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Old 06-07-2007, 01:14 PM   #1
sborsody
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Angry Am I allowed to vent here?

Hi Everyone,

I'm not a big fan of carrying around a lot of different little devices, but I recently became interested in purchasing an ebook reader because I have a ton of PDF files I haven't read yet and I don't want to sit at the laptop or desktop to read them. I've become rather fond of the e-ink displays due to their readability and the fact that I'll probably be reading outside in bright sunlight a lot while the little one plays at the park. So this week I found this site and started to read up on all the different devices. I checked out the Sony Reader at my local Border's books and was quite happy with the display (which was incidently on sale for $50 less).

But now it is time to vent. These manufacturers are completely missing the mark by not having good PDF support. Instead they are busy trying to peddle their own little obscure ebook formats with DRM. Almost my entire collection of "ebooks" are in PDF (one is compiled html), even the journal articles downloaded from sites like JSTOR or articles from tech publisher O'Reilly. Because of this I'm not wanting to purchase an ebook reader until these guys get a clue. Why should I spend over $300 for a device that won't properly display my current ebook library and doesn't even support Unicode? They'd sell a lot more of these devices if they didn't assume potential customers are going to be hopping up and down to purchase their unexciting book titles. They should really build these devices to cater to the tech and educational markets that have pre-existing PDF ebooks first where customers are not recreational readers.

Anyone else feel this way?

Last edited by sborsody; 06-07-2007 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 06-07-2007, 01:21 PM   #2
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Well!
You can look at it from an other perspective.
Why is it that no one wants to use PDF?
Answer: Maybe Adobe is asking way too much for user licenses, or maybe again they have something planned with an other prospective manufacturer?

But I agree that some manufacturers might think that PDF is too much of a freebie and that cash would be easyer to rake in with a proprietary format.

Welcome to EBabel... and Mobile Read BTW
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Old 06-07-2007, 02:02 PM   #3
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We do have programs such as Rasterfarian and PDFRead to help make PDF easier to read and yes they do work. The problem is that PDF is too fixed a format. We need formats that can reflow as needed.
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Old 06-07-2007, 02:15 PM   #4
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Wellcome to MobileRead, sborsody!

Certainly you're allowed to vent here -- they'd've thrown most of us out by now if it weren't allowed.

Of course, there's always a very good possibility that someone will come along and respond to your venting.

The PDF (un)support thing is a point of common discussion around here, as it happens. general consensus seems to be that the root problem with PDF and reading devices is that PDF is not, and never really was, envisioned as a book reading format: rather, it's designed to be a transportable page layout format. What I mean is that it's designed to solve the problem of two folks printing the same document in different places/computers, and getting print outs that look very different.

The problem with PDF for e-books is the very same thing that makes PDF so successful in filling its designed purpose: layout inflexibility. It's absolutely vital for document transfer purposes that the layout be completely static -- that's the whole point. However, for e-reading, you want the text (and pix if any) to adjust themselves to the size of the screen you're viewing them on (known as 're-flowing'), and still all be readable.

However, because Adobe has become so commonly available, and because they (rather unfortunately) dubbed their free viewing software "Adobe Reader" folks decided to use PDF for e-books even though it's not intended or suited for that purpose.

There are a few bright spots though. There are a number of apps around this forum that will slice-n-dice PDF files so that they can be read on devices like the iLiad or the Reader. Mostly they rotate and halve the pages so each page displays as two pages that were formerly the top and bottom of the original.

But the real solution is the emergence of a truly standard e-book format that can handle re-flowing the text to the display size of the reading device. When e-books were in their infancy, there was no such standard, so the first e-reader device makers tried to become the standard by making their own formats. Unfortunately, later device makes didn't read the script on that, and made their own formats, that they hoped would become the standard. The result, as yvanleterrible has alluded, is known as the Tower of e-Babel -- nobody understands anyone else.

The good news there is that in the last few years the industry has finally noticed this problem and agreed, at least in theory, that there really does need to be a standard, and there actually seems to be the beginnings of some movement toward one. Not very fast movement, you understand, but movement, nonetheless.

