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Ask HN: What device do you use to read academic papers with?
135 points by jingwen on Feb 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments

The device? My laptop.

The setup on my laptop:

- Zotero (https://www.zotero.org/) A software that allows you to easily keep references to academic papers right from your browser. Available as standalone app with multiple browser extension, or directly integrated into firefox. When you are on a paper's webpage, clicking on the button extracts its information, its PDF (if available) and do a capture of the webpage and store everything structured. You can then copy citation directly from zotero, generate a bibtex file, or use libreoffice extension. It also allow to sync between computer up to 300M, and extending the storage is quite cheap.

- Zotfile (https://github.com/jlegewie/zotfile) An Zotero extension that monitor the download folder to let you attach downloaded PDF to existing entries. It also rename PDFs with the pattern you want. And the killer feature: It is able to extract what you electronically annotated on the PDF (Highlights, comments)!!

- Okular (https://okular.kde.org/) For reading and annotating PDF. Straightforward use, nice annotations tools (F6 to open, double click items to make them permanent). Ctrl-S to save the annotation to file (otherwise stored somewhere in the user home file).

All these are open source software and are available on Linux!

If you want to sync larger Zotero libraries for free between computers you can use SyncThing to sync the libraries and then let Zotero sync up the database. SyncThing isn't cloud based, so your machines have to be on at the same time, but otherwise it works great.

I posted instructions on the Zotero forums a while back: https://forums.zotero.org/discussion/50191/syncing-zotero-wi...

Yes, I know this is possible, and as I mentioned in a response to a comment below:

«I thought about doing so with owncloud, then I decided that paying when I reach the syncing limit would be a nice way to encourage the project.»

I also use Zotero, and use Box.Com for storage/syncing. Zotfile is a wonderful addon.

I use Zotero in conjunction with Papership (http://www.papershipapp.com) on an iPad. Papership syncs with WebDAV storage, which means that, after syncing, downloaded PDFs are available on your iPad for reading offline. Any annotations are pushed back and available in the Zotero client. It's a great client and really stable. In conjunction with the Apple Pencil, it's a really nice system.

I'd advise an iPad Pro 12.9" if you do a lot of reading. The extra size means that you spend less time zooming in and out, and an app like Liquid Text (http://liquidtext.net) comes into its own for bringing text and figures into the same region of the screen and reduce the amount of time you spend flipping between the two.

So if I understand you right, for syncing your bibliography you changed the "Data Directory Location" to a synced Box folder (a dropbox-like system)? I thought about doing so with owncloud, then I decided that paying when I reach the syncing limit would be a nice way to encourage the project.

Papership and LiquidText looks really nice, I would love to see such applications for Android. But I presume Apple is a more interesting platform as many researchers are on MacBooks. I suppose this is because researchers have really few spare free time and they don't want to use it fighting against the (linux) machines.

That might be part of it. Myself I value most the differences in hardware: I used a Samsung Galaxy Note at first for similar tasks and loved it, using Zotfile and Dropsync for keeping PDFs on the tablet. I travel a lot, and I couldn't count on it getting through a day of mixed use. In the end, the excellent power management of the iPad was a big advantage.

Similarly, I made the switch to a Macbook Pro after a bad day in 2011 in which I was first unable to connect my (Linux) laptop to a projector when visiting an institute to give a talk, and then unable to Skype in to a conference call. It was a bad morning, away from base, so I went to the Apple shop at lunchtime. I value the Linux box I use at work, and enjoy working with its tools, but easy collaboration is also important to me.

Interesting, thanks for the info! This sounds similar to https://www.readcube.com/, which I dabbled with but never got into.

Need to get some system in place as my hard-drive is becoming littered with cryptically named PDF files.

I have taken ReadCube into consideration, but quickly dismissed it because A) there is not Linux support [1]; and B) it is not open source.

