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Zshelf: Z-Library books downloader for reMarkable tablet (github.com/khanhas)
120 points by markMacLean 37 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 51 comments

I've had a reMarkable2 for a while, and just started using it. It does just want I want it to do (which isn't all that much). I use it to take notes while I'm studying. The handwriting recognition is surprisingly good (my hand writing is terrible).

Somehow I missed there are a bunch of things out there written for these tablets!


I've been using the two for a month or two now for work notes (everything I do has to be documented in case of Freedom of Information requests). It's really good, but the lag between screens is just enough to be annoying.

I tried the Boox Air, and it felt like trying to write on an overhead projector (for you youths, it felt like writing on a piece of stiff plastic). The one thing the remarkable does extremely well is simulate the actual feeling of writing on paper. That is very, very nice.

I wish I was able to modify my tablet, because there are so many super handy things you can do with it!

Once they get the latency of eink under control, I'm in. Until then, I need an iPad so I can pan and zoom around my liquidtext notes in silky smooth 60fps.

I still don't understand why they don't add native onenote integration. I would buy one in a heartbeat if they did. The whole "well just email it to yourself" workflow is horrible and a non-starter. It seems like such an oversight that I can't quite wrap my head around it. I have no doubt MS would be willing to work with them and it should be entirely do-able given the linux underpinnings of the tablet.

Maybe by the time there's a reMarkable3.

I personally am very glad that nothing related to MS is anywhere near it. The device is pretty much perfect. Would be nice if they supported Japanese handwriting recognition though.

If you're a power-user sshing the framebuffer over + tesseract-jpn (or tesseract-jpn-vert) works splendidly for me. You can get it working in 100 lines of python from mix-matching existing scripts.

Thanks, I'll check that out.

There's a nice 3rd party python library for reading/writing files to/from the tablet, so really you can do anything you want with it. The tablet is very much just a linux computer with an e-ink display attached, and they make it very easy to ssh in and do whatever you want.

An open source OneNote integration project for the Remarkable was just unveiled: https://github.com/jamesf91/RemarkableSync

Totally agree with you on that one. OneNote would be a great thing to have on those things for sure. It's a nice little device, but doesn't do all that much.

How are you dealing with the jagged line issue and the other issues like no custom templates, no bookmarks etc.?

I was pretty sold on RM2 but then I read about the slow development pace, the apparent nonsensical lockdown of the device etc (yes I know it’s less locked down than an iPad) and I just think about getting a boox device.

Edit: see https://youtu.be/QoVIpCSpaFs

The jagged line issue seems to have largely affected batches shipped in late 2020. Judging from the device serial numbers, it looks like there may have been four hardware revisions to the RM2. I have a more recent RM2 (early-February) and don't have the jagged lines issue or the wavy lines issue.

Custom templates are possible without modifying the device at all, using free tools online. Bookmarks you can get using the DDVK hack (but they aren't anywhere as slick as the implementation on the Supernote).

I'm not sure what you mean about the lockdown of the device. There's a thriving third-party community, including a package manager (Toltec), you get a SSH password out of the box, and you can even install a full Linux desktop environment on it (Parabola-RM).

I'm pretty satisfied with mine. My biggest gripes are: (i) PDF searching is poorly implemented; (ii) no searching of handwritten notebooks apart from metadata; (iii) although you can get bookmarks with a hack, there's no way to bookmark notebooks like you would with paper notebooks, e.g., with several different style sticky notes that are easy to find and access. The built-in eBook reader functionality is poor, but since it's so easy to install KOReader, that's not an issue for me.

I don't have a remarkable 1 or 2, but I did some digging when considering buying one before, and I'd call it locked down because the primary UI and software stack were very locked off. Yes, you can get an SSH connection to it, but past that point 3rd party development feels more like jailbreaking an iphone, just with the jailbreak freely provided.

It's clear the developer intends for the device to be heavily restricted by default in an attempt to mimic a notebook as closely as possible. You are given a free escape hatch, but that's it.

>the primary UI and software stack were very locked off

Nothing's really locked off. The filesystem is fully accessible, the file format is not obfuscated in any way and was easily reverse-engineered (there are several libraries for reading/writing the format now), and it's possible to interact with the main "xochitl" UI by intercepting/simulating events and drawing to the framebuffer after the main UI draws.

It is true that they haven't opened the UI framework behind "xochitl", but I'd guess that it's probably pretty rudimentary and not particularly general given how simple "xochitl" is. Most third party apps for the device just use QT or draw directly to the framebuffer. (And why not use QT?)

>It's clear the developer intends for the device to be heavily restricted by default

They want the UI for average users to be fairly restricted, but IMHO they're intentionally leaving it open to people to hack on it. The CTO even has a crosswords app up on Github.

It's actually one of the least locked down devices out there. It's proprietary apps aren't open source, but otherwise you have free reign over the device.

All it takes to side-load is ssh.

None of what this guy is saying is a problem for me. I have no idea what this jagged lines issue is.

