View Full Version : Appalling layout


StanByk
04-24-2009, 04:25 AM
Hi,

A couple of days ago I bought my first ebook in pdf format (Robert Harris, Pompeij) and the layout, frankly is appalling. On the Small font settings on my 505 it is virtually unreadable. The font is super tiny and there is a lot of space between the text and the left and right side of the screen. When I zoom in to medium font settings, it doesn't seem to recalculate the page breaks. Now the font is large enough for me to read it, but I always get a full page, followed by half a page. I also noted that the page numbers at the bottom stay the same on both of these two pages.

Is this common with pdfs? It is a rather unpleasent reading experience and I am annoyed because I paid money for it. By the way, I bought the book from BooksAboutEverything.
Thanks
Robert

pdurrant
04-24-2009, 05:00 AM
Sounds normal to me. PDF is not a good ebook format.

PDF is excellent if you want to reproduce exactly the original look and layout of printed material. It's terrible if you want to change the font size or reflow the text in any way.

Hi,

A couple of days ago I bought my first ebook in pdf format (Robert Harris, Pompeij) and the layout, frankly is appalling. On the Small font settings on my 505 it is virtually unreadable. The font is super tiny and there is a lot of space between the text and the left and right side of the screen. When I zoom in to medium font settings, it doesn't seem to recalculate the page breaks. Now the font is large enough for me to read it, but I always get a full page, followed by half a page. I also noted that the page numbers at the bottom stay the same on both of these two pages.

Is this common with pdfs? It is a rather unpleasent reading experience and I am annoyed because I paid money for it. By the way, I bought the book from BooksAboutEverything.
Thanks
Robert

Jellby
04-24-2009, 12:06 PM
Is this common with pdfs?

PDF is basically a "picture" of every page. Don't expect miracles when working with pictures ;)

thibaulthalpern
04-24-2009, 10:05 PM
It's inaccurate to say PDF is a picture of every page. Usually the text is actually text. The problem is that your screen is too small. You can very easily, on a computer, zoom in on PDF and the text will increase in size without reflow issues.

I don't think this is so much a PDF issue as it is a problem with digital readers. In any case, I have a Sony PRS-700 and 99.99% of my documents are PDFs. I like them to be in PDF because it faithfully keeps to the page layout of the book format which in my case is important if I want to be able to correctly cite page numbers from the printed books.

pepak
04-25-2009, 01:26 AM
It's inaccurate to say PDF is a picture of every page. Usually the text is actually text.
Not really. The text is still a picture, but a PDF usually has an additional text-only layer that the readers can use for plaintext rendering. Unfortunately, this text layer is often just an uncorrected OCR of the image and can differ quite significantly from the "image representation".

I don't think this is so much a PDF issue as it is a problem with digital readers.
You are mistaken. The readers handle it about as well as they can, but if the PDF is formated for A4 and the text layer is crap, there is not much they can do.

Jellby
04-25-2009, 06:56 AM
It's inaccurate to say PDF is a picture of every page. Usually the text is actually text. The problem is that your screen is too small. You can very easily, on a computer, zoom in on PDF and the text will increase in size without reflow issues.

The text is text, but it's not easily reflowable. In practice, it's just the predefined shapes of the letters placed at specific locations of the page, there is no concept of words, lines or paragraphs in the text, just glyphs all around the page. That's what I meant with "basically a picture". I don't mean it's a scanned page, but a set of "rules" to "draw" the page at some size. If you change the size the "rules" may not work so well. So still, it is a picture, not a bitmap picture maybe, but a vector picture.

thibaulthalpern
04-25-2009, 04:54 PM
Not really. The text is still a picture, but a PDF usually has an additional text-only layer that the readers can use for plaintext rendering. Unfortunately, this text layer is often just an uncorrected OCR of the image and can differ quite significantly from the "image representation".

Not entirely wrong but not entirely correct either.

It all depends on the way the PDF was made. One can make a scanned image of pages and then have OCR recognition done on the scanned text (which is essentially an image). Then, underneath that layer of image is plain text.

Another way is that the text itself actually is text and not an image. In this case, there would be native font embedded into the PDF. This is the preferable method.

thibaulthalpern
04-27-2009, 04:38 AM
By the way, I've also been reading up on PDF format in Wikipedia and it seems that what is described generally in this board that PDF is a poor format for digital readers seems to be patently wrong. The problem has to do with how the PDF is created. PDFs can be created with accessibility in mind (see PDF accessibility (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf#Accessibility)). If it is properly created for screen readers, I think PDF flow issues would not be a problem. Various items in the PDF document can be tagged (e.g., as paragraphs, etc.) to aid.

Seems to me that PDF is a very flexible format which however has not been taken advantage of fully for the digital reader world.