The open-source side is important for me because the data accumulated in these software is really valuable. If one day the company has to close, you may be stuck without access to your data. With open-source software I'm at least sure to be able to continue running the latest software version on my own, and a community can start to take over and maintain it. Also the way data are stored in the computer can be deduced/found in the code, allowing to make exportation/importation to other software easier. I don't mind to pay for a good software – like I'll probably do with zotero for storage when I'll hit the memory limit – but it has to be open-source.

Except this the concept looks quite interesting and the UI seems nice. The only additional feature (in regard to my setup) that I can see on the homepage is the recommendation system, that can be quite interesting though.

[1] http://support.readcube.com/knowledgebase/articles/242873-ca...

A printer.

What I need is an e-ink device that lets me take notes on it and is large and fast and shows the images in color. Zooming would make it superior to paper. It's just not there yet. I tried to read articles in NCBI's ebook format on my kindle but you can't hop back and forward easily on a Kindle and note taking is of course not an option.

I really wish e-ink triton was updated and deployed on a Linux (not android) tablet with a decent resolution and enough RAM to mark up PDFs, render markdown, use standard tools like git for version control and libreoffice with any other tools you wanted to install. Even a cheaper Chinese tablet but with a decent e-ink screen would be really useful but they just don't seem to exist.

Have you tried a tablet? I'm really happy with my iPad for academic paper reading. Yes, eInk is very nice, but today's tablets are good enough for reading as well. Plus, it's a different kind of reading compared to, say, a novel. I tend to read academic papers quite quickly to glean the main bits of information. For leisurely reading, paper or Kindle would be better.

just realized there's also https://getremarkable.com , which looks promising. Has anybody tried it?

That's very interesting. It's what the Kindle should be. It bothers me that we've had Kindle's for so long and there's been barely any real advancement in the technology — just tiny iterations.

They must spend fortunes on Facebook ads, don't think I've seen any advertiser that often.

Sounds interesting, but for $420 I doubt it would pay off compared to printing (black&white anyway).

I pre-ordered one earlier - for me it's not just about costs, but also about replacing all my notebooks and pieces of paper everywhere.

If the stylus is as real-time as they claim (input latency of 55 ms) - it's basically my holy grail device - e-ink that is just like real paper.


Device is shown with drawing on it at 0:41.

That looks pretty neat but it also sounds like it's tied to their web service. I would expect a bit more control for something that costs $500.

First shipping of product is planned for September, but not holding my breath. Will see how/if it will turn out.

I got in on the earlier pre-order and the shipping date is August. (I guess the second batch is September).

I've been in communication with the guys behind it (via email), and they seem confident of hitting their timeframe. Obviously the proof is in the pudding =).

I also use my iPad for 'academic' reading. When an epub is available, I use that with Marvin (I wish it worked with pdfs!). And for pdf's I use GoodReader. I can highly recommend both!

Oh, and for storing my pdfs and epubs I use Calibre. Also a great app.

I use my desktop for skimming a paper to determine whether it is worth reading (on a 24" portrait screen). An iPad would also work nicely there. Both are also very convenient when searching for a specific term. But if I really want to read and understand a paper, I print it out because I'll be marking all kinds of of things, making notes on the margins, and constantly referring back and forth for definitions etc. I find all of this is much easier on paper.

I find tablets and e-readers very convenient for reading things from front to back and for full-text search, but find myself resorting to paper copies for anything else.

A dumb old laser printer that doesn't know I've been feeding it cheap aftermarket toner for more than 10 years.

It's not a waste of paper if paper is the most efficient way to get my work done. Paper has a large viewport and unlimited battery life, while only weighing a fraction of most electronic alternatives.

The only thing that a computer does better is searching, but this problem can be easily solved by having a PDF open on some other device as well. You don't have to choose one or the other.

Print out onto paper, then I can read it anywhere, annotate it and file it away if I will need it for future work. I vastly prefer it to reading on a screen.

Had a library of about 800 articles that I read on a laptop with a large format external monitor.

Related question: doing the above had some pain points so I wrote an app to give me the ability to give files and directories human readable names. Read, annotate, and bookmark the pdf within the app. Then be able to search across the whole library on annotations and keywords which would open the pdf to the page and paragraph the annotation referenced. The big thing it does is answer the question: I have read something that I need right now, but where in this huge pile of paper (or directory) is it?

