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Old 05-24-2009, 07:20 PM   #1
scrabble
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PRS505 suitable for grad student?

Hi readers,

I'm looking for an ebook reader suitable for reading pdf journal articles. At the moment I'm a bit ambivalent on the merits of the newer large format ebook readers, especially the ones which nobody's actually seen (cough Kindle DX). I expect that within 6 months to a year we'll know more about them, they'll have had their firmware debugged, and the price will have dropped. So assuming they can handle pdfs reasonably in landscape mode, I think I'd rather buy something like the Sony PRS505 ($268 on Amazon/Buy.com, half the price of a Kindle DX and 3/4 the price of Kindle2) to tide me over until then. I can always sell it or use it as a fiction reader if I upgrade.

So onto the details:

E-Ink is a must - I already have a laptop, but currently print out the articles I refer to often to avoid eyestrain.

Long battery life is a must - on the ebook matrix some seem to have battery lives of thousands of page turns, while others just have a few hours. They're all using the same display, so is the difference just marketing or due to a forelight or input device? I'd need at least 8 hours on one charge.

Ability to read pdfs is a must - most journal articles come in pdf format and it's easy to print other documents to pdf (using e.g. cutepdf). Being able to zoom and rotate are high priorities: so that single column pdfs can be read in landscape mode and double column pdfs (a form used by many journal articles) can be read a column at a time.

Dictionary lookup isn't that important, since dictionaries seldom provide useful definitions of technical words. Wikipedia lookup has the potential to be extremely useful - but I can probably use a laptop for that most of the time.

The Sony PRS505 seems to satisfy most of these, although one review said the battery life was only a few hours. Does that match with other people's experience or did the reviewer perhaps not charge it fully?

Any advice is appreciated
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Old 05-24-2009, 07:53 PM   #2
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My experience with the PRS-505 has been that the battery never drops below 3 of its 4 bars. I'm sure it would if I went on a vacation away from a computer, but for me--I wind up plugging it in to the computer at least once every few days, and that's enough to keep it charged.

It reads PDFs natively, but some read better than others. It can rotate to landscape easily, and that's the best solution for most complex PDFs, or image-heavy ones. It doesn't have zoom; it has reflow text--and how well that works depends on how well the PDF was designed. (Or whether you have the ability to edit it. I can use Acrobat Pro to add tags when they're missing; you may not have that ability.)

Reading letter/A4 PDFs will usually require rotating or reflow, unless you have a high tolerance for very small text. (However, skimming without rotating is possible, or checking for a known reference.) Reflow is definitely easier to read--when it works. For PDFs created from Word, and probably from other word-processing programs, it works great. For PDFs made from InDesign, it's hit and miss, depending on what settings the publisher used.
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Old 05-24-2009, 09:05 PM   #3
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Many (most?) of the pdf's of journal articles are 'pictures' of text, not actual text. As a result, they will not 'fit' to the page size by reflowing the text. The only way to make them fit is to zoom the image. This can make unreadable text or a very small window on the article.

Even if you can get it to fit, I'm not sure that a six inch screen is workable. I have a Phd and I have read of few of these articles myself. The problem is that they need more mental processing than a typical fiction book. I need to see more of a page so that I can take in the page headings, tables and diagrams. In fact, sometimes these outline cues are as important to understanding the content as the particular words I am reading. Or I find myself flicking back and forth between pages to compare two passages.

For me, anyway, this would require two capabilities that do not exist today. 1) Large format readers: I agree that it is too early to count on the DX. 2) Either faster processors and displays to quickly flip pages and/or dual screen devices so that I can compare documents and compare document sections.

I have read fiction electronically for 10 years now, but for now, I wouldn't choose to read journal pdf's on an ebook Device. Of course, the journal articles you read may be different, or you may have version 2.0 of the human brain while I am stuck with the 0.5 variety - grin.
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Old 05-25-2009, 12:02 AM   #4
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I agree, also a Ph D and I still print my PDFs of journal articles.

I really need to be able to see the whole page in it's original format and I need to be able to highlight and write notes easily in the margins. So I don't bother with them on ereaders.

Once there's something like a thin, light tablet with a letter sized screen I'll look more into moving to electronic for journal articles.
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Old 05-25-2009, 12:05 AM   #5
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Old 05-25-2009, 04:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmaul1114 View Post
I agree, also a Ph D and I still print my PDFs of journal articles.
Which ereader do you own and how bad is it? I was going to buy an ereader for more academic purposes (philosophy books and articles), but I'm having trouble deciding.

Quote:
I really need to be able to see the whole page in it's original format and I need to be able to highlight and write notes easily in the margins. So I don't bother with them on ereaders.
It uses so much paper, though! I love to read philosophy encyclopedias and online articles, but it hurts my eyes so much. I can't print it all out though. It's a big pain.
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Old 05-25-2009, 06:05 AM   #7
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Thanks for the info. I guess I'll just wait to see what happens with the newer large format readers then.

I noticed a link below to the Grad Student... so lost... thread. It looks like some people in academia recommend the iRex Iliad and iRex DR1000S for journal papers. It allows stylus input for annotations, which sounds great on paper, but apparently the delayed reaction given by eInk makes it less ideal. They're also in a much higher price bracket (even more than the Kindle DX).

Last edited by scrabble; 05-25-2009 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 05-25-2009, 06:37 AM   #8
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You get used to the "time lag" of the eInk screen - you really do.
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Old 05-25-2009, 12:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enarchay View Post
Which ereader do you own and how bad is it? I was going to buy an ereader for more academic purposes (philosophy books and articles), but I'm having trouble deciding.
Kindle 1. Haven't bothered trying since it doesn't have touch screen/stylus and the annotating with the thumb keyboard doesn't work very well IMO.

Quote:
It uses so much paper, though! I love to read philosophy encyclopedias and online articles, but it hurts my eyes so much. I can't print it all out though. It's a big pain.
Mine are just PDFs of journal articles, usually 20-30 pages that I print double sided. I don't care about using paper. Almost everything I print, read and mark up is something I want to keep around so it gets filed away in the cabinet in my office. And if not I recycle it.

So I'm not willing to buy inferior devices like the iRex that cost too much, have lag in annotating etc. I'm fine waiting a few more years until someone gets a small, light tablet out and has a couple generations to get the kinks worked out.
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