I need to buy a device for reading. It must have all these features:

  • Smoothly zoom all pictures
  • Format all tables properly
  • Read PDF (or be able to convert)
  • Not create eye problems and be visible in the sun

Is there a category of devices that is able to meet all these demands? What is the best size?

  • That fourth bullet is badly worded and thus does not make sense. Could you please explain what you are trying to say? May 14, 2014 at 17:39
  • Consider with your Google account, adding some PDF examples to your play.google.com/books area, and test by reading from your desktop web browser. Also test by downloading the Google Books app to your mobile device. Switch between the dark/light backgrounds. This may give you some ideas of what you want to buy. Same for your Amazon account/kindle apps. May 15, 2014 at 23:07
  • Is this a duplicate of Reader for scientific papers - what should I look for? I don't have the rep to vote to close.
    – tcrosley
    May 22, 2014 at 18:24
  • gold standard as of July 2015 Sony Digital Paper System
    – user4932
    Jul 6, 2015 at 1:34
  • Do you have a lot of PDFs to read or just a few? Because the NIH has in some areas, a free online ereader which converts the study into EPUB and lets you read it online. For the most part, I hate reading PDFs on any small screen device so I avoid that at all costs.
    – Bulrush
    May 31, 2016 at 12:47

5 Answers 5


Buy an iPad or iPad mini and install Goodreader (the latest version at this time is actually called GoodReader 4, according to the previous link; it can be found here).That is the best choice.

  • That does not solve issue #4.
    – Raphael
    Jun 6, 2014 at 11:03
  • @Raphael then you can't. And I would say kindle (at least K3) is less readable as a tablet. Jul 23, 2015 at 23:24

You're trying to find something out of both worlds - tablets and eReaders. There are serveral devices planned to publish within the coming year. But at the moment this market looks rather abandonned. (planned devices by Sony and Onyx as far as I know)

Until those devices are on the market you need to limit your requirements, as visibility and readability in sunlight of todays tablets is not that great. While e-ink displays are nice to read in nearly every light are still limited to classic ereaders which don't allow full featured pdf view.


Print it with a good printer.

I know this is not the answer you are looking for but it's still the solution that beats current technology.

You can't zoom a print; I'd argue that a good print is sufficient since an scientific article should only have images that have value on A4/Letter paper.


If you want to be able to read anything on a device in a direct sunlight your only choice is an ereader using electronic ink. Here is an example, outdoors on a sunny day with the sun blasting directly at the screen (try that with a tablet or your phone):

reading in direct sunlight

From my own experience 9.7" screen size is the minimum you need to read technical literature. I tried with 8" hi-res screen but it was just too small. I made an almost complete switch from paper to the ereader and I read books mainly in the PDF format from sources such as Manning, O'Reilly, Packt, Safari and books that I couldn't find anywhere and scanned myself.

You have quite a choice these days. In 2012 I started to use bespoke Linux based Onyx Boox M92 and then in 2014 upgraded to Android based Onyx Boox M96, both 9.7" electronic ink ereaders. At present there are newer N96 (dual touch) and N96ML (touch + frontlight) 9.7" Android devices and 13.3" Onyx Boox Max. There is also 13.3" Sony DPT-S1 but it runs custom Linux (limited software choice).

You don't list these as requirements but there are some things of secondary importance after the screen that still quite matter to me in the reader I have:

  • very long battery life since the screen doesn't use it once the page is displayed
  • ability to install Android apps (dictionary, cloud client, VPN client etc.)
  • connectivity (wifi, bluetooth)
  • external storage (microSD cards)
  • and finally ability to scribble/highlight/erase as I would do in a normal book.

One potential disadvantage of ereaders - they are not very powerful. This can be an issue especially with scanned documents when turning a page can take up to 3 seconds (depending on resolution, complexity, etc.), which renders skimming through such documents impossible.

Below is an example screenshot from my ereader with a table and some doodles, you can zoom in the document as much as you like:

note taking

You can find loads of information on ereaders on MobileRead forums.


The Kindle DX, which uses e-ink (so it is readable in direct sunlight), was specifically designed to render PDF files in their native format (including multi-column material, tables and graphics) and was designed to be used in an academic environment. It has a 9.7" e-ink screen, which I believe is the largest of any e-reader (the Kindle Fire HD has a 7" screen, and does not use e-ink). You can also zoom in to 200% of the original text.

It is available through Amazon for $300.

It includes a full keyboard, 3G free "whispernet" connection for downloads, runs up to three weeks on a battery charge with the wireless off, and is one of the thinnest e-readers out there (1/3 inch).

It also includes an accelerometer to sense when you rotate it, to allow a PDF to be read a half page at a time in landscape mode with much larger type.

  • OP, if you want it readable in the sun you want e-ink technology in this answer.
    – Bulrush
    May 31, 2016 at 12:45

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