I have gotten the app to the MVP stage, is there any other functionality that would be useful, and would anyone else find this useful?

I would find such a thing useful, if it worked on Linux. I don't even know how many academic papers (and datasheets, and other PDFs) I have - but it's a ton, and increasing all the time.

Ideally, it would be nice if the app could do a search across a drive (or NAS, or whatever) for PDFs, pull out a summary and title, and then use that for naming/search/etc. Maybe your app already does this?

To be honest - what I wish I had was a personal Google Search appliance spidering all of my data on my NAS, which was also linked to normal Google, with priority of search results given to local information.

Maybe something like that already exists - I've found open-source solutions that come close, but all for the search/spidering typically required a machine waaaay better than my desktop...

There are some applications that will do a full text search of pdfs across directories, but seem geared towards server rather than desktop, with commensurate levels of cost and complexity. Conceptually you could use image magik and lucene to make a Linux solution, but without any added features such as summary or title.

I am experimenting with a lightweight solution, but am working out which compromises are reasonable to take so that it is worthwhile but not overwhelming of the machine it runs on. Still have to give it a real test with a large number of files as well.

After I posted, I did some searching, and it appears like something could be made using SOLR or Elasticsearch. Both seem to have methods/plugins for filesystem indexing and document importing/analysis, as well as easy interfaces to allow for any language to be used for development. Combining all of that, plus some dev work and such a search appliance looks doable for a home system, using only a single node.

For the hardware, I figure I could potentially use some old stuff I have (thinking like a Core2 Quad with 16gb RAM and a large hard drive would be fine). I could probably stuff it into an old half-depth 1u server case. The problem now is finding the time to build it...

Thanks, I had missed SOLR and TIKA even though I had investigated Lucene.

One criterion I had for a lightweight solution was to not require Java. No problem with Java, just that it is a big dependency and my perception is that it is not a common install on the laptop or desktop of people reading pdfs, at least out side of the STEM stream.

Device is a MacBook Pro running Papers [1] to organize and read references. Works well with over 18,000 references and their pdfs in my database.

[1] http://papersapp.com/mac/

Me too, but god the UI is buggy! Shamefully so for the price.

I agree. Version 2 was the absolute worst, v.3 is better, but still needs work.

How did you get to 18000 references? What field are you in?

The references are from about 35 years of work mainly in materials R&D, neurobiology, and energy storage technology.

That is awesome, I would love to see that database!

These days I read them in Drawboard PDF on a Surface Pro 4. Easy to write notes on. I keep them in Evernote in notebooks by topic. I'd really prefer a better indexing scheme but that is what I have. As a small product idea I expect that a way to both manage a library of papers and let me write notes on them and let me cite them easily when writing a paper, would be a handy thing to have.

I find it much more difficult to read long sections of academic text on a computer or tablet than on paper. When I need to read a paper thoroughly, I print it out.

For storage I use Papers (http://papersapp.com/). Highly recommended if a little pricey.

I've been using Papers on the Mac and on iOS since they came out, I second the recommendation. I, too, will print out a paper if I really want to go over it thoroughly.

I really tried to use a 6'' kindle for that, but it just doesn't work. I tried it with .pdf, but the screen is just to small and scrolling is not really comfortable. When I tried to convert them to .mobi with calibre, all formulas just looked nasty. Today, I read them on my 14'' ThinkPad with Redshift installed. It does its job well, but it isn't as handy as a Kindle would be.

What is Redshift? (Tried Googling it.)


(If you know f.lux, it's an open source version of that)

Kindle DX, the discontinued one with the really big screen. It fits a whole page nicely.

One day its battery is going to die, and I have no idea what I'll do then.

Yeah, I have one that I loved for reading papers. My only gripe was that it gets heavy/awkward for "light" reading at night. I wound up switching to reading fiction on my phone and papers on the DX.

