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Old 07-06-2009, 04:35 AM   #16
HarryT
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I beg to differ, Sonest. PDF is an open standard; to be specific it is standard number ISO 32000-1. It was adopted by ISO in 2008.
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Old 07-06-2009, 09:37 AM   #17
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Says who, and why?

I'd guess most of the public would disagree.
Well a lot of people, me included. Sorry if you think it means nothing.

At work we consume and prepare technical documentation. We have two types of people the ones that like pdf and the ones that like chm. Guess why we have the people preferring pdf, they are the ones who without exception print manuals then on paper to read - always. So they are not the ones intereste in the E in the ebook.

PDF is not a good book format.

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Old 07-06-2009, 10:14 AM   #18
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@Sonist: let's have this discussion again in 10 years. What do you say to a little friendly wager?
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:26 AM   #19
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I think the general public would consider any book in digital format to be considered an "ebook", especially PDF eBooks. When I asked my brother-in-law what format he wanted for his company's new e-Book, he said "PDF, of course." He doesn't understand the differences between formats, the pros and cons of all the different options, nor any of the technical aspects of producing ebooks. When I asked why, his reply was simple and indicative of the general sentiment, in my opinion, of the general computing public: "because everyone can read a PDF."

So while to some PDF is a backward format for e-Books, there is no denying that the general public believes it to be an e-Book "standard".
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:51 AM   #20
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An "ebook" can be at least two different things:

1. A document to be read, viewed, browsed and searched on computer-like devices.

2. A digital "copy" of a traditional book.

If you mean 1, then PDF is not the best suited format, HTML, ePUB, CHM, etc. are way better. But if you mean 2, PDF is the best and most accepted format.
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:54 AM   #21
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PDF is a versatile file format if it comes to DTP. That's what it has been created for. A digital copy which keeps the layout of the to-be-printed pages. And, indeed, a lot of my customers who buy PDF eBooks actually print them. This is why I still publish my PDF files in letter paper size to meet my customer's needs.

PDF is all about printing. It isn't very abjustable, nor customizable or scalable once it is created. While "native" eBook formats like PRC or EPUB are more like liquid to me, I always perceive PDF as a rock.
There's nothing more annoying than reading a PDF file on my PC screen which hasn't been optimised for its resolution. Even worse on an eBook reading device.

PDF is all about books. eBooks are all about texts. That's the main difference. Form versus substance.

I'd rather put my money in HTML, XML or CSS than in PDF when it comes to magazine layouts on any future reading device.
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:36 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
@Sonist: let's have this discussion again in 10 years. What do you say to a little friendly wager?
How about this: I just made a small donation to Calibre. If PDF (or however it evolves) retains its dominant status in a decade, you return my donation :-)
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:56 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonist View Post
How about this: I just made a small donation to Calibre. If PDF (or however it evolves) retains its dominant status in a decade, you return my donation :-)
Done!
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Old 07-06-2009, 02:02 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
An "ebook" can be at least two different things:

1. A document to be read, viewed, browsed and searched on computer-like devices.

2. A digital "copy" of a traditional book.

If you mean 1, then PDF is not the best suited format, HTML, ePUB, CHM, etc. are way better. But if you mean 2, PDF is the best and most accepted format.
It seems most PDF detractors here can't get past the "document" thing.

If the focus was just documents, we wouldn't even have this discussion - plain text is perfectly adequate for most. But there are a lot of occasions, where layout and fonts need to be set, and not reflow.

My point is, that as the hardware becomes more robust, e-readers will have to handle a lot more than "documents," if they are to gain wide acceptance. There is no way you can do a very complex magazine design, or ad, with something like ePub (not that I am aware of.) Nor with HTML.

PDF is the only format which can handle such demands. It has also evolved, so for "plain" text, it can reflow on small screens.

And it is ONE format, which can scale depending on the needs. And it is widely popular, and not just for printing documents, but for viewing them on screen (I don't even remember the last time I had to print a PDF, including forms - I just sign fill them out and sign them digitally.)

And, the chances are, that if I purchase a title today in PDF format, I'll be able to use the same file, on my computer, laptop, tablet, or future color e-reader.

I personally don't care that others like competing formats, but my fear is, that a bunch of incompatible formats will only confuse the market, and delay the adoption of ebooks. And that formats, which cannot handle complex, fixed layouts, will be obsolete when large, color, standardized screens become the norm, allowing for complex content to finally be placed on e-readers.

P.S. HarryT, thanks for pointing out that PDF is now an open standard. I think it makes the argument for its adoption even stronger.

P.P.S. kovidgoyal, I am looking forward to getting my donation back :-)

Last edited by Sonist; 07-06-2009 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 07-06-2009, 05:41 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonist View Post
For smaller screens, PDF is still great, as the new mobile SDK can reflow.
More accurately, it can reflow some PDF documents, and only the text of those documents. Adobe has extensions to allow PDF documents to reflow more easily, but (a) the overwhelming majority of existing PDF documents do not contain reflow information nor do most PDF-producing software emit them; and (b) the current Adobe Mobile SDK doesn't actually use the reflow tagging! (I wish I could find the blog/forum post, but one of the Adobe developers mentioned that they had better luck at the moment just ignoring the tags and reflowing as they could.)

