Reading textbooks on an Android tablet
August 14, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

If I get a Google Nexus 7, will I be able to use it to reliably read textbooks? My college primarily uses Pearson textbooks for the courses I'm taking. Does anyone have experience with those textbooks on an Android tablet?

Friends of mine have used iPads for their textbooks, but the cost of an iPad is beyond my reach. A Nexus 7, however, is something I can afford! I'd love to be able to carry all my books in a tablet. I don't want to invest in it, though, and find out that I won't really be able to use it for the primary reason I'm buying it.

The reviews for the Pearson eText app on Google's Play store are not inspiring, but it looks like the app basically works—it's just sluggish. Do you have experience with reading Pearson textbooks on an Android tablet? What's it like?
posted by ocherdraco to Education (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, I work at Pearson, but I don't know much about androids. I just wanted to let you know that we have ebooks, of course, but also the less high tech option of PDF versions.

I'm assuming that the tablet you are eyeing has Internet access, so if you have the tech component to your books (My Labs, Mastering, etc) you should be able to access the ebook through that as well.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:49 PM on August 14, 2012

I've just read a large series of PDFs on the Nexus 7. The built in PDF reader was more than adequate for me.

You'll probably want to read in landscape instead of portrait, depending on the font size in the documents.
posted by Jerub at 2:51 PM on August 14, 2012

Oh, hey, chatongriffes, I didn't know PDFs were available! That would do for me nicely. Where can I find those?
posted by ocherdraco at 2:55 PM on August 14, 2012

You might want to try it out with PDFs and other docs that you'll use regularly. My iPad is great at reading PDFs that aren't too complex, but lesser-powered tablets, like my Kindle, do not work so well. Part of that, too, is the Kindle's smaller screen requiring smaller font sizes to show the same text, which I mention since the Kindle and Nexus have the same form factor. You might also wait a few weeks. There may be an announcement of an iPad mini that is the same size as the Nexus 7 (and likely similar pricing). That would give you another option to test.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:13 PM on August 14, 2012

You should be able to find it on the higher Ed website by searching the title and looking at alternate versions listed.

Menial me if you have trouble. I work in the sciences and it may not be the same across disciplined.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:15 PM on August 14, 2012

The Nexus is fine for reading PDF's, if you can go that way, I haven't read textbooks on it, but have read several other large books and graphic novels and it's fine for that, though like already mentioned it is easier to read them in landscape. There are a lot of free PDF apps to try out from at the Google Play store too.

BTW Nexus 7's are great, accidentally left mine on the roof of my car when I drove off the other day, came back 15 minutes later to find it sitting in the gutter. It still worked and only had a small ding on one corner.
posted by wwax at 3:20 PM on August 14, 2012

I have some experience reading technical/academic PDFs on various Kindle devices, and my Kindle DX (9.7") screen is definitely superior to my Kindle Fire (7" screen) readability-wise for that purpose. I'd consider getting a larger-screen tablet if possible, maybe like a 9.7" or 10" android. Looks like there might be a 10" Kindle Fire coming out very soon, so you might want to wait for that.
posted by shivohum at 4:07 PM on August 14, 2012

Reading a PDF on a 7" is not optimal, you will be able to see only ~1/3 the page at a time.

For a primary reading device, I would definitely look into a 10" device. Crop the margins and you can get a full readable page without scrolling.

You can get Android 10" tablets for around the Nexus 7 price. (the Acer 10.1" was on sale for $200 yesterday)
posted by wongcorgi at 4:21 PM on August 14, 2012

I use a 7" screen for reading pdfs and epub and have been completely happy with the experience.
posted by drezdn at 4:23 PM on August 14, 2012

This highly depends on your discipline. If your textbooks tend to be printed in a smaller format or with mostly text then you'll be better off, on the other hand if you have mostly large pages with large, complicated graphics (the kind that are too large no matter which way you turn the screen) then it's a headache. The Kindle Fire screen area is almost the same as a 4x6" photo, so if you have one of those handy you can hold it up to your book and see how much you'd need to scale by. I believe the Nexus 7 has a similar screen. (I found my KF to be plenty fast enough even with enormous PDFs, just physically small.)
posted by anaelith at 5:07 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can get those textbooks via, you will be able to read them. For several semesters, I've read my textbooks from there on a larger Android tablet (ASUS transformer) as well as a small Android phone (Nexus One). The phone is of course small and not optimal, but in a 1-page format held the wide way, it is totally possible. The 7 will be somewhere in between.

Coursesmart has most textbooks and you can get a free trial of each book to check it out. I ended up going through them because I was frustrated by publishers not being able to guarantee whether books would work or not (and most did not have trials/refunds). The only thing is, so far I haven't gotten Coursesmart's offline mode to work on Android (it's meant for computers using Firefox - I tried to trick it w/ Firefox on Android but no luck).

Here's what I'd do - sign up for a free trial of a Coursesmart book, go to a store which carries the Nexus 7 and try accessing it from their demo device. That's how I tried my tablet/book combo before buying...
posted by beyond_pink at 7:13 PM on August 14, 2012

The doc reader (I'm using Aldiko) is fine for text but as soon as you add graphics it seems to choke a bit and not preserve settings like preferred day/night colors. Example: I have an illustrated .epub of "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" and the illustrations are black on white regardless of the coloration settings. I have no idea what happens to color illustrations yet.

There is no sluggishness in any app for the Nexus I have found.
posted by jet_silver at 9:24 PM on August 14, 2012

7" is pretty cramped for anything outside of light reading, especially if these textbooks have graphics and diagrams. You can get a 10" Asus Transformer for $399. If that's too expensive you can still manage with a 7" you'll just need to get used to holding it in landscape mode and scrolling a lot.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:58 AM on August 15, 2012

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