Reading / Downloading PDF Books on the iPad or iPod

Update: Thanks to a savvy comment, I have now come across GoodReader. I purchased the full application with iPad support – and it is quite nice – it does a good job viewing and navigating and can download from the web. All in all a nice product and does a perfectly fine job of letting me read my PDF books on my iPad.

Original Post

TvWhile I was buying my second iPad, I was interviewed by the local Television station WLNS and so I may look like a total geek on the 11PM news after the basketball games are over. Here is the raw footage of the interview shot by Richard Wiggins.

Now that I own two iPads and got home and have been playing with mine while watching the basketball game, my first issue to figure out was how to get PDF books/files onto my iPad so I can treat the iPad like a book for PDF files I already own. I was able to use a couple of free file sharing tools – and they worked pretty well – they installed nicely and worked pretty easily.

Files Lite from Oliver Toast

mb Drive Free from mbpowertools

These both allowed me to mount my iPad as a WebDav drive and drag files (including PDF files) onto my iPad and then launch these files within the app on the iPad. The PDF viewer was a little better for Files Lite than for mb Drive free but neither really had anything other than a sequential flip-through the whole 900 page book mode. Flipping sequentially though these books as the only navigational mode is not acceptable.

I have gotten more excited about Stanza from LexCycle – this is a nice ebook reader that runs both on the desktop and on the iPad/iPod. It allows the downloading of a wide range of books form the Internet and allows synchronizing between the Desktop Stanza on Stanza on the iPod.

Stanza also converts from PDF to an EBook format and a bunch of other formats. This is an awesome feature all by itself. I loaded and converted my Python for Informatics and Jon Klienberg’s Networks, Crowds, and Markets. I downloaded both to my Stanza iPad reader.

And while Stanza kind of removes formatting from the PDF so technical bits are kind of compressed, but the rest of the material is quite readable. All in all I was completely impressed by Stanza Desktop’s conversion of PDF to ePub/eBook format – for free. Wow.

Now none of these applications have yet moved to be full-sized for the iPad so I was using them in 2X mode. I really look forward to Stanza in iPad native mode – it will be very impressive. And perhaps they will see fit to adjust their PDF conversion to detect when to keep some fixed formatting for things like code or math. I found the Stanza User interface a little tricky to get from screen to screen – such as the navigation from the page reading screen to the get books screen – I am guessing they will make a nicer navigation interface when they have more space on the iPad.

But all in all while I could not find a perfect solution, Stanza gives me hope that in a month or so, free books will be as welcome on the iPad as the paid-for books on the iBooks store.