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View Poll Results: Do you consider PDF to be a legitimate "e-book" format? (please elaborate b
Yes 37 38.14%
No 55 56.70%
I haven't formed an opinion on the matter, but would like to see the poll results 5 5.15%
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:12 PM   #1
NatCh
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Do you consider PDF to be a legitimate "e-book" format? Why or why not?

This poll has grown out of a discussion in another poll I posted recently.

In that poll I was focusing on the question of what dedicated e-book formats folks still want to use. The side question that sprang up was whether PDF qualifies as an e-book format or not. Clearly it's not a dedicated format, but several good points have been made in favor of it being considered a legitimate e-book format.

Not meaning to leave anyone out, nor to put AnemicOak on the spot, but here's one example of such an case (look at this way, AnemicOak, I've saved you from having to re-post it ):
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnemicOak View Post
PDF (the DRM'd sort) may not be a good dedicated ebook format, but the fact remains that it is one which many folks have purchased & used and probably outsells some of the other DRM formats just because folks who don't know any better are at least slightly familiar with it. Seems to me Secure PDF should have been an option. I'm sure folks that have bought this format (thank goodness I only have one book in it) would like to be able to continue using them & be able to use them on newer readers just like folks that own eReader books would. Just an opinion of course
So, what I'd like to do is have a discussion on the matter of whether PDF should be considered a legitimate e-book format, and why.


In entering this discussion, let's please keep in mind that the entire topic is completely in the realm of pure opinion, I don't see how there can be any definitive, unassailable answer to the question. I'm just hoping to see some new perspectives (to me) on the matter, just for the purpose of broadening my own understanding of things. Hopefully others will share that aim. Otherwise, this'll be a very short discussion.


I'll start the ball rolling with my own view that it should not be so considered primarily because its focus on preserving the layout of pages is often (usually) directly opposed to the primary purpose of an e-book format, namely to read the contents of the file.


Okay, folks, what do y'all think?
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:17 PM   #2
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Nah! It's what it was created for, a business office tool meant to ease up on paper consumption. Shamefully it created the opposite.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:18 PM   #3
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No because it's designed as a layout format and as such it loses all semantic information and should really be considered at best as a "rendered ebook" format.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:25 PM   #4
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Good way of putting it Kovid!

I'd also call it an 'email book'.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:14 PM   #5
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I think it's bad that it ever became one of the defacto formats for fiction ebooks, unfortunately many people buy books in this format every day. It'd be nice to see numbers, but of the popular formats (Mobi, LIT, eReader, etc) I bet it's not at the bottom of the list sales wise. So in that case the the folks buying it have in fact legitimized it & publishers have legitimized it by offering it as well. So doesn't that make it legitimate in the grand scheme of things?

For me personally it's not a legitimate format, in that I won't buy books in it.


I generate layouts all day & love PDF. It's simplified our entire workflow with our printer for all our prepress needs. I just wish they had never started offering ebooks in PDF format.


I guess for books that need to maintain a specific layout to be helpful, like some textbooks, tech journals & stuff it might even be a good format. For fiction it sucks.

Last edited by AnemicOak; 01-15-2008 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:17 PM   #6
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Too inflexible without major effort on the part of publishers to reflow text & images to a readable size appropriate to the device you are using.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:23 PM   #7
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If the device size/PDF relationship was not such an issue, it would be a great magazine format. My favorite trade magazines are already geared to it but I hate reading lengthy articles on the computer... only.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VillageReader View Post
Too inflexible without major effort on the part of publishers to reflow text & images to a readable size appropriate to the device you are using.
Actually I think this is a problem for the eBook Reader devices to solve, not the publishers. Occasionally a PDF will be impossible to read on a smaller device but it is not hard to publish reflowable eBooks. The problem is that very few readers support reflowable documents at all. Hopefully this will change with the Adobe/Sony effort shown at CES but it needs to be available on all PDF readers. As a matter of fact I believe it can be argued that if a eBook reader below 8" should have to support reflow to even claim it can read pdf. Once reflow becomes available then we can revisit the idea that eBooks can be in PDF.

Scaling images is related to reflow but can generally be treated as a separate problem since you can turn reflow off to see the images. For truely good results the image rescaling should be considered as well during the reflow.

Adobe has some work to do even on their own DE product.

