Reading eBooks – Finding the right reader

Over the years, I have started doing more and more of my reading on electronic devices. In the PC era, Adobe PDF was the format of choice for delivering and reading e-books. But with the variety of devices and form factors in use now, there has been a shift towards ePub and mobi formats. These formats offer reflowable content, rather than fixed pages of PDF. PDF is more suited for printing while ePub and Mobi are focused on making documents readable on different screen sizes. I explored various options for consuming ePub files on PC, Mac and tablets including Apple’s iBooks, Adobe Digital Editions, Calibre, Readium and others.

iBooks

I found Apple’s iBooks to be the most pleasing to use. It has the right options in just the right places. It is available on Mac OS and iOS. But the drawback is: there is no option to get your notes and highlights out of iBooks and take them with you to, let’s say, a Windows machine. There is a third party software that extracts notes and bookmarks out of iBooks but it only works on iPad and iPhone, not on Mac. Due to this limitation I dropped the idea of using iBooks.

Adobe Digital Editions

Digital Editions is available for both Mac and Windows. It stores the notes and highlights in a separate file at C:UsersDocumentsMy Digital EditionsAnnotations. DropBox can be used to sync these files across Mac and Windows. ADE was the first software I downloaded and might not have gone further to try any other reader but there is a bug in current version of ADE (v 2.0.1) which compelled me to look elsewhere. The text rendering is terrible if you keep your side bar open. It took me some time to figure this out that the side bar is causing the awful rendering of text. Side bar contains things like notes and bookmarks, if you keep it closed then the content is rendered properly.

Others

I wanted to try Amazon Kindle also, it is available for all popular desktop and mobile platforms. But Amazon doesn’t allow Kindle downloads outside United States and few other countries.

I tried a few other readers available on internet but all of them suffer from one of the two shortcomings. Either they are buggy and have not been updated for a long time or they don’t provide the functionality to take notes and highlight content while reading.

Finally

After looking at these alternatives, I decided to continue with my current method:
– Use PDF files, this ensures that all my notes and highlights are within the book and can be easily moved around
– Sync PDF which I am reading currently through Google Drive or DropBox

Besides popular DropBox, Google Drive and SkyDrive, a nice cloud sync option is acrobat.com which offers about 10 GBs of free cloud storage. On the positive side, it is integrated with Adobe Acrobat Reader which is available for all desktop and mobile platforms. But the synchronisation is not as robust as DropBox and others.

In case, I just have the ePub file, Calibre is a good tool to convert to PDF and to many other formats for that matter. I found it to be better than other options like www.zamzar.com/convert/epub-to-pdf/‎. Calibre is a ePub reader also but it doesn’t allow note taking.

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