It really is perfect for PDFs. I'm sad they never made an updated version. I've stopped using mine as much after grad school, but I do miss it quite often.

You will open it up, des older the battery and replace it.

Sony has more current hardware in the size range.

I imagine there are ways you could replace the battery. It might not be pretty, but surely it could be done.

Sorry for nitpicking: shouldn't the question be

What device do you use to read academic papers?


What device do you read academic papers with?

Non-native speaker here, so my nitpicking might actually be useless.

In this case your correction is better, and would probably be more acceptable to most educated English readers (especially in formal contexts). But the original is still fine, in this informal context.

What you're nitpicking is a common and frequently-taught misconception. You can end a sentence with a preposition. Some elitists in the 17th century tried to make English conform to the rules of Latin and those rules have stuck around even though they weren't necessary in the first place, unlike in Latin where a sentence doesn't make sense if you don't follow the rules.

This article gives a few examples of when it's more natural to end a sentence with a preposition (and mentions the history): http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-pre...

Thanks for the link. I do know that prepositions are just fine at the end of a sentence (and I often use them that way), in fact the second version I propose has one. I think my nitpicking is at the presence of the preposition itself, not its position. Replacing it with "With what device do you use to read academic papers?" would be equally wrong.

You're missing the point, completely. The issue has nothing to do with whether it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. The issue is that the title is ungrammatical.

"What device do you read academic papers with?" - fine "What device do you use to read academic papers?" - fine "What device do you use to read academic papers with?" - ungrammatical

Native english speaker here, but not a grammar nazi.

Yes - either "use to read" or "read with" is fine. "use to read with" is just awkward. I'd guess it was an incomplete edit.

I mean, technically you're correct. But at the end of the day as long as a sentence is reasonably understandable it doesn't matter too much.

Thanks for the nit! I thought it read weird.

Yes. The title of this post is ungrammatical.

Portrait orientation 24" Dell Ultrasharp monitor, with the page fit to screen. I find viewing at >100% scale makes a difference.

Zotero + Zotfile + Dropbox keeps my papers synced across all devices. PDF X-change is such a good PDF editor/viewer that I happily pay for it.

As as aside: Why do journals permit authors to submit plots and other line art as raster images. Have they no shame?

To organise/track papers:

I’m currently using Mendeley[1]. Previously, I used Papers[2]. Unfortunately, the latest version of Papers (3.x) is terrible compared to how slick the old version (2.x) was. I’ve tried ReadCube[3], but somehow I find Mendeley easier to work with. I used EndNote[4] before I discovered Papers, and wouldn’t recommend it. I keep all my .pdf files in Dropbox.

Discussions/recommendations for papers:

In-person, well run, reading groups still seem to work best. Although I’ve seen good discussions on /r/maths and /r/physics on Reddit. ResearchGate[5] is useful for finding recent papers, while Mendeley is good for more historical connections.

Reading papers:

I’ve tried a Kindle, but having to convert with Calibre adds too much friction to the process, and the result still isn’t that easy to work with. Reading for long periods of time on a laptop or desktop monitor is painful. An iPad with a Retina display comes close, but old school paper printout still wins the day. You can carry paper anywhere and scribble annotations on it with ease. I also find being able to have multiple pages “in view” at the same time is sometimes helpful for understanding. Not easily (cheaply) done with iPads or laptops.

[1] https://www.mendeley.com/

[2] http://papersapp.com/

[3] https://www.readcube.com/

[4] http://endnote.com/

[5] https://www.researchgate.net/

I'll second Mendeley. I've used several other options, but Mendeley has a Chrome plug-in that will download the PDF as well as try to read author and other bibliographical info. The desktop app helps in searching for key words within all documents as well as individual documents.

Combining the mendeley plugin with the automatic .bib generator and LyX means I can cite stuff pretty much as quickly as looking at the page.

You and several others have recommended Mendeley but I personally wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. It's a nice system but 1) it's proprietary, and 2) it's owned by Elsevier, a company notorious for its shady business practices:

- https://politics.slashdot.org/story/12/03/19/2220208/boycott...