=X=
04-27-2009, 01:41 PM
Hi,

A couple of days ago I bought my first ebook in pdf format (Robert Harris, Pompeij) and the layout, frankly is appalling. On the Small font settings on my 505 it is virtually unreadable. The font is super tiny and there is a lot of space between the text and the left and right side of the screen. When I zoom in to medium font settings, it doesn't seem to recalculate the page breaks. Now the font is large enough for me to read it, but I always get a full page, followed by half a page. I also noted that the page numbers at the bottom stay the same on both of these two pages.

Is this common with pdfs? It is a rather unpleasent reading experience and I am annoyed because I paid money for it. By the way, I bought the book from BooksAboutEverything.
Thanks
Robert
No in fact if you down load a PDF from Feedbooks (http://www.feedbooks.com) (all books are free and most are in public domain) you will see PDF look quite fantastic on the 505. Also SONY's manual is also in PDF format.

The problem lies in the PDF technology. It gives full control of page layout (e.g. graphics and text) by fixating the paper size.

Most commercial PDF are created with a paper size of A4/letter. Since PDFs are not reflowable the 505 has to shrink the text to fit in the small screen. Imagine trying to shrink a letter/A4 paper down to a 6" screen.
It just wont look good.

So SONY implemented a solution to view these PDF on a smaller screen by reflowing the text. The problem is all graphics and format are lost. Also since the average PDF page is bigger than a the SONY screen text tends to over flow to the next screen.
Also SONY only relfows one page at a time not the whole book so you get this full page plus a half page.

The page number is in sync with the PDF. To test this look at the last sentence/word of the PDF then zoom in. On the second page you will see that sentence/word.

In the end I think SONY just does not do a good job reflowing text but its better than not being able to read a PDF.

For me I like small fonts and think that removing the margins on the PDF tends to work for me. There is a tool here called soPDF (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32066)that removes the margins on a PDF.

Not really. The text is still a picture, but a PDF usually has an additional text-only layer that the readers can use for plaintext rendering. Unfortunately, this text layer is often just an uncorrected OCR of the image and can differ quite significantly from the "image representation".


You are mistaken. The readers handle it about as well as they can, but if the PDF is formated for A4 and the text layer is crap, there is not much they can do.

I've read many PDFs on a Window Mobile phone and also on a BlackBerry and after seeing how well those devices re-flow PDF I have to agree with thibaulthalpern. I think all eReaders do a terrible job re-flowing PDF. PDF does not deserve the Bad rep it gets here. In truth people need to start expecting more out of their eReaders who claim to support PDF.

Elfwreck
04-27-2009, 01:50 PM
Seems to me that PDF is a very flexible format which however has not been taken advantage of fully for the digital reader world.

PDF is a somewhat-flexible format that has not been taken advantage of fully, in part because most publishers are oblivious to any goal other than "make the screen look like the paper."

PDFs, at their best, are still page-locked; content is assigned to a particular page, which means reflow is always going to get occasional very short pages.

Reflow also changes layout of graphics & text; text layout may not matter (nobody really cares if you lose the centering on the chapter titles), but graphic layout can get very odd, depending on what program made the PDF.

PDFs made from Word/RTF documents tend to work fine on ebook readers. PDFs made from InDesign or QuarkXpress can be difficult, especially if they include a lot of charts or graphics. PDFs made from publisher's proprietary software may be pretty much unviewable except at full page size.

thibaulthalpern
04-27-2009, 04:14 PM
Yes, Elfwreck, it seems to me that the problem is how the PDF is produced and not something inherent to the nature of PDF.

Anyhow, most of my digital books are in PDF format. I don't like the other formats.

astra
05-01-2009, 06:28 AM
Hi,

A couple of days ago I bought my first ebook in pdf format (Robert Harris, Pompeij) and the layout, frankly is appalling. On the Small font settings on my 505 it is virtually unreadable. The font is super tiny and there is a lot of space between the text and the left and right side of the screen. When I zoom in to medium font settings, it doesn't seem to recalculate the page breaks. Now the font is large enough for me to read it, but I always get a full page, followed by half a page. I also noted that the page numbers at the bottom stay the same on both of these two pages.

Is this common with pdfs? It is a rather unpleasent reading experience and I am annoyed because I paid money for it. By the way, I bought the book from BooksAboutEverything.
Thanks
Robert

Welcome to the club.

PDF, unless created specifically for 6" screen like they do on Feedbooks, is next to unreadable on 6" screen.
Avoid.

All4Fun
05-01-2009, 09:28 AM
Yes, Elfwreck, it seems to me that the problem is how the PDF is produced and not something inherent to the nature of PDF.

Anyhow, most of my digital books are in PDF format. I don't like the other formats.

Myself, my preference would be to read all of my material in PDF to keep faithfully with the page layout as the author/publisher intended. Alas, it doesn't seem to work satisfactorily on my ebook reader (it's too small on a 6" screen) so I'm "stuck" purchasing other ebook formats (not that it's a bad thing but wouldn't be my first choice if pdf could work adequately on my ebook reader).

