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Ask Slashdot: Ebook Reader for Scientific Papers?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the digital-science-is-fun dept.

Books 254

An anonymous reader writes "I love the idea of getting an ebook reader primarily for reading research journal papers. However I've heard bad things about the handling of PDFs on the major ones. I don't particularly care for color, but having an e-ink display and the ability to handle PDF/PS docs without conversion would be a major plus. I'd even be open to a hacked Kindle running Linux if it were practical. Does any good solution exist?" A few months ago I found the Asus Eee Note (some folks even figured out how the software works and got it to run other Qt apps), but my hopes were dashed when I learned they had killed it before it even arrived in the U.S. It seems right now that this particular niche is not being served: or is it?

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illiad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136078)

The iRex illiad is pretty good. I think you'd find an ereader useful as long as you're trying to read straight through some document; if you are doing a lot of flipping back and forth to say reference an equation that was on a previous page you'll find it tedious. The pages just don't load fast enough for that.

Re:illiad (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136464)

I think you'd find an ereader useful as long as you're trying to read straight through some document

I have found the Kobo surprisingly good. And since Borders is gone, you can find Kobos for around $50. I would definitely take a look at one before you decide.

My wife's a mathematician and reads a lot of journal articles on her Kobo. Don't use the Kobo software, though. Just regular old Calibre.

I've got a different problem. I want to be able to read sheet music on my eReader. I finally got a nice 10" Android tablet, with a MusicXML (mXML) reader. I can load my Sibelius or Finale lead sheets, too.

Of course, orchestral scores are not so hot. For that, the best eReader is a nice big 1080p monitor. I use a USB foot pedal to turn pages. I wish I could come up with a foot pedal for my tablet, though. I'm learning the chromatic harmonica, and I often use the Android to read lead sheets or fake book pages, but I have to take a hand off the harp to turn a page.

Kindle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136084)

The kindle can read pdfs without conversion, although if your going to read a lot pdfs, I'd probably go with the DX model.

Re:Kindle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136510)

I agree, I have the newest Kindle DX since almost a year now and it is very good on scientific papers. Use it for conference preps too and have the paper right there in the auditory for all the speakers, very convenient. Microscopy pictures can be a bit hard if they are very dark though.

Kindle DX (2)

metageek (466836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136094)

Kindle DX and read the articles sideways

Re:Kindle DX (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136280)

Two words describe a problem with that: vertical panning... although I'm not so lazy that I'm unwilling to pan a page, it's still roughly as detaching from the experience of actually absorbing the content as flipping a physical page is, and creates a discontinuous impression of a single page that would otherwise have been seamless if you could see it all at once.

Simply put, for some types of content, you need to see a whole page at a time... and you need it to be presented large enough that you will be able to see all the text clearly.

The DX doesn't do that.

Re:Kindle DX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136402)

I just got a Kindle DX yesterday! Primarily for reading technical documents.

Pros:
- The screen is awesome.
- Page turning is very fast! Even on 20mb PDF's converted from DJVU.
- I like that its not as full featured and interactive as an iPad because I want to use this as a research tool and not get distracted with the internet, apps, etc.

Cons:
- Closed platform. This has immediate consequences such as the web browser does not allow me to download PDFs!

Overall, the quality of the screen supersedes my issues with the closed platform. If you really need something hackable try the Pocketbook 902.

P.S. If anyone has any questions about it and don't feel like spending 400 bucks to find out, ask me and I will try to answer.

Re:Kindle DX (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136648)

I've got a question, but you're an AC! Still, I'll try:

How does the DX handle links embedded in the PDF? I read a lot of planning documents (housing development, etc) and those can have embedded links that I'd like to have access to.

Re:Kindle DX (2)

ynp7 (1786468) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136744)

You should be able to follow the links. The 3rd gen Kindles have a Webkit-based browser built in. I've never tried a PDF, but it certainly works for books in Amazon's Mobi format, so it should work with PDF as well.

Re:Kindle DX (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137338)

I bought a kindle dx largely for this purpose. However, I quickly decided that e-ink is much better suited to novels than research. The problem is that I often need to flick through papers fast to see the main results or reread something and the 2second page load time makes this too tedious. The other problem is that I often need to have 2 or 3 papers open simultaneously to check and crossrefence stuff, and this doesn't work on a kindle.
I still highly recommend the kindle dx. It gives a nicer reading experience than even a real book in my opinion, but for novels not papers. I also have a galaxy tab 10.1, which is awesome, but again not really suitable for research. You need a desktop or a laptop, there's no real substitute.

Don't use a default Kindle (2, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136096)

I don't have much experience with different e-readers. Just noting that from my personal experience with the Kindle's default handling of PDFs it isn't very good for scientific papers. Diagrams especially don't come out well, and occasionally stuff isn't rendered correctly (although that issue has become nearly non-existent with the new Kindles and the upgrades. I don't know what they did but presumably improved stuff somewhere). I have friends who have had good experiences with the iPad, and for diagrams it is quite nice. You can easily rotate them or zoom in or out using a very intuitive interface.

Re:Don't use a default Kindle (1)

dudeman500 (1535479) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136300)

I have the kindle 3 and have had no issues. However, i regret not buying the DX as even turned sideways the 3 can be frustrating.

Re:Don't use a default Kindle (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136926)

I own a Kindle (2e) and love it, but I agree with the above sentiment. When it comes down to it, e-ink in general isn't very good for any paper with lots of diagrams or schematics. You want something that can pan and zoom without refreshing the screen, which means you want an LCD screen. So far I haven't heard of any top notch Android tablets, so that leaves the iPad as the frontrunner for this particular application.

