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Old 10-09-2008, 02:00 AM   #1
charlieperry
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A small rant about pdf books

I was really please back when Sony announced that it was going to support Adobe DRM books. Before pdf support it was quite hard to buy ebooks in Australia.

Having bought a few pdf books for my PRS 505 now I have to say that I'm really disappointed. The main reason is that, although they are sold as books, Adobe digital editions are actually just documents. They don't reflow properly in the way that lrf does and I'm assuming the other ebook formats do when you enlarge them.

The really irritating thing about this is that when you enlarge the "book" so that it is readable you usually end up with one line of text rolling over onto the next page the rest of which is blank. This effectively doubles the number of pages you have to turn in the book.

The essence of my rant is that pdf isn't really an ebook format and it shouldn't be sold as such.

Maybe there's a simple solution to this problem in which case I'd love to hear it.
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Old 10-09-2008, 02:27 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by charlieperry View Post
The essence of my rant is that pdf isn't really an ebook format and it shouldn't be sold as such.
Absolutely correct. Many of us here have been saying that for years. There is really no satisfactory way to use PDFs except to view them at the page size they were originally intended for.

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Maybe there's a simple solution to this problem in which case I'd love to hear it.
The only real solution is to use formats other than PDF.
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:03 AM   #3
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For all its deficiencies as a format - PDF scores higher than other formats in text accuracy imho.
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:40 AM   #4
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Could you elaborate, Sparrow? What do you mean by "text accuracy"?
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:43 AM   #5
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As Harry T, has patiently( no offense to you) and repeatedly said to many people on this site. PDF's are not good for viewing ebooks except on a notebook or tablet. They were not designed for ebook readers. Unfortunately, everyone has been inundated and brainwashed to believe that only PDFs are good for reading ebooks. Unfortunately, most people do not look into other ways of doing things.


Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieperry View Post
I was really please back when Sony announced that it was going to support Adobe DRM books. Before pdf support it was quite hard to buy ebooks in Australia.

Having bought a few pdf books for my PRS 505 now I have to say that I'm really disappointed. The main reason is that, although they are sold as books, Adobe digital editions are actually just documents. They don't reflow properly in the way that lrf does and I'm assuming the other ebook formats do when you enlarge them.

The really irritating thing about this is that when you enlarge the "book" so that it is readable you usually end up with one line of text rolling over onto the next page the rest of which is blank. This effectively doubles the number of pages you have to turn in the book.

The essence of my rant is that pdf isn't really an ebook format and it shouldn't be sold as such.

Maybe there's a simple solution to this problem in which case I'd love to hear it.
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:59 AM   #6
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To add to what Hidari said: it's not the PDF isn't a useful format - it is, of course, extremely useful for the purpose for which it was designed, which was to provide a precise digital representation of a specific printed page. As such, it's perfect for reproducing pages from journals which have complex layouts with equations, graphs, or tables, for example.

The problem with PDF is that it's a page-based format, and there's just no satisfactory way of handling it on devices whose page is the "wrong" size, other than by allowing the user to "pan" around the page. That works fine on LCD or CRT displays, with their virtually instantaneous response times, but isn't at all satisfactory on slow eInk screens.

So, unless you've got a PDF that's been specifically formatted for the display size of your device (as, for example, Hadrien's excellent "Feedbooks" site will do) it's best to avoid PDFs for eBooks. There are numerous other formats available, and really no good reason to want to use PDF - for fiction, anyway. I'm aware that a lot of technical books are, unfortunately, only available in PDF format.
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieperry View Post
I was really please back when Sony announced that it was going to support Adobe DRM books. Before pdf support it was quite hard to buy ebooks in Australia.

Maybe there's a simple solution to this problem in which case I'd love to hear it.
There is another posting here (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30263) with some useful information.
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:09 AM   #8
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Could you elaborate, Sparrow? What do you mean by "text accuracy"?
PDFs are snapshots of pages - so they preserve the original text accurately.

With reflowable formats, there seem to be more typos and other errors. So while they are better presented, the actual content is inferior.

I don't think I've read any reflowable format ebook (freebie or commercial) that didn't have more errors than the PDF or pbook equivalent.

