What's the best ebook reader for pdfs
November 4, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

What's the best ebook reader for pdfs (especially journal articles)?

I know this has been asked before, but the market is changing so rapidly that I hope you won't mind my asking it again. I gather that none of the current crop of readers is perfect for pdfs, but I need something, and I'm willing to put up with some limitations, especially if the price is right (say around $150). Please don't suggest an iPad; I know they are wonderful machines, but I just can't afford one. I can cope with fairly small text.
posted by kitfreeman to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It's been about a year since I last compared the different e-readers, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but the Sony Reader series was for a long time probably the best mainstream option for people who needed to view PDFs. There are some other drawbacks compared to the Nook & Kindle, but surprisingly, the PRS models from Sony all support open standards like .epub and PDF.

The only problems I've run into with my two-year old Sony Reader is that rendering can sometimes be slow, depending on the size of the PDF, and text can be hard to read if the creator used some odd formatting, but otherwise, it's a respectable solution. It's quite possible that firmware upgrades have remedied some of these issues on the new hardware, as well.

And one last thing: I don't know if aesthetics play any part in your decision, but I'm partial to Sony because their e-readers are sleek and well-designed - they don't look hideously ugly like some other e-readers(*cough*Kindle*cough*).
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 10:13 AM on November 4, 2010

I bought (and love) the Kindle DX for the sole purpose of its screen size. All of my journal articles are loaded onto it and even the tables and graphs are very crisp. The newer version has an updated screen I believe. In fact, give me a few minutes and I'll upload some sample images.
posted by Upal at 10:22 AM on November 4, 2010

You may want to look into the nookColor that was just announced and see if there are any videos of demos on the web showing a pdf beind rendered.

Sony Readers are still a bit slow with rendering PDFs, as suggested by Despondent Monkey, but the speed with which a Kindle or Nook renders it doesn't make it anymore readable.

A Kindle DX may be a bit too high for the price range you stated, but so would the nookColor ($250). However, if either of those devices offer other features that you could find useful and worth shelling out for, it may not be bad to invest a little more to get a "Half-Pad"
posted by Angulimala at 10:34 AM on November 4, 2010

Only if you have one already, have you tried the iPhone readers? They're fantastic, and I read all my pdf docs on them. (The benefit there being no outlay of cash on a reading-specific device.) Otherwise, all the people I know in book publishing use the Kindle—but that may be just because it was first to that market.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2010

Best answer: Images. Overlooked your price point :\ Kindle DX is currently 359.
posted by Upal at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2010

My Sony Touch does a nice job with pdf files. But I mostly read them on my Droid with a pdf reader application.
posted by bearwife at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2010

I'm usually hesitant about single purpose devices, but I haven't loved a gadget like I love my (wifi, e-ink version) nook, which was right at your price point. It handles pdf's reasonably well, and epub is the native format it reads.
posted by hominid211 at 12:32 PM on November 4, 2010

It's not the cheapest or best all-round ebook reader out there, but the Foxit Software people know a thing or two about PDFs that they aren't sharing. Not great for a number of formats (though I have yet to upgrade to the latest ROM) but outstanding for PDFs.
posted by mhoye at 12:32 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, I've found the regular Kindle to be just as nice, but I went with the nook because it was in the period when Amazon was changing models and for the instant gratification of being able to just go to B&N and buy one.
posted by hominid211 at 12:34 PM on November 4, 2010

Best answer: I have something that might be a 7" G10 Android tablet (they're all knock-offs so there's no way to really know what apad you're ending up with, but I'm 98% sure it's a G10, though I paid a bit more for mine). I adore it. There are tons of PDF apps for Android and while I generally use EPUB files, PDFs look great and render quickly. Plus it can be used for tons of other stuff. There are obviously drawbacks to something so inexpensive- the battery life is not great and the resistive screen might take a bit getting used to, but overall, it's wonderful. I paid over twice as much for my iPod Touch and I never pick it up anymore.
posted by eunoia at 12:47 PM on November 4, 2010

Oops, my tablet has HDMI so it's probably not the G10.
posted by eunoia at 1:07 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm not sure why no one here recommended the Nook. I travel a lot and can easily load it up from any computer anywhere. The image is clear, the device is easy to use, and if you use the free program Calibre, you can convert any PDF to ePUB (Nook format). It's a breeze and for me, unquestionably the best in its class, hands-down.
posted by mateuslee at 3:04 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm going to second the above recommendation for the nook Color that was just announced (but not yet released), not the original nook. It uses a LCD screen, not e-ink, so it should be able to render PDFs very accurately. All of the e-ink devices may struggle to convert your PDFs into something that's pleasant to read.
There are a lot of these Android tablets coming out now, but the nook Color is specifically intended to be an ebook reader, so it may have some advantages in the design and user interface.
posted by upplepop at 7:09 PM on November 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the suggestions, and especially to Upal for uploading the images. The Kindle DX certainly renders 2-col articles very nicely, but I think I'd miss not having a touch screen. I'm very tempted by the cheap Android tablets eunoia suggests. They may be knock-offs, but the technology is developing so rapidly that anything one buys will soon be obsolete anyway.

Thanks again.
posted by kitfreeman at 3:13 PM on November 5, 2010

I have the exact same question with one major addition: I need to be able to make notes on my PDFs. Are there *any* readers which will let you do that, and what kind of interfaces are available?

I am an academic and have to read tons of PDFs every year, which I have been printing out, but I'm so tired of sorting those fuckers and lugging them around. I'm looking for some way to manage in Zotero as a to-read queue, and then pipe PDFs to my device.
posted by gusandrews at 11:48 AM on December 9, 2010

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