Just who is this Unknown Lamer anyways? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136104)

The article selection's pretty good today, but having one guy run Slashdot is getting kinda weird. He's like the "Ponca City, We Love You" of 2011...

Re:Just who is this Unknown Lamer anyways? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136232)

Not much is known about him, except that he's unknown, and a lamer.

Ob. topic, I've only tried a Kindle and a Sony something. The Sony could display PDFs remarkably well for its tiny size (there are bigger ones from Sony, though), and had a touch screen with a stylus you could use for scribbling. E-ink is far better for reading than any traditional screen.

What's wrong with the Kindle? (2)

questioner (147810) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136110)

I've had no issues with PDFs on the Kindle, whether the DX (which is the right form factor), or the 3 (which is conveniently portable). It's not a perfect solution, but it works.

IMO, the optimal solution would be a hybrid display (like Pixel Qi make), a form factor halfway between the DX and the 3 (i.e. roughly the screen size of a normal book), and running an Android OS so apps can be written to support things like DJVU. I had high hopes for the Adam (Notion Ink, http://www.notionink.com/ [notionink.com] ), but they're a little too ... grungy ... for me to be willing to spend $600 on.

Re:What's wrong with the Kindle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137132)

The problem with reading scientific articles on the kindle is that the resolution is too low / the screen is too small to read normal size text and when you zoom in it is a major pain trying to pan the view as you read, especially when there are two columns on text per page.

If there was a kindle SDK I'm sure someone could figure out how to make it a decent pdf reader but that function is obviously pretty low on Amazon's priority list.

Re:What's wrong with the Kindle? (2)

OFnow (1098151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137240)

Somehow for me the Kindle DX is a terrible pdf reader. The fonts that look sensible on paper just look really light on Kindle. And the search on Kindle is horrible: AFAICT no partial word search no control of case-match/not and so on. Even translating the source to an ebook format only helps with the character visibility (while kind of making the really long tables in the doc I want on Kindle into a mess), using Calibre as the transformer.

Been reading a few books a day for a week now, recovering from a small injury, and find Kindle DX great for books...

Nook Color handles 99% of my PDFs (2)

introp (980163) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136116)

The built-in PDF reader on the Nook Color is decent. It drains the battery faster (maybe 2x or 3x?) than reading epub files but is still quite usable. I've only ever had trouble with one PDF: there was one page with a TON of overlaid vector images and it wouldn't render correctly; all pages after that page were missing images entirely. Otherwise it's been a fine machine.

Re:Nook Color handles 99% of my PDFs (2)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136284)

Calibre seems pretty good at format shifting pdf to epub which is a lot less of a strain for an ereader , android device to cope with.

I haven't tried calibre on complicated pdfs but so far it has handled everything i have given it.

Re:Nook Color handles 99% of my PDFs (2)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137074)

I have used it; it works well when there are no headers or footers. But with heathers / foothers (i.e., all technical manuals), the headers get in the text and disrupt it.

Anyone has tried some software that does not have this problem?

Re:Nook Color handles 99% of my PDFs (3, Informative)

akpoff (683177) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137222)

I bought the Nook Color for the same reason. The Nook Color PDF reader is a very capable viewer. I didn't want the Nook version of Android so I bought one that was already rooted with CyanogenMod.

I'm mostly happy with it for reading PDFs. Like any tablet-sized reader you will have to pan. You can view the pages in portrait mode fully zoomed out but it's hard to read that way. I read in landscape and just pan the document a bit. I'm finding more authors are publishing to PDF using one column. In those cases it just work. Pinch-zooming works but the text rarely (if ever) re-flows the way web pages do in Chrome.

I don't like the Adobe file browser on Android, though. It adds every PDF on the SD card to the master list. It's a giant scrollable list with each folder path as a section separator. I would like the option to toggle between hierarchical folder view and list.

I tried using Calibre to convert some PDFs to ePub. Two-column PDFs have been a disaster. I rarely get anything that's usable. YMMV. I decided to stick with PDFs (or .ps files I convert to PDF).

Using Chrome to read web pages is mostly workable. Strangely, clicking an HTML file in the file manager doesn't launch the regular Chrome browser. Rather you get the "HTML Viewer". It's mostly Chrome but has no open dialog or access to bookmarks (AFAICT).

As an Android device it's quite functional. Most market applications install without a problem. The one I have problems with are those for which the Download button doesn't appear. I haven't chased the issue down yet. Not sure whether it's a Cyanogen issue.

Google Books works great but you have to have internet access to read the books. Just goes to prove Android is really designed to be an always-connected OS. FBReader, on the other hand, just works.

As you can tell, it's no iPad in terms of "It Just Works". In sum, as a PDF reader I'm mostly happy with it. All the other features are bonuses. The issues are mostly irrelevant.

Lastly, if you check E-Bay or B&N's website they sell refurbed Nook Color's for $199. For an extra $50 you can get the extended warranty (if you're into those). For the same $249 for a new one with 1-year warranty you get a unit with a 2-year warranty.

Nothing beats an iPad for heavy PDFs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136118)

I own a Kindle DX, it is good enough, but for heavy PDF nothing beats an iPad with Papers 2

Re:Nothing beats an iPad for heavy PDFs (2)

Tragek (772040) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136346)

Ditto on the iPad.

I paid for Papers (Both on the Mac and iPad), and while it's passable, I really find their workflow disagrees with me. It just seems really hard to get CS to work in it properly (developed by Biological Sciences people, and it feels like the workflow for databases like the ACM DL and IEEE are a bit.. rushed)

  Final word: Use the trial for Papers on the Mac for sure. Papers on the iPad is perhaps easier to justify, though, I don't know if it'll run stand alone (can you import/export without the mac app?)

