Using Your Kindle or Digital Camera to View Travel Maps

I travel with a netbook and own the Lonely Planet in PDF version (yes, a legal copy). Until recently I would print out the pages with maps and just read the rest on my computer, but that is inconvenient, environmentally wasteful, and occasionally expensive. After trying to think of useful alternatives, I have two to share with you.

Using Your Digital Camera

Occasionally when I visit a national park I take a photo of the route map and refer to it when I am confused about the path. Considering this, I’m not sure why I never thought of using my camera in this way for destination maps. Of course, the tiny screen size isn’t ideal, but with the zoom capability it should do in a pinch.

After my initial excitement about this concept I quickly ran into technical difficulties. Specifically, you can’t just load up any photo image you like to your memory card and view it. Why? Because most digital cameras, mine included, cannot view images that have been created anywhere but the camera. Even images taken from the camera but subsequently modified won’t display! For the reason why and how you can solve this problem, I point you to the very useful article, How to put edited pictures back into your Digital Camera (converting images to dcf compatible jpeg).

To summarize that article, you need to download the free Image Creator 1.5 software (note that the link provided in the article is incorrect so use the link provided here instead), use it to convert your images to a form that your camera can use, rename the files to the format your camera uses (not necessary if you are using a Panasonic camera since the software is made by those guys), and load them on your camera’s memory card. Don’t be confused by the SLIDESs option, it appears the software was originally created to convert Powerpoint slides to camera compatible images. Ignore it and choose the IMAGES option.

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You will notice that by default your file will be saved in a directory called DCIM and with a default Panasonic/Lumix filename convention. If you camera uses a different directory name structure and/or filename structure you will need to rename these after finishing your conversions.

Do note that there is one big drawback to this system: the quality achieved is not so great, and sometimes the text you want to be able to read is blurry.

Using Your Kindle

Recently I became the proud new owner of a Kindle 3. At first I just thought I would put copies of my Lonely Planet PDF files on the Kindle to view, but e-readers still have some progress to make in terms of reading PDFs well and the size of the files can cause slow page loads. The latter issue can be significantly alleviated by making new PDF files consisting of just the pages containing maps of interest to your trip. This can be done simply by installing a PDF printer driver (e.g., Doro PDF Writer or PDFCreator, both free) and printing just the pages with maps to a new PDF file. To do so, just print from within your PDF file but instead of selecting your normal printer select the PDF printer driver you installed.

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Alternatively, you could use the free PDFill Tools program to split or reorder pages (use the Split Pages From option for one page or consecutive pages; use the Reorder Pages option to select multiple pages using commas).

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With either method you will still end up with PDF files to view on your Kindle. A better alternative exists, namely a lesser known feature of the Kindle: its image viewer. With this image viewer you can view any JPEG image (maybe other formats as well, but I was unable to view PNG files). Thus, you can search for maps in JPEG format via your favorite search engine or Google maps, for example, or you can convert your Lonely Planet maps to images. To do the latter, again you can use the very useful PDFill Tools program. Following the instructions above, create a new PDF file consisting of just the pages with maps of interest. Then select the Convert PDF to Images option in PDFill Tools. Make sure to select JPG since the default selection is PNG.

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Once you have saved your map pages as separate files (that is the default option) you may want to quickly edit them in Paint or a similar program to crop out everything but the actual map which will make viewing on your Kindle a better experience.

Once you have all your map images, you will need to connect your Kindle to your computer. Now you must create a new folder called “pictures”. Create it in the highest level with the other folders, not inside one of the existing folders. Inside this new “pictures” folder, create another folder to add the images into. Adding images directly in the “pictures” folder will not work. You can create multiple folders to have different collections if you want.

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Now you can unplug the Kindle from your computer. Turn it on and go to the home page. Then press Alt + z to add the newly created folders to the book list. Click on the newly created folder and the image viewer will launch automatically. Once in the image viewer the following shortcuts will prove very useful.

q = zoom in

w = zoom out

e = reset zoom

c = actual size

f = turn on and off full-screen mode

r = rotate

Alt + shift key + 0 = set current picture as screensaver

Use the 4-way navigation controller to pan (move around) the image. Use the page forward and page back buttons to cycle through all the images in the folder. In the future if you add more images, just press Alt-Z from the home page to rescan all the picture directories.

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