Most of my programming books are from O'Reilly. Several of them need to be updated, and I'm thinking of going for an e-reader this time. O'Reilly sell their e-books as a multi-format bundle (PDF, EPUB and Mobipocket (Kindle)).

Has anyone done a comparison of the formats as for suitability on a small e-reader screen? In Europe, the Kindle DX is not (yet?) available, so I'm not sure whether a Kindle or a Sony (or some other reader) is best suited for these books. Disregarding other advantages/disadvantages of the different readers for now, which one in your opinion gives the best experience with O'Reilly books in particular (or programming books in general)?

  • not strictly computer related, but probably OK as long as it involves software Nov 22 '09 at 3:37

I am in a similar position as you. I have many programming books (including ones from O'Reily) and I am ready to replace them with an ereader of some kind. After looking at the choices out there I was not completely happy with any of the current readers. Instead, I decided to explore using my iPhone as an ebook reader for technical books.

I know you may think the iPhone could never match a true ereader. I felt the same way until I experimented with some of the ebook reader apps out there. I found a few that did exactly what I want.

My favorite is called GoodReader. If you have an iPhone, you should really purchase it for a few dollars before committing to an ereader. You can load any pdf into it very easily via wireless without having to deal with complex file transfers, etc. Unlike the built in iPHone pdf reader most pdf apps are based on this one has its own rendering engine that makes each page load correctly.

It is also very fast and has many built in features to offset the smaller screen size. Two of my favorites are: automatically sliding back to next "area" of a page when you get to the right edge and two "locks" - one that does not let you skip to the next or previous page without an extra drag and another that only allows vertical scrolling so you cannot accidentally move the page out of the text area.

If you have an iPhone (or another smartphone) I would give this a try before buying a dedicated ereader. If nothing else it could be an effective stopgap until a clear winner emerges in the ereader market.

  • 3
    'complex file transfers'??? +1 for making my day (NOT for the gadget you're recommending :)
    – Molly7244
    Nov 22 '09 at 1:36
  • Hm, interesting. I don't have an iPhone (still using my trusty old Palm T|X), might buy an iPod touch if it gets more than 64 GB one day... O'Reilly is offering several of their titles for less than 4 Euros, so that's another variable to consider. Nov 22 '09 at 9:03

This was one of the big questions I had before getting my Kindle, and I didn't go ahead with getting the Kindle until I was able to check out how the books are handled.

  • Anything where O'Reilly offer a Mobi version will of course be fine
  • The PDF versions are (even on the smaller screen of the Kindle 2) okay for me - the text is small in Portrait, but not unreadably small (although it couldn't get much smaller and still be comfortably readable) (but please note that my idea of "not unreadably small" seems to be smaller than most people's, so YMMV). In landscape, the text size is close to what it would be on paper, so it's perfectly readable (if you don't mind pressing 'next page' a lot).
  • The mobi versions are definitely preferred though: you can highlight and add your own notes, which you can't do to PDFs.

I'd been using my iPhone to read their books prior to getting the kindle, and overall I'm much happier with reading them on the kindle. Better searching, better annotating, bigger screen...

(On the other hand, the ability to read O'Reilly's books is secondary for me; I went with the kindle for purely subjective reasons - it seems slicker, the page turning feels nicer, and I feel like Amazon have a bigger range of fiction. For me, the technical books are just a nice-to-have, albeit a nice-to-have that would be a dealbreaker if absent. If technical books are what you primarily intend to read, something that supports EPUB as well as PDF and has a bigger screen might be a better choice)


I just found this thread as I am looking to purchase an eReader. With the iPad now out it added to the quantry. I believe I have decided to not get an iPad because of it's size and weight. I do not want all the bells and whistles it will offer since I have a perfect Sony Vaio with a 13" screen that bows the iPod out of the water for true computer ability and what I need it for. No, I want an eReader for my tech books and personal reading and perhaps magazines and newspapers, and I wat it small, light, portable. I do not own an iPhone so I cannot comment on that idea, and I do not expect to be buying one any time soon. Not that I dislike them, but I am located in Montana where we have limited choices of providers and none offer it. Since most of my tech books are O'Reilly ones, I decided to check the O'Reilly site to see if they could help on the decision, and YES. Check out http://oreilly.com/ebooks and they list all the formats and readers they work with!

