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Author Topic: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?  (Read 18777 times)

Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« on: August 24, 2011, 04:52 PM »
I've been collecting eBooks ever since the Franklin eBookman came out (read: for ages) and in all my travels through legit, questionable, or downright illegal channels, people seem to understand the NEED for reflowable text, able to be converted LOSSLESSLY between formats. 

Except you guys.

Now, I probably don't need to say this, but ... Reflowable text is to like a vector-based image: you can manipulate it, re-size it, and -most importantly- convert it between formats for use on different devices without losses in fidelity or cascading artifacts. Once a book is rendered to PDF it is forever bound to the hard line breaks, page-breaks, hyphenation, and, in some extreme cases, interspersed headers and footers created during the conversion process.  Any attempt to convert it back, even with Calibre's heuristic processing or XY-based mashing, results in HUGE losses in formatting and line-break issues that make it either unreadable or too undesirable to read. 

So, I ask:
Why does this form seem so attached to PDF? Why not Why not upload in a rich, convertible format and let people irreversibly render the books to PDF if they so choose? I'm not asking anyone to cater to any particular format or device... just that more versatile, convertible formats be posted if you have them. 

UPDATE: 8 months later...:
Since I posted this, the balance of PDF's to more modern, reflowable formats like mobi and epub has been slowly shifting towards the latter.  I'd like to pretend I had something to do with it ;) but I know it's more likely just a result of a broader, internet-wide adoption of the formats.  As more people use them, they're easier to find, and therefore easier to share. Still, if you haven't made the switch from PDF to ePub or Mobi, I BEG you to pull your head from your ass and see what you've been missing. Not only are they easier to share, they offer a re-sizable and flat-out better reading experience (well, except for text books, but that's another thing ;) ).

As nikkimiller01 suggested, here's some information which should help you make the switch, originally posted by Jessadia: 

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Honestly, if you can read a PDF on your computer, then you can certainly read an ePub or Mobi file. What do you currently have downloaded as your reading program? Adobe Reader? If you like that one Adobe also has a You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login download for free that allows you to view ePubs seamlessly (unlike with PDF's) and its FREE. There's also You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login a free Mobi reader from Amazon (no kindle necessary), a You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login that allows you to read ePubs (also free), a You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login (again- FREE!) and you can also both convert and read ANY FORMAT with You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login that's (yes, again) FREE!!!

And if you really want to read PDF (WHY?!) you can download Calibre and convert it yourself or you can go You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login and (again) convert it yourself online (no downloads necessary).
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 01:28 AM by greyfox »
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Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Offline scarlet156

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2011, 09:51 PM »
not being able to upload .mobi files is strange. or .lit files for that matter. but pdf files usually are the best to convert to any other file type so its used as a "master" many times. when you want to change formatting in an epub or mobi book starting with a pdf using calibre it comes out best and usually is the easiest.
only bebook uses .lit files which is a shame. its a great file format but mobi took it over for popularity. thankfully i was able to run the hundreds of lit files i had through calibre
 

Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2011, 11:37 PM »
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...but pdf files usually are the best to convert to any other file type so its used as a "master" many times. ...using calibre it comes out best and usually is the easiest.

I'm sorry - that simply isn't true. Like I said, with PDF's, the page/line breaks are physically inserted into the text. When Calibre, or any other converter, tries to convert them to a reflowable format (like mobi, epub, or html), it must guess at which breaks are intentional and which are just a result of the page width or length ending in the pdf, and it's often wrong.  The result is fragmented text and a complete loss of original formatting.  It's ugly and, in many cases, unreadable.  This is FAR from what I would call a master :(

I understand that people who read their books on their computer screen would want PDF, but their fixed size makes reading them on other devices tedious and converting them to other formats *correctly* impossible.  PDF's are not a master. Reflowable formats, on the other hand, can not only be read on the computer, but on any other device as they convert losslessly!

I implore you all, not just for me but for *yourselves*, to start collecting and posting the original, reflowable formats.  If you have the original epub, post that! If you have a mobi file, convert it to epub (yay, lossless!) or zip it and send that! If all you have is a PDF, then so be it.

Viva la revolution?
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Offline Anams

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2011, 11:59 PM »
I read my ebooks on my ebook reader (sony) and on my laptop too. Pdf used to be my format of choice cos I was not aware of the re-formatting capabilities of calibre and of the perfect formatting in .epub while using the reader (.pdf files when accessed through the reader sometimes show crazy formatting issues). It got so bad that I was doing most of my reading on the laptop cos books would either not open at all or open with major formatting issues on the reader. Finally used google and found "calibre". Now convert all formats to epub, makes life much easier and I can finally get more use out of the reader.
While I was still afraid of being unable to read the epub files on my laptop, this was resolved through firefox. I can open the .epub files through firefox with the added advantage of being able to bookmark the page at which I stopped reading. The only feature I would add if I could is the page nos., have not been able to track page nos. on firefox.
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Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2011, 12:32 AM »
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The only feature I would add if I could is the page nos., have not been able to track page nos. on firefox.

