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Old 12-09-2007, 12:01 AM   #1
calvarez
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Question Should I buy an eBook reader? If so, according to my needs, which one?

First of all, I'm new to the site

I am a grad student in computer science who needs to read a lot. I have a large collection of computer graphics programming eBooks on PDF (and a few in CHM). These e-books are usually large in size, have lots of pictures, figures, complex formatting, etc. Eventually, if the technology is satisfactory for me, I would like to stop buying paper textbooks and just buy the eBook version of my textbooks.

I am tired of having to read on my laptop. Don't misunderstand me, I love my lappy, it's a MacBook Pro But I would like something that can be handled as easily as (or close to) a book, without having to carry a 15'' laptop or read on an LCD screen. I've tried using my PDA for this (a Zaurus SL-5500), but 1) the screen is so tiny, I'm tired of the horizontal scrolling and the low resolution, and 2) the PDF reader software available for it are not that great at displaying my PDF files properly (sometimes the layout gets messed up or some figures won't show).

My questions are:
A) Will an eBook reader do the job for me? (by this I mean, is an eBook reader a good replacement for having a physical library of books? Is it a better option than just reading my PDF files on my laptop, or on my PDA?) I know this ultimately will depend on me, my habits and preferences, but I would like to hear what you guys think.

B)Is the PDF/CHM software in these eBook readers good enough? Will they open large files (25MB+)? Are they robust at rendering PDF/CHM files, including figures and layout? (in other words, is it as good and reliable as reading the PDF on a computer with Adobe Reader 8.1?)

C)If so, which one would you guys recommend? If an eBook reader is for me, I can allocate $250-350 for it (I've noticed most are in that range). Again, what I care the most is:
(1)Correct rendering of PDF and CHM formats
(2)Being able to import all of my non-DRM'd PDF and CHM files (if I need to convert them to some other format, that's fine, as long as the layout and figures are kept reasonably well after converting)
(3)In general, having enough freedom for getting eBooks on my device. It's OK if some of the books obtained through the device's service are DRM'd as long as I can still put non-DRM'd eBooks in it, or eBooks from other stores such as Amazon, etc.

Thanks for your input! I know I'm asking a lot.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:17 AM   #2
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The best eink device available for reading PDF is the iLiad due to the higher resolution and larger screen. So basically, for your needs, I would only recommend the iLiad.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:42 AM   #3
calvarez
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
The best eink device available for reading PDF is the iLiad due to the higher resolution and larger screen. So basically, for your needs, I would only recommend the iLiad.
Ouch, the iLiad looks very good, but it's a bit out of my price range. I was hoping for something around ~$300, $350 tops.

So, is the larger screen and higher res the only reasons to recommend the iLiad over the rest? How relevant are these 2 criteria for PDF reading? I think the answer may be obvious, but I want to know of personal experiences (i.e. "SVGA and/or 6in is not enough for PDF IMO")

Again, I'm sorry for asking so much but I'm not familiar at all with e-readers, so an experiences like that are useful for me.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:56 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by calvarez View Post
Ouch, the iLiad looks very good, but it's a bit out of my price range. I was hoping for something around ~$300, $350 tops.

So, is the larger screen and higher res the only reasons to recommend the iLiad over the rest? How relevant are these 2 criteria for PDF reading? I think the answer may be obvious, but I want to know of personal experiences (i.e. "SVGA and/or 6in is not enough for PDF IMO")

Again, I'm sorry for asking so much but I'm not familiar at all with e-readers, so an experiences like that are useful for me.
Are you familiar with PDF? Do you realize that it is a page format and the only way to get it on a smaller screen in page format is to shrink it? That is the state of affairs for 6" screens today. The iLiad not only has a larger 8" screen but it is the only e-INK devices to offer zooming of PDF files. In addition it has a touch screen and is useful to take notes. PDF's can be turned sideways on the device and this permits reading a PDF fairly well.

If the document can be reflowed it will work on a PDA but none of the e-ink devices support reflow. Instead some of them can convert the text but the image will still have to be shrunk. Only you can tell what while work for you.

Only the hanlin supports CHM natively but again it can be converted.

Dale
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Old 12-09-2007, 01:12 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by DaleDe View Post
Are you familiar with PDF? Do you realize that it is a page format and the only way to get it on a smaller screen in page format is to shrink it? That is the state of affairs for 6" screens today. The iLiad not only has a larger 8" screen but it is the only e-INK devices to offer zooming of PDF files. In addition it has a touch screen and is useful to take notes. PDF's can be turned sideways on the device and this permits reading a PDF fairly well.

If the document can be reflowed it will work on a PDA but none of the e-ink devices support reflow. Instead some of them can convert the text but the image will still have to be shrunk. Only you can tell what while work for you.

Only the hanlin supports CHM natively but again it can be converted.

Dale
Thanks, Dale. I am not very familiar with the details of PDF files.

If I understand correctly, most e-INK devices will require a reorganization of the contents of the PDF file (is that what you mean by reflowing?), since the resolution and size of the screen makes it impossible to display the PDF file otherwise, right? Now, you're saying the iLiad can also zoom PDF files, so it is the only e-INK device that doesn't need reflowing for PDF. Am I correct?

I guess my initial expectation was that with any e-INK device I could just open the PDF file and it would look just like it does in my laptop screen but scaled down appropriately to fit the screen. I guess only the iLiad can do that, and also zoom in accordingly to show the text if it's too small to see it when showing the entire page.

Please let me know if I understood correctly.
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Old 12-09-2007, 06:58 AM   #6
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Yes, you have understood the problem.

