Why I’m Returning the Kindle DX or My Continued Search for the Prefect PDF Reader

Update 3/21/2012 I have since purchased an iPad specifically to read PDFs and wrote a post on the system I’m using – My “Perfect” System for Storing, Organizing, Reading and Annotating PDFs

There is nothing exceptional or particularly exciting about my returning the Kindle DX . But I’ve been talking about how much I want one just to use it to read PDFs that I thought I should share what went wrong.

In a nutshell something call “enhanced pdf reader”. A huge motivation for getting my Kindle 3G last year was the highlighting and note-taking ability for books. Amazon magically syncs them to kindle.amazon.com so you can access your notes any time. I copy mine to Google docs so I can search all of them whenever I need to. It’s wonderful. It’s fabulous. It’s magical.

I read a lot, I mean a LOT of reports, in pdf format and I got to thinking wouldn’t it be great if I could use these same features for reports. No more searching for that statistic or quote through the 3 shelves of printed reports (yes really). So I started longing for a Kindle DX. I read around, I did some research and after months I finally caved and ordered one.  I did my research, I read the Amazon pages, they even have this great comparison chart for you.

Native pdf support! Check! It will work!

Except it doesn’t. What isn’t made clear, on the Amazon.com site, or anywhere else (except a few forums after extensive searching) is that “enhanced pdf reader” is required for pdf highlighting & note taking. Commence teeth-gnashing & weeping.  So I’m packing it up and sending it back.  Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great, but it doesn’t do what I need from it. I also think Amazon is totally missing a market here for students, especially grad students who read so many pdf reports that the idea of carrying them around in a small device and to be able to take notes & highlights would be awesome.

My quest for the perfect pdf reading/highlight/note-taking tool continues.  Before you start leaving suggestions here is what I’m looking for:

  • ability to highlight
  • ability to make notes
  • ability to export those notes & highlights to Google docs separate from the document its self so I can search them easily at any time.
  • small & portable, easy to read on a plane or carry around with me.
  • preferably e-ink, but if you can recommend a super awesome program that will work on the PC I’d consider it.



  1. Johnny 5 · ·

    May I suggest an iPad? The PDF support in iBooks is pretty awesome. I can’t live without the dictionary app.

    You could also use the Kindle and Nook apps.

    There is even the OverDrive app, for library books.


  2. Thank Johnny I did have an iPad for a while and couldn’t find an app that met my needs for highlighting & note-taking on pdfs and I really prefer an e-ink screen.


  3. Dale Prince · ·

    There are a couple of apps for the iPad that come close. I think, thought, that you will never find #3.


  4. yeah unfortunately I can get #3 on the Kindle 3 with pds


  5. Katrina · ·

    I have a NookColor ( as well as using Calibre) and PDFs work amazing on it.


  6. I do use Calibre with my Kindle 3 and it works ok, but there are some weird formatting issues.


  7. Katherine · ·

    Do you highlight and annotate? I have heard that the highlight feature is sensitive. What is your take? Can you highlight using multiple colors? Can you download?


  8. Thanks for posting your experiences. I was completely unaware that the Kindle DX (graphite) was running 2nd generation Kindle OS and not the Kindle 3 version. Like you, I had my eye on a DX because my professional reading is PDF heavy. Now I know I need to keep waiting. Perhaps someday I can finally get a Notion Ink tablet.


  9. I’m hopeful they’ll release a new DX with these features or at least upgrade the software on the current one to do.


  10. The lack of good pdf reading/annotation support on, as far as I could see, anyone’s device was the sole reason I didn’t buy an ereader in grad school. Would have loved to have been able to have my reading (nearly all of which was digital) on eInk instead of LCD. Fail.


  11. I know right? There is a huge market their for students! It doesn’t have to be fancy but it has to handle native pdfs well, so probably at least an 8 inch screen and allow highlighting, note-taking (and the exporting of both) and searching through text and highlights. *sigh*


  12. Melanie · ·

    I have a Sony eReader, and you can highlight and take notes on pdfs. The highlighting is easy, the note taking not so much.


  13. Can you export the highlights?


  14. Stacy Uden · ·

    I find your analysis very interesting. I’ve also been searching for the perfect PDF reader who’s display is large enough for me to read 1 page without squinting or pulling out hair. eInk is preferred too, as I stare at a computer for 10+ hours a day as part of job. I think 10 inch is the sweet spot, but have never been very partial to Kindle due to lack of ePub support in the past.

    Wanted to point out that such a device would be super useful in the corporate world too. As part of my job, I read many “think tank” research reports from the likes of Burton Group and Gardner. Also, much technical documentation comes in PDF (handbooks, manuals, whitepapers, etc), although many are now starting to make ePub available.

    I’m keeping my eye on the new Nook touch. I feel the size is better positioned for fiction readers than PDF’s, but I’d like to see one in person.

    Twitter @stacyuden


  15. Katherine · ·

    I am looking for this capability too! I was wondering if the Foxit works with the Kindle? Or with another ereader? I was looking into the sony Ereader the newest edition and it seems to have everything but I don’t know about downloadbility. It’s also quite pricey. Does anyone have any suggestions?


  16. Try iAnnotate PDF on the iPad. It does most of what you are describing.


  17. I’m building a web platform with some friends, mostly to help students engage with instructors through academic material like coursenotes and study guides. Our little project to can do a lot of what you’re talking about. If we were to build an exporter for your annotations, what would make it super-rad?

    Never thought of the note-exporting, but it’s a good idea. Really easy for us to build a feature to generate text from annotations and discussions in material…


  18. yes absolutely! It would allow you to export the notes from the document itself, keeping all of your notes in one place. Plus if you put them somewhere like Google Docs you’d be able to search all of them at once. Great idea!


  19. Guillaume · ·

    With Sony Reader PRS-T1 you can export notes & highlights in rtf files.


  20. I am torn as well. I am starting grad school in about six months and prefer to replace old school paper print outs of my academic journals, which are usually all in PDF format electronically in an e-reader. All of them seem to have certain great features, but lack all essential ones to just take the title of “hands down #1.” I like the DX because of its size, but what is the deal with old platform and not having a USB port? Everyone is worried about “cornering” the market, but no one is willing to provide a real all-in-one, user friendly, PDF friendly e-reader that will just “take over” the market. SO….after all of these post from June and July of 2011…..it seems that even until about almost a year later….the same crappy options exist. ANY real suggestions? I suppose I will just get another laptop just for internet and pdf files.


  21. […] been looking for the perfect pdf reader for a long time. You may remember that earlier this year I returned the Kindle DX after it failed to live up to my qualifications. Here is what I was looking […]


  22. […] listings and links advertising easy-to-install computer Spyware programs and devices … Why I’m Returning the Kindle DX or My Continued Search for the … Jun 8, 2011 … I find your analysis very interesting. I’ve also been searching for the […]


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