Tag Archives: ebook

What can the eSlick do?

Before buying my eSlick e-reader, I looked around and saw many reviews that described its functions, but none of them answered the question: what can you actually do with it? Can you read academic papers? How about ePub books?

Of course, the specs says it supports PDF and other formats, but it says nothing about the reading experience of these formats.

Now, after using an eSlick for a few weeks I can attempt to answer this question.

There’s only one thing that the eSlick does well: display PDF documents that are sized for its display. Most of the stuff you’ll want to read will be in another format (or created for a bigger page size) but that’s not a problem if you can convert it to the required format.

Here’s how I read different kinds of texts using the eSlick:

PDF’s created for a regular (about A4) page size

Since the eSlick’s display is smaller than that of a regular page, you can’t view these files directly. There are 3 ways that you can handle them.

(1) Zoom out: Not useful for prolonged reading since the text looks tiny.

(2) Normal size, but move around with the arrow keys: Very annoying, unusable.

(3) Reflow: (In reflow mode the eSlick rearranges the text and adapts it for its display). Doesn’t always work. Sometimes the text is arranged in the wrong order. When it does work it works pretty nice. It’s good enough for me that I’m now reading an entire book in reflow mode. There’s a bug that if a paragraph is split between two pages, the second part isn’t shown; I have to turn off reflow mode, finish the paragraph, and then turn on reflow again. However, this procedure is easy enough that it doesn’t hurt the reading experience very much.

Two-column academic articles

Reflow doesn’t work for the articles I’ve tested; the text comes out in the wrong order. However, due to a wonderful coincidence, each column in this type of text is in about the same width as the eSlick display. A program called PaperCrop renders the PDF and then automatically segments the resulting image into columns. The result can be saved as a PDF file that can be read on the eSlick. I’ve tested PaperCrop on one article and it worked perfectly, detecting columns and diagrams correctly.

EDIT Papercrop also knows how to reflow one-column articles! Just choose the “reflow” preset.

ePub files

This is a popular eBook format. You can download free books from the Project Gutenberg site in this format. eSlick supports it natively (in newer firmware versions) but not very well. It doesn’t even support text styles such as bold and italics. Also, it doesn’t display Hebrew text (and probably other non-Latin languages). The solution is to convert the ePub to PDF. I’ve used an online converter successfully on Hebrew books. (In that site, set the target ebook reader to Kindle as it has the same display size). However, it failed to convert some of the books. I’m looking for other ways to do it.

An open source command line tool called epub2pdf looks promising for this end but I couldn’t make it to work.

Web pages

This is the procedure I’m using to create eSlick-compatible PDFs from interesting web pages. First, use readability to remove all the supporting extras — sidebars, footers and so on — leaving only the content. (In the readability configuration, set the font to small and margins to extra-narrow). Next, print it to PDF using the Foxit PDF Creator. I’m doing it on Explorer since the PDF Creator stopped working for me from Firefox after the first time I’ve used it. (It doesn’t look a very high quality software).

Even though the PDF Creator is bundled with the eSlick, it doesn’t have the eSlick listed as a recognized target in its settings, so you have to set a custom page size. I’m using 13.2cm x 9.9cm. (Derived from the display aspect ratio and an estimate of the display width, as I couldn’t find the height and width specified anywhere).