Getting a Book on a Reader: Why Is This So Hard

I’m working on a research project that has me reading a lot of oral history transcripts from the computer History Museum (a fabulous resource, by the way.) And I’ll be spending a lot of time on airplanes in the next few days. So I thought it would be nice to be able to do my reading on either my Kindle 2 or my iPad.

I tried the Kindle first. I connected it to a PC and dragged one of the transcripts, which are in PDF format, into the documents folder on the Kindle. Sure enough, the transcript appeared immediately as a “book” on my home page.Unfortunately, the Kindle fits each PDF document page to the screen of the device, rendering the text unreadable. If I had a Kindle DX, it probably would work, but not joy on the Kindle 2.

The PDF would probably work on the bigger screen of the iPad’s Kindle Reader, but if there is a way to sideload a PDF into the iPad’s Kindle library, I couldn’t figure it out. And unlike books from the Kindle bookstore, sideloaded content does not move from one device to another over WhisperSync.

So I decided to the Apple’s iBook app. I used Calibre, a free open-source e-book formatting program, to convert the PDF to the ePub format the iPad wants. Then, following the directions, I dragged the converted book to the iPad’s Books folder in iTunes. Each time I tried this, iTunes crashed. I could use

I know there are other format conversion programs, and I’ll get around to trying them, but I have run out of time for this little project. Stanza might work, if they do an iPad version. For now, I guess I’ll have to settle for reading the documents in the iPad as in PDF Reader Pro  or on a laptop in Acrobat Reader. Neither is a very satisfactory solution, but at least you don;t have to scroll pages.

Apple really should make it much easier to get content, including user-created content, onto the iPad. Until they do, the iPad will not live up to its potential even as a content consumption  device, unless your idea of content consists solely of things available  in iTunes or the iBook store.

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8 Responses to “Getting a Book on a Reader: Why Is This So Hard”

  1. Theo Francis Says:

    Can’t you email the docs to your Amazon Kindle account? True, the conversion costs 15 cents a MB, but if you only have a few, that’s not a huge amount. Of course, Amazon does call PDFs an “experimental” file format… Details:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630#email

  2. Theo Francis Says:

    Never mind — I just realized that doesn’t get past the ugly formatting problem.

  3. Rich Repplier Says:

    Apple probably will make it easier to get content onto the iPad. Remember, it’s a very new product.

  4. sikina Says:

    What about the not yet released Que from Plastic Logic. Their website and previews make it sound like it might be the very thing you are looking for.

  5. Charlie Lu Says:

    Not sure if there’s a version for the iPad, but DropBox works quite well for me on the iPhone. Uploaded/Synchronized PDFs and PowerPoints render perfectly (and can be pinch-zommed). And once marked as “favorite,” a copy is saved locally on device for access without connection.

  6. swildstrom Says:

    @Sikina–The Plastic Logic Que is, in fact, pretty much purpose-built for what I have in mind. I just hope it makes it to market this summer and doesn’t turn out to be vaporware because it is a very promising product for the professional market.

  7. A Says:

    I like Goodreader for .PDF manuals on iPhone. Does great job and easy file transfer – though haven’t seen iPad version.

  8. 757rubicon Says:

    I agree with A. I have the GoodReader PDF app on my iPad. It is $1.99 in the app store. You can add the PDF file directly from iTunes and sync it into the app. The pages seem to load quickly and the app supports highlighting and note-taking.

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