Amazon Improves Kindle Battery, Adds PDF Support

There’s almost no such thing as “enough” in the world of tech. But Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, which can run for two weeks on a charge, surely has enough battery life. But the two-week figure only applies if you shut off the gizmo’s 3G data connection. Leave it on, and you reduce the list to four days.

Until now: Amazon says that it’s managed to improve wireless-on life to seven days on a charge, which surely counts as enough. It’s also added native support for documents in PDF format. (Until now, you’ve had to convert PDFs to the Kindle’s native format to read them.)

The best news: Existing owners of the current Kindle model will get both of these enhancements via an over-the-air software update. Owners of “some” earlier Kindles will get the PDF support, but not the extended battery life.

It may not be entirely coincidental that Amazon is making this announcement shortly before the arrival of Barnes & Noble’s Nook. That imposing Kindle competitor has more features overall than Amazon’s e-reader has had, including PDF support. I don’t see a figure for wireless-on battery life in B&N’s specs list, but the Nook goes for ten days if you turn the wireless off. Which is still a heck of a lot longer than most electronic devices, but the device’s color touchscreen presumably sucks enough power to reduce the life compared to that of the Kindle.

Both the Kindle and the Nook still have some features that the other one doesn’t. The Kindle, for instance, can read books out loud and has a crude Web browser; the Nook has Wi-Fi as well as 3G and lets you lend books to Nook-owning pals. I’m not going to come to any conclusions about whether there’s a clear winner until the Nook shows up, but it’s going to be fun to watch the two book megamerchants duke it out.

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