Monday 30 May 2011

Desktop eBook Reader

I have finished up my review of the OpenLayers Beginner's Guide. The first hurdle was searching for a good eReader that would both let me read the book comfortably; and have it open next to a text editor while working through the examples. Little did I know this would prove a challenge!

So what are my options for reading on a Mac:

  • PDF: Traditional solution, only hesitation I have is based prior experience copying code examples out of a PDF document (tends to bring in garbage such as headers and footers.

    Still the default mac Preview application is very fast at displaying PDF content and the result looks great on screen.

  • PDF on Papers2: Ended up using Papers2 which is a bit of an overkill as it is really set up for sifting through hundreds of documents allowing you to cite passages and so on. This was a good way of checking that the PDF metadata was in order (or match it to a search result).

    It does have a nice full screen reader which is great if you enjoy a cupa while sifting through a title such as this one.

  • ePub on Calibre: Ended up downloading Calibre to check how ePub looks in practice.

    The result is easy to cut and paste from, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of readability. I also found the occasional "glitch" using this application ( lists appearing as "1. 1. ","2. 2." or tables being rendered with text floating on top of other text).

  • ePub converted to MOBI: This is another popular recommendation for mac users. Use Calibre to do the conversion, and then read the book on a Kindle (or with the Kindle application from the app store - although I could not sort out how to get that to work).

    I gave this one a go, and the result is nice and readable book on the kindle, while some of the formatting did not make it this is a good option for taking the book to a local coffee store.

  • Digital Editions: Against my better judgement I downloaded Adobe Digitial Editions to try a more professional ePub reader. The flash based installer really set my teeth on edge; the resulting application looked like a web page gone rouge and pretending to be an application. No application menu, custom scrollbar widget so I could not see how far along in the document I was and so forth.

    Digital Editions was not able to open up the zip file provided. Opening up the *zip* file in the finder produced the epub document for a brief second before it was unpacked in turn into a folder containing a MANIFEST and html pages (Which Digital Editions could not read either). While I could use an application like Pacifist here, able to point it at the epub document that Calbre unpacked allowing me to get something on screen.

    The result did display quickly with fewer glitches then the eReader built into Calibre.

  • ePub on Reader Libary Software: Sony provides a recommended reader which I am sure they intend for use with their own ebook readers. An initial improvement on Digital Editions was an actual installer, however it forced my computer to restart (really? are you sure you are just an ebook reader?).

    The application is similar to a housebroken version of Digitial Editions; while suffering from the same inability to unpack a zip file the result does behave like a mac application (help available in the application, it has a title bar and so on). The one really odd thing was the MASSIVE choice of font size; the above screen snap is actually set for XS (extra small).

  • ePub on Stanza: Nice Drag and Drop installer this time. However the result was scary with no trace of formatting. While I am sure this is a design decision well suited to novels it renders a technical book of this nature useless.

End Result, ePub may be the future of publishing, but at least on a Mac the future is out of reach - stick with PDF. To make this setup productive I needed to go grab a second monitor; one for the book and one to work in.

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