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Old 07-29-2011, 04:04 PM   #1
wilsonch
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Story HD and Google Books scanned free books

This is a narrow, personal review of part of the feature set of the Story HD. I bought the Story HD to supplement my other ereaders for particular activities that most people don't care about -- academic reading, especially of free ebooks from Google Books. Let's take as an example Service Book of the Holy Catholic-Orthodox Apostolic Church. This book has pages which make sense only in the image (two parallel texts side by side, or little set-aside boxes of text) but which one would like to be able to search.

The old free ebooks on Google Books were scanned by robots (yielding a PDF) and usually OCR'd (yielding an epub). So if one is reading on line one can usually gracefully switch between the searchable text (epub) and image of the original page (PDF). The Google Books application on my Android does this also. The OCR'd texts are of varying quality. Some of them are filled with errors, but one can still search and reflow them.

(In other environments one has PDF files that are built from text and are not scanned images. They of course are searchable and can even be reflowed.)

The sought-for nirvana is to be able to highlight and annotate them in this dual-view environment. There are many highlighters for regular text, and a few for PDF images. Google provides neither.

So my interest in the Story HD came from the higher-resolution screen and direct linkage to Google Books. Email from iriver support told me ahead of time that they did not have the dual-mode feature.

In my little world (of ereaders I own), and for these purposes, the competing device is not the Kindle 3 but the Kindle 2 DX. People who wish to tell me that it's not a fair or useful comparison, or that I could have had a Kindle 3 DX for the money I have spent on various ereaders, are welcome to do so. I will ignore them but perhaps they will feel better having said those things.

How did it all work out? Not very well, but the primary issues are in software and not hardware, so one may hope for improvement.

First of all, the display matched my expectations. It is crisper. Compared to the Kindle 2 DX it is much, much faster on full-page images of scanned PDFs. The Kindle's legibility is equal to or greater than the the Story HD's, but of course it is much larger (and hence less convenient for carrying around, reading while walking, etc.).

The integration with Google Books does the basics. I did not use it to search Google Books, only to access books I had already put into my library on line. (To search I use Google Books on line, or GooReader (a Windows PC application). I do not expect an ereader to be able to search the free Google Books effectively.) I did buy one current commercial book via the Story HD. Things worked as they should.

For my particular, narrow purposes the direct interface for the free books did not work out gracefully. The Story HD does not allow the user to specify which of the two forms to download (PDF or epub) -- it brings down the epub (or the PDF if there exists no epub). This makes a kind of basic sense, but it means that to get the PDF onto the Story HD I am as usual downloading the file to my PC and then copying it over via the USB cable. So I don't benefit from the Google Books integration for that purpose.

Furthermore, unlike the Google Books reader app, the Story HD does not reflow the epub text. Therefore one can end up with ghastly line and page breaks that were in the original source (before it was OCR'd). I emphasize that this matters only for old, free, OCR'd epubs, not for commercial ones that regular people would buy and read.

"But wait!" you will say. "There is a reflow menu choice!" Very true. But it is greyed out in epubs and is enabled only in textual PDF files. Again, this makes a kind of basic sense for the general reader, but not in the narrow context I am talking about, in which there are no textual PDF files.

The titles of books I read are sometimes much longer than those of regular commercial books. Instead of, say, Black Hawk Down, I might see Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume 10. The thing I need to see is the very end of the title, which volume it is. The titles list on the Story HD shows only the beginning of the title, and one can't (for instance) go to landscape mode to widen things. If one moves the cursor to the book title on the Kindle, after a second the full title is shown.

Now, some details to cover:

1. A very nice feature for folks like me is that in the epub files the Story HD displays the original page number, in very tiny type. It is very awkward to footnote from a regular flowed-text ebook. (Kindle has now standardized its "position" number across devices so that it can be used in footnotes.) You may now say, "But reflowing epub text, which you just asked for, messes up original pagination!" True. It would require marking in the reflowed line where the page boundary was. I'm sure people who can put tiny numbers in the margin can put a tiny mark in the text.

2. I was very pleased to see the graceful way that the Story HD handled books that aren't in English. I bought my Story HD at Target in Middle America. (I did not try any right-to-left languages.) There are two tasks involved. One is to display the text of a book. Many ebooks contain the needed fonts so that they display correctly on most any ereader; those that don't contain the fonts don't (except perhaps on a "native" machine for that language, which has all the fonts built in). The Story HD behaves the same as other ereaders. The second task is to display the book titles in the list of books. Many ereaders fail here, showing little boxes or question marks with occasional numbers. The Russian translation of 1984 does not have its title munged. The Story HD shows the titles of Russian-language books in Russian, and displays all the special French characters in the titles of French books. For people like me this is a Good Thing.

Summary: I found the Story HD's display of image-heavy books to be clear and fast. The basic support for Google Books that almost all readers will want is there. The specialized support I had unrealistically hoped for wasn't there, but it can conceivably be firmwared in.
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:11 PM   #2
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Minor update: I didn't know how the Kindle 3 handles non-Latin alphabets, because all my Russian ebooks were fb2 or epub. So I used Calibre to convert a Russian-language epub book to a Kindle format. The Kindle 3 showed the title in Russian and displayed the book's contents in Russian. Again I was pleasantly surprised.
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Old 08-09-2011, 05:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by wilsonch View Post
The Russian translation of 1984 does not have its title munged. The Story HD shows the titles of Russian-language books in Russian
Thank you for the very interesting and helpful comment. There are a few points I'd like to verify before buying this eBook reader for my mother:

1. Is it possible to just copy FB2 books (in Russian) and read them without doing any conversions? If so, then this is a huge deal maker (coming from the Nook).
2. Is there any support for folders? If not, is there a convenient way to handle large collections of books (e.g. hundreds or more)? With the Nook it takes many presses to go through the list of books, and there's no folder support (let alone multi-level folders).
3. Is moving through lists by holding the navigation button possible, or does the user have to press it repeatedly?