And Adobe itself may actually be the one to resolve the problem. While everyone else was taking forever to even agree that there should be a standard format of some sort, they've quietly been working on something called "Digital Editions" (it's in beta presently), and it's expressly designed to do the opposite of what Acrobat does, that is, conform the contents of a file to the needs of the display. Reportedly, at any rate.

I'm hopeful that DE will be at least a good start on a format that works, because if it is, the rest of the industry may well follow quietly. After all, Adobe has developed a reputation for being concerned primarily with making information/documents accessible to their users, not with playing gotcha by snatching that access away at every other turn, just to bump their revenues.
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Old 06-07-2007, 05:16 PM   #5
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First of all, you are right on the mark with this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sborsody View Post
Instead they are busy trying to peddle their own little obscure ebook formats with DRM.
We need a common, standard eBook format that all eBook readers can handle.

But you are way off base with this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sborsody View Post
These manufacturers are completely missing the mark by not having good PDF support.
PDF is not an eBook format. It does not support reflowing text. It is a page layout format. Meaning that a PDF is intended to be an electronic version of the paper product (with the page size, margins, etc. thereof).

The problem is that if a PDF is formatted for A4 paper, it will be unreadable on most eBook devices - because the device is probably not A4 size. eBook readers are usually smaller - much smaller.

As an eBook format, PDF is worthless. Right now, unfortunately, it's the best we have. But it's not something that we should be pushing forward.
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Old 06-07-2007, 05:46 PM   #6
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Good points all, guys, but we might want to be a bit gentler with the new arrivals, they don't know that they've pushed one of our favorite rant buttons and might think we don't like 'em.
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:16 PM   #7
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:58 PM   #8
sborsody
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon View Post
PDF is not an eBook format. It does not support reflowing text. It is a page layout format. Meaning that a PDF is intended to be an electronic version of the paper product (with the page size, margins, etc. thereof).

The problem is that if a PDF is formatted for A4 paper, it will be unreadable on most eBook devices - because the device is probably not A4 size. eBook readers are usually smaller - much smaller.

As an eBook format, PDF is worthless. Right now, unfortunately, it's the best we have. But it's not something that we should be pushing forward.
I've read these arguments here before I posted and I agree with you somewhat. I'm not advocating that PDF be used as an ebook standard, but that still doesn't change the fact that PDF is a wide-spread format that many texts are in. A lot of people who are not ebook geeks are bound to have a large collection of PDF files and device vendors should be working to capture this larger market. Have you noticed that quite a few people post here ask about PDF support?

The ebook device vendors are missing the boat in these regards and I disagree with you that this is way off base. The only reason an A4 PDF file is unreadable on a current device is because the vendor didn't design the device to support it properly. My laptop screen isn't A4 size either. At this point you'll have to ask yourself why iRiver announced it is creating an ebook reading device that utilizes Adobe Reader LE as mentioned here http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9398. If I were a device vendor, why should I wait around for a standard that would be several years off when I could sell devices now? I guess that is the point of the obscure formats like BBeB, but then you're limiting yourself to a smaller market.

Incidently, I find your comment about PDF intending to be an electronic version of a paper product humerous. Isn't that a definition of an ebook?
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Old 06-07-2007, 07:50 PM   #9
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Speaking of reflowing text...

I have a PDF that consists only of images, scans taken from an old Soviet book on the grammar of the Tuvan language. It is well over 400 pages long and not every page is the same size (the page got cropped to the image size).

Nice huh?
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Old 06-07-2007, 07:58 PM   #10
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A lot of people who are not ebook geeks are bound to have a large collection of PDF files and device vendors should be working to capture this larger market.
So ... all the kids are doing it, eh?

Seriously, though, I do see your point, but the complicating factor is that the actual nature of PDF files makes handling them difficult in any sort of re-flowed environment. The facts that lots of people buy and sell books that way doesn't change the first fact that they aren't suited to the task.

Sure, laptops/PC's can handle them just fine, but they have larger screens and much more powerful processors to work with, not to mention displays that refresh at a rate of several thousand times faster than what e-ink is presently capable of, so it's not really an equivalent comparison.