As an example, I've recently bought 'The Pillars of the Earth' commercial ebook, it's a great read - but I've encountered more 'typos' than I would expect to see in a pbook (or a PDF version).
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:29 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Sparrow View Post
PDFs are snapshots of pages - so they preserve the original text accurately.

With reflowable formats, there seem to be more typos and other errors. So while they are better presented, the actual content is inferior.

I don't think I've read any reflowable format ebook (freebie or commercial) that didn't have more errors than the PDF or pbook equivalent.

As an example, I've recently bought 'The Pillars of the Earth' commercial ebook, it's a great read - but I've encountered more 'typos' than I would expect to see in a pbook (or a PDF version).
If, though, the text is produced and stored electronically, there's really no reason that should be. The process of format conversion per se shouldn't introduce errors into the text, should it?

It sounds, from what you say, almost as if some publishers are using an OCR process to produce their eBooks, which sounds a little bizarre!
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:54 AM   #10
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It sounds, from what you say, almost as if some publishers are using an OCR process to produce their eBooks, which sounds a little bizarre!
Or maybe the eversion comes from before the final proofing.

In 'The Pillars of Earth', the table of contents has:

"Part One: 1135-1136"

when you click the link, you see:

"Part One 1136-1137"

It's not an OCR artifact; just an editing error (don't know if it's like that in the pbook, but I'd imagine not if it's been through a few editions).
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:56 AM   #11
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Hopefully these things will improve as more publishers start to produce eBooks as a standard part of the publication process for a new book.
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:20 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
If, though, the text is produced and stored electronically, there's really no reason that should be. The process of format conversion per se shouldn't introduce errors into the text, should it?

It sounds, from what you say, almost as if some publishers are using an OCR process to produce their eBooks, which sounds a little bizarre!
Bizarre but true I believe. Some (maybe many) publishers don't have source control for their documents. The only good copy they have is paper. This is because they don't control the change cycle and end up with a fractured database over many different machines and thus the paper copy is, in fact, the only good copy. If they decide later to produce an eBook then they OCR the only good copy they have.

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Old 10-09-2008, 12:16 PM   #13
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Bizarre but true I believe.
Certainly a number of the ebooks I have purchased (and not from minor publishers) are clearly sourced from OCR, as indicated by the types of errors found therein.
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:25 PM   #14
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The really irritating thing about this is that when you enlarge the "book" so that it is readable you usually end up with one line of text rolling over onto the next page the rest of which is blank. This effectively doubles the number of pages you have to turn in the book.

Maybe there's a simple solution to this problem in which case I'd love to hear it.
There is a simple solution, though it might not be available to you as a book purchaser. That's for the PDF file to be tagged to reflow text at the time it is made. (Many newer PDAs can also tag PDF files as they are transferred onto the device. Apparently your reader does not do that. I don't know, but would guess, that this process doesn't work with DRM'd PDF files.)

If you have a PDA in addition to your Reader, you might try copying your PDF files onto the PDA, then copying them back. If it got tagged in the initial transfer, you might then have a tagged copy that you could put on your Reader. As I say, though, this might not work if there's DRM on the file.

Like it or not, PDF is the file format that's most popular, at least for free downloads. If you look at my downloads page, you'll see that I have my books in two different PDF formats--one untagged, and one tagged. (The tagged is a larger file, and doesn't look as good on a big screen.) By far the largest number of downloads are of the straight PDF, even though it's the least usable format for a small screen.

If publishers are going to put books into PDF format, they ought to tag them properly. I suspect ignorance is the main reason they don't, though I could be wrong about that.
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Old 10-09-2008, 04:30 PM   #15
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Certainly a number of the ebooks I have purchased (and not from minor publishers) are clearly sourced from OCR, as indicated by the types of errors found therein.
Almost certainly true. My own publisher, Tor, didn't even start keeping PDF archives of their books until fairly recently. And PDF is a poor source file for creating an ebook in other formats. Since my new book Sunborn is going to be a Tor ebook as well as a Tor treebook, I've been trying to find out what they're going to use as a source file (and get a copy of it), but so far I've had no luck.
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