Thanks!
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Old 08-09-2011, 08:46 PM   #4
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1. I copied two Russian-language fb2 books onto the Story and opened them without problems and without having done any conversions. I did *not* try the fb2 trick of opening an fb2 book that is in a zip archive. If you want me to test, send me something or point me to something.

1a. I happened to have a djvu file I got from Russia and I copied it onto the Story and opened it without problems and without conversion.

2. There is no folder or tagging support. There are five pseudo-folders: Google Library, all books sorted by recent access, user-marked "favorites", all books sorted by title, all books sorted by author. The user can mark any books as a "favorite" and it shows up in the "favorites" pseudo-folder. When I got my (pre-color) Nook there was no folder support, but then in a firmware update they did supply "collections" support. Perhaps Story might do the same. Or not.

3. One has to keep pushing the navigation button. It is much faster than my old Nook, but it doesn't zoom like the Kindle one does if you hold it down.

You are welcome!
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Old 08-10-2011, 01:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by wilsonch View Post
1. I copied two Russian-language fb2 books onto the Story and opened them without problems and without having done any conversions. I did *not* try the fb2 trick of opening an fb2 book that is in a zip archive. If you want me to test, send me something or point me to something.

1a. I happened to have a djvu file I got from Russia and I copied it onto the Story and opened it without problems and without conversion.
This sounds very promising. In comparison, on the Nook I have to convert the FB2 files to ePUB (using Calibre), extract the ePUB into a folder, edit a file with links to third party fonts that contain Cyrillic glyphs, then compress again. Way too much hassle, and needless to say something that my non-technical mother can't do herself. If I get her the Story HD my life will become much simpler. Or so I hope.

Quote:
2. There is no folder or tagging support. There are five pseudo-folders: Google Library, all books sorted by recent access, user-marked "favorites", all books sorted by title, all books sorted by author. The user can mark any books as a "favorite" and it shows up in the "favorites" pseudo-folder..
Have you tried the folder-view option? It seems promising. Quote:

"In the settings menu there's an option to switch to folder view instead, which makes organizing collections and keeping track of a large number of ebooks a lot easier."

Source: http://www.the-ebook-reader.com/iriver-story-hd.html

Quote:
3. One has to keep pushing the navigation button. It is much faster than my old Nook, but it doesn't zoom like the Kindle one does if you hold it down.
I wonder why the Story HD allows continues page turning by holding this button but not continues navigation within menus and lists. Hopefully iRiver will fix it in a firmware upgrade.
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Old 08-10-2011, 01:26 PM   #6
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Thanks for asking me about the folder-view option. I found it, on the system options tab, the same tab as the date and time, system language, etc. Not exactly where I would put a major view option, but it's there.

Anyhow, it is a somewhat friendly view of the file system. One starts out at the root and drills down, and one sees folder and file names. File names are in two columns, the name and the extension.

In my case, since I had used Calibre to put all my epubs onto the Story, I have a bunch of nicely formatted author names (folders) within which are the epub files. The fb2 and djvu books I copied over manually are just there as files. All my Google Library books are in one folder called "download". Each file name includes at the end the book ID (the 12-character string one can use to retrieve the book on the web). The file names are long, clunky file names, mostly giving a clear idea of what the file is.

The folder and file names are just whatever they are in the file system, in English or in Russian.

So if one creates a clear folder tree with nicely named folders and nicely named files, one has a tree hierarchy that the user can browse through.

At the top of the booklist pseudo-windowhere is a "breadcrumb" path from the root down to the current folder, so one can easily go back up the hierarchy that one descended.

Last edited by wilsonch; 08-10-2011 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:27 PM   #7
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Sounds exactly like what I wanted. In my opinion this is (another) big advantage over the Nook and Kindle, and the clincher for my decision. I'm getting the the Story HD.

Thanks again for all your help! :-)
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:37 AM   #8
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I did *not* try the fb2 trick of opening an fb2 book that is in a zip archive.
I have the Story HD in my hand now (before I give it to my mom) and have been able to test this. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. One has to extract the FB2 file for the reader to see it.

I found a tool called Multi Unpacker which can automatically extract ZIP files in multiple sub folders (retaining the original folder structure) but it doesn't seem to work with Cyrillic filenames.
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Old 12-14-2011, 11:23 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by boren View Post
1. Is it possible to just copy FB2 books (in Russian) and read them without doing any conversions? If so, then this is a huge deal maker (coming from the Nook).
2. Is there any support for folders? If not, is there a convenient way to handle large collections of books (e.g. hundreds or more)? With the Nook it takes many presses to go through the list of books, and there's no folder support (let alone multi-level folders).
My fb2 books in Russian it reads OK, but I could not get access to the notes (indicated by little numbers over a word).
After converting fb2 into EPUB with Caliblre, the notes became accessible by pressing "enter".

I inserted an old SD card from the broken PB 301, and all the existing folders can be opened without problem.
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