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Amazon is boosting the Kindle's battery life and adding native support for PDF documents with a free firmware upgrade for the e-reader.

The online retailer said the Kindle 2 will get an 85 per cent boost in battery life — lasting seven days on a charge versus the previous limit of four days. With wireless turned off, battery life remains at its previous level of up to two weeks.

The firmware version 2.3 update also provides Kindle 2 with a native PDF viewer formerly available only on the Kindle DX. A 6-inch screen Kindle can now display PDF documents without users having to reformat the original file via Amazon's email-based conversion service.

It further adds an option for both the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX to convert PDF files to Kindle format by typing "convert" in the subject of an e-mail when you send a document to the reader using your @kindle.com address.

Also included in the automatic firmware update is manual screen rotation between portrait and landscape view for the Kindle 2.

Amazon said PDF support will be available "for some earlier versions of Kindle" (presumably the first-generation model), but alas, no bump to battery life.

The retailer is clearly stepping up its e-book game for the holidays now that its faced with increased competition from Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's new Reader.

With wireless features turned on, Barnes & Noble claims its Nook e-reader operates 2 days on a single charge and 10 days with wireless off.

The Kindles will automatically download Amazon's firmware update when its wireless connection is activated and the Kindle goes into sleep mode. Owners can also download the software manually here. ®

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