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As more and more books appear in electronic form, I'm looking for a way to actually read them. Just staring at the PDFs on screen isn't enough. I want to:

  • Highlight important parts and put notes and bookmarks there.
  • Have some kind of synchronization mechanism, since I use one computer at work and a couple of others at home and of course I want to see my annotations in both places.
  • All this should preferably be cross-platform (Windows and Linux at least).

Is there anything - possibly an on-line service - that would fulfill these needs? Foxit reader has good annotation capabilities, but only on Windows, and no way to sync anything. Perhaps the sync thing could be accomplished by (mis)using some version control service like GitHub, but it feels a bit clumsy. Or then of course I could store all my books in an USB stick, but...

Any ideas/experiences?

Edit: I found that Foxit Reader 3.0 works quite well under Wine in Ubuntu. Add Dropbox to that, and there it is... Everything I asked for :-)

Foxit Reader 3.1 seems crash with Wine, but 3.0 works flawlessly so far.

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I fear you ask too much, but it surely is interesting –  Ivo Flipse Sep 29 '09 at 11:11
    
this is what my kindle 3 keyboard do. -- plus it removes the eye strains from staring by removing [that glowing, evil, lcd version of] screen. (semi-off: glad crts are not around here anymore. poor people who are still forced to use it. once-if the refresh-rate and color-count goes up for einks, it will happen with lcds, too, at least in part.) –  naxa Jul 1 '13 at 19:02
    
also note that kindle3 is suboptimal for pdfs. but there are some nicer more modern approaches like Kobo Aura HD what has much improvement over pdf. I do not own one so check for its note-taking capabilities, though. –  naxa Jul 1 '13 at 19:09
    
the pros for a physical ebook reader apart from the fact that it won't tire your eyes, is that you will want to carry it aroudn with yourself so it's always there, and privately so. :) it has great uptime like weeks to a month. a neutral thing is the refresh rate if you ask me - after a couple of days usage it comes down to doesn't even matter. the algorith and cpu performance behind what is apparent is what really changes the experience imho. the cons are the lack of colors, and book-wise navigation is often not solved well (due uncareful algorithm choices, implementation, and limited power). –  naxa Jul 1 '13 at 19:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can store your books on Dropbox.

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I think that Evernote has capabilities close to your needs.

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Yes, if we can copy paste some portion from PDF then it is possible to use Evernote with ebooks. –  Mahesh Sep 29 '09 at 13:37
    
So would you copy paste the whole ebook into Evernote and then read it from there? –  Joonas Pulakka Sep 30 '09 at 10:24

After struggling with the ebook thing for a few years now, I've given up and just print out as necessary. Ebooks just aren't there yet compared to paper.

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do you own an eink ebook reader device, some good one? einks do well for me. Your struggle may come from lcds. There are 3 things what remains superior in physical copies beyond sentimental reasons, it's that the physicals inherently stand as a clear overview and a "more than intuitive" navigation. designers of ebook readers had not came up with a way to redeem these. the other thing is that annotations are quick and free-form on physicals, compared to devices. but apart from these important points, I think you just need an eink display instead of the lcd, and a reflowable format book. –  naxa Jul 1 '13 at 19:23
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Yes, I own an e-ink reader, with reflowable text. Want to buy it? It's for sale! :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Jul 1 '13 at 20:07
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good! then I would be interested in your points/reasons, what are you dissatisfied. (not due to fanboyism but because I'm interested.) btw. what model do you sell? ^_^ –  naxa Jul 1 '13 at 22:23

I've been reading books on my iPhone. There's some nice apps for that. I can't interact with them (other than leaving bookmarks), but I've found I prefer technical books on paper.

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The Stanza iPhone app allows you to add annotations to eBooks. –  jwaddell Oct 1 '09 at 23:21
    
Is it possible to read the same (annotated) books on a computer too, or is Stanza limited to the iPhone? –  Joonas Pulakka Oct 2 '09 at 8:27

Time has passed since 2009.

Today eink-based devices do good for your eyes, just as good as paper.

PDFs are a terrible format for viewing on small screens, that's why you actually need a reflowable ebook format like epub3 with a device that supports it (epub2 is more supported today wastly, but that's reflowable too).

That said, a modern eink-based ebook reader device will try to salvage your pdf usage with something called "pdf reflow" (which are just random tricks actually, but often effective), or "pdf columns" (same remark).

For example, an ebook-reader like Kobo Aura HD improves on pdf navigation by a mini-map, and has the tricks mentioned above.

For annotations, these are best kept on your private device what is always near you anyway (as it is the "screen"). Just like a real book! For example, my Kindle v3 does annotations. Check other readers, most should too! I use them all the time.

Talking about screens: except it's not glowing, so it keep your eyes calm! This is very important. I can't stand reading anything on lcd. I think it's a terrible idea too. Einks are cool for your eyes (in a good sense).

That said, physical books still have advantages not repeated anywhere in the digital world, and particularly unsolved on eink devices:

  • physicals being a "clarity of overview" - visually, and, damn, physically!
  • physicals are the "natural existence" of navigaiton. I call it "more than intuitive" because it is what it is. Your brain expects real-world points and qualities for navigation, like weight and breadth - physical books are that, devices cannot be that (something needs to be invented instead).
  • physicals are annotated freely and instantly, effortlessly, joyously. devices suck (but does some of the job).

It must be noted that there is a great difference between reading on lcd and eink. Einks are like real books, you can read them all day. Lcds will tire your eye just as anything you do on monitors. Remember crts? What crts were to lcds - that kind of difference.

The eink devices you keep always around, and they have a usual uptime of weeks to month.

My personal advice that don't try to use the eink ebook reader for something else, ie. don't try to make a tabletpc out of it. Treat it like it were a book. That's because while these devices struggle to be a competition to tablets, it's just an effort in vain because wifi kills uptime for example. Also check carefully for pdf capabilities, international support, annotation, and maybe folder support. Try to test it before you buy it at any cost if you have the chance (eg. we have this CES-like day events for ebooks what tries to popularize them, or just walk in a shop that sells them if you could.)

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+1, time has definitely passed! –  Joonas Pulakka Jul 2 '13 at 7:47

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