To focus, please assume I care only about one thing: The experience of reading "side loaded," scanned PDF files of books downloaded off the Internet on a portable device. There is an upper bound of around 200MB for a single file.
I am not interested in "native" PDF files (re-flowable), EPUB, or any other e-book format. I am not interested in reformatting the PDF files, optimizing, ORC-ing, etc. Not interested in e-book marketplaces or dictionaries or apps or note-taking or games or other bells and whistles. Here's the workflow: I search Google for an old book, find it on archive.org, download it, copy/sync it to the device, read, rinse, repeat.
There are plenty of reviews of devices that cover reading different e-book formats, but rarely do they cover reading scanned PDF books. If mentioned in a review, the topic usually gets a sentence or two, and that's it. Or it only talks about "native" PDF support. Or the review is from 2011 and out-dated.
I have for months been trying to get an answer to this, and this is what I've found so far as my options:
- An e-reader with e-ink
- An Android tablet (or other vendor) with a decent display
- An e-ink Android tablet
- Sony Digital Paper
- Laptop computer (I already have one, I'm looking for a better experience)
E-ink would be best, because these books are all scanned black-and-white. I work all day on the computer, the last thing my eye balls need is for me to stare at another lit screen into the wee hours of the night. But most e-reader reviews that I've read said they just don't handle navigating scanned PDF files well (if they can even open them). Is that still true? Besides software support and ease of use (which is probably the biggest issue), the amount of RAM and processor power is likely a concern, too.
A tablet would work if it had a good, crisp display. But the big concern here is eye strain. At least a decent tablet will have enough RAM and processor power to handle a large PDF and allow me to navigate it. So this is a workable option. I have actually read a large scanned PDF book on a first generation iPad -- the PDF app kept crashing and the display was poor and pixel-y, but I persevered. Still, my eyes hated me.
A hybrid would be the Onyx Boox which appears to be an Android tablet that uses an e-ink display. This might work. Reviews suggest it isn't a perfect device but still works well for PDF files. But I can't tell if the reviewers are talking about scanned PDF files or "native" again. Anyone have experience with this one?
Sony Digital Paper. I was going to say that cost doesn't matter, but at $1000 I have to set a limit and this is just too much. This thing apparently will have no problem loading and displaying and navigating any PDF, so this would definitely be an option, except for the prohibitive price. Has anyone used one of these? Is this a good device if one intends to use it to read exclusively and not do any note-taking? Hmm, my wife would kill me.
Getting PDFs on it matters: USB or syncing would be best. I use Linux exclusively and don't have access to Windows or Mac OS X, so this has to be possible via Linux (e.g., Dropbox support is good on Linux). But I'm still more concerned with how well the thing supports actually opening and navigating the scanned books.
Back to the question: What devices support reading scanned PDF documents well? I want to be able to turn the page without waiting 30 seconds. I want to view a page and scroll around (if need be) without fiddling too much with zooming and waiting too long for rendering. And likely there are important factors I'm not considering. Please give me the lowdown. If the market still isn't prepared to support this use case, that's fine, too, I suppose. Thanks for your help.