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Amazon Invests in Foxit (But Did Not Buy the Company)

So it looks like Amazon has finally bitten the bullet and admitted that they need to work on the Kindle’s PDF support.

Foxit announced today that Amazon has invested a chunk of money in the company. There’s no word yet on how much Amazon invested, but I do know at this time that this wasn’t an outright purchase. There’s also no word yet on how long they’ve been working together, and I wonder.

Some time back Amazon surprised us all when they released a new version of Kindle for PC that included PDF support.  Today’s news inspired me to go see if Amazon mentioned the original developer of the code used in the app. There’s no name mentioned, and that makes me wonder if  perhaps Foxit licensed the code to Amazon.

Unlike the PDF support for the Kindles, the K4PC now looks and acts like a PDF app running on your PC. Amazon could have used an open source library to handle the PDFs or licensed it from Adobe, or gotten it from anyone, but then they would have to name who provided the code. I could not find anything, and that suggests that something interesting is going on behind the scenes.

In any case, the PDF abilities on the Kindle hardware are bound to improve, but not just because Foxit is working on it. The current PDF software on the Kindles is based on Adobe’s code, and Adobe knows how to do it right. That suggests that the only reason why PDFs were only marginally usable on the Kindle is that Amazon never cared to offer a better experience.

But that’s largely because until now the PDFs didn’t come from Amazon. Back when the Kindle DX first got PDF support in 2009, Amazon didn’t sell PDFs for the Kindle so they had no reason to offer more than a basic ability.  But now they sell Kindle Print Replica format, which is nothing more than a PDF wrapped in Kindle DRM. And now Amazon cares.

In any case, it’s easy to tell that Amazon now cares about PDF; they invested in Foxit.

Foxit has been a big name in PDFs for some years now. You can find a Foxit PDF readers for Windows, OSX, Android, and iOS, as well as a number of different apps to make PDFs on OSX or Windows.

They’ve even dabbled in ebook readers. Back in December 2008 Foxit unveiled a 6″ ereader called the Eslick. It was based on hardware similar to the original Kobo, but it was running Foxit’s own PDF software.

I had high hopes for the eSlick back when it was announced, but it was constantly plagued by software bugs as well as a very competitive market. Foxit also almost release a follow up model last year. Unfortunately, the eSlick PS never got off the drawing board; it was one victim of the Kindle-Nook price war. And then the original Eslick was canceled in August 201o when Foxit pulled out of the hardware market entirely.

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Len Feldman December 7, 2011 um 11:45 am

I suspect that one reason for Amazon’s investment in Foxit is to get help in improving its PDF-to-Kindle Format 8 converter, especially in light of Amazon’s acquisition of Marshall Cavendish’s children’s book titles yesterday. Converting complex PDFs to KF8, while enabling interactivity and text-to-speech, will be very difficult, and having Foxit’s know-how will be valuable. In addition, Amazon may plan to make the converter available to its KDP self-publishers.

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