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Reading PDFs on tablets

Nathal

Registered User
I love my tablets and tech in general. I have an Ipad, an LG G Pad and a Nexus 7. And yet, I don't really like reading PDFs on them, or using them during a game with the way those are layout. Causal reading is a different matter. Anyway, I'd like to see more RPG books put together more like apps. Until then I think I still prefer flipping through the dead tree versions. Anybody else have thoughts on that?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For game books, I prefer dead tree versions. But, I do a whole lot of my fiction pleasure reading on a 7" Nook tablet.

Physical game books usually have a page printed to be akin to a 12" viewing area. That's way too big to be easy to read if you squeeze it down to a 7" or 8" screen as you have on your tablets. No wonder you don't like the results!
 

Janx

Adventurer
Like Umbran says. PDFs are fixed format documents that are basically meant to be viewed at full size. So on a PC screen or printed out.

Thus, they suck on tablets.

The problem really is that nobody's releasing RPGs with eBook versions (ex. the ePub standard). eBook formatted books are more like simple HTML pages. The content lays out according to your screen. Thus, if you have a small/narrow screen or change the font size to be larger, it word wraps in the right places.

The downside to eBooks is those formats are largely for text, not graphics or tables. So nobody's published an RPG in eBook format, and if they did, somebody would likely whine about how the PDF version looks better.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Well, you might like it, but not for me. I don't actually want to use the tech at the table, and I find that I learn more quickly, with greater recall, and faster lookup of those things I don't recall, with a physical book.
 

fba827

Villager
Well, you might like it, but not for me. I don't actually want to use the tech at the table, and I find that I learn more quickly, with greater recall, and faster lookup of those things I don't recall, with a physical book.
My thoughts and feelings exactly.
 

tinyaltar

Villager
Totally agree with the comments on eBooks! I wish more books would publish in this format. It may not be pretty all the time, but the hyperlinks and reference capabilities are helpful at the table.
 

Hand of Evil

Villager
Love my iPad but PDFs just don't work well on the screen, have to think Adobe will have to come up with a format for e-books, they might have and people just don't think about converting into the format.
 

Alan Shutko

Villager
I've found I prefer to read PDFs on a full-size retina iPad compared to a computer.. The page size is almost close enough to full size, and the pixels are dense enough that it looks really good. But that's really best for linear reading.

When running a game, I'm usually flicking back and forth between different pages. This is more difficult on a tablet. On a paper book, you just fan the pages quickly until you get in the neighborhood, and then you flick a couple more to get to the right page. I find paper is much better at finding things when I remember "Well, it was in about the middle, no before combat, there it is."

Digital could be better if you could search for things well... but we aren't really there yet. I find it much easier to use search on SRD-based games, because searching an SRD is much easier than searching an undifferentiated PDF. You have one place you're trying to get to as fast as possible.

On the other hand, I find prepping much easier with PDFs than paper. When I'm prepping, I'm much more likely to ask questions like "Where are all the places Duke Rufus is mentioned?" I have the time when prepping to read all the results and synthesize a motivation, or reaction or plot. I don't have that time when playing, and that's when I just want a quick rules answer.

For me, the best route has been to have both paper and digital versions of stuff, so I can use the right versions in the right times.
 

Alan Shutko

Villager
have to think Adobe will have to come up with a format for e-books, they might have and people just don't think about converting into the format.
FWIW, InDesign does support outputting ePUB, which just about any ebook reader will accept. It takes a bit more thought upfront when setting up your project, but I don't think it's that bad. And most gaming releases are using InDesign for layout, except for really low-budget ones. I think, though, most publishers are daunted by having so support multiple formats (since everyone has a PDF reader, but many PCs don't have an ePUB reader). And it's really easy to release a PDF on dtrpg or the like, but how do you do multiple formats?

I'd love to hear the opinions of publishers on this.
 

Nathal

Registered User
I agree, the page flipping during play is a big part of why a physical book is superior to PDF for me. Nothing else is as comfortable or as quick.

I wonder how 5th Edition IOS/Android apps will handle that?

When running a game, I'm usually flicking back and forth between different pages. This is more difficult on a tablet. On a paper book, you just fan the pages quickly until you get in the neighborhood, and then you flick a couple more to get to the right page. I find paper is much better at finding things when I remember "Well, it was in about the middle, no before combat, there it is."
 

IronWolf

blank
I read a lot of gaming PDFs on my tablet. I do enjoy the dead-tree version of things and for things I really like I will end up owning both.

The best trick I have found for reading RPG PDFs on the tablet is to use Good Reader and use the "crop" feature. It lets me crop the large margins out, which allows the PDF to take up more screen real estate making it easier to read. It works pretty well for me, or at least acceptable.
 

caudor

Registered User
I read a lot of gaming PDFs on my tablet. I do enjoy the dead-tree version of things and for things I really like I will end up owning both.

The best trick I have found for reading RPG PDFs on the tablet is to use Good Reader and use the "crop" feature. It lets me crop the large margins out, which allows the PDF to take up more screen real estate making it easier to read. It works pretty well for me, or at least acceptable.
I like both too. I own a Galaxy Note Pro (which is a 12 inch tablet). I also have an 8 inch Galaxy Tab 8.0 for consuming novels and other media. I also have an old Kindle Touch that I'll read if I'm out in the sun. So basically, I have more money than I have sense :hmm:

Even with all that gear, I still like to curl up with a dead tree book and flip through it.
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Oddly I find myself in a different place to most people here. I love reading PDFs on my retina iPad mini. It's a great size and nice and clear for me. True, that isn't for a table rules reference, paper is much better for that in my experience. However, I've bought many RPGs as PDF which I wouldn't have otherwise purchased, and the convenience and form factor are big wins for me.