- https://science.slashdot.org/story/13/12/06/1945224/elsevier...

- https://science.slashdot.org/story/15/11/02/1323258/all-edit...

Personally, I very much prefer Zotero but here's a great comparison of both software http://www.library.yorku.ca/web/research-learn/citations/zot...

Mendeley. Not the nicest UX, but it syncs, has tags relevant for academic papers and can export everything as a bibtex file.

I second Mendeley. Highlighting features, sharing. Awesome software

I only wish it had pen support (surface). If I could markup papers as I go with my pen it would be the ultimate tool.

try qiqqa

HP LaserJet 4200dtn and 20 lb white paper.

I use an iPad 1. The very first one.

Apps don't support its completely obsolete iOS version any more, but the device itself works perfectly well.

I only use it to read academic papers, but it's still fine for that task.

I've just recently started to read academic papers and have fussed a bit with the best workflow. My hardware that I owned when I started the process were a Macbook Pro and Android Samsung Tab e 8.0. I've avoided purchasing any new hardware so far but may end up going with an iPad Pro or iPad Air if I cannot get satisfactory results with my Samsung Tab.

My software setup currently includes: - Zotero -- reference management - Zotfile -- pulls annotations out of the PDF for saving in Evernote, among other things - Evernote -- The workhorse of my setup. I use this for both organizing my research projects, task lists, etc and also for notetaking while reading a PDF. This includes pulling annotations out of the PDF with Zotfile and storing them in an Evernote note. - Google Drive -- for storing my PDFs. Each PDF has an Evernote note linked to it. This allows Evernote to full text search all my PDFs that are stored in Google Drive with OCR, so it will even detect any handwritten notes in a PDF. - XODO -- I've tried many Android PDF annotation tools and currently XODO has been the best as far as UX while reading/annotating and also stability and integration with Evernote via Google Drive. Ideally I would use the built in annotation tool in Evernote but it is frustratingly slow on my Android device and the UX is suboptimal.

I've had a few issues with the Samsung Tab - It is only 8" so it involves a lot of zooming and panning while reading. - It has a split screen mode so I can have my notetaking app in one pane and my pdf annotator in the second screen. This works well except that, again, there is limited screen space - I've struggled with finding an acceptable PDF annotation tool on Android.

I print them out on paper. I have a huge bookshelf full of them which is not ideal...

I stare at a screen for way too long otherwise, so my eyes need a break.

Laptop when I'm at my desk, but otherwise I actually use my smartphone. It's a biggish one, and in landscape orientation it's enough to fit the (printed area of) the width of a pdf page in a decent font size.

The convenience of just taking the phone out of my pocket and start reading more than compensates for not having a whole page in view.

Notes & tracking: emacs + org-mode. Not ideal, but I can have it and it does 60% of the job out of the box.

Storing: filesystem (notes include where I stored it).

Reading: E-ink.

I started with Pocketbook 622 (a 6", 800x600 display). Worked very well. Can open many formats _natively_ (doc, rtf, djvu etc, check specs for full list). One of the first docs was anatomy atlas from 19century via archive. Rendered only decently, required huge magnification/landscape mode/margin cutting to be of any use. I had varying experience with other pdf/djvu documents - depending how they were created. Some djvus rendered excellently on 6", despite being meant for bigger (close to a4) page size. No problem with rtf/epub and other such formats. Magazines in pdf (a4) very hard to read, not worth it really. Arxiv's pdfs looked good/very good, sometimes they could be reflowed or put into column view, which helped a lot but with reflow I learned math not always shows up properly. Old computer manuals (my hobby, they are just scaned typewritten books) - not good enough.

Next model was Inkpad 840 (a 8", 1600x1200 display). What looks good on Pb622, looks good too on Ip840. Magazines look better, but they require a good light for really comfortably reading. Otherwise, I can go with dim night light. This model has backlight, but I don't like the idea of shining into my eyes.