One thing to note here is that PDF handling isn't a hardware issue, it's a software one, and the PDF software on the Reader, specifically, is provided by ... yup: Adobe. You can rightfully claim that Sony is responsible for accepting its performance, but that performance, or lack thereof lies on the doorstep of the company that created the PDF format in the first place.

I see Adobe's work in developing Digital Editions as a tacit admission that PDF isn't the right format for such things. They've made something that does it's job well, but it doesn't do the needed job well.

A hammer is a great tool, for instance, but it doesn't cut lumber very well, you need a saw for that. And the fact that hammers are commonly bought and sold doesn't make it the hammer-manufacturer's fault that his hammers don't cut lumber well, it's just not the right tool for the job.

Quote:
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Incidently, I find your comment about PDF intending to be an electronic version of a paper product humerous. Isn't that a definition of an ebook?
Well ... you could loosely apply that definition that way, I s'pose, but it doesn't really fit all that well.

What rluazon is getting at is that a PDF is an electronic 'snapshot' of a paper document, in that its layout and its content are both preserved in the electronic format. While an e-book, on the other hand is just the contents of the book in electronic form, the layout is less important that the actual content (if that weren't so, I suppose we wouldn't be discussing the matter ). The e-book format inherently demands that it be re-flowable to match the physical display characteristics of the viewing device....

Which actually goes right back to the point of the PDF not being well suited for e-books because it isn't re-flowable.

I'd like it if PDF files supported this kind of flexibility too, but they just don't, because Adobe deliberately made them that way. And put a fair amount of effort in the job in the process, and then delivered viewing software that doesn't do anything about it either.

We do need a 'standard' format, but PDF simply isn't it, and isn't likely to become it due to its designed-in limitations. Limitations which, incidentally, prevent the e-reading device makers from doing much of anything about it. The fact that a lot of folks have put a lot of investment in the format just doesn't change any of that.
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Old 06-07-2007, 08:20 PM   #11
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One of the first groups to adopt the PDF format (way back in version 1 of Adobe Acrobat) was the publishing industry. It provided an exact copy of what was to be printed complete with all the fonts required by the image/page. Prior to this you had to worry if the printing establishment had the same software and release level, had the same font, and had the same default settings for their software and opsys. Add to this the variations in the way fonts were rendered in those days (most software would substitute the built in fonts for what was called for in the documents) and it was rare that the finished product looked anything like the original.

As NatCh said, PDF is a great format when used for its intended purpose.
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Old 06-07-2007, 09:54 PM   #12
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Some day . . .

Some day some clever eBook maker will market an A4-sized reader that displays in color. Then those of us that use PDFs a lot in our work (e.g. engineers) can have many manuals and specs open, and can hop back and forth between them using easy bookmarks.

This device should be light and have a support leg in the back that can be folded out to stand it in a semi-erect position. It should be fairly invulnerable to soldering irons.

Then we can have all of our favorite magazines in full-size color too! Then PDFs will be the most beloved of eBook formats.

Oh. And venting is only human, and we are all human here except for one or two forum bots.
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Old 06-07-2007, 10:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon View Post
First of all, you are right on the mark with this:

Quote:
Instead they are busy trying to peddle their own little obscure ebook formats with DRM.
We need a common, standard eBook format that all eBook readers can handle.
As I see it, since we've had E-Ink readers, we've gotten two new ebook formats. BBeB (LRF) and Wolf. And that's on top of all the others that already exist. WE DON"T NEED MORE FORMATS! WE NEED A STANDARD! That said (loudly), at least we Sony Reader users have options other then the Connect store if we want to purchase ebooks that are not free. Just read the foumrs to find out what the best option is other then the Connect store.

And don't worry about venting. I've gone off and done it. Somewhere around here is a rant about the ebook formats from me I think. Kinda longish.
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Old 06-07-2007, 10:46 PM   #14
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... except for one or two forum bots.
Am not!
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Old 06-07-2007, 11:11 PM   #15
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Am not!
Me too!
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