SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 for Kindle

An inexpensive Kindle is a great tool when learning the BI 4.0 platform.

You won’t find it mentioned in the supported platforms document for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, but BI4 is supported on the Amazon Kindle.  No, I’m not talking about viewing Crystal Reports or Web Intelligence documents via Kindle’s currently “experimental” WebKit browser (although that would be really cool). The Amazon Kindle is an 8.5 ounce, $139 (Wi-Fi only) powerhouse ideally suited for taking thousands of pages of SAP BusinessObjects documentation anywhere – even in carry-on luggage.

Most SAP BusinessObjects documentation is freely available from the SAP Help Portal in Adobe PDF format (although some of the links redirect to the S-ID protected SAP Support Portal).  And the Adobe Reader on my laptop is great at searching through my large document collection.  However, I travel a lot and it’s frequently pointless to boot up my laptop on a cramped Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jet, even in the so-called exit row.  There’s so much to learn about the upcoming BI 4.0 release and so little time to waste reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I was quite close to choosing the $189 Wi-Fi + Free 3G Kindle, but opted to save a few bucks since my primary goal was to read vendor documentation and not best sellers from the Amazon Kindle store.

You might be wondering why I chose the Amazon Kindle over an Apple iPad and its free iBooks app.  I’m glad you asked.  I opted first for a Kindle because:

  • $139 US was a no-brainer
  • The E Ink display is supposed to be easier on the eyes than an LCD
  • I’m forced to read documentation and not waste time with Facebook or Angry Birds
  • I won’t have a valid opinion about dedicated e-book readers unless I own one
  • If I do purchase Kindle titles, I can read them on nearly any mobile device
  • The Apple iPad 2 will soon appear and make everyone wish they had waited for it

Adobe PDF files (or Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI files.) can be transferred to the Kindle from either your PC or Mac using the supplied USB cable. You can also e-mail documents to your your Kindle using its e-mail address (name@free.kindle.com).  The USB-connected Kindle mounts to your PC or Mac as easy as a flash drive and file transfers are nearly painless. But I think Amazon is seriously missing an opportunity to fashion its PC and Mac Kindle applications as the center of a digital hub, similar to iTunes‘ relationship with Apple’s iOS devices.

The Kindle can resize and rotate PDF files according to a handful of preset zoom levels, although I would have preferred variable zoom.  Adobe PDF documents cannot take advantage of all the Kindle’s features but you can convert PDFs to the native Kindle format.  Both formats have advantages and disadvantages and neither is a clear winner.  In my personal experience, the text from a full page of SAP documentation in PDF was small but surprisingly readable on the Kindle’s E Ink screen.  In contrast, converted files have greater legibility but near useless document navigation.  Changing the PDF orientation from portrait to landscape helped, but I hold out the possibility that future Kindle firmware updates will continue to improve the Adobe PDF viewing experience.

Beyond storing product documentation, there are several interesting business intelligence titles available for the Kindle such as Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards (see my book review) and Ralph Kimball’s legendary data warehousing titles.  Curiously missing are titles from SAP Press, which has no official plans to support any eBook format in the near future.  We can only hope their position will change as devices as the Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Apple iPad are embraced by larger numbers of SAP professionals.  In addition, I think it would be groundbreaking for SAP to publish documentation in leading eBook formats alongside existing Adobe PDF documentation.

An “experimental” MP3 player complements the “experimental” WebKit browser, so I can even listen to Diversified Semantic Layer and other podcasts from my Kindle.

So there you have it, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 for Kindle.  Are you using a mobile device for vendor documentation?  Please share your insights by posting a comment.

Special thanks to Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald, and Eric Vallo from the Diversified Semantic Layer for their help in preparing this article.

Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

6 thoughts on “SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 for Kindle”

  1. Nice article, Dallas! I loaded the BI4 Administrator’s Guide onto my Kindle as soon as I got the link from Greg Myers. All 800+ pages of BI4 goodness right in my hands all the time…can’t beat that!

    As for iPad 2…I am waiting patiently for the announcement! I decided NOT to jump on iPad 1, since I bought a first generation iPod Touch and then the 2G came out with a speaker. Which was the feature I REALLY wanted. So, although it’s been tough waiting- I’m going to wait for the front facing camera feature that I want. This way I can Skype from my iPad!!

  2. Nice post, I am so critical with respect to Apple, which I consider abusing its market power with its closed system. And I am looking at e-readers with interest for some time.

    If I could just get my hands on the Kindle (DX) in a store to really “see” it, I would be able to make a decision.

  3. Hi Dallas, good points. I currently store all the BOBJ documentation on my iPad, as well as PDF versions of Kimball’s books, and also any internal documentation/processes we use. I find it very handy too 🙂

    Cheers, Josh

  4. Hi,

    I use my kindle for the exact same thing as well. I downloaded all the BI4 documentation as soon as I got it, and it made a 9 hour plane ride to Europe very productive. I prefer the e-ink to the ipad screen because, it is a lot easier on my eyes.

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