Re:Nothing beats an iPad for heavy PDFs (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136784)

iAnnotate PDF on the iPad is a great way to read, bookmark, and annotate pdfs. You can highlight, draw, add notes, etc. It is great for conferences and meetings with a lot of documentation; all fits easily on even the 16GB iPad (of course, and much more beside). For heavier duty note taking, I copy from iAnnotate and paste into Pages.

Re:Nothing beats an iPad for heavy PDFs (1)

Lust (14189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136896)

Have to agree with this. Bought the ipad as an experiment and haven't gone back. Can sync changes in iAnnotate with Dropbox.

Re:Nothing beats an iPad for heavy PDFs (1)

sakelley (68439) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137082)

The Kindle DX is my favorite for simple documents I read through linearly, one page at a time. It's light and runs a week or two on a charge with the wireless switched off. The iPad is much better (and significantly faster) for programming books, and technical papers, but is quite a bit heavier and generally needs at least daily recharging.

For scientific papers, I'd either go with an iPad, or wait a little while to see what Amazon has planned for the fall.

easy (2)

djfake (977121) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136124)

Just use a printer and let them pile up on your desk. When you finally get to finishing that paper, they'll be there, somewhere!

Nook Touch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136128)

It's a touchscreen e-ink display running Android. There's an Android app called "PDF reader" which is based on the muPDF libs, and therefore renders text very, very well.

Non-touch screen eReaders are annoying (5, Interesting)

Angrywhiteshoes (2440876) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136138)

I used to have the Kindle DX. I bought it so I didn't need to carry a bunch of paper or books around with me. But I soon found, that it was VERY annoying for using as reference or reading papers on. Jumping from page to page with the clicky buttons was very slow and you couldn't do any side-by-side comparison. Not to mention, if the PDF or whatever is an Image PDF, it takes a decade to load. I just went back to paper and books, can take notes in the margins, highlight easily, do side-by-side comparison and easy reference by keeping bookmarks and flipping between pages faster. Maybe its just the method Amazon uses to render the screen, but I didn't like it for those purposes. Others might have a different opinion than me or a better solution (which I'd be glad to hear since I hate carrying all my books, etc around).

eInk (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136972)

The slow page change in an inherent limitation in current eInk technology, as it has to apply an electric charge to cause small colored balls to move through a viscous fluid to display the image.

LCD screens, be they transmissive (like the iPad), reflective (like the Eee Note), or tranflective (like OLPC one) don't have this problem, and the later two are almost as nice to read on as eInk.

Re:eInk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137056)

If you think e-ink is limited to slow page changes, you HAVE to see this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35Wk39I1h20#t=0m26s

Smooth PDF panning on the Kobo Touch.

Barnes & Noble Nook Touch (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136148)

The Barnes & Nobel Nook Touch is a touchscreen e-ink reader running Android 2.1 Eclair. It has been rooted with Google Apps installed: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1132693 . You can download ezPDF or Acrobat reader through Google market. I have a Nook Color, the color LCD version of this running Android 2.2 Froyo. It renders scientific papers quite well. I don't have direct experience with the Nook Touch, but I imagine the experience would be similar.

Ipad (1)

garaged (579941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136154)

Dont go for a eink tabled, it will never work until they have eink at full colors

Besides, ipad wpnt need a lamp if you want to readat night, I have a little insomnia problem and my nights are much better since I buyed my wife an ipad, you can stay at bed reading without much trouble until you get sleepy again.

Im not a fanboy, I actaully work on a linux laptop/desktop 100% of the time, but the itouches ar one great thing comming from apple, just jailbreak it :)

Re:Ipad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137072)

Um, you have an insomnia problem because you stare at a bright, backlit screen late an night:

`Avidan told Hadhazy that most people probably won’t have problems using a backlit reader to catch up on a few pages before bed, but those who have trouble falling asleep should avoid tablets and computer screens to cut down on the likelihood that they’ll stay awake.'

(source: http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/05/19/backlit-readers-could-inhibit-sleep/ )

None Currently are Perfect (2)

BruiserBlanton (133306) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136166)

I don't know what your discipline is, but I think it'll depend on what journals you typically read.

I'm a chemist, so a lot of what I read is from the American Chemical Society. Most of the articles are formatted for a big (bigger than letter size) with two column format. It's a big of a squeeze down to letter paper, but you can still read it.

I've got a Kindle DX and I find the ACS journals are just too small when fitted to the Kindle DX's viewable area. It's suppose to be able to show a letter-sized document in full but that's only if it has "standard" margins. Most journal articles don't have those standard margins. I personally am hoping for someone to market a 13.1 in diagonal e-reader which should be able to show a letter-size pdf in the full. Delta's eMagzine fits the bill but no commercial companies have brought it to the market.

If the article is one-column or manuscript-style, it should be easy to read on most e-readers but I would stay on the large size because of things like diagrams and small indices in equations.

I don't know of any readers that do postscript.

Re:None Currently are Perfect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136470)

I have a kindle 3 and typically use my Adobe software to crop the margins out of my papers. It really helps to remove the typically large margins.

Skim on Mac (but not e-book per se) (1)

iliketrash (624051) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136172)

This doesn't specifically respond to your e-book specification, but Skim on the Mac is amazingly useful for reading PDFs. It has extensive notation and mark-up abilities. I use it exclusively to read technical papers and also use it exclusively to review journal manuscripts that are sent to me.

Re:Skim on Mac (but not e-book per se) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136240)

Yeah, n I totally use my 46 inch 3d TV for my computer monitor. I know it doesn't EXACTLY relate, but...

On a SERIOUS and ON TOPIC note, Ipad 2 is pretty awesome for color PDFs, and I personally have the SONY Daily Edition, prs900 with the touch screen, non-infrared.