This means that PDF reflow can only reflow pure text, and even that with quite mixed results. The current state of PDF reflow on the Sony Reader is a good example -- line breaks appear at awkward places, words not properly re-joined over cross-line hyphenation, paragraph breaks missed, images awkwardly sized, captions divorced from their figures, headers & footers mixed into the text, and so on. PDF reflow allows the document text to be viewed, but not attractively or even always coherently.

The only ways to change that are either (a) incorporate a superb complete layout analysis engine into the PDF renderer, essentially doing all the work of a commercial OCR engine except for actually recognizing individual characters (or perhaps even that, in the case of image PDFs); or (b) extend the PDF format with so much reflow tagging information that it essentially becomes a new reflowable format.

I don't doubt that people prefer PDF due to familiarity and attractiveness of the results of display-size-optimized output, but that doesn't mean that it's an optimal format for targeting the vast number different display sizes people are and will be reading books on.
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:43 PM   #26
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What many here tend to (dis)miss is that reflow is only necessary because both eBook technologies and the eBook market are incredibly immature. (I've elaborated on this point at downright ludicrous length elsewhere.)

No format other than PDF can achieve consistent and professional typography, and professional typography in published books (including eBooks, once publishers start to give a damn)--regardless of what myriad non-specialists altogether uninvolved in the publishing industry think--is no more likely to disappear than professionally tailored clothes.

I am sympathetic to people who are worried that format incompatibilities or PDF's inflexibility will screw them out a legitimate purchase's continued utility... but it is short-sighted to insist on fixing something that is fundamentally a consumer's rights issue by clamoring to forever handicap eBooks through the use of broken-by-design reflow formats.

- Ahi
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:59 PM   #27
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The standards of professional typography are not set in stone. If they were, we'd still be using the typographic conventions of the Stone Age. The definition of "good typography" will change in the modern age of reflowable formats. And "professional typographers" will just have to learn new standards.
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:39 PM   #28
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I like PDF. I think it is a good standard and incredibly useful. I love Postscript which is kind of a great-uncle to PDF.

But I hope that PDF doesn't become the dominant ebook format.

For the PDF enthusiasts above, I wonder if you guys read on more than one device? I flip back and forth over a few devices for the same book depending on the environment/situation. So I might start on my Sony PRS-505, but then read on my Macbook or my desktop PC in little snatches while I wait for other stuff on my computer to finish. And I will continue on my Palm phone as I wait in line etc. This works great with reflowable formats. I can't imagine using the same PDF to go from a little 320x320 phone up to a 1960x1080 PC monitor.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:33 AM   #29
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Quote:
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I like PDF. I think it is a good standard and incredibly useful. I love Postscript which is kind of a great-uncle to PDF.

But I hope that PDF doesn't become the dominant ebook format.

For the PDF enthusiasts above, I wonder if you guys read on more than one device? I flip back and forth over a few devices for the same book depending on the environment/situation. So I might start on my Sony PRS-505, but then read on my Macbook or my desktop PC in little snatches while I wait for other stuff on my computer to finish. And I will continue on my Palm phone as I wait in line etc. This works great with reflowable formats. I can't imagine using the same PDF to go from a little 320x320 phone up to a 1960x1080 PC monitor.
I mostly switch between PC and iLiad. That said, I'm unimpressed with the double spaced lines between "paragraphs", especially when those "paragraphs" are really indented quotes (or whatever) in .mobi files, as they are rendered on my iLiad. (This WRT Rutherford's Don Quixote translation, which I'm reading at the moment, and which I bought).
Taking that as the baseline, I prefer the fixed size of a PDF. Sure, .mobi rendering might improve (though not likely on my iLiad), but that fact is pretty useless to me right now.
And especially as most of the stuff I read are academic titles, I *really* prefer PDF.
Sure, I lose some white space around the edges, but I can't really say it bothers me all that much either.
For pleasure reading, I have nothing against mobi or epub (though I wish rendering on my device was better), but to say I lean heavily in that direction would be an overstatement.


As for switching between multiple devices: I do wonder how you keep track of the 'page' which you are reading if you're indeed reading the same title on all of those devices.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:59 AM   #30
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Quote:
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I mostly switch between PC and iLiad. That said, I'm unimpressed with the double spaced lines between "paragraphs", especially when those "paragraphs" are really indented quotes (or whatever) in .mobi files, as they are rendered on my iLiad. (This WRT Rutherford's Don Quixote translation, which I'm reading at the moment, and which I bought).
That has nothing whatsoever to do with the file format. If your particular book has double-spaced paragraphs, it's because that's what the creator of that book specified, just as he could have done with a PDF. It's certainly not inherent in the format.
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