Why open source is great: pdf on ereaders

Submitted by hadrian on Sun, 12/15/2013 - 00:00

I have recently come into possession of the Kobo Glo, an e-reader with support for epub, txt, some other common formats and, so they say, pdf. Although I'm very happy with reading epubs I am quite discontented with the way it handles pdf files. From what I've read and heard it is, however, not the only device which lacks decent pdf support. The problem is with the fact that one needs to zoom in to be able to read any text from a PDF file and, consequently, needs to continuously scroll from left to right in order to be able to read which, on an e-reader, is quite slow.

So far, all I have released has been released in the PDF format and, with this new knowledge, I decided that it was perhaps time to support the epub format which is supported by the majority of e-readers. As I knew nothing of epub I had no idea whether or not it would be possible to directly convert my latex-code to epub as well as PDF.

Apparently, an epub file is sort of a folder which contains one or more web-pages. Each of these web-pages have part of the text. Most epub files have multiple of these web-pages so that e-readers will be able to display the text more quickly. After using a fairly well-known website for a while I figured out there were tools to translate latex into web-pages. After testing these tools I quickly discovered the quality of the conversion of this specific tool (tex4ht) was less than adequate. Moreover, such a conversion is only the first step to creating an actual epub.

And then, I struck some open-source gold. I am, of course, far from the first person to run into this problem and the itch was big enough to be scratched by someone else. Some people at the University of Lausanne had created a ready-to-go package called tex2ebook. The best part, it was licensed under one of the many open-source licenses which meant I could use it free of charge and, if necessary, can edit the code for my personal requirements.

I've been using open-source software for a long time and there are three things which I have learned well by now:

  • There's always someone who already had that itch

  • Almost every computer issue can be solved with a good internet search

  • I've saved a lot of head-aches and time by using publicly available software

Ultimately, this means that I fully intend to release all stories and essays in the epub format at some point.

If you are looking for a way to translate tex to epub: Tex2ebook