I read papers on my nook color (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136178)

I've really enjoyed reading on my nook color, as I can download papers directly on it and the device fits in my hand. No trouble at all with .pdf and it can handle multitouch zoom as well. Now if I could only get it to run endnote...

iPad and Papers Touch (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136182)

Get an iPad and Papers Touch. It seems to be what you need. http://www.mekentosj.com/papers/touch

iPad with Papers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136188)

I would recommend an iPad with Papers. Hands down the best scientific paper repository and PDF reader.

still looking.. (1)

zeldor (180716) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136196)

I was so looking forward to the KNO device for this very reason.
but it didnt quite make it to usefulness :(

The ipad and goodreader is my current default but the screen is really just a little to small for
tech/scientific docs.

the asus eee pad transformer has promise but battery life sucks.

there are some flip screen laptops that are nice but again short battery life and quite spendy.

Ive been looking for years for such a beast but technology and demand arent there yet.

s

iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136198)

I use iPad and sync my PDF library from mac using App called Papers that exists on both Mac and iPad. I sometimes read papers like that on my iPhone4 too. It is not like reading printed papers but it is OK. After getting used to iPhone's display iPad's display looks pixelated.

lern2speel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136202)

"pluse" -> "plus"
"niché" -> "niche"

Notion Ink Adam or Adam 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136214)

It uses a pixelqi screen so its as fast as any lcd screen but its transflective like eink. Video of reading a pdf with it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbvFueRnJuI

Or you could wait till December for the new Adam 2.

iPad + iAnnotatePDF (1)

toupsz (882584) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136224)

May not fit your desires, but I have been very happy with my first gen iPad + iAnnotatePDF. Combine that with Dropbox, BibDesk (with auto-file), and I now have a database of all the papers I have read / want to read + annotations + all highlighted text searchable.

Re:iPad + iAnnotatePDF (1)

toupsz (882584) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136250)

Oh, and a little custom field + auto-file magic and I get my papers organized by my assigned order-to-read.

Also, if it's useful at all, my background is human-computer interaction research (so a lot of ACM proceedings papers).

if the (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136236)

process of science is to enhance the knowledge of all humankind, why bend to the device that seems to refute and diminish the enhancement of mankinds knowledge?

in summation: while sometimes cumbersome to pack, and lacking in search features, the technical and scientific papers and books I employ to do science have never stepped intentionally in my path to prevent me from learning or understanding the knowledge they contain.

until "e-ink" and the 700 page book on my desk are indistinguishable in terms of functionality and accessibility, i say to hell with kindle, nook, and the lot of them.

Re:if the (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136336)

If all you need to have at hand is a single 700 page book, then portable electronic readers probably won't have anything to offer you.

If, however, you need to have at hand the equivalent of 10,000 pages worth of information (or more), then that's where an e-reader can probably be of help. Paper is heavy... ebooks are weightless... and the reader itself is generally only a few ounces.

Papers on an iPad (0)

derniers (792431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136270)

for science pdfs the best that I have found is Papers on an iPad zoom in on figures in full color, pdfs organized the same way as on the desktop....... goodreader and pdfreaderpro are ok but lack the organization that Papers has

Re:Papers on an iPad (0)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136338)

damn we posted at the same time - glad to see we both agree - it's what works best for Science.

Re:Papers on an iPad (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136422)

I own papers but I took it off after getting iAnnotate Pro. Tags and your own arbitrary folder structure, plus excellent searchable annotation that you can share and dropbox support. And I find the actual PDF reader, locking zoom, etc. nicer. It lacks the pubmed integration but with the ability for Safari to transfer PDFs that's okay.

For the story poster, consider an iPad. I tried ebook readers and the inability to scroll smoothly and the flashing when they updated the screen really annoyed me. I prefer to read papers on my iPad to any other way now.

Biig screen (2)

Simulant (528590) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136306)

For PDFs you need a big screen. None of the small screen e-paper readers will do, and judging by my phone, nothing less than a 10" tablet will do either.

Re:Biig screen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136704)

I am waiting to see if the rumours about 2048x1536 screens in the next generation IPad or Xoom are true. 270 DPI should be finally sufficient for quality rendering of small subscripts/superscripts and technical drawings.

Sony PRS 950 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136308)

I did a fair bit of research into this myself. I found that 6-9 months ago at the time I was in the market, the Sony prs-950 was the best available for this sort of thing. From what I saw Sony's reader had the best PDF handling of any reader, and the 950 has the largest screen of the Sony readers.
Word of warning: If your PDF has vector graphics (as a lot of scientific docs do) you won't be able to increase the font size without the graphics disappearing. I have no idea why this happens but it's damn annoying. The best you can manage with vector graphics is to zoom in scroll around the document if the text is too small which is not a pleasant experience.
On the other hand, if your document is purely text or has only raster images and no tables (tables are a vector image in PDF) then this would be a great reader for your needs.

Re:Sony PRS 950 (1)

AardvarkCelery (600124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136406)

PRS 950 screen (7.1") is far smaller than the Kindle DX (9.7"). For reading letter/A4 sized scientific articles, screen size matters.

Papers on the iPad (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136332)

All we real scientists swear by it.

Lets you read color PDFs, edit them, and access all the scientific journals and notate them.

Nothing less works as well.

Plus it's like 10 pounds sterling.

What document readers are missing (1)

zmughal (1343549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136334)

I've been thinking about the sorry state of document readers for a while and have surmised that there are several places where the current software is lacking.

