Have your read academic papers on an iPad?

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Eric Durbrow

Oct 7, 2010, 12:58:31 AM10/7/10
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I've been thinking of getting an iPad for general reading and taking notes on papers. This blog discusses several apps that seem geared towards academics. Have you tried any?



Don Blohowiak

Oct 7, 2010, 8:17:19 AM10/7/10
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As the writer of the referenced blog post points out, there is yet no good iPad-based solution for reference management and integration with PDFs. That said, I have had supremely satisfying PDF reading and annotating experience with iAnnotate PDF [ http://www.ajidev.com/iannotate/index.html ]. Best $10 I ever spent.

A new release of its iPad software came out a few days ago and features many new enhancements including folders for organization of PDFs on the iPad. 

Before getting my iPad a few weeks ago (after agonizing deliberation and internal debate), I was always a "print out, three-hole punch, put in binder, and highlight & flag passages and references" reader of PDFs. No more! 

The tactile involvement of the iPad, the capacity to integrate highlights and notes across platforms (as stored in the PDF), and to manage the portability of huge stores of PDFs via the iPad, make it a true process (and life) changer for me. Much to my surprise and delight.

This likely will get even better in coming months when the iPad's overall approach to a file system and synchronization evolves, and a satisfying option is made available for reference management on the iPad. (Personally, I am a committed Zotero user, which requires the Firefox browser, so I'm not holding my breath for an easy port for my own library of references. The last time I tried Mendeley, some months back, I found it too prescriptive and restrictive in its process approach.)

One more note: I am on the Mac platform and use DEVONthink Pro 2. Auto-feeding all my annotated PDFs into DT makes researching, finding, and contextualizing vast stores of data even better and easier. AND the Devon folks have submitted to Apple an iPad version of the DT (DEVONthink to Go). How well this integrates with the desktop version remains to be seen, but the iPad's utility for researchers is great at the moment and promises to get better and better.

The iPad surely will evolve in form factor (lighter, faster; cheaper?) in the next year. Meanwhile, it's pretty sweet right now for reading and working with PDFs!

Enjoy your shiny new iPad.


Don Blohowiak
PhD student, Human Development
Fielding Graduate University

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Christian Muise

Oct 7, 2010, 9:22:55 AM10/7/10
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  The size of the screen makes it a little inconvenient (regardless of what app you use). In general two-column papers are quite unsatisfying as the font size is just too small to read comfortably without zooming in. Unfortunately, the only reasonable e-reader that was geared towards us academics had their parent company go bankrupt (the IREX DR 1000S) -- ultimately the best paper reading experience will come when we finally see an affordable 8.5x11 inch screen size on a passive display (with annotating capabilities of course).

  As for the apps on the iPad, I was warned against iAnnotate because of stability and sluggishness issues. Mendeley is planning on releasing a fully featured app (read: annotations, etc) at some point, and until then I've been making due with GoodReader ( http://www.goodiware.com/goodreader.html ). It makes pulling in papers to read extremely easy (I just dump PDFs to a dropbox and load them in GoodReader directly from their dropbox integration), and I think their latest version puts them on par with iAnnotate as far as features go (they now have full annotations, and already had folder support, etc). The price is ~$1 now I think, so definitely worth checking out.


Bernhard Rieder

Oct 7, 2010, 3:00:30 PM10/7/10
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Hey, just wanted to add that I've never had problems with iAnnotate,
love the program, extremely practical and I find myself reading a lot
more papers on screen than ever before. I read very heavy historical
documents and after reading over a hundred it has yet to crash on me.
I find the screen size works perfectly fine for two column layout.
Also use Devonthink and use dropbox to synchronize between the iPad
and my main machine.

I have also tried Good Reader but I find the annotation features less
practical because they use the standard OS select system that is a lot
slower than IAnnotate's finger smear.

I must say that I'm not that fond of the paranoid world of the Jobs
but reading papers on the iPad has been a read revelation.


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