Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reading PDFs on iPhone: Kindle vs iBooks

Over the years I've found myself reading more on the iPhone. This is driven by excellent free access to classic literature ebooks through Project Gutenberg

After going back to school in 2012 I realized there is a treasure trove of free academic material in large PDF's that I would never read in front a traditional PC screen. With my new digital reading patterns I began craving to read these on my iPhone. But the legacy 8.5 x 11 formatting of PDF's does not lend itself to readability on a 3.5" screen. The text is far to small, requiring constant zooming and scrolling.

This is a show stopper for longer documents.

Placing the device in landscape, combined with double tap to zoom offers a glimmer of hope. But as always, the devil is in the details.

Here's a standard PDF starting in landscape mode:

My digital reading habit began in the Kindle app on iOS devices before iBooks was released. Never having any reason to switch, I've stuck with the Kindle app.

In the Kindle app, double tapping anywhere on the text (or anywhere on the document for that matter) will zoom in only on the document itself (margin included):

On a 3.5" screen, this text is still unmanageable for extended reading; requiring constant finger pecking.

In iBooks, a double tap on text will zoom in past the margin, to the edge of the text that was tapped. It also subtly locks vertical scrolling, as if the zoomed state was the original size of the document.

This detail is a habit breaker. iBooks has become my new default reading app.