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Old 01-15-2008, 04:54 PM   #9
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I agree absolutely that PDF might best be called a format for "rendered ebooks." But from my point of view, it's the rendered book or other text that finally counts. And the inability of other, supposedly more "legitimate" formats, to render text really well and attractively, by any reasonable typographic standard, makes them unsatisfactory to me and, I imagine, to many people. I think it's rather absurd to insist that people who buy ebooks in PDF are misguided or misinformed. Probably, lots of them just find ebooks in the other popular formats shabby and cheap-looking, unpleasant to read, and not worth bothering with. And let's not forget that ebooks are really very unpopular and attract only a very small part of the reading public. Perhaps the inadequacy of the "legitimate" formats with respect to the actual "rendered ebook" is a reason for that unpopularity.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akiburis View Post
I agree absolutely that PDF might best be called a format for "rendered ebooks." But from my point of view, it's the rendered book or other text that finally counts. And the inability of other, supposedly more "legitimate" formats, to render text really well and attractively, by any reasonable typographic standard, makes them unsatisfactory to me and, I imagine, to many people. I think it's rather absurd to insist that people who buy ebooks in PDF are misguided or misinformed. Probably, lots of them just find ebooks in the other popular formats shabby and cheap-looking, unpleasant to read, and not worth bothering with. And let's not forget that ebooks are really very unpopular and attract only a very small part of the reading public. Perhaps the inadequacy of the "legitimate" formats with respect to the actual "rendered ebook" is a reason for that unpopularity.
That's an interesting point of view, akiburis. Would you mind elaborating on where you see those other formats as being lacking compared to PDF? I'm less sensitive to such nuances myself (I figure if I can read the words clearly without moving my lips, I'm doing pretty well ), and I'd like the perspective of someone who is more aware of them.


I personally tend to think that a significant portion of the folks who buy PDF "e-books" are doing so because they see PDF as the one format that they actually recognize amongst six or eight others they've never even heard of. I think that those folks probably assume (quite reasonably) that they can probably get the PDF to open, while the rest are more dubious propositions.

I suppose that view could be characterized as considering such folks to be misguided or misinformed, but I think it's more fair to call it seeing them as uninformed (to not use the rather loaded term "ignorant" ). I think that anyone coming to e-books cold is pretty likely to see a bunch of formats and be stymied by them. Small wonder that.

I think that because Adobe and PDF are pretty well (if not universally) known, and widely trusted by the public, many folks just gravitate to the format simply because they know about it. A perfectly natural reaction, I think.

I think that's why PDF has made a pretty good play at becoming a de-facto e-book standard format, even as I don't consider it a good format for them.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:17 PM   #11
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PDF is a legitimate e-book format for anything that is not basically text with formatting (technical books, scans, magazines, image books...). Right now nothing convenient can deal appropriately with formulas, diagrams and the like.

Latex can do it, but it's even trickier than pdf, so pretty much all science communication moved to pdf from latex.
DJVU can also do it and it's technically better as far as I know but it never took off and has patchy support.

For text based books (fiction) pdf is nice for pc reading, printing..., but not really for mobile reading devices.

However since technical books are still books, pdf is definitely a legitimate format.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:23 PM   #12
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Scientific publications certainly haven't moved from latex to pdf, they're still latex, PDF is simply the latex rendered. And eventually, hopefully, MathML will mean that even scientific documents can be rendered in a reflowable manner.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:28 PM   #13
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I say no because it is preformatted for a specific page size. True e-book formats need to be size-independent.

The funny thing about PDF, if I understand its origins correctly, is how it is an electronic repackaging of an physical printed page (in Postscript language). Talk about your circular work-arounds! Take one electronic file, send to imaginary printer, and capture that back to an electronic file (imaged for that imaginary printer).

I see it as analogous to my print-ready digital images. The universal electronic format is the RAW file. By the time it is ready to print I have done all sorts of things that narrow its focus toward a specific printer and print -- crop, DPI resizing (sometimes with interpolation), contrast adjustment, color gamut compression, and even specific sharpening for the print resolution and intended paper type. So that print-ready file is NOT a "general image file" any more. In the same sense, how can PDF be considered a general e-book format?
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:34 PM   #14
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I happen to think PDF is a legitimnate format for ebooks. having said that, I think, based on the messages posted, the determining factor for one's opinion is whether one is focusing on the technical problems that PDFs currently have for viewing on readers or one is focusing on the look of the final product (the "beauty show part") and assuming that the question is asked on the assumption that there are no technical problems with PDFs.

I spend all day, most days, reading author manuscripts in MS Word. Every author -- and every reader (person) -- tries to gussie up the text with different font sizes, indentation, etc. Why? Because it makes the manuscript more readable and, more importantly, understandable.

When we read we rely on visual cues to tell us whether something is important, an aside, a new chapter, etc. All PDF does is capture the author/publisher's vision of what cues are necessary/needed to enhance the consumer's understanding and to project the author's message.

I agree that right now from a technical perspective PDFs are not a good format choice. But is it a desirable choice if the technical problems are surmounted? I think so. I'll also grant that the newest Robin Hobb novel, being only text, is unlikely to be enhanced by using PDF. Conversely, however, PDF won't harm it.

So I guess in the end I'm back to where I started: Whether PDF is good or bad simply depends on whether you are looking at the current technical problems and ignoring the end product or you are looking at the end product and ignoring the current technical problems -- is the glass half-full or half-empty.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:56 PM   #15
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Adobe PDF is the worse format for DRM. It's specific to one device. And that device is your computer. If you have to reinstall or need to have Adobe Reader 8, you are well and truly screwed. Good luck.
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