A few months ago I wrote about two distinct ways of reading your pile of papers for your seminars: using an e-reader or printing everything out. After starting as a hi-tech reader, I experimented with the paper solution last semester and in this post I will explain some of my feelings about this experience and the reasons why I moved back to PDFs this year.
As I had pointed out in my previous post, the main disadvantage of papers becomes clear when the pile starts to build up. Indexing and storing printouts is not as easy as doing the same with their PDF counterparts and a good reference manager. Let alone the cost of printing, which can build up easily to about $400 per term depending on the courses you’re taking.
When it was time to write the term papers and refer back to all the readings, in many occasions I found myself looking for my annotations that were made on the printed version only, which was time consuming and also meant that I needed to do this kind of work in one place only (e.g. my office), unless I wanted to carry my papers back and forth. Another option would be to scan these papers back with all the annotations, but that would mean I would either keep two copies of the PDF, or I would lose the search functionalities had I decided to keep only the scanned one. And, of course, I would still have to do the manual labor of scanning all those pages.
So I decided it was time to get back to where I started and become once again a hi-tech reader. In that meantime, I realized that there was some good progress on reader apps that improved the reading/annotating experience and made synchronizing with Dropbox even easier. My current pick is GoodReader. My previous choice was iAnnotate, but for some reason it appears that their newest version is very unstable with the iPad 1.
After settling this with respect to papers, I still needed to find a solution for e-books, and this issue is far from resolved, simply because there is not a single commonly used format across the industry (for a more thorough review, I recommend reading this article from Gizmodo. Although it is a bit dated, it still explains why there are so many formats out there).
One piece of software that promises to be the ‘one stop solution to all your e-book needs’ is Calibre. For the iPad, it requires Stanza, a free ‘universal’ reader app that works reasonably well, although its interface is not so polished as the iBooks one. Another advantage of Calibre is that you can store your books on a Dropbox folder and sync it across multiple computers, which is neat. Unfortunately, not because Calibre is not a decent software, but because of DRM restrictions, my e-book collection is still all over the place: Kindle (through its free app), Google Books, iBooks and Stanza… It would be nice if there was only one app for that!
How do you organize your e-book collection?