Huge plus: sd card slot. I go on for months airgapped. Huge minus: maybe it is just me, but reading html docs almost always sucks one way or another. What to look for: external hard case so I don't have to be oh so wary. It was a PITA trying to find case for Ip840 thanks to its nonstandard dimensions. I settled down with some oversized tablet case. Ip840 feels a bit slow and awkward (compared to Pb622) but I got used to it. If I had to buy again, I would have had a closer look on Kobo models too. Kindle does not cut it for me - requires too big commitment.

All of this just MHO, of course.

I tried using docear for a while but couldn't get into a good groove with it so I'm still stuck in ad-hoc mode with a side of zotero. Has anyone found a good workflow with docear and mind sharing? It seems like it could be pretty powerful for projects with a lot of literature reading (like a PhD...)

I'm a big fan of e-ink devices for reading - I've gone through Nooks and Kindles.

This upcoming one looks interesting - 10.3" E-Ink tablet, with a stylus - and they claim they've got input latency down to 55 ms:

https://getremarkable.com/ https://blog.getremarkable.com/better-paper-better-thinking-... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34I27KPZM6g

The YouTube video above shows them drawing with the device at 0:40 - I asked, and apparently that's the actual device in use.

this device looks nice: https://getremarkable.com/

If only it had a backlight. I use my eInk device mostly when reading in the dark.

But $400? Seems incredibly expensive for a device that is just able to display text and take notes.

$400USD is with 40% off too! and it's really low ppi, not even up to my personal minimum of 350ppi which really makes for decent, clear reading.

PPI really depends on the viewing distance. You're usually very close to a phone but much further away from a 27" monitor and further away still from a 65" TV.

I'd say for a large 13-inch ebook reader, a 167ppi grayscale display (for anti-aliasing) is pretty good.

Until very recently all ebook readers were around 167ppi (most of them 6 inches diagonally) and most people were OK with it.

The high prices are due to the eInk panels, they must have a very low yield at large sizes making them very expensive.

I agree on distance but there is a massive difference between an 8" device with 300+ PPI and one that's 224~ PPI, and if I'm getting a slightly larger device I'm going to want it as sharp as possible, it's a bit like having a 27" monitor - they look dreadful at 1080P, and I think they're only just good enough at 2160p which is generally 163 PPI - now you can really see the difference between that and a 27" 5K display at 218 PPI which lots a lot clearer.

e-ink based. I would totally buy it if I could test it first, but not going to drop the money for something that ships in september.

Have you seen how expensive e-readers are?

I'm not saying it's overpriced compared to other e-readers, but overpriced compared to printing and tablets.

I really like the idea and hope that it takes off when they release it, hopefully scale could make them cheaper.

Laptop, but in all honest I am still waiting eagerly for a good and fast enough e-ink second monitor, reading on a Kindle is such an improvement over a regular screen but the sluggishness is horrible ...

I have a Kindle but I would never use it to read academic papers. Reading a PDF on Kindle is a real pain as

1. The screen size is too small for a readable, fit-to-screen experience

2. Scrolling is too sluggish to even try, you don't want to scroll horizontally and vertically on a PDF which is zoomed a few levels

Currently, laptop works much better I'd say.

There are some tools which can turn an academic pdf (i.e. double column, images) into a nicely formatted epub/mobi file, look into it. It makes it somewhat bearable.

can you recommend one in particular?

I used to use K2pdfopt, http://willus.com/k2pdfopt/

Thanks, that looks awesome!

My laptop, I use SumatraPDF with bookview (Ctrl+8).

Seeing two pages side by side, like a book, even on small screens makes a huge difference for me. Also the ability to switch between documents easily (ctrl+tab and ctrl+shift+tab) is really handy, when I am researching a topic.

I haven't figured out the annotation and highlighting part yet. I just copy and paste important parts into an Emacs org-mode document and summarize the article I read.

It's also easier to remember, what I tought when I read the article at the time, if I take extensive notes.

I have some code for extracting PDF annotations into markdown or org-mode: https://github.com/malb/emacs.d/blob/master/malb.org#pdf-vie...

Let me piggy-back on this question: What platform do you use to discuss / recommend / get recommendations of academic papers?

