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Old 03-25-2008, 06:14 PM   #1
kevlors
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10 Reasons Why PDF is the Right Format for Ebooks in Education

I have posted the following on the blog at my ebook store. I would welcome comments.

The introduction of the Kindle has created a heightened interest in ebooks. While there have been a number of different ebook readers available for a number of years, the Kindle seems to have captured the attention of a great number of people who hadn't considered ebooks in the past. While I believe this attention is good for ebooks in general, I believe that for educational ebooks PDF is the best format for overall use. I have put together 10 reasons why I believe this to be true.

In brief, the reasons are: comfort, equipment, cost, fonts, pictures, layout, external links, internal links, printing, and cross platform capabilities.

Entire post on ebooks in education and PDF

Thanks,

Kevin
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:33 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevlors View Post
I have posted the following on the blog at my ebook store. I would welcome comments.

The introduction of the Kindle has created a heightened interest in ebooks. While there have been a number of different ebook readers available for a number of years, the Kindle seems to have captured the attention of a great number of people who hadn't considered ebooks in the past. While I believe this attention is good for ebooks in general, I believe that for educational ebooks PDF is the best format for overall use. I have put together 10 reasons why I believe this to be true.

In brief, the reasons are: comfort, equipment, cost, fonts, pictures, layout, external links, internal links, printing, and cross platform capabilities.

Entire post on ebooks in education and PDF

Thanks,

Kevin
Of course Kindle (the lead-in) doesn't support PDF at all. All PDF files have to be converted to something else. PDF is a paper substitute. It displays documents as if they were pages in a book and that book generally requires a full paper sized screen to see the entire page. This makes PDF unsuitable for portable devices. Even if the Kindle supported PDF the page size on the Kindle is too small to support letter size or A4 sized pages.

A paper book displayed in page mode needs a screen as large as the book itself to be shown properly in PDF. Some books need this, such as physics books and some other text books that depend on the page arrangement to get across ideas. Other books have no need for this kind of one to one relationship to paper and are much more suitable for use on a portable device. It is not educational use that is the issue but the type of course text books that are being used.

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Old 03-25-2008, 06:39 PM   #3
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PDF is fine on portable devices if the PDF's "pages" are sized to match the portable device they're used on.

That being said, fixed pagination, such as a PDF file offers, is a valuable characteristic when it's important for everyone to be "on the same page" as it were.

There are probably other ways to arrange that, but PDF is the only one that's currently widely available ... ubiquitous might be a better description.

On the other hand, prevalence alone doesn't make something "the best" for a given purpose. Air is pretty much everywhere, but it doesn't make a very good ... building material, for example.
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Old 03-25-2008, 07:27 PM   #4
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PDF is a format I loath and cannot get to show.There IS a way,but I always forget. Anyway,hurrah for word documents.
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Old 03-27-2008, 12:11 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevlors View Post
I have posted the following on the blog at my ebook store. I would welcome comments.
All of your points but 4 (Fonts) and partially 6 (Layout) apply equally well to HTML, which counter-balances with even wider portability plus total reflowability, perfectly fitting any display size.
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Old 04-01-2008, 02:42 PM   #6
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PDF is a format with merit, albeit for file size (too large). A format largely used in the technical industry to disperse manuals, articles and other technical information to co-workers and clients. For personal portable use, .pdf is not (imho) the best format. I prefer .lit, but I now have a PRS-505 and suspect .lrf to soon dominate my collection. Till a better solution arrives, I suspect most people wil have multiple formats for various uses.
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:49 PM   #7
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I like PDF for the way it preserves layout (especially in textbooks) and because I know that if I email a PDF to someone they will almost certainly be able to open it. This doesn't apply for DOC, LRF, DJVU, etc. Personally I'd like to see DJVU become more popular because the files usually look great and are often a quarter the size of an equivalent PDF. If portable ebook readers offered better PDF/DJVU support, I'd use these formats exclusively. I don't see why they can't display PDFs exactly as pdflrt converts them: landscape mode showing a small part of the page without margins.