I actually like the "location" system used by mobi/Kindle (and others I assume, though I can't speak from experience) as it's basically the sentence number.  Page/screen size differences between devices results in an inconsistent number of "pages" per book per device, but the number of sentences never changes. It makes perfect sense! Your handheld might show a book in 400 "pages" (screens) while your PC shows it in 100, but you'll always be on the same sentence or "location" regardless of the device. 

But that won't help you share your experience with readers of the paper version .. of course neither will the PDF as it's usually also completely different. Amazon took locations to the next level, implemented the "real page" numbering system into some of the newer books on their site. Each "location" (aka sentence) is embedded with the page number it appears on in the print version.  You could be on "page 1" for 4 page turns of your kindle, or conversely, the first half of the page on your PC.  Sadly, I haven't seen this supported in any of the pirated books I've come across yet. =(

So yeah.  Let's see if we can start moving away from PDF? It's easy to convert to, but impossible to correctly convert from, so why not post the original mobi/html/epub/etc... ?
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Offline nina8

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2011, 01:45 AM »
We are posting the original form. it just happens to be PDF or epub. I prefer PDF cuz. its the only form. that shows me the cover of the book in my pc and i prefer epub for my iphone
 

Offline nooker ♫

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2011, 09:32 AM »
I've converted many many many pdf's and other file types to epub (I have a Nook) and they come out perfectly fine.  Maybe your Calibre settings are messed up.

PS: Are you really complaining about the quality in which you are getting FREE books? You should be happy that other people have taken up their time to share with you and save you money. If you don't like what you're getting and feel you need to complain about it, go somewhere else.
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Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2011, 09:37 AM »
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PS: Are you really complaining about the quality in which you are getting FREE books? ...go somewhere else.

Heh, I knew this was coming ;)
Naw, I'm not complaining really... just wondering (hence the title) why this fruitful forum seems to deal almost entirely in PDF while pretty much every other repository I've found values reflowable formats. 

In any case. You've got a fantastic community here with more good books than I could ever read. Just had to ask the question.  At the very least, I hope I've opened an eye or two. 

EDIT: Oh, and as for converting them, I've also tried a bunch of them with countless setting changes in Calibre. Sure they technically convert, but they're riddled with formatting issues (some admittedly less significant than others) that could be easily avoided if the epubs/mobis were posted. Seeing so many PDF's here made me wonder if people were (*gasp*) actually converting them *TO* PDF before posting. But if your originals are in PDF, then I take it back. :)

Carry on.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 09:42 AM by inferno999 »
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Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2011, 12:46 PM »
Not to belaboy the point, but here's a perfect example:

Maria V. Snyder - Inside Out.pdf posted by dencia.
[dead link removed]

The PDF has "Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter..." at the top of EVERY page, and if a paragraph was cut off between pages, there's a hard line and page break in the middle of a sentence.  If you convert this to a reflowable format like ePub, these artifacts are carried in to the epub.  Every dozen paragraphs, there's a split sentense with "Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter..." plastered in between.  It's not the end of the world, and I understand that it's free so "how can I possibly complain" .....

But the book itself even states it was converted from LIT to PDF.  Why not upload the LIT? Or convert it to ePub. I can only assume that, in this case, dencia received/ul-kelly-favor-his-every-choice-epub the book this way..... but SOMEWHERE along the line, before dencia, someone converted the book to PDF and essentially destroyed it.  This is what I'm talking about and this is why I posted the PSA. 

Anyway, I'll let it go, and thank you all for your constructive replies.  I just hope that reflowable formats (which can easily be converted flawlessly to PDF by those who want them that way) eventually become the rule, not the exception :)

Carry on. :)
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 03:36 PM by FireWings »
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Offline Miss Lara Croft

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2011, 05:21 PM »
inferno999, I understand how you feel.  I don't complain too much because as someone (rather snottily) said, I just go somewhere else to get an ebook I'd like in ePub format.  If it's been posted here, it's pretty easy to find the original ePub or MOBI file elsewhere (I know of a lot of places too).

One can also easily tell the difference between a book that was originally an Adobe PDF file if the book is formatted to look exactly like the paperback and/or hardcover version...you can still convert those to ePub but you'd have to deal with headers, footers and page numbers.  Calibre has a setting to remove those, but then again, Calibre also removes the letter l from words with two l's in them ("really" becomes "real y", for example).  In a pinned thread in the Requests forum I listed a program that one can use to convert PDFs to MOBI files - it does a slightly better job than Calibre, in my opinion.