(I see Mendeley mentioned for example; there's some overlap here)

I'm a little surprised at the number of people that are saying "paper" or "printer". I agree. The technology to read complex technical topics online just isn't there yet, remarkably. I do plenty of reading online as I'm working on stuff, and I read recreationally (fiction and non-fiction) almost entirely on a Kindle. But for some stuff, there's just no substitute yet for paper. High contrast, portable, annotatable, and persistent.

Yeah there's this weird attitude that's quite prevalent that there's something wrong with printing things out on paper. There isn't. Paper that we buy in the west to use for printing things out on is almost all sustainably farmed timber, and consuming it promotes the creation of sustainably farmed young growth wood, which absorbs CO2 very effectively.


- Bibdesk (http://bibdesk.sourceforge.net): archiving papers (automatic rename / custom citekey generation), Google Scholar bibtex extraction, and bibtex interface w/ TeXShop

- Google Drive: storing archive ... it's not a great archive solution because of google's special system of renaming files, however stuck with it because of work


- Goodreader: fast PDF renderer

I wish there was a bibdesk app for the ipad linking to goodreader.

There's an app "PocketBib" that synchronizes Bibdesk to the iPad (through Dropbox or Google Drive). It has a basic reader built in, but you can open individual papers in Goodreader (or any other reading app). Of course, if you have the papers in Dropbox/Google Drive anyway, you could also open them directly in Goodreader. In that case, PocketBib is just an interface for the database.

I like to print them out. Reading from any type of screen hurts my eyes. Has anyone got experience reading papers in Kindle. How does it feel like?

They feel like paper to my eyes. Sometimes like a xerocopy. See above for a bit longer reply: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13591030

I had some doubts myself before buying my first e-ink based device. It helped a lot to watch movies on y-t where guys were test driving them.

Not all e-ink displays are of equal quality. The newer ones should be ok, those claiming 16 levels of grey. However the definitive test should be made by your very own eyes.

Edit: I don't have a Kindle.

e-ink displays look to your eyes basically like paper. I absolutely love my Kindle for reading books.

For papers though, not so much. The screen is too small for a layout format like PDF to work. The document has to be able to reflow for the screen like a proper e-book to work really well, and PDFs don't. I've heard the Kindle DX was great but those haven't been made in a while, otherwise there's a few big ones Sony made which are apparently awesome but expensive.

An iPad for the initial pass. If it looks interesting and in depth, I'll print a copy so I can mark it up and take tons of notes.

I'm always using my Surface Pro 4 in tablet form, it's great for that. (And I can also mark up using my pen)

not a kindle.

their stupid idea to make it just small enough to not fit a page from a pdf, and the completely broken scrolling killed it. even tried the larger one. same problem.

they may have prevented the two people that would have read a pirated pdf of a novel instead of buying it from amazon. but it cost them the entire academia market.

It's hit or miss, but sometimes Calibre's conversions for native formats is pretty good at getting the conversion+scaling right. My partner is a chemist and she's had a lot of luck with various ACS publications rendering right after a conversion

most older papers are pdf images. I know it's a dumb format but the screen scroling were not purposeful broken, it would have been fine.

A Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (2015?) with Xodo PDF Reader. The screen is very good and big enough to read and highlight/comment PDF's, even for todays standards. Xodo also saves the annotations directly back to the original PDF. Using Dropsync/Dropbox for syncing with the PC.

IPad Pro 9.7 but if I need to actually understand what I'm reading on a deep level I print it.

[Boox M92](https://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Boox_M92) It is great to study academic papers or read any pdf document.

Off topic: I expected to see more iPad instead of laptop as a response.

Would the reason be economical, information density (more real state on a modern laptop/desktop) or something else?

Latency is the biggest issue with ipad for me. Laptops and desktops respond almost instantly when you type or scroll, while ipads and other tablets have a lot of latency built into the OS. I know an extra 20-60 milliseconds doesn't seem like much, but it definitely adds up, and it really ruins the feel of things.

