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.

9 Comments

  1. gnowk says:

    I was looking for a good PDF reader for the iPad as well. Goodreader (iPad version) really fits the bill and then some. No more conversions. Try their lite version (ipod/iphone) to get an idea of what it can do.

    read more here:
    http://www.macworld.com/article/150305/2010/04/goodreader_ipad.html

  2. Gnowk, thanks for the link. I did not find a free version of the iPad ready GoodReader. But I tried the the free Lite version and liked it well enough that I immediately bought the pay version of GoodReader and really Ike it a lot. Again thanks for the link.

  3. robinson says:

    Alas, over at the LexCycle site, they’re saying that they’re not doing an upscale version of Stanza for the iPad!!

    No doubt, that’s because of their acquisition by Amazon.

  4. Wow – that is too bad about Stanza.

    Someone told me today they liked software called Papers – http://mekentosj.com/papers/ – it is $42 and has a desktop and iPad version – http://mekentosj.com/papers/iphone/ for $15 more. That is pretty pricey for me – but it looks like it is pretty good stuff and I am guessing the market will drive that price down over time.

    For now I am happy enough with GoodReader for the next few months and it was only 99 cents – so it is in my price range.

  5. sean says:

    Wow. Apple is so close minded and paranoid. They have the ultimate e-reader killer in their hands and they can’t even provide a flash drive and a PDF reader. I guess $teve Job$ wants to control every book in existance and sell it to you in the iText store.

  6. Stuart says:

    The developer of Papers said they are adding syncing through iTunes asap. After that, you will not need the desktop app.

  7. Ed Samiljan says:

    Will the readers allow you to make a folder and file system for speedy recovery of a single document ? Have 600 documents in PDF that I want to be able to retrieve easily and quickly.
    Thanks

  8. John Frum says:

    Please enlighten me, because I’m missing something here. I’ve been converting PDFs to epub format using Stanza (and testing Calibre for the job), then syncing them to my iPad via iTunes. They open in iBooks just fine. What’s with all the comments about having to use Stanza to read them, about Steve Jobs being greedy, and so forth?

    I also use GoodReader for PDFs, but by and large PDFs aren’t books. Between iBooks and GoodReader, with PDF editors on the horizon, the tools one might need appear to be at hand. And the one Apple provides, that reads user-generated epubs, is free.

  9. Ryan says:

    Air Sharing HD actually does a really nice job as a PDF reader on the iPad even though that’s not it’s primary goal. What really cinches it for me is that Air Sharing remembers my last page read in each PDF! Its also extremely easy to get documents onto the iPad via WiFi using this app.