If people want to post PDFs that's fine, but what bothered me were the complaints once someone asked for the ePub version of a PDF that had quite obviously been converted using Calibre (these PDF files do not look as nice; the margins are practically non-existent and the font is usually a sans-serif font...sometimes, depending on the converter's settings the text will be very small).
 

Offline -mags-

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2011, 05:29 PM »
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In a pinned thread in the Requests forum I listed a program that one can use to convert PDFs to MOBI files - it does a slightly better job than Calibre, in my opinion.

I was just coming in to post this (reposted from: Moderator note: dead link removed )

Quote
3. Also 2 other great FREE solutions are: mobipocket.com - once there, click on the Software tab and download the Mobipocket Creator, but note this software is Windows only. Install it and once it is installed, import an Adobe PDF file (you will see this option on the right hand side once the program launches) and follow the steps to convert it to mobi format.  If you need help, consult the support section of the site.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 01:58 PM by ❀ Margot ❀ »
 

Offline -mags-

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2011, 05:18 PM »
Useful info that should be stickied.
 

Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2011, 07:02 PM »
For what it's worth, Calibre's creator, Kovid Goyal, agrees: "PDF is a terrible format to convert from"
Quote from: http://manual.calibre-ebook.com/faq.html#i-converted-a-pdf-file-but-the-result-has-various-problems
Q: I converted a PDF file, but the result has various problems?
A: PDF is a terrible format to convert from. For a list of the various issues you will encounter when converting PDF, see: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login. [edit]<below>

PDF documents are one of the worst formats to convert from. They are a fixed page size and text placement format. Meaning, it is very difficult to determine where one paragraph ends and another begins. calibre will try to unwrap paragraphs using a configurable, Line Un-Wrapping Factor. This is a scale used to determine the length at which a line should be unwrapped. Valid values are a decimal between 0 and 1. The default is 0.45, just under the median line length. Lower this value to include more text in the unwrapping. Increase to include less. You can adjust this value in the conversion settings under PDF Input.

Also, they often have headers and footers as part of the document that will become included with the text. Use the Search and Replace panel to remove headers and footers to mitigate this issue. If the headers and footers are not removed from the text it can throw off the paragraph unwrapping. To learn how to use the header and footer removal options, read All about using regular expressions in calibre.

Some limitations of PDF input are:

        Complex, multi-column, and image based documents are not supported.
        Extraction of vector images and tables from within the document is also not supported.
        Some PDFs use special glyphs to represent ll or ff or fi, etc. Conversion of these may or may not work depending on just how they are represented internally in the PDF.
        Some PDFs store their images upside down with a rotation instruction, calibre currently doesn’t support that instruction, so the images will be rotated in the output as well.
        Links and Tables of Contents are not supported
        PDFs that use embedded non-unicode fonts to represent non-English characters will result in garbled output for those characters
        Some PDFs are made up of photographs of the page with OCRed text behind them. In such cases calibre uses the OCRed text, which can be very different from what you see when you view the PDF file

To re-iterate PDF is a really, really bad format to use as input. If you absolutely must use PDF, then be prepared for an output ranging anywhere from decent to unusable, depending on the input PDF.
[edit]Oops, posted the wrong follow-up. Corrected above.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2011, 08:18 PM by inferno999 »
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Offline keltwinks

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2011, 11:36 AM »
I'm fairly new in collecting ebooks and pdf is my preferred format simply because I'm not familiar with other formats. (I'm clueless about reflowable text etc.. ) I also can't open epub format in my laptop until someone informed me about Calibre. So inferno999  you did open my eye about exploring other formats. I am definitely going to research more about this topic and explore calibre as well. 

nina8 – you mentioned that you prefer epub for your iphone, I wonder how that works. Is there an application I need to install to be able to open epub in my iphone? Your reply will be greatly appreciated :)
 

Offline Filouke

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2011, 12:23 PM »
ok I guess I'm gonna play Switzerland here  :)

First of all: I'm not complaining about free e-books. I hope people who know me already from around here know that...

Second: if a book is found in PDF I also think it's the best to keep it in PDF

BUT I understand Inferno's frustration... It's not about complaining, it's just why mess up a good looking book by converting it before posting... As mentioned there are PDF's that can be converted perfectly without messing up the layout. But there are also a lot of PDF's that are just a mess after the convertion (e.g.page number/name of author/book title/... in every alinea). Personally, i like to read my books in epub format. The PDF's I can't convert nicely, I just keep in PDF.