It's my impression that the pdf format is scorned on these forums only because it's not adequately viewable/functional on the 6" e-ink screens that these ebook readers generally use. It's a bit of a balancing act because larger screens likely means larger, heavier, and less convenient.

I'm also guessing that pdf support on the prs-700 means still scrolling around the touchscreen to read the material as it's still a 6" touchscreen. But I guess that's another conversation for another topic...

Jellby
05-01-2009, 11:30 AM
It's my impression that the pdf format is scorned on these forums only because it's not adequately viewable/functional on the 6" e-ink screens that these ebook readers generally use. It's a bit of a balancing act because larger screens likely means larger, heavier, and less convenient.

That's one of the reasons (and it's only a reason because most PDFs are created with large pagesizes, if they were created with a 6" pagesize, this wouldn't be a reason). The other important reason is doesn't have the reading flexibility of other formats, you cannot alter font face, size, margins, justification, hyphenation... anything! Different people have different tastes and needs, and it's always better to leave the choice to them rather than impose formatting.

I like PDF for my own use, and it allows a far greater control on formatting than other formats (since I don't depend on the reader's features for that), but I understand it's not the best format for distributing a book.

thibaulthalpern
05-03-2009, 04:13 AM
Welcome to the club.

PDF, unless created specifically for 6" screen like they do on Feedbooks, is next to unreadable on 6" screen.
Avoid.

I totally disagree. I have a PRS-700 and 99.99% of my books are direct PDF copies of the actual books themselves and so not made for 6 inch screens. Yet, the PRS-700 handles them just fine.

pepak
05-03-2009, 07:03 AM
I guess it depends on what your definition of "unreadable" and "just fine" is. Personally, I think "unreadable" is closer to reality.

astra
05-03-2009, 10:05 AM
I guess it depends on what your definition of "unreadable" and "just fine" is. Personally, I think "unreadable" is closer to reality.

Exactly.
If you want to enjoy a good layout of a proper ebook, then "unreadable" is a very mild definition of the garbage you get....unless you use a real zoom feature on 700 (not font increase), then it might look better with one small flaw. You will have to zoom in every time you turn a page, because 700 doesn't remember zoom position when you turn pages.

thibaulthalpern
05-05-2009, 05:47 AM
An example of why layout matters, and not just textual matter, Derrida's Glas:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glas_(book)

Here, he writes in two columns (one a commentary on Hegel, and another on Genet) with interweaving quotes. I'm not sure that in other digital book formats aside from PDF would work for this kind of text.

http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/%7Emrogal/decon2.gif

I too have composed text where the layout is part and parcel of the way one engages with the document. A long time ago I wrote a "mystoriography" interweaving a second set of voices between lines of the main text.

pepak
05-05-2009, 06:45 AM
In HTML, you can always use tables...

thibaulthalpern
05-06-2009, 02:56 AM
Is HTML considered a digital book format?

pepak
05-06-2009, 07:23 AM
Why not?

Anyway, EPUB is basically HTML compressed into a ZIP archive.

tirsales
05-06-2009, 07:26 AM
In HTML, you can always use tables...I'm looking forward to the point where eReader software is supporting CSS the way browsers of years ago did ... floating elements and stuff.
I really dislike going back to tables for reasons of design.

thibaulthalpern
05-07-2009, 02:07 AM
Why not?

Anyway, EPUB is basically HTML compressed into a ZIP archive.

Is that right? I had no idea.

=X=
05-07-2009, 05:19 PM
Is that right? I had no idea.
Yea most of the major eBooks use HTML as a format. (MOBI/LIT/ePUB)

=X=

dauwhe
05-07-2009, 09:27 PM
In HTML, you can always use tables...

But they may not display how you want. Kindle 1 doesn't do tables at all. ePub in Sony Reader will truncate them if they're too wide, so it's impossible to see some of the text. Some readers won't display all of a table cell if it doesn't fit on one screen.

Dave

thibaulthalpern
05-08-2009, 12:17 PM
And as far as I know, you don't have exact control over layout with HTML as one would after something is printed in PDF. That is, PDF displays in exactly the layout the author wants while HTML can't do that by nature of what it is.

DaleDe
05-09-2009, 03:44 PM
But they may not display how you want. Kindle 1 doesn't do tables at all. ePub in Sony Reader will truncate them if they're too wide, so it's impossible to see some of the text. Some readers won't display all of a table cell if it doesn't fit on one screen.

Dave

I am surprised to hear that K1 doesn't do tables as MOBI does although only one level and only simple ones.

Dale

DaleDe
05-09-2009, 03:46 PM
And as far as I know, you don't have exact control over layout with HTML as one would after something is printed in PDF. That is, PDF displays in exactly the layout the author wants while HTML can't do that by nature of what it is.

That is true but then you don't always need exact control over the placement on a page and you can't always assume the page is the exact size you wanted it to be. This is why we have multiple formats for different uses.

Dale