A Good Day

Thought it was about time I wrote a blog post (even if it is a short one).  I have to say I have had a rather good day today, something of a rarity since the arrival of my daughter and the stress that comes with it.  Sad though it is, I was quite pleased to see my name in The Guardian this morning in relation to a tip about reading PDF files on the Sony Reader.  In last week’s Ask Jack column, the following query was sent in:

Reading PDF ebooks

I have a load of books in PDF format. Can you recommend any portable gadget with a USB port that would be suitable for a reader?
Joe Donegan

Jack replied:

Many ebook readers will read Adobe PDF books, according to the grid at mobileread.com. From those, the Sony Reader would seem to be your best bet: it can read PDF files, has a USB port, and is available from Sony UK for £199. However, PDF is a horrible format for books, and your PDF files may not be formatted for the Sony’s 6in screen, or any portable ebook screen. Reading full pages at a percentage of the original size will make the type smaller.

Foxit is about to launch its own reader called eSlick, which is now on pre-order for $259.99 (£170), plus $29 for shipping to the UK. The site says: “View all your PDF files as well as convert any printable document to PDF, which can be viewed on the eSlick. Foxit’s eSlick comes with free software: Foxit Reader Pro Pack and Foxit PDF Creator.” As an alternative, some portable media players will read PDF files, such as the Archos models, and Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) loaded with Bookr, a free PDF reader. However, these have smaller screens than the Sony Reader, so reading PDFs is likely to be even more inconvenient.

If the books are plain text, and not copy protected, try converting them to a more flexible type of file such as Rich Text Format (RTF). Otherwise, the cost of an ebook reader is not much different from the cost of a basic netbook such as the Acer Aspire One or Asus Eee PC, though you could pay more for an Eee PC 1000H or 1000HE, Samsung NC10 etc, with a bigger 10in screen. A netbook would be bigger and heavier, but you’d get a much more powerful and versatile device for the money. If you have found a better solution, please let us know.

Fortunately, thanks to the joys of Twitter, I had come across a solution that might address the problem of reading PDFs on Sony Readers.  A little while back, @carolineroche had pointed out a handy little website that can help address this problem.  Lib2Go enables you to uploads a PDF file and convert it into a format that is more easily readable by the Sony Reader.  However, it only really seems to work with single column PDFs.  Anything divided into two or more columns still causes problems, and if the PDF has a header or footer it will appear in the middle of the text, but the overall flow is not disrupted to the same extent as files that are not converted.  Anyway, it is a very worthwhile tool and I have found it very useful with converting journal articles which saves wasting loads of paper.

Anyway, I sent Jack the information about this website via email and, much to my eternal pleasure, my little tip was published in the paper.  So sad that I get such pleasure from these things, but given that my debut in The Guardian was just over a month ago when a silly letter of mine was published, I am pleased to get something more serious in print.  Now, if only I had an M&S cupcake to celebrate my 15mins…….


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