So bottom line is, I think it's always best to post a book in the format you got it and then everybody can convert it to the format he/she prefers cause this is smth personally and not everybode has the same preferences.
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Offline LivingInBooks

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2011, 12:28 PM »
Personally I am a bit paranoid about posting Mobi (original format) books, I have a feeling that it has our personal (buyer's) information encrypted in it. So I always convert them to EPubs in hope that it would get rid of some of the encrypted stuff, though I am not sure it would. It's just my false hopefulness I guess. But I rarely convert to PDF though (like when I need multiple books opened at the same time on PC). I usually only use EPub too.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2011, 12:30 PM by LivingInBooks »
 

Offline Filouke

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2011, 12:35 PM »
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Personally I am a bit paranoid about posting Mobi (original format) books, I have a feeling that it has our personal (buyer's) information encrypted in it. So I always convert them to EPubs in hope that it would get rid of some of the encrypted stuff, though I am not sure it would. It's just my false hopefulness I guess. But I rarely convert to PDF though...only EPub.

Hi LIB, I also convert my epubs for example to epubs (again) or mobi to epub. Not really cause i'm afraid about the buyers info but just to add a cover or smth like that :) Those convertions don't mess up the layout (so far I know of!). But once you convert it to pdf, then it is often difficult to convert it back and keep the layout clean. So if you convert to epub, I see no problem there :). It's seems like nagging cause why bother cause damnit you got the book for free... but if you have bought/ul-kelly-favor-his-every-choice-epub the book in another format than pdf I think it's just better to post it too. Most of the time I post epub & pdf format. Cause people who whants lit/mobi can easily convert from the epub and people who like pdf are happy too that way :)
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Offline Shenanigans

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2011, 04:24 PM »
I'm not a fan of PDF's either, but I'll take it if that's all that's available. I edit and reformat a lot of my eBooks anyway, so what's a few more? I just can't enjoy a book with weird formatting or other errors (like the double L thing with Calibre). The majority of the time I won't even upload books here until I've edited and reformatted them (if they need it). I just can't share ugly eBooks.

Anyway, I think PDF's are just fine for reading on your computer. People are used to them and comfortable with them. But I wouldn't recommend them for other gadgets though. Most people will move on to other formats eventually, but everything takes time.
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Offline Mr. Greyfox

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2011, 12:02 AM »
Just a quick reiteration:
My only point in starting this thread was to ask why people seemed to prefer/convert TO pdf on these forums when far superior epub or mobi versions existed.  My fear was that the better versions were being trashed and the non-convertable-fixed-format pdf's were being passed around, leaving STP with a somewhat undesirable legacy.  It makes much more sense that the reflowable versions be passed around, for now and future users, and people convert to PDF on their own if they want. 

Of course I wasn't complaining (just wondering) and of course I understand some books have only been found in PDF.  ... and of course I still HATE pdf =P

So anyway, @LivingInBooks , I agree about digital fingerprint paranoia --I also double convert everything I purchase and share, and in You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login I've been investigating the possible hiding places of said fingerprints.  To this day I can't find anything unique once the DRM has been stripped (in Amazon Kindle book purchases at least).  'Doesn't mean I'm not still paranoid; unless it's stripped down to raw text (which I don't recommend) and converted back, ANYTHING could be in there.  But at the very least I know it's not obvious and the likelihood that it survives the DRM sweep is dwindling.

@keltwinks, you mentioned an interest in how to read books in their native formats (as opposed to converting to PDF).  It's easy!
  • To read MOBI files, use the free You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login - it's available for pretty much every platform from PC to iPad. Kindle on apple devices lets you open books from the web and your email, but you can also transer them through iTunes (File Sharing under the apps tab) once it's installed.
  • For EPub files, use You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login for your computer (pc or mac), or the Stanza for the iPhone/iPad.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2011, 12:30 AM by inferno999 »
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Offline jessadia

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Re: Book Formats - Why is this forum stick in PDF mode?
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2011, 04:04 PM »
I just came across this post (little late, I know...) wow, I can feel the love in here guys ;) j/k

I completely understand both sides but I have to agree: Why in the world would you want a PDF? and if you did have the original format, why oh why, would you convert it to PDF and upload that format?

I have come across so many complaints about PDF formats and how Calibre distorts them, and have also come across an equal number of people requesting PDF's. I understand the need for a cover of a book when reading it or your computer but you can download a lot of ebook reading programs on your computer that 1.) still has the cover, 2.) allows you to save your page numbers and 3.) and most important- allows you to read the book as seamlessly as you would on an eReader. Here are some programs I use to read books on my PC (all of them are free downloads): Kindle for PC, Nook for PC, Adobe Digital Editions...and there are more programs like these that read the .lit, .mobi and ePub files- No need for PDF's!!

and yes, i know a lot of the books posted in PDF are found that way and i thank you all for spending the time searching for them and uploading them for us :)

[edit] @inferno- well, I guess my post is pretty pointless...i didn't see your post (right above mine) until after I had posted this explaining how to read .mobi and ePub files on your computer.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2011, 04:09 PM by jessadia »
 

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