How I Read Text On a Broken / Faulty Amazon Kindle eReader Screen

This blog post tells you how I successfully was able to read an ebook on a Kindle with a broken/faulty e-ink display. It might be of interest to people who use other tablets or phones.

Warning: You use any e-ink or other type of broken display/screen at your own risk! I’m not implying you should touch any damaged screen directly or even use a damaged device.

Please note: The two methods I’ve written ‘how to’ instructions for, only work for DRM free ebooks that can be converted to other formats.

Kindle 4 Broken Screen

An ebook that has been edited to only display text on the viewable area of a Kindle. It’s a Kindle 4 and the K5 label is my reference.

Kindle with faulty e-ink display

A Kindle 4 with a broken e-ink display being used upside down to show a PDF in the corner. K3 isn’t the model number, but my reference.

For those reading this blog post and don’t use a Kindle, a similar or the same solution might work, especially for android users with auto-rotate enabled.

On a Kindle that I’m still able to view a large full width area, and I was able to convert ebooks to only show text within that area. I’ve provided instructions for how I did that further down. On Kindles you can set the screen rotation, which might help some if their viewable area isn’t located at the top.

On two other faulty Kindles that I own, the faulty e-ink displays with the largest non-faulty area are not across the top width. I found it possible to read an edited book when the screen had been rotated, but on those screens it was a lot of hassle. I will cover that briefly further down.

Background
I recently purchased five Kindle 4th generation e-ink eReaders and three had damaged screens with text only viewable on some parts of the screen. I’ve decided not to replace the faulty e-ink screens and I was curious whether I could convert books to be read on partially functional screens.

I’m sure there are other methods, possibly better than what I did. I feel I’ve spent too much time looking at this and whilst I would appreciate a thank you and feedback from anybody that finds this blog post helpful, I won’t be providing tech support or a conversion service.

A brief overview of the two methods I used
For the Kindle with the undamaged area across the full width of the top part of the screen, I found the easiest method was to create a MOBI ebook with page breaks at regular set intervals. By using page breaks I can force the text for a page to only be shown on part of a screen.

For the Kindles with damage elsewhere I tried out PDFs with custom page and font sizes, then rotated the screens. Each time I had to set the Kindle to use the actual size and it was hassle and impractical.

Please note: The instructions are only meant as a rough guide to show people how it could be done. It’s possible people might have to tweak the steps below to get a solution that works for them. Are there better ways of doing this? Possibly, but remember I was just curious.

Method 1 – For those with a large area that still works from one side to the other
Basically the first method below shows you how to convert a text file to HTML, insert page breaks and then finally convert to MOBI format. It is a bit of hassle and it might require a try or two per book.

The next issue is the amount of books you can see listed on a partially viewable screen. You might find you can create some categories and then assign some books to each. Not ideal and limited.

What you need:

  1. Notepad++
  2. Calibre ebook conversion software
  3. HTML file I prepared

Part 1 – Preparation

  1. Convert the eBook to a text file.
  2. Open the text file on the eReader and rotate the view until you can see the first X number of lines of the book.
  3. Note down the last sentence you can read.

Part 2 – Example of creating an HTML version of an eBook with page breaks

Please note: I did the steps below with word wrap turned off in Notepad++ (View menu option).

  1. Open both the 8BitMammoth HTML template file and the text file version of the eBook you wish to convert.Notepad++ HTML page break
  2. Copy and paste the book text into the HTML file just below <p style=”page-break-before: always”> and above </body>
  3. Copy the html code <p style=”page-break-before: always”>
  4. Now from line six of the template file, count how many lines until the last sentence you were able to read (as noted in step 2 of the preparation).
  5. Click on line six just below the < symbol.
  6. Select ‘Start Recording’ from the ‘Macro’ menu.
  7. Now using the arrow key on the keyboard, move the cursor down to the line below the last sentence you could read. Press enter to create a new line and then ctrl-v to paste the code.page breaks
  8. From the ‘Macro’ menu, select ‘Stop Recording’.
  9. Select ‘Save Current Recorded Macro…’, type in a name and select ‘OK’.
  10. Choose ‘Run a Macro Multiple Times…’ from the ‘Macro’ menu.
  11. Select the macro you just recorded from the list, choose ‘Run until the end of file’ and select ‘Run’.
  12. Move to the very bottom of the HTML file and remove any page breaks after the </html> code.
  13. From the ‘File’ menu, select ‘Save as…’ and use the book title as the name for a new HTML file.

So hopefully you end up with a HTML file that has regularly spaced page breaks. Those page breaks hopefully are just after the last sentence you can read on the screen.

Part 3 – Example of converting the HTML eBook to MOBI format

  1. Open the Calibre software and add the HTML eBook you just created.
  2. Make sure the eBook is highlighted and choose your ‘Convert books’ option.
  3. For Kindle users, choose MOBI as the output format.
  4. Now you can transfer the MOBI ebook to your Kindle’s documents directory.

You might need to modify and repeat the steps a few times until you settle on a solution that is right for you. Then in the Kindle you might need to rotate the screen view until you’re able to read the book.

What about when you want to use a small area of the screen, where you only have a smaller undamaged area next to the edge of the screen? Well it becomes a bit more complicated with more testing to see if it’s possible and that’s method two below.

Method 2 – Converting an eBook to PDF in Calibre method

  1. Measure the biggest area next to a side of the screen you can clearly view. i.e. 5x5cm
  2. Open the Calibre software, import your book and choose to convert.
  3. Select ‘PDF’ as the ‘Output format’.
  4. Under ‘Structure detection’ make sure ‘Remove fake margins’ is selected.
  5. Under ‘PDF output’ enter a custom size that you noted down in step 1.
  6. If necessary lower the ‘Default font size’. (I used 15px)
  7. When ready select ‘OK’ and then move to the ‘documents’ folder on your Kindle.

You likely will need play about with the steps above to assess if that method works for your display. I hate the second method above as the PDF file I tested always defaulted to a large size on the Kindle 4! Then if you can’t see the options to resize, it becomes hassle.

A few photos to help Kindle 4 users
When testing, sometimes I had to select options (when pressing the menu button) which I couldn’t see! To help others work out where settings are, I’ve taken some photos.

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation Portrait Mode

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation Portrait Mode

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation Landscape Mode

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation Landscape Mode

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation

Kindle 4 Screen Rotation

Kindle 4 Change Font Size

Kindle 4 Change Font Size

Kindle 4 Choose Font Size

Kindle 4 Choose Font Size

Conclusion
So is all this worth the effort? I own some working Kindles, other tablets and phones, so the answer for me, is no. For others, the answer might vary, based on finances, condition of devices and judging safety and hassle. I’m not saying you should even try out what I did.

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