PDF describes the layout of each page, so however you view it, it looks the same. To see what it would look like on a 6" device, try printing a page of a PDF out so that it is a 6" diagonal, and print at 150 dpi as this is clsoest to the eink screen's 160dpi.

The iLiad has several features that make A4/Letter size PDFs bearable - an 8" screen (nearly twice the area and more pixels), the ability to zoom in to the page to remove the margins, and the ability to use the display in landscape mode and view the top and bottom halves of each page separately. By combining zoom and landscape mode you can view the PDF at the about 98% of the size originally intended.

Also, the iLiad has several user developed versions of the PDF viewer that have other options, column-wise viewing and gestures and the two that spring to mind.

Reflowable formats, such as text, html, mobipocket and CHM (AFAIK) are preferred on ebook readers because you can change the font size and the text just shuffles to fit the screen - think a wordprocessor when you change the font size, the same text still fits within the margins, but fills more or less pages than before.

Mobipocket format is supported on several devices, and the Mobipocket creator desktop software (Windows only) will convert some CHM files into mobi format. You can try this on a PC before buying a device. Head on over to the mobipocket website and download the reader and creator software.
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Old 12-09-2007, 10:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by calvarez View Post
A) Will an eBook reader do the job for me? (by this I mean, is an eBook reader a good replacement for having a physical library of books? Is it a better option than just reading my PDF files on my laptop, or on my PDA?) I know this ultimately will depend on me, my habits and preferences, but I would like to hear what you guys think.

B)Is the PDF/CHM software in these eBook readers good enough? Will they open large files (25MB+)? Are they robust at rendering PDF/CHM files, including figures and layout? (in other words, is it as good and reliable as reading the PDF on a computer with Adobe Reader 8.1?)
A) NO. eBook reader is unusable for you. All e-ink eBookk readers except Illiad have 6" display. Take a book in pdf. Set up printer so it prints the book on a paper that has 90mm x 120mm (6 inch diagonal). Use printer with resolution 170DPI (a really good dot matrix printer would do )
Awful. Ain't it?
Current ebook readers, like Sony PRS 500, are ideal for people that read fiction. Texts without formulas, complex graphics, lots of fonts and complicated page layout.

With chm texts, the situation is much better. You can get several chm decompilers (shareware, freeware, even free software (I got one such decompiler installed at this very moment in this Mint Linux distribution I am using at the moment)), take apart the chm file, assemble it back using word processor and save it as rtf file or pdf formated for page sized 90mm x 120mm.
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Old 12-09-2007, 04:52 PM   #8
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Thanks, Dale. I am not very familiar with the details of PDF files.

If I understand correctly, most e-INK devices will require a reorganization of the contents of the PDF file (is that what you mean by reflowing?), since the resolution and size of the screen makes it impossible to display the PDF file otherwise, right? Now, you're saying the iLiad can also zoom PDF files, so it is the only e-INK device that doesn't need reflowing for PDF. Am I correct?

I guess my initial expectation was that with any e-INK device I could just open the PDF file and it would look just like it does in my laptop screen but scaled down appropriately to fit the screen. I guess only the iLiad can do that, and also zoom in accordingly to show the text if it's too small to see it when showing the entire page.

Please let me know if I understood correctly.
Almost. e-INK devices often do support PDF directly so it can be checkmark for anyone evaluating which one to buy based on the specs. However, supporting and being able to read are two different things. PDF is a page format that works best when it is on the size page it was designed for. The 6" readers currently shrink the page to either the width of the screen in portrait more with 1 PDF page equal to 1 e-INK page or the width in landscape mode where 1 PDF page is spread over 2 e-INK pages. In portrait mode you see a image like trying to read the PDF on your computer from 20 feet away. In landscape mode it is a little better but now you are only 10 feet away. Being able to zoom in is important to make the text big enough to see. I may be that you need to zoom so far as to need to pan around on the page to read all of the text. This is not particularly a good experience in reading a book and most e-INK devices can't pan a PDF anyway.

Reflowing reformats the text to use fonts that are full size like the ones in the original. But, of course, this means rearranging everything to fit the screen. None of the e-INK devices support this without converting the PDF to a different format.
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Old 12-09-2007, 05:56 PM   #9
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You all have been very helpful. So, I guess an eBook reader isn't what I need! I tend to distrust software that converts PDF into other formats. So I guess the best options are:
1)Asus EEE PC (7in screen but I can run Adobe Reader and zoom/pan)
2)Just get used to my Zaurus SL-5500 using QPDF, which has a 320x240 screen but can zoom/pan.

The only eReader that does what I want is the iLiad, which is outside my budget, and still wouldn't that much better than using my Zaurus.

Any other suggestions/alternatives?
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Old 12-09-2007, 06:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by calvarez View Post
You all have been very helpful. So, I guess an eBook reader isn't what I need! I tend to distrust software that converts PDF into other formats. So I guess the best options are:
1)Asus EEE PC (7in screen but I can run Adobe Reader and zoom/pan)
2)Just get used to my Zaurus SL-5500 using QPDF, which has a 320x240 screen but can zoom/pan.

The only eReader that does what I want is the iLiad, which is outside my budget, and still wouldn't that much better than using my Zaurus.

Any other suggestions/alternatives?
The iLiad would be much better than your Zaurus with an 8" screen and 1024x768 resolution. But you are right it is pricey which is a function of its 8" display and touch screen technology.

Dale
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Old 12-10-2007, 07:53 AM   #11
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Could you find a used tablet PC for a low price?
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