Content and document layout analysis
Scientific writing is by nature highly structured. So far, I have not come across anything that takes advantage of that and pulls out the semantics of the text. For example, I would love to be able to click on a citation and have that open up either my browser to look it up or grab the document from storage. Other places where the software could improve is in the automatic generation of table of contents if there isn't one or in the recognition of a floating figure/table along with its caption and then allowing the reader to zoom to just that part of the document.

Annotations
As I am reading, I must have the ability to take annotations easily and quickly. These annotations must be exportable and editable on any of my other devices. The annotations must be able to be searchable and cross-referenced with other documents and annotations.

Interoperability
Each e-book reader use different databases to organize their data into categories or mark a document as read. This should really be open. Furthermore, why is it that I have to plug my device into my computer to transfer large numbers of documents? Why can't I use the LAN to control that particular aspect? I want to be able to search for papers on my computer then just sit back and read through a couple of papers. Having to manage files breaks my flow.

Other areas for improvement include organization of large libraries of documents, bookmarking (down to at least a paragraph level), and the ability to view multiple documents (or different parts of the same document) at once.

Re:What document readers are missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136624)

i am writing a thesis in latex. using hyperref every link in the pdf is clickable, table of contents, figure references, citations section links etc. most of the items in the biliography have a clickable DOI or URL.

Re:What document readers are missing (1)

zmughal (1343549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136678)

Yes, it turns out great when the author has thought all that through. Unfortunately, a lot of papers I grab online are missing that.

Take a look at the current crop of Android Tablets (2)

rafial (4671) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136350)

I have the Galaxy Tab myself, and really like it, but I've also played with an Eee Transformer and was very impressed. I previously had the Xoom, and it was okay, but it's screen wasn't as good as the former two. The 10.1" Android Tablets have higher resolution screens than the current crop of iPads (1200x800 vs 1024x768), meaning a slightly higher DPI, meaning slightly easier on the eyes for reading.

Honeycomb gives you lots of flexibility as to how you get PDFs on to the device (e.g. via Dropbox, local file transfer, etc) combined with the freedom to then view those PDFs with the app of your choice. Android has a version of Adobe Reader, which while feature light, is pretty much guaranteed to correctly render any PDF you throw at it. For my own purposes though, I typically use RepliGo, which handles most things, is notably faster, and lets you view and add notes in PDFs.

GoodReader on iPad (1)

jasomill (186436) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136378)

No eink, and at this point I'd probably wait for an iPad with a higher-resolution screen, but I've been reading maths papers and books using GoodReader for almost a year now and it works quite well. GoodReader is fast, handles large files well, and has a "persistent crop" feature that's worth its weight in gold: for any given document (and, optionally, for facing pages), you can crop the margins, eliminating the very annoying "turn the page and zoom" phenomenon characteristic of my experience with other readers.

What others have said about "reading straight through versus skipping around" is quite true, alas: I find myself buying hard copies of any books that I reference heavily for exactly this reason.

Re:GoodReader on iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136496)

No eink, and at this point I'd probably wait for an iPad with a higher-resolution screen, but I've been reading maths papers and books using GoodReader for almost a year now and it works quite well. GoodReader is fast, handles large files well, and has a "persistent crop" feature that's worth its weight in gold: for any given document (and, optionally, for facing pages), you can crop the margins, eliminating the very annoying "turn the page and zoom" phenomenon characteristic of my experience with other readers.

What others have said about "reading straight through versus skipping around" is quite true, alas: I find myself buying hard copies of any books that I reference heavily for exactly this reason.

I'm in total agreement with you on this. I've tried E-ink readers, Android tablets, and an Ipad+Goodreader. Along with the features you've mentioned, we've found that Goodreader's file sync and Dropbox integration has made the Ipad+Goodreader incredibly useful in sharing technical documentation in our IT department.

HTML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136386)

Why not just go with HTML? It was, after all, originally invented for the sole purpose of publishing research papers.

If your journals of interest have a website ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136414)

You can save the full article HTML and import it into Calibre and convert it to epub (or whatever ereader format you want). Calibre also offers command line tools so that you can script the downloading and conversion. This way you don't have to mess with PDF's at all.

What is it with the word "niche"?? (2)

Demerara (256642) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136428)

FTA: It seems right now that this particular niché is not being served: or is it?

Why do so many people have a problem with this word? I can put up with the US pronunciation (i.e. "nitch") though I grew up in Ireland and England pronouncing it what I presume to be a slightly French way - i.e. "neeesh"

But how in heavens did we arrive at "niché "??

Re:What is it with the word "niche"?? (1)

Unknown Lamer (78415) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136534)

That was me being a dolt (does anyone want some habañero dip while we're at it?). Move along, nothing to see here.

Re:What is it with the word "niche"?? (2)

jabberwock (10206) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137156)

I thought it was spelled nietzsche. But that was from only one of my perspectives.

Re:What is it with the word "niche"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137194)

FTA: It seems right now that this particular niché is not being served: or is it?

Why do so many people have a problem with this word? I can put up with the US pronunciation (i.e. "nitch") though I grew up in Ireland and England pronouncing it what I presume to be a slightly French way - i.e. "neeesh"

But how in heavens did we arrive at "niché "??

When you give some people free reign, they just loose control. Its like their infected with virii or something.

for Research PDFs.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136460)

.. I have used Fujitsu's U820 tablet (5.6" 1280x800 touch LCD) and an EEE Transformer (10.1" 1280x800) with some success.

The first has the perfect hardware but is Windows-based, and Linux support for screen rotating and its touch screen is not that great. Its battery extends a bit on the side, which makes it very comfortable for grasping. I am not sure if they still sell it though.

The second also works, but you end up feeling its weight pretty quickly, which is annoying if you are reading for more than, say, an hour. Same argument holds for the iPad, which feels even heavier.

