Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading electronic books - my personal experience.

Just wanted to share some notes on e-book reading. Over the last year and a half I've used 6 devices to work with books and articles.

iPhone 4
Macbook Pro 15
Amazon Kindle  2
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
HP 15' Laptop

Books and articles come in three main formats: epub, pdf, awz (Amazon proprietary). Displays differ in sizes and, more importantly, in pixel density (PPI.)

The best device for epub reading is iPhone with iBooks. The key here is pixel density (PPI) - the number of pixels per inch of screen. For iPhone 4 PPI is 326, which is as good as paper. All other devices have lower PPIs. Surprisingly, iPhone's small screen in portrait mode improves reading speed because it limits saccading (involuntary horizontal scanning of the page by your eyes.) iBooks software allows for easy highlighting, note taking, font scaling, etc.

If you want to use a tablet, Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a better choice than iPad 2 because of the higher PPI - 149 vs 132. Also, the default reader that comes with Android (eBook) has a decent text to speech converter, which helps continue reading when your eyes are tired or busy with something else, e.g. doing chores.

The e-Ink version of Kindle has a reasonable PPI = 167, but highlighting and making notes with their keyboard is pain. The device is best for reading fiction on the beach.

Regular computer displays are the worst, except when you have to read and make notes in pdfs. Unfortunately, all science and technology papers come in pdf format, which makes them hard to work with on electronic devices. So far, Mac has the best viewer software, but the overall experience is not great.

To summarize, my personal preferences for working with electronic texts based on PPI and reader software are as follows:

iPhone 4 (PPI = 326,  epub with iBooks)
Galaxy Tab 10.1 (PPI =149, epub with eBook with text to speech. pdf - ok)
MacBook 15 (PPI = 128, pdf with note taking) 
Kindle 2 (PPI 167. leisure reading. limited text to speech capabilities)

tags: tool, information, payload

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