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Old 02-26-2009, 12:07 PM   #1
frabjous
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Post Amazon's email pdf conversion service

I'm curious what people's experiences have been using the .PDF conversion service Amazon offers for Kindle users though email.

Note: I'm not asking about all the various other ways of converting .PDFs to create something readable on a Kindle. I know about the other software out there, and I've even tried out most of them, with varying results. I specifically want to hear about Amazon's service in particular, mainly because this is the one I can't really try for myself before I might consider switching to a Kindle, since I'm not a Kindle owner.

I'm especially interested in how it handles texts that aren't just standard text, e.g., texts that include a lot of mathematical or other symbols, charts or images. For example, how would it handle a mathematical journal article originally created with LaTeX or similar?

(And don't bother with the standard ".PDF is not a good ebook format" speech -- I already know that.)

Oops, I just realizing I'm coming across as rather bossy. Sorry! Just trying to be as specific as possible about what kind of info I'm looking for.
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:10 PM   #2
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I haven't used it, but others have with mixed reviews. It seems that it generally creates landscape images of the pages in two halfs. This is the only way to get landscape on a Kindle.

I do keep meaning to try it, and maybe this thread will give me some motivation too.

BOb
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pilotbob View Post
I haven't used it, but others have with mixed reviews. It seems that it generally creates landscape images of the pages in two halfs. This is the only way to get landscape on a Kindle.
So it converts everything to images... the way, e.g., PDFRead does?

I worry that this would mean (1) significantly larger file sizes, (2) no dictionary support, and (3) no "read out loud" (or whatever that feature on K2 is called) support.

Is that true?
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frabjous View Post
So it converts everything to images... the way, e.g., PDFRead does?

I worry that this would mean (1) significantly larger file sizes, (2) no dictionary support, and (3) no "read out loud" (or whatever that feature on K2 is called) support.

Is that true?
I am going to say YES to all those things. But, I will have to test to be 100% sure... I don't have my Kindle with me at the moment though.

BOb
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:22 PM   #5
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If the original PDF is images, it will be images. Not otherwise.
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frabjous View Post
So it converts everything to images... the way, e.g., PDFRead does?
For non-image PDFs, it will first try to reflow the PDF into a text-based MOBI but if it detects that this fails then it will go the image route. This was an upgrade to the conversion added after the Kindle 1 was first introduced. The initial conversion capability was very similar (perhaps identical) to that available via Windows MobiPocket Reader. I'm not sure how complex a PDF has to be before it switches to images.
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Old 02-26-2009, 02:05 PM   #7
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What Wallcraft says. I convert a lot of PDF's.. I almost always get usable text, but not always. Sometimes I get gibberish, and at least once I got an excellent "page in landscape mode" version. Bigger probably, but very readable.
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Old 02-26-2009, 02:11 PM   #8
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I have only tried it once and the result was so bad that i was put off by it from then on. Although, I must say that I don't get that many pdf's either.
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Old 02-26-2009, 02:58 PM   #9
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I'm curious how it would handle some tough cases.

Take this: Multi-column portrait-orientation .PDF, no images, but copious mathematical/logical symbols, textboxes, and quasi-graphical elements like pointer arrows:

Example 1

What would it do with that?

That might be an unfair test.

For a less intense workout, what about this:

Example 2

Mainly text, but still some unusual symbols here and there, Greek letters used as variables, footnotes, etc.

(I own the copyright to those, so if you wish to experiment with me, go nuts!)

I'm not really expecting great results with any method for these; images are probably the best I could hope at present. I'm mainly just trying to keep tabs on what's presently possible and what isn't.

Thanks for all the responses so far...

Last edited by frabjous; 02-26-2009 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:21 PM   #10
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I emailed them. Will tell you when I get them.

I'm not optimistic about #1. In my experience columns are a real problem.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:33 PM   #11
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Sorry to say but both are pretty much disasters.

Oddly enough, #1 faired better than the other. But both lost the occasional symbol and generally the formatting was borked.

Sorry.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:36 PM   #12
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Converting PDF usually results in a mess. If you can avoid PDF, doing so will save you some sanity and hassle.
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Old 02-26-2009, 04:01 PM   #13
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Sorry to say but both are pretty much disasters.

Oddly enough, #1 faired better than the other. But both lost the occasional symbol and generally the formatting was borked.

Sorry.
Other than the reversal of #1 and #2, that's pretty much what I expected. I appreciate the effort though. I would have hoped at least that Amazon's conversion would have realized the need to convert them to images, but I guess not.

Quote:
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Converting PDF usually results in a mess. If you can avoid PDF, doing so will save you some sanity and hassle.
As I said in my opening post, I already know that this is not the ideal format for eReaders. Some of us have compelling other reasons to use .PDF, or are not given a choice, but still want to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

It doesn't seem that Amazon's conversion process works any better than the other solutions that already exist, which is really what I wanted to know. (No reason to switch to a kindle, anyway.)
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Old 02-26-2009, 04:18 PM   #14
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I wouldn't even say "usually." The vast majority of PDF's I send turn out quite well. And I send a lot of academic papers, etc.

But their humanities stuff, not sciences and mathematics.

There are a couple of rules of thumb, and i can tell the file's OCR is real bad I generally won't even bother. But I've been surprised occasionally.
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