I mostly use goodreader now, because I like its annotation capabilities.

I used to have an iPad 2 which was OK for PDFs, but a little slow. I think having a tablet with enough grunt to work effortlessly is important for a good PDF table experience.

Cheers
 

Stormonu

Hero
I agree, the page flipping during play is a big part of why a physical book is superior to PDF for me. Nothing else is as comfortable or as quick.

I wonder how 5th Edition IOS/Android apps will handle that?
I find the opposite, if bookmarks have been defined in the PDF. Paizo's goes one further and hyperlinks to terms and sections.

i will say however, its taken me 2-3 years to get used to running from my iPad PDFs instead of from books. its saved my poor back tremendously, however. And I have my entire library at my fingertips, wherever i go.
 

gamerprinter

Villager
As a GM/Player, I absolutely hate tech at the table. I print out any PDFs on my laser printer, or at least the specific pages that I need for a given game sesssion.

As a publisher who also does page layout for all my products, its problematic enough to create the layout appropriate for a PDF product, then create a 300 ppi version of all the art and graphics so the same layout is usable for print. Now to require a tertiary page layout just to fit EPub tablets (or other similar platforms), doing so is really beginning to eat into my production costs and time expenditure in prepping a product for publication. In other words, I find it too costly to have to create more page layout versions than I am already doing. Until such time that creating page layouts for other electronic platforms becomes a necessity (read that as large numbers of fans require a version for EPub), I don't find it economically feasible to do it - and I actually hope it does not become a requirement.

I don't plan on ever getting a tablet of any kind, IPAD or otherwise. I prefer to read paperback books for my fiction as well. Honestly, keep your tech, I don't want it, nor want to produce content for it.
 
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Alan Shutko

Villager
As a publisher who also does page layout for all my products, its problematic enough to create the layout appropriate for a PDF product, then create a 300 ppi version of all the art and graphics so the same layout is usable for print.
Could you explain in a bit more detail what the challenges are in creating a layout appropriate for PDF and print?

I naively assumed that one could design for a print layout with high-res assets, and then just output the PDF from your page layout app (I know you use Xara for graphics, but I don't remember if you mentioned what you use for layout) and have things automatically downsampled for screen use. Looks like I was wrong.

Now to require a tertiary page layout just to fit EPub tablets (or other similar platforms), doing so is really beginning to eat into my production costs and time expenditure in prepping a product for publication. In other words, I find it too costly to have to create more page layout versions than I am already doing.
I think there's a lot more software could do to make doing multiple layouts easier. InDesign is taking baby steps in that direction, but I've heard it still takes a lot of work. Hopefully in the next few years things will get easier.
 

Janx

Adventurer
As a publisher who also does page layout for all my products, its problematic enough to create the layout appropriate for a PDF product, then create a 300 ppi version of all the art and graphics so the same layout is usable for print. Now to require a tertiary page layout just to fit EPub tablets (or other similar platforms), doing so is really beginning to eat into my production costs and time expenditure in prepping a product for publication. In other words, I find it too costly to have to create more page layout versions than I am already doing. Until such time that creating page layouts for other electronic platforms becomes a necessity (read that as large numbers of fans require a version for EPub), I don't find it economically feasible to do it - and I actually hope it does not become a requirement.
This is the useful bit for consideration. If supporting multiple formats is too much extra work, then it is not viable to do so.

We've already seen PDF products that have the on-screen version, and printable version (usually in B&W). As the best RPG products usually have graphics, tables, etc, those are things that ePub doesn't seem to excel at. Long swaths of paragraphs are its forte (which ironically is what Adobe Pro sucks at).

I'd rather make a PDF from a word document or HTML, but that usually sacrifices the really nice layout choices you can make if you work with a proper layout tool. But on the other hand, word or HTML is a step closer to what's needed for ePub.
 

gamerprinter

Villager
<!-- BEGIN TEMPLATE: dbtech_usertag_mention -->@Alan Shutko<!-- END TEMPLATE: dbtech_usertag_mention --> - I use Xara for my page layout as well, though its not as robust as InDesign or even Serif PagePlus, still it can do everything I need. The differences between a downloadable verses a print version is small, except that when producing downloadable version you want as compact a file as possible, so I generally import 96 ppi versions of the graphics, cartography and illustrations. When importing larger pixel versions, even at export such files tend to eat more megabyte space than 96 dpi originals.

<!-- BEGIN TEMPLATE: dbtech_usertag_mention -->@Janx<!-- END TEMPLATE: dbtech_usertag_mention --> - while doing page layout is fairly straight forward, to do a 36 page publication it takes a full day or two to complete the layout (and I'm quite experienced at using the layout software, so might take much longer for someone less experienced). I usually create printable versions of the downloadable version as a separate task, often done on a separate day. Thus doing multiple page layouts doubles or triples the layout time requirements, depending on how many different layout versions are needed. Double the work is double the cost. If I have a freelancer doing page layouts, there is a significant cost increase, thus requiring more sales to break even. Because RPG product publication isn't the most profitable, anything that increases production costs, significantly reduces profitability. Because doing page layout in a platform that doesn't support graphics and tables, it is more than simple adjustment of layout, rather its completely different inclusions and processes. It is significantly more work.
 

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