried reading them in landscape mode? Not ideal, but better than portrait mode.

  21. Dani02

    @ Martin,not ok, all tables and figures are destroyed. not as an original one.Thanks for ur reply.

  22. Igor

    Hi there, my kindle 3rd generation stop reading pdf. Now always it appears the follow message: “The selected item could not be opened. If you purchased this item from Amazon, delete the item and download it from Archived items”. It is occurring with all pdf files, until with them that I could read before. Can you help me?

  23. wizodd

    I’m looking for a way to encrypt/decrypt MY files on my Kindle 3, including bookmarks & notes.

    So far I’ve had no luck.

  24. Dimitri

    I have exactly the same problem with Igor,my Kindle 3G used to read PDF and now it doesnt.Can someone help?

  25. Amit

    Igor, Dimitri – Have you tried to remove all of your pdf’s then just adding 1 into the documents folder?

  26. ASHISH

    Hi i’ve got a question, can we upload documents which we’ve downloaded from the net onto the kindle? if i face any difficulty in uploading or viewing a pdf once i’ve loaded it on kindle what could be the cause? could it be due to any copyright infringement laws?

  27. Kamalesh Ghosh

    Linux users can use a very handy tool called “pdfcrop” (often with –bbox “” or –margins “0 0 0 0” options) to cut their pdf file to exclude all white space and have two column text broken into two pages and other things. Another tool that is very handy is “pdftk” to merge the cut files.

    Most pdf files become readable in landscape mode by doing that.

  28. Karl

    I am having exactly the same problem as Igor and Dimitri. All of a sudden all my pdfs (100s) became unreadable with the same error message. I used to regularly email personal pdf articles to my kindle email (a very useful function) but this is now no longer working.

    There still does not seem to be any solution available online to this problem. Any suggestions greatly welcome.

  29. Patrick

    Karl, if you are having problems emailing your pdf’s then digital rights management might be to blame. I think you can strip the DRM by uploading your ebook into Calibre and switching the format. If this doesn’t work then. If that doesn’t work then it is almost certainly on Amazon’s side of things.

    Mike, if you are trying to convert your book but the formatting keeps getting destroyed, you might want to hire someone to professionally convert your book. I’ve started converting books for other authors at a site called “ebookopoly”. It seems like everyone in the industry is charging at least $150 for a personal conversion, but I only charge an Andrew Jackson. Plus unlimited free revisions. Otherwise, if you play around with html and Calibre enough you should be able to accomplish any goal.

  30. xman

    For what it’s worth I installed the “duokan” OS on my Kindle 3 primarily due it’s vastly superior pdf handling : automatic reflowing, manually trimming, remembers the zoom ratios, allows for columnar layouts etc. etc. There are English variants of this Chinese code for free on the net, and because it permits dual booting, there’s no ‘harm’ done.

    The only major caveat is that you can’t hook up to the Kindle store and purchase an ebook when running in Duokan mode – as such your wifi & 3G are of limited use until you switch back to Kindle mode, or use your laptop to manage your ebook collection (drag ‘n drop files) … :-(

    That all said, Amazon ought to seriously look at this alternate OS, as it’s very impressive – as I say pdf handling is exceptional, the media player is better, .azw .mobi .chm .epub & .djvu formats are all acceptable, you can rate your books & edit their properties, and all the menu options have keypad shortcuts … :-)

    I’ve been using Duokan on my Kindle 3 for the last 8 months now to get a “proper” reading experience and format flexibility without relying on Calibre as of old. This is not for everybody of course, but it’s another option out there.

  31. Vic

    Duokan is much better in any way than Kindle’s native pdf viewer, not to mention djvu support. What I also like very much is being able to work directly with folders and delete files. Why Amazon didn’t include this BASIC feature into their software I simply can’t undrstand… Maybe product was originally intended for retards who can use only oversimplified software with almost no functions and settings?

    Kindle is still a good reader without third party firmwares and hacks. I just wish we din’t have to add anything to make it the best out there…

  32. Qwerty

    I have just returned my Kindle to Amazon. About 50% of the PDFs I try are unreadable because the size is too small,and the zoom function is inadequate. The situation is made worse by the fact that the the screen ratio is designed for the US domestic market (letter proportions) and most people in the world use A4. PDFs typeset in double columns are unreadable. Translation from PDF to ebook format will rarely be adequate because text flow in PDFs is not necessarily in the sequence of reading.

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