When you read a physical book, you can flip through pages instantly and scan the contents with zero wait time. A laptop is much closer to this ideal than a tablet.

Ubooquity to organize them, tablet to read.


HP laserjet + red fineliner pen

Sometimes iPad Pro

More rarely, on a desktop or laptop

GoodReader on iPad

Agreed, an iPad with goodreader is the way to go (in particular its notetaking and extensive file management options). I might even go for the 12.9" pro model at some point but the standard 9.7" model is enough for most pdf's.

GoodReader's zoom in-out is so fast (at least on iPad Air 2), even on complex PDFs, that it's easy enough to zoom in on the occasional thing that's too small to read.

I've been thinking about upgrading to a 12.9" iPad Pro myself, but the additional benefits (larger screen, Apple Pencil support, better colour fidelity) aren't worth it for my use cases.

I tried switching from an iPad Air 2 to a 12.9" iPad Pro primarily because I wanted something larger to read PDFs with, and quickly discovered it was too large to be my iPad for everything else.

So, I'm waiting for a refresh and then I'll decide whether I can justify having two iPads.

"too large to be my iPad for everything else"

Because it's too large to carry around all the time, or because it's not comfortable to use when lying down, or something else?

You nailed it. Too large to casually take with me when I leave, too large/awkward to comfortably use lying down.

I don't remember whether there were other problems because it took all of 15 minutes to realize I couldn't sell my smaller iPad to help pay for it and still have an iPad to use most of the time.

I use Mendeley on my desktop which has a big screen and allows me to take notes side by side with a text editor.

I find kbibtex quite nice, and emacs for editing the raw bibtex if I feel like it.

mupdf is pretty lightweight for skimming.

I'd really love to have A4 sized e-book, with colorful screen if possible. Meanwhile, printer

My desktop. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is actually really nice for reading and annotating pdfs.

If you've tried the Kobo Aura One (7.8" screen) would love your feedback.

I've been using this e-reader to read papers last semester. In short, the screen is still a bit small to read A4 sized papers without zooming, but it is actually possible, while I didn't do so with the smaller Kobo's I had before (Aura HD/H2O).

I much prefer the e-reader over a laptop (14" Thinkpad), but there are some downsides. Taking notes on the e-reader is clunky (so I don't do that), and the battery life is less than that of the earlier models (still workable, though).

The color-adjustable backlight is quite nice. The only e-reader I've seen that's better for this kind of thing is the Sony DPTS1, but then you are talking about a completely different price class.

I did, no good. It doesn't display PDFs properly. The formatting is bad and it's slow. That's the most maddening aspect, the speed is rubbish. You should be able to flip around as fast as paper but the lag is terrible.

I use a laptop mostly, but yeh paper is best because freeform annotations.


I wonder why no one mentioned it, but I would like Mendeley to have a device like this that only has Mendeley and I will be so happy.

A4 size, pdf scribbled annotations with stylus, synched with a 20GB Box.com account

It's more than 12% smaller than A4 size. (13.3 vs 14.32 diagonally)

thanks for the correction

i read arXiv on my android smart-phone using Xodo PDF viewer , which lets me highlight and underline in color.

Reams of paper saved and I can read anywhere... but I can't do scratch-work on my cell phone!

Kindle Voyage. A bit slow for some graphics-heavy papers though.

iPad. It's can use multiply purpose and it's already installed "iBooks" App. So, It's useful.

iPad plus iAnnotate. Syncs with Dropbox and works brilliantly. GoodReader would work as well apparently.

12" iPad Pro + Apple Pencil.

Really a game changer.

X1 Yoga + Mendeley or paper printout


qiqqa - has bibtex support and decent ocr

If I'm working with a paper (i.e. running experiments, writing code) then my workstation. If I'm just reading a paper, then iPad Pro.

I usually read with my brain.

You're new to HN, but as you'll find out, we don't really recommend posting jokes or wisecracks in the comments in an endeavor to keep the signal-to-noise ratio a little higher.

it was definitely glib, but I was trying to make the point that there's only one device that matters for such things.

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