In brief: •iPhone, iTouch — Grab the EPUB or PDF and read in the Stanza App, Bookworm, or the reader of your choice. •iPad — Download the EPUB format and read it on your iPad. •Android — Read the .apk or .EPUB on your favorite reader. •Kindle — Get the Mobipocket file and load it onto your Kindle. •Sony Reader — EPUBs work well on your Sony Reader. •Computer — Get either the EPUB or PDF. •Other Mobile Devices — Explore the EPUB with the mobile version of Bookworm.

Because the Kindle is not a standard open format, I am leaning to the Soney Daily Edition, though I wish it were a bit larger like the Kindle DX. Since I will make up my mind and buy my eReader by the end of June, my hope is that Sony with either announce a new one that is a bit larger that I can wait for, or Amazon will get off it's stinking high horse and update the Kindle to handle PDFs better and EPUB format. Either of those will spark my purchase rapidly.

  • I'm in the same boat as you. Which e-reader did you end up buying and are you happy with it?
    – Joe Schmoe
    Aug 16 '10 at 13:04

I also have a Safari Books Online subscription and was looking for the best device to read the content. I looked at many platforms including Sony eReader, Kindle, Kindle DX, Netbooks, etc ...

For me the iPad is far and away the best choice.

  1. The screen size is perfect for the content on Safari. I read in both Portrait and Landscape mode and both are excellent.
  2. The fact that the iPad also handles PDF documents is a huge bonus.
  3. The iPad is the right size without being too big. The browser is excellent and panning, zooming is a dream.
  4. The instant on capability is so much better than waiting for Windows to load
  5. The finger based navigation is great and lends itself to Safari's interface

    If there was improvement I would like it would be Flash support. Even though most of Safari's collection can be viewed in "HTML" mode there are some books that are "Flash" based only, which as I am sure everyone knows, is not "allowed" on the iPad thanks to Steve Job's insatiable ego. Also the favorites navigation does not seem to work on Safari on the iPad. I would expect Safari Bookshelf plans to work on these issues.

    I am no Apple "fan-boy" but I am really impressed with the iPad. For me it is the best for reading Safari Books Online as well as PDFs.

  • How are you feeling about Flash now? ;-) Dec 1 '16 at 22:46

I have bought a Kindle DX in early 2011 and have by now a couple dozen O'Reilly books on it. Most but not all books are available as Mobipocket files (some are only available as PDFs, especially those with complicated typesetting/layout, like the Head First series or slide:ology).

Where Mobipocket is available, the Kindle is very good as a reader, although in some books, illustrations are a bit problematic (for example, small diagrams are often scaled to the width of the display which makes them look very blocky, but I think this is a general problem with the Mobipocket format). It's also nice to see that problems (which rarely occur) are being fixed rapidly. For example, there were formatting errors in a book that caused some highlighted parts of code samples to become invisible; these were quickly fixed after I submitted a bug report.

The PDF versions look nice in general, and the DX screen is just large enough to display them in a readable way. The main drawback in using the Kindle with PDFs is that the Kindle can't use the Table of Contents of PDF files. I had hoped that this would be fixed in a future firmware update, but it doesn't seem like one would be forthcoming in the near future.


If you are interested in using a Kindle (ePaper, or Fire) or the Kindle app. The best option is to download your books in Mobi format. It is basically the same format that Amazon chose for their azw/kf8 files.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats#KF8_.28Amazon_Kindle.29 and http://www.booknook.biz/tips-tutorials/what-is-the-best-ebook-format-for-kindle

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