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Old 04-27-2010, 12:55 PM   #1
thorn
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Does an e-reader exist that will flow pdf's -- even the 'complex' ones...

Hi.

A colleague had this question, and I have it too.

For ages now I've been waiting for an e-reader that will actually 'flow' multi-column pdfs, and permit note-taking and highlightiing/underlining. Does such a device exist? One of the Sony Readers? Any ideas?

I know that lots of devices will permit one to *view* pdf's. That is *not* the question. I have a Kindle2 and an iPod touch, and a desktop computer and a laptop, so I can *view* whatever I want. I need to be able to interact with the academic and professional articles that I read -- without having to mess with binders and sheet protectors.

I know I'm not alone in this desire. I also know that any device that will display pdfs as static pages will declare themselves to be 'compatible' with the pdf format. So the reality is a little hard to get behind.

If Kovid Goyal has gotten Calibre to correctly convert 3-column pdf's so they will flow into .mobi or .prc format, I will be embarrassed, because I haven't tested such a document for quite awhile. If he hasn't -- does anyone out there who has the opportunity to do hands-on testing of many different manufacturers' devices have any idea?

Thank you for any information you can offer ~
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Old 04-27-2010, 01:03 PM   #2
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Being able to reflow PDFs depends on how the PDF was made in the first place, which isn't something Kovid has any control over. Well-made PDFs convert fairly easily to other formats; other PDFs don't.

I believe the iRex series is the only set of devices that have good annotation features, although perhaps the Sony 600/900 has some. (Maybe it's just that the iRex devices are the only ones large enough to comfortably display most PDFs, and still have annotation ability.)

We're still a ways off on the ability to use ebook readers to comfortably mark up PDFs for professional & academic use.
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Old 04-27-2010, 01:10 PM   #3
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The problem you have is that PDFs are by their very nature intended to be static. The text inside the PDF container does not just sit there as a block of text with markup codes like an HTML doc. That's the whole point to this particular document standard - to allow the creation of a static document that cannot be easily altered by someone else and will retain its formatting regardless of the platform used to view it. Thus you can magnify a PDF if it appears too small on your particular screen, but actually reflowing was never intended. Flowing a PDF means being able to extract the text and display it to you in a different manner that can be flowed. You thus destroy the entire formatting of the original and are just viewing the basic text. Tables, graphs, etc., are totally lost, either because they are a graphic to begin with (like a graph), or the formatting is stripped when the text is pulled out, so tables come out as a mish-mash. If your document was tagged properly during its creation with the intent to be able to be reflowed, then reflowing it into a larger font and so forth works reasonably well, and most readers' software can manage this, but still much of the original formatting is lost. Reflowing multi-column PDFs is difficult or largely not possible. If the PDF was not tagged properly with reflowing in mind, even simple PDFs are difficult to reflow.

Interacting with PDFs isn't something that very many eInk readers handle well, if at all. There are a few large-screen format readers that let you layer scribbling/note-taking on top of the PDF document. I've never run across a reader that responds to the PDF Form Fill-In format, though.

Last edited by cmdahler; 04-27-2010 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 04-27-2010, 01:35 PM   #4
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calibre's new PDF engine handles multi column PDFs just fine, but I haven't been able to find the time to complete it. Once I do, you will be able to reflow multi column PDFs.
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Old 04-27-2010, 02:31 PM   #5
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Kovid, you are a god.

The fact about pdf, as far as I can determine, is that it was never intended to be a true electronic format. If it were, the documents wouldn't all be 8-1/2 x 11 -- exactly the size of printer paper. They'd be more monitor-sized. Of course any electronic work (book, journal article etc.) should be *edit*-protected. On my Kindle I can make notes and underline to my heart's content. I cannot move paragraphs around, delete words, or add anything to the actual text. This is desirable. But the academic work -- journal articles and the like -- is what I *most* need the ability to annotate. For example, underlining the parts I'd like to cite.
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Old 04-27-2010, 03:07 PM   #6
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PDFs can be (and are) made in any size which one desires.

One can annotate them quite easily, either by purchasing specialized software for marking them up, or by having them comment-enabled using the Professional version of Adobe Acrobat.

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Old 04-27-2010, 03:18 PM   #7
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Is there a way to convert a pdf which has the book title on the top every page, so that the book title doesn't appear in the converted text after every few paragraphs?

I haven't found a reader that displays a pdf decently, and I find that converting my pdfs leaves those errant book titles (and sometimes author names) interspersed thoughout the text. I haven't found a solution except to manually remove them.

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Old 04-27-2010, 05:30 PM   #8
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Marcy, did you try Mobipocket Creator? It does quite a decent job on most PDFs.
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Old 05-20-2010, 09:21 PM   #9
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Thorn,
Like you I am waiting for a reader that will accomplish exactly what you are asking for. I also read journal articles and am tired of printing. It doesn't seem like anything on the market right now is flexible enough to display journal articles and let us orgnaize and annotate them. I keep reading this forum looking for some advice, but I can't find a solution worthy of my $$.

Maybe the Notion Ink Adam will be the right one....
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:12 PM   #10
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Well, I think you're going quite a ways beyond a simple ereader. It sounds as if you're into tablet territory. As noted above, PDF's were created to retain formating across platforms, so at heart they are more like image files than text files. Lots more has been grafted onto them but that's the basic problem.

So you need a big screen and probably color and a keyboard (real or virtual) and now you're lugging around a lot more than a simple ereader.
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:54 PM   #11
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I concur with the general consensus here - what you are asking for is beyond the current ereader state-of-the-art.

I'm in exactly the same situation and ended up getting a slate tablet PC [Motion LE1700] to replace my laptop. It can do everything any other laptop can do, and it has all the tablet functionality you're looking for. However, it is about the price of a laptop + ereader combined.

It's incredibly nice to carry all my journal articles + notes + reference books (all marked up) in one portable device.


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Old 05-21-2010, 06:54 PM   #12
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If you don't mind reading on a LCD device, then you might want to consider the 7" LCD readers which use WinCE (see the Alternative Devices forum) -- I recently got the JE200 on a trip for $200, and the screen is extremely good. It runs Windows CE 5 (so a lot of software is available -- almost like a mini-ipad, and I *have* seen both of them in action) and has a resolution of 800x480. I recently ported PocketXpdf to it, and it runs beautifully on it. I'd recommend that you take a look at one of the devices in person (there are many similar to the JE200) and decide whether they suit you. Note that they're more like a tablet -- you can read word/excel files on it, connect a USB keyboard, use the wifi adapter to surf the net with IE6 (opera/webkit also runs on it), etc.
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:45 PM   #13
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I've kinda given up on getting PDF to ePub (until Kovid's new engine comes out ), and am just using GoodReader to read the PDFs I have for now.
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