Quote:
Originally Posted by llasram View Post
All of your points but 4 (Fonts) and partially 6 (Layout) apply equally well to HTML, which counter-balances with even wider portability plus total reflowability, perfectly fitting any display size.
Is it possible to have a HTML ebook with images bundled inside the HTML file? From what I've seen, the images are usually separated from the HTML file (in another folder) and this makes emailing HTML ebooks trickier. I could always compress the HTML and images into a RAR but there is the risk that the person receiving the book wont extract the files correctly and then the book won't display right.
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:01 PM   #8
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Personally, my reasons for disliking PDF is precisely because it preserves formatting. I prefer to have my text reflowable depending on my desire for font size and reading device. At my age, I start the day being able to read a fairly small font, but as the day progresses, and my eyes become more fatigued from staring at a monitor all day, I prefer progressively larger font sizes.

PDFs are nice for things I intend to print, but if I expect to read it off a screen, I would rather it not be in PDF format.

I do print meeting agendas to PDF and drop them on my iLiad, but only because I use the iLiad to take meeting notes right in the agenda. But, I plan for large font sizes (usually around 14pt) to make it easy to read. Most books are printed with 9 to 11pt type. Add to this multi column, only seeing a portion of the page (if I bothered to rotate the iLiad's orientation), and my reaction is "why bother."

For my use, PDF = Fail for ebooks, especially text books.

I'm presently reading a couple of tech books in CHM format with FBReader and finding it quite capable of the job.
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:46 PM   #9
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My experience of PDF is that often it's hard to deal with even with a 1200x1600 monitor (twice the size, four times the area of my 505). The problem is that the graphics are generally compressed to illegibility and few systems support colour managed pdfs well (because it embeds a range of image formats, some of which are CM-hostile). But mostly it's that a graphic that looks ok viewing a full page on a 1024x768 screen looks awful blown up, but if I don't blow it up the text is very small and the graphics likewise.

This all gets worse when it's a "protected" pdf containing images of text. This is unfortunately common with online magazine subscriptions, although fortunately those usually have good money-back guarantees and a "why are you quitting" comment box. I found that not only could I not read the text, neither could my OCR software. bah!
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:54 PM   #10
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To me the only advantage that PDF has is it's the most portable format that supports "easy to manually generate" math markup.
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Old 04-01-2008, 11:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epiphany View Post
...
I don't see why they can't display PDFs exactly as pdflrt converts them: landscape mode showing a small part of the page without margins.
...
Since I use my Reader to read books I don't want to keep moving right and left and up and down to find all parts of the page. I just want to press a button and have the next page of text displayed for me to read. Custom formatted PDFs work fine on the Reader. I have made many for clients.

One of the 10 arguments advanced in favor of PDFs in education was that they can be printed. Many of the protected PDFs turn off the ability to print them for exactly the reason stated as to why they are good -- people can make copies of them.
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Old 04-02-2008, 06:53 AM   #12
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Since I use my Reader to read books I don't want to keep moving right and left and up and down to find all parts of the page. I just want to press a button and have the next page of text displayed for me to read. Custom formatted PDFs work fine on the Reader. I have made many for clients.
With the PDF books I've converted with pdflrt, a full page of text is displayed just like any LRT. You click the page right button to see the next page; no hassle. The disadvantage is you can't enlarge the text but this doesn't bother me. Also, I'll grant you that some PDFs (like those with two columns of text) might not convert very well.
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:25 AM   #13
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As someone who is an end user and not a creator of .pdf product - let me just say that I loathe pdfs, to the point where I will hesitate to open a pdf file. The interface is clunky, slow and takes forever to load, and the navigation is rarely put together in a way to be useful.

Maybe this is the fault of whoever put the original document together, but it's so common that I actively avoid pdf documents.
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Old 04-02-2008, 01:59 PM   #14
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Great majority of points you list will be valid if you replace pdf with txt, rtf, or html. Even chm format would suffice for a vast majority of your points.
None of those formats will preserve the exact layout.
And THAT is what is important.
You see, the name of this site is mobileread. And mobile devices tend to have small screen. Reading text on a mobile device is like slurping text through a straw.
Wast majority of pdf formated textbooks are almost unuseable on mobile devices. Print out a typical pdf on an A4 paper.
Now take another paper and cut out a 120x90mm window in it.
Remember. This is one of largest screens mobile devices have. Some devices hace screen that is less than half of that.
Now cover your pdf with a cut-out paper and try studying the text. Plus take into account 1 second needed for refresh of an e-ink screen.
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Old 04-03-2008, 07:04 AM   #15
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I like the typesetting and formatting quality I can get with PDF (with TeX, especially), and the fact that I can have pictures, graphs, math, tables, etc. exactly the way I want them, with no spurious linebreaks and all that. But I create my own PDFs to my liking, so I guess that's a bit different.
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