The solution I ended up going for was a gizmo called ``Tarsier by Nulogia'' together with an iPod touch, because it is very compact to carry around, has the great battery life of the iPod and is extremely light. Of course, if iPad 3 comes out with a 2048x1536 LCD, then this will be a no-brainer.

PDF expert on ipad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136466)

PDF expert for ipad is very good.

Kindle with Duokan firmware (2)

zmughal (1343549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136508)

I am currently using a Kindle 3 with the Duokan [netzbeben.de] firmware and find the PDF readability much better in terms of the interface. It can also handle ePub, HTML, and DjVU. Possibly more formats, but I haven't tried those.

It has a rudimentary column splitting feature that lets you read the common two-column document format easily without having to continually zoom and pan.

I particularly like that it actually uses the filesystem to browse for documents, so I can organize the files my own way.

It also can play back OGG and FLAC in addition to the MP3s you get with the regular firmware.

Sony Touch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136526)

The Sony Touch reader has great PDF support. It has modes for reading two and three column pdfs that split the page into regions and scroll through the regions in order using the page buttons. You can also resize the text but it reflows the pdf and you lose figures and tables.

WeTab (1)

hweimer (709734) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136530)

Depending on your preferences, you might want to have a look at the WeTab [wetab.mobi] . Since it's based on MeeGo you can install basically any PDF viewer you like (xpdf or evince for a slick experience, Okular if you want to make annotations). And no need to hack it, root access is just one sudo away.

I have tried a lot of them (4, Informative)

linuxguy (98493) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136540)

I am in the same boat as you. I wanted an ideal portable device for reading PDF documents. Here is what I have tried so far:

1. Barnes and Noble Nook B&W e-ink device. PDFs simply do not look right on this device.
2. Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Slow processor and small screen. Some squinting and patience is required to read PDFs on this device.
3. ipad (1 & 2). Really good PDF rendering and pages turn fast. Downsides are: a) No easy way to transfer documents. Some may consider iTunes easy to work. I do not. b) Lower resolutio and physical size of the display when compared to Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other similar Android devices.
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7". Very portable and reasonably fast processor. Downsides are: a) Battery drains faster than other modern tablets. b) Small and low resolution screen when compared to its big brother.
5. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. This is my current PDF reading device. I use it quite frequently. Display is excellent. Battery performance is outstanding. There are many ways to transfer documents. I just mount a share over the network and drag and drop content. Messing with cables and another computer etc. for doing this is stupid and Steve Jobs should know it. The only downside is that the PDF reader options on Android are not as good. The built-in reader on ipad is really really good. On Android, you have Adobe reader, that is missing some really critical functionality. For example you cannot bookmark a page. I currently use Aldiko. It is OK. It is a bit slow. And appears to render PDFs not as sharp. Also it acts utterly dumb if you switch to landscape mode. There is no way to tell it to fill the width of the screen. So I mostly read my docs in portrait mode and for that it is quite good. I really like the ability to change brightness level without using menus and moving my finger up and down.

Re:I have tried a lot of them (1)

tkdtaylor (1039822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136686)

Doesn't the Galaxy tab come with Polaris office? I have the Transformer and I use the built in Polaris pdf reader which is great, has bookmarks, is very responsive and was already on the Transformer when I bought it.

Re:I have tried a lot of them (2)

tkdtaylor (1039822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136770)

I just found the answer to my own question: http://www.everythingabouttablets.net/2011/05/08/polaris-office-android-market/ [everything...ablets.net]
I'd definitely recommend grabbing the Transformer if your primary purpose is reading pdf's. I can't really comment on anything else because that's what I use it for and I'm very happy with it. I still need to pick up the dock/keyboard for mine and once I have it maybe I'll use it for chatting, email etc. but I don't really like typing on a touchscreen so I generally avoid anything that involves a lot of typing.

Re:I have tried a lot of them (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136836)

3. you can transfer to the iPad very easily either by mailing or dropbox or downloading directly (I think... haven't done that recently). No need to use iTunes. As several others have recommended, read and annotate easily with iAnnotate PDF.

Mendeley (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137058)

3. ipad paired with Mendeley works for me. Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com) allows you to organize your scientific papers with tags, and share them automatically via the "cloud".

did you actually try an iPad? (3, Informative)

reversible physicist (799350) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137332)

3. ipad (1 & 2). Really good PDF rendering and pages turn fast. Downsides are: a) No easy way to transfer documents. Some may consider iTunes easy to work. I do not. b) Lower resolutio and physical size of the display when compared to Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other similar Android devices.

You don't need to use iTunes to transfer PDFs. There are several hundred PDF readers written specifically for the iPad. I've only tried a few of them but my favorites are Papers, GoodReader and AirSharing, none of which require you to use iTunes for transferring files. Direct access to servers, including mail servers and dropbox, is common. Did you actually try an iPad?

Well, the closest hardware is orphaned now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136562)

The eDGe (for papers you want the full-size one, not the pocket eDGe) was a best-of-both-worlds approach, an Android tablet with an e-ink screen on the clamshell, so you can close it (both screens protected) open it like a book (both screens visible, either portrait or landscape) or fold the screens back-to-back (both exposed, use one at a time); touchscreen on the LCD and Wacom digitizer on the e-ink.

Unfortunately, they promised an SDK so third-party apps could use the e-ink, but never delivered, and they went out of business a couple months back. Good news is they permanently unlocked registration, so you can buy one NIB (for damn cheap, obviously) and fully use it, if you don't mind no support. There's been some work in the community for roms to upgrade the Android system while keeping the e-ink software and libraries (nothing ready for users last I checked, but there's ongoing progress), but the somewhat mediocre PDF reader and journal software are stuck where they are.

