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Can The Kindle Paperwhite (2015) Handle PDFs

Can The Kindle Paperwhite (2015) Handle PDFs

E-readers can be a decent investment if you are able to read all the e-textbooks and other technical PDFs scattered across the internet (from legal sources). However, the big question now is, “Will it work on my new Kindle?” The answer is both yes and no.

PDFs look great on the new Kindle Paperwhite (2015), due in part to its improved pixel density. Images and text look crisp and clear. However, while the Kindle does a great job displaying PDF content, the 6-inch screen size limits its ability to properly display technical PDFs in a full screen, one-page, format. Lack of screen space causes the Kindle to squeeze the content into a barely readable size. Even if you have great vision, this will drastically increase the time it takes to read a book.


A comparison between a printed technical book (left) and its PDF counterpart on a Kindle Paperwhite (right)

As you can see (or not), while it is possible to read content on the Kindle, it really isn’t worth the effort. There are a few ways to resolve this issue.

Switch to Landscape Mode

This is probably to most common workaround for reading PDFs on a Kindle. Landscape mode rotates the PDF 90 degrees, allowing the PDF to utilize a larger width to display the content in.

Kindle Paperwhite in Landscape Mode

Kindle Paperwhite (2015) in Landscape Mode

One drawback to landscape mode is that content no longer fits on one screen. The reader must scroll down each page to view everything. Furthermore, because the Kindle uses an e-ink display, the page lags and flashes with each attempt to scroll.

Portrait Mode Zooming

By using the pinch-to-zoom motion common on most touchscreen devices, the Kindle will narrow in on the page’s content. The reader can then navigate the page by moving their finger to the desired location.

Kindle Paperwhite (2015) zoomed in

Kindle Paperwhite (2015) zoomed in

Converting The PDF to AZW

It is possible to convert a PDF to AZW file format for native viewing on a Kindle. However, while others have reportedly had luck with this method, I have not. Every time I attempt to convert a PDF to AZW, the output is a mess of absurd formatting with page numbers and other content randomly placed in the middle of words or sentences.

PDF to AZW conversion gibberish

PDF to AZW conversion gibberish

If you want a great/functional reading experience, find the book in an EPUB or MOBI file format. Each of these convert flawlessly to AZW. The book will then read like it was intended to be read on an e-reader. Furthermore, there is always the option of just buying the book from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Have any tips for reading PDFs on a Kindle? Or have any questions? Tell us about it in the comments below.

  • Miranda Cruz

    I would say the greater PPI and new Bookerly font seem to be minor upgrades/sidegrades but they are actually quite nice! PDFs looks much better now with increased resolution, though still not as perfect as I want. As long as your PDFs are not incredibly huge with tons of pictures, it should hold up fine and dandy.