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eReading Room

I Love Reading: EPUB and PDF

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For the first part of this series, I want to talk about a few of the formats commonly used for reading digital text as well as the tools — software and devices — we can use to read them.

Library ebooks are available in EPUB, PDF, and Kindle format. The Library also subscribes to hundreds of databases, some of which will allow you to download articles or page images for personal use in PDF format.

Jump to files and formats:

Jump to software and devices: on Mac or PC, iPad, Kindle, Android Device.

Formats

The difference between EPUB and PDF

It helps to think of a PDF as a snapshot of a page in a physical book or journal. Bursunsul and Paskualina is a PDF ebook. It is both picture-heavy and in Cyrillic text.Bursunsul and Paskualina is a PDF ebook. It is both picture-heavy and in Cyrillic text.Charts, images, and diagrams will appear the same way they appear in the printed book. This is great for picture books as well as others where the design is key; it is also the main option for ebooks in non-Roman text (such as Chinese). You can jump to a page and it will be the same as in the print version. If you enlarge the page, you are zooming in to a section; this sometimes makes it not a practical option for people with low vision.

 The Nature and Future of Creativity by Lawrence Lessig, in EPUB format, is shown here in different text sizes.Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity by Lawrence Lessig, in EPUB format, is shown here in different text sizes.With EPUB, the emphasis is on the text itself. You can resize the text in either direction, to make short pages with large text or long pages with tiny text (this is referred to as "reflow").

I know you're probably saying, what about Kindle? Amazon uses a proprietary format based on Mobipocket (MOBI), which was initially developed for PDAs and other mobile devices. Kindle format is very similar to EPUB in the way text displays.

For additional formats in varying degrees of obscurity, see Wikipedia's comparison.

Borrowing library ebooks

Start by browsing our ebook catalog (also integrated in our full catalog) to find ebooks in EPUB, PDF, and Kindle format. All of our ebooks are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). What this means is that at the end of the lending period, the files are no longer accessible to you (they can't be opened and read) unless you check them out again. You also can't send them to a friend to read, or post them on the Internet for anyone to grab. Part of the checkout process is verifying your access to the file. For Kindle books this means Amazon keeps track of the file associated with your account; for EPUB and PDF this is managed through your Adobe ID, which you have to sign up for when you start using Adobe Digital Editions on your computer or OverDrive Media Console on your mobile device.

Other reading material you can get from the Library besides ebooks

We have hundreds of databases. Here's where you might want to start your research (or reading). Depending on which one you're using and what you end up finding, you may be able to save an article, reference book entry, or newspaper image as a PDF or plain text or HTML. These are all DRM-free (with the understanding that you are using them for personal research only.) How to get them on your iPad or Kindle? Read on.

Public domain ebooks

Love reading Twain, Dickens, Austen, Poe? You can always read these authors for free and without worrying about DRM. If you're doing research in publications from before 1923, a great deal has been digitized through Internet Archive, Google Books, and Hathi Trust. Brooke did a good job covering some of the options already; to see another rundown of various channels see the free ebooks section in eBook Central. Basically many of these sites let you choose your format — whichever you prefer or works best with your device.

Comics, Graphic Novels and Manga

Ambitions of 3 Tokugawa Generations Vol.2, viewed here using Adobe Digital EditionsAmbitions of 3 Tokugawa Generations Vol.2, viewed here using Adobe Digital EditionsI did not forget about you, readers of comics! We do have these materials in eNYPL, mostly in PDF and Kindle format. You can learn more about comic-specific formats and software at the MobileRead Wiki.

Software and Devices

On a computer

You can use Adobe Digital Editions to read and manage both protected (DRM) and unprotected PDF and EPUB files. Under Library, use the drop down to select Add Item to Library. Then you can transfer your files to your Nook, Kobo, or Sony Reader if you want.

Calibre is another tool that can be used to manage an ebook library. It can sync files to your device and import metadata (Title, Author, Date Published) about your books to help keep them organized. It can also convert files that are not protected by DRM to other formats.

Cropping a PDF with PDF ScissorsCropping a PDF with PDF ScissorsPDF files are sometimes easier to view on e-readers when extra white space in margins is cropped. Tools for cropping include: PDFScissors, Briss, OSX Preview, GoodReader for iOS, and Adobe Acrobat.

On an iPad

For library ebooks, you'll either use OverDrive Media Console or the Kindle app for the most seamless experience with DRM files. Otherwise, the default reader for non-DRM PDF and EPUB is iBooks. If you'd prefer a different way to manage your files, here are some alternatives:

  • GoodReader - Mashable called it “a Swiss Army knife of awesome;" it is definitely a Swiss Army knife for managing files of any type. It handles large files well, and allows you to mark up PDFs and crop margins.
  • Bluefire Reader (free) - supports Adobe DRM, so you can read both library and DRM-free PDF and EPUB.
  • Dropbox (free) - simple, no frills cloud storage, lets you share with others and between devices easily.
  • Evernote (free) - billed as a note-taking application, lets you easily save photos and webpages in addition to files.

If you have one or more of these installed, when you select Open In... you will be given a choice where to open and save your file. (Again, with library ebooks, the only option you will see is OverDrive Media Console.)

On a Kindle

On an Android Device

PDF reading and management in Android, all free:

For more reading app suggestions, see "A catalog of Android reading apps," dearauthor.com

Phew, that was a lot! Just a reminder this post is not an endorsement of any particular software product or device, but an informational resource with many options for you to explore. If you love reading PDF, MOBI, EPUB, or CBR, please ask questions or share your experiences in the comments. Next week I'll talk about reading news, blogs and Twitter for up-to-the-second information.

Comments

Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Thanks Lauren!

Thanks Lauren!

So helpful!

This is really helpful when choosing to download formats to eReaders! When I had my Sony Reader (and I don't know if this is still the case with newer Sonys), you could only have one format downloaded on your eReader at a time. So if I was reading an ePub book I couldn't have a PDF format on it at the same time.

interesting... hadn't heard

interesting... hadn't heard of that problem before. Thanks for the tip Kerri! More discussion here: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=68463

If you have a digital reader

If you have a digital reader that is only compatible with ePub files and you want to convert your PDFs to the ePub format, you will need to use certain tools to help. I know that Calibre converts files into a variety of formats for various e-readers, but i still prefer to use other tools since they are easier to use. Here i'd like to share the one i use frequently, that is iPubsoft PDF to ePub Converter: http://www.ipubsoft.com/pdf-to-epub-converter-for-mac/convert-adobe-pdf-to-epub-on-mac.html In addition, its eBook tool series really helped me a lot in solving the formats problems i meet daily!

If you have a digital reader

If you have a digital reader that is only compatible with ePub files and you want to convert your PDFs to the ePub format, you will need to use certain tools to help. I know that Calibre converts files into a variety of formats for various e-readers, but i still prefer to use other tools since they are easier to use.

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