I can't recommend you buy one, but you should ask around if anyone you know has one you can take for a spin -- if you can get by with it, they're cheap enough the support's not a big deal IMO.

Failing that, any 1280x800 ABSOLUTE MINIMUM tablet (ARM or Atom, everyone knows the battery/portability vs. Windows apps trade-off) is the next best thing; sadly, good stylus input is AFAIK only on old devices (resistive touchscreens) or Atom (Wacom) -- there's next to no ARM tablets with active digitizers, and I don't know any over 1024x600. I frequently use my U820, and 1280x800 does fit a page well enough, but the 5.6" screen is a little small so I usually view half-page -- I'd much prefer a 7" 1680x1050 for full-page viewing, but nobody makes one.

Nook Color + CyanogenMod + EZPDF Reader (1)

versil (529562) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136606)

I use this exact combination for reading scientific articles and tech specs (diagrams, formulas, and all!) And it makes a very nice Android tablet for $250. EZ PDF Reader also lets you annotate and mark up the pdfs as well!

Kindle DX is a decent choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136608)

I haven't had any problem with PDFs on the Kindle DX (large format). The text can be a little small for comfort, but it's perfectly legible, and for images that need higher resolution I switch to landscape. If you like to read your papers outside, the Kindle is great -- it's even easier to read in bright sunlight than under fluorescents. However, the DX is on the expensive side. I have no interest in tablets other than as an e-reader, but if you're planning on getting a tablet anyway you might want to bypass the Kindle.

From my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136728)

eReaders are great for one thing, and that is long-form linear reading. If you want to read a text story from beginning to end then they are awesome. Anything else and they fall short. Flipping back and forth between pages is a pain and you can't look at more than one page at a time. Even if they could handle images and equations better you still can't jump around the document nearly as smoothly as you can with a stack of dead trees in front of you.

I can't speak to iPads as some people are suggesting, maybe that will work better. A real refresh rate definately opens possibilities but now I'm just speculating.

ipad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136730)

I'm not an Apple fan and I had the same problem : reading technical/scientific pdfs with equations, etc. I bought an e-ink ebook from Sony and it was crap for that.
Good for normal books but rubbish for technical pdf: it is slow, it scales at fixed sizes, it often wastes a lot of the screen, etc. etc.
Then I got an ipad and it is absolutely fantastic for this. You can see the document at any scale you want and then quickly zoom in on a diagram or a complex equations. Try it and it is SO MUCH better than e-ink that you'll never even consider it again.
Go to a shop that has ipad connect to the internet and ready for customers to try and download your favorite pdf and see how easy is to read scroll, zoom in an out.
Of course, being Apple, loading your own pdfs (not from internet) is clunky and must be done through a PC. The ipad does a lot of other things.
A proper Android tablet could even be better with easy access to your stuff from SD-card, but I have no experience of those.

Apple solution ... (1)

Tjp($)pjT (266360) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136732)

iPad is my preferred mobile pdf reader. iBooks app is a free download. Decent days plus worth of reading time. Quality hardware. Decent company backing it up with a good warranty. And not likely to pull the plug anytime soon.

Love My Kindle DX (1)

glatiak (617813) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136746)

I get a lot of documentation, magazines and so forth in PDF format. The Kindle DX has worked well for me. Usually I use it in portrait -- the much higher resolution of the ePaper display makes even the small type of Scientific American crisp. Sure, reading on my laptop is more colourful -- but the Kindle can be read in full sun, so reading on a deck chair is very pleasant. I tried a neighbors iPad under the same conditions and found it almost unreadable -- bright sun makes the Kindle even more legible. Most stuff that I download from the web just gets dragged across the usb -- when connected to a computer the Kindle storage appears as a USB disk drive. You will use categories to group the documents into sensible buckets -- but be aware that it is all artifice and the actual document store is just one big bucket. So name collisions could be inconvenient. If the pdf is a scanned document it sometimes helps to turn the Kindle sideways and read in landscape mode. Color would be nice but for 95% of what I read it is mostly irrelevant. The only problem I have had is that some of the two page high density graphics encountered in magazines (Sciam, for example) take a long time to render and if you get impatient something gets lost. Then the only way to recover is to do a hard power-down/reset. My first DX got the dreaded frozen bar disease -- happened quite abruptly for not apparent abuse on my part. I suspect that the ePaper assembly came delaminated somewhere and this broke electrical connectivity. I have the impression that this is an occasional problem of all ePaper displays. Amazon declined to comment but shipped a replacement out very quickly. And the battery life is very long -- makes it easy to forget that this is a little Linux box with a specialized interface. Ultimately it is an issue of taste -- and we all know that in matters of taste we are all quite mad. The Kindle DX works well for me.

iRiver Story HD Google Ebook Reader ( resolution) (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136798)

You want resolution, so I recommend iRiver Story HD Google Ebook Reader
check out the review(/comparison to kindle) with some info about electronics documentation in PDF format
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXWKOoy20Rs [youtube.com]

iRex DR1000S (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136808)

  The best e-Ink reader for scientific papers, imho, is the iRex DR1000S. It embeds wacom's pen technology, so you can make annotations by hand (just like in a paper based notebook), uses standard SD cards, understands PDFs very well, has an enourmous screen and captive buttons... oh, almost forgot, it runs Linux 2.6, AND has a 10.2 inch screen. :-)

  I have one and love it - I also bought it to read scientific papers and books.

  The first generation of the iRex software was not very good, but the last one works pretty well.

  Nonetheless, the company bankrupted sometime ago... the DR1000S was expensive, but it was not a toy, so imho the price tag was completely justified – and I must say thanks to it, I saved its own price due to not needing to move my books with me when changing countries twice since I bought it.

Don't do it. (4, Informative)

Badge 17 (613974) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136852)

E-ink products will not serve your needs. I'm a grad student in physics, and I tried doing exactly this. I love my Kindle for reading books, but the delay and screen size issues (even on the DX) made reading technical papers, where I often am moving back and forward quickly, frustrating. This leaves aside the difficulties of organization - ereaders are not really designed to have 200+ papers. I suggest getting a tablet instead - the ability to download new papers directly from the tablet is worth the additional money.

Kindle DX or a tablet (1)

JayDiggity (70168) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136930)

The only thing that comes close to an eInk eReader that can handle PDFs well is the Kindle DX ($380). Do not go with a smaller format reader and think you can convert PDF articles to ePub. It turns out really badly - unreadable.

Back when eReaders were the big new thing, many companies were going to come out with a large format reader. PlasticLogic was going to come out with their Que reader, but it was delayed multiple times and cost something like $600. It was dealt a quick and merciful death.

The only sensible options today are the Kindle DX or a tablet. I read plenty of journal articles on my Honeycomb tablet, and it's really not that bad. Certainly not bad enough for me to drop $400 on a dedicated paper-reading device.

iRex DR1000S (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136944)

  The best e-Ink reader for scientific papers, imho, is the iRex DR1000S. It embeds wacom's pen technology, so you can make annotations by hand (just like in a paper based notebook), uses standard SD cards, understands PDFs very well (as well as DjVu, Postscript, and others, via Evince), has a nice constrast and captive buttons... oh, almost forgot, it runs Linux 2.6, AND has a 10.2 inch screen. :-)

  I have one and love it - I also bought it to read scientific papers and books.

  The first generation of the iRex software was not very good, but the last one works pretty well... and you can put thousands of papers on it - in fact, I automagically sync my "Papers" (mac) folder with its SD card when I put it to recharge via USB.

  Nonetheless, the company bankrupted sometime ago... the DR1000S was expensive, but it was not a toy, so imho the price tag was completely justified...

Pocketbook, iliad or tablet (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 3 years ago | (#37136956)

Found myself in the same boat a while back. Small-screen ereaders are cheap but rather awful for reading regular PDFs, large-screen ereaders are pricey but you can fit a single page on it.

In the end I went for a Pocketbook 902. They're cheaper than the other 10" ereaders and handle PDF/PS very well, together with a host of other formats and supports wifi+bluetooth. I've read a bundle of papers and a few ebooks on it over the summer and haven't regretted it, in spite of the manufacturer being unknown and the software being 'ok'. It runs on an ancient version of Android but you wouldn't recognize it from the UI.

Note-taking on it is next to impossible though (no touchscreen). If that's a key feature for you you might want to look at their premium model, a hacked DX or the Iliad.

I have a 10" Android tablet too (I splurged on gadgets, sue me) but I find reading on it not a lot more comfortable than on a regular monitor. Reading a quick paper is fine, it's great for couch-surfing and handles anything you can throw at it, but if you're expecting to read for hours on end I'd go for the Pocketbook.

iPad + GoodReader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136990)

iPad + GoodReader aIt's an expensive solution but It's the best solution I've found- perfect for everything from class notes to course books to articles.

Papers for iPhone/iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37136996)

the app is awesome on its own, and doubly awesome when used with Papers for Mac.

Sony (1)

Beetle B. (516615) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137002)

The largest size Sony should do it for you - although perhaps only barely...

It's not cheap.

The Kobo Touch: smooth PDF panning with e-ink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37137008)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35Wk39I1h20#t=0m26s

Overall it's similar to the Nook Touch, with some perks.

Consider the Onyx Boox M90 Reader 9.7" (1)

pandarin944 (2441126) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137076)

Aside from the Kindle DX, there are only a few companies that make E-ink ebook readers with 9.7" screens, among them Onyx-International and PocketBook. Among the dozens of formats that the Onyx Boox M90 support are PDFs and CHMs. As a software engineer, I use it to mainly hold some reference books. As a comic book fan, I use it to read cbr and cbz files. The screen size is sufficient for reading all Worx and O'Reilly books. It's got a pretty big fan base in Europe and Asia, but not so much in the US. I actually heard about this device from an attorney friend who uses it to hold notes, exhibits, and opening statements. The Onyx-International M90 reader is the only one that is Linux-based (The GUI is QT). The company has a downloadable SDK that you can use to develop application. I heard that there's some games available for download online for it, but I've only played Sudoku on it. Aside from my experience, you should take a look at some online forums like MobileRead and see what others have to say about their experiences with the devices. Also, the M90 can be found almost anywhere, Amazon, eBay, and on their website at onyxboox.com.

Not e-ink (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 3 years ago | (#37137234)

I played with the Sony E-reader with the idea that I'd use it for bringing papers to read (yes, it's a Sony, but despite that the e-reader is quite open and format-agnostic).

In some ways it could work quite well: it has a mode that shows you one quarter of the page at a time, which fits very neatly with the typical two-column format. And the touch screen makes it natural to swipe around in the text.

But it has two downsides: it doesn't do color, which makes many illustrations unreadable. And there's no way to organize large amounts of papers - no good way to index them or search them.

Instead I'm going to get an Andy Pad Pro [andypad.co.uk] next month. The long format of Android tablets is a good fit for two-column papers. It's the same size as the Galaxy Tab, but with higher resolution screen, and cheap enough that I can justify getting it just as a tech toy even if it doesn't work out as a paper reader.

Which leads me to a question: anybody know of Android software to index PDF files? Or, optimally, a way to transfer papers directly from Zotero, keeping labels and notes intact? Not likely that last one, I know, but just in case...

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