I would say this is radically not locked down. You can ssh it!

If they tried to accommodate custom “mods” it could crash their updates. I don’t want them spending dev cycles on such an accommodation.

Besides my desktop computer, this is the best technology purchase I’ve ever made. I continue to use it for practical things.

I had a original nook which had truly awful software. Even the library function where you select books was truly painful to use and couldn't even search both books you had downloaded and those you had paid for electronically so I jailbreaked it with a tool that relied on loading a url with an exploit in its browser and gained in addition to a library app that worked everything from a twitter client, to dictionaries, to pandora.

Ultimately the functionality didn't interfere with the built in reader software or OS because it was entirely orthogonal the extra functionality was more icons on the launch screen. It didn't need the developers to create much in the way of extension points save for the expectations that the launch screen wasn't hard coded but rather it would let you select from whatever apps were installed. Something pretty common in basically every OS.

If your work doesn't have some degree of natural separation between A and B I don't know how you can possibly have made it work in the first place.

Either I don't see them or just don't care about the jagged line issue? Doesn't seem to happen to mine at least. The other stuff would be nice, but I am not a power user. I agree with the other things, though I don't care much about those things.

I use it for some notes, and that's about it, so it's fine for what I use it for.

I wouldn't buy a boox because they don't respect the GPL.

My daughter uses it for drawing and really likes it.

I have mixed feelings on z-library. I don't condone book piracy but will admit that I've used it in the past in these situations:

1. I have the book in print but want the convenience of reading while traveling without a bunch of books in tow. This one is, IMO, a morally grey area.

2. I have put books on my daughter's Kindle which she checked out from the local library through overdrive. Far too many e-books from the library require Adobe Acrobat with some DRM garbage which realistically allows you to read it on a PC or an iPad.

I mostly feel the same way. I definitely do not condone book piracy, but I don't have any qualms about getting a digital version of a book that I have purchased. My favorite technical book publisher NoStarch Press (unaffiliated) provides eBook versions for free with purchase of a physical copy and I wish that was more common.

I do not feel the same way about audiobooks, even if I own the book, there is additional cost and value added to producing audiobooks and I can't justify pirating those even if I already own the physical book.

Thank you for that second statement. Too many people that I know personally justify pirating audiobooks because they already own a physical copy. A well-done audiobook (for example, Hyperion) is a production all on its own. It's an experience above and beyond the actual printed text.

I don't know if that adds to the conversation or not, but I did want to thank you for that distinction!

Yes agree with this sentiment here. This is only reason I buy books almost elusively from manning. Would be interesting to see how they estimate they loss of value from non-drm ebooks vs gain in customers like me who are buying books for no drm.

Similar to your use case #2, I use Z-Library (and others) to get DRM-free versions of books I bought on Apple Books. Reason being: I can't trust that Apple won't go ebook-bankrupt like Microsoft did a few years back.

I had never heard of "Z-Library" before, so I followed the link. The z-library front page copy requires serious reading between the lines to tell that it's a piracy site.

> Here you can always find the relevant information on the available domains for your region.

Was the only tip-off for me, and that's quite subtle. While I have conflicted thoughts on piracy, I could see casual users using this site without knowing it was piracy, which definitely seems off to me. Maybe if I click through further it becomes more obvious?

The entire online ebook market revolves around paying money per digital copy licensed exclusively for you often with DRM, paying a subscription for temporary access to a number of books for the duration with DRM, and electronically borrowing from a finite number of simultaneous copies held by a library.

If you had never interacted with any of that over the last 20 years then you could be forgiven for not knowing that a site offering unlimited downloads of millions of drm free books without limit, payment, or even login was piracy.

Otherwise its every bit as obvious as napster or the pirate bay.

It should be obvious to anyone who reached the site. They have listed popular books on the front page. And the website itself isn't indexed if you don't explicitly search the name.

My local public library also has popular books listed. I didn't explicitly search the name, I got to it from a link on github, which I got to from a news aggregator. None of these links mentioned anything about piracy.

Mentioning piracy on the front page would be legally disadvantageous as piracy is illegal. Drug dealers also don't have signage, price lists, and hours except for that one guy they busted in the south with a drive up window in his mobile home.

I guess I remember a time when bookwarez.net was the go-to site for book piracy. Simpler times I suppose.

I remember issuing query commands to bots on IRC and shared FTP sites where you were expected to collect interesting things on other sites and upload them painfully over dial up in order to achieve the proper ratio to not get kicked off.

>It should be obvious to anyone who reached the site. They have listed popular books on the front page.

Not true for me. The front page had 3 links (Books, Articles, Sign up). I had to click Books before I could see content and _then_ it was obvious.

> And the website itself isn't indexed if you don't explicitly search the name.

Most people aren't going to know what that even means.

<shameless self-promotion>

There's another tool for rM that fetches articles by URI and sends them to reMarkable as PDFs: https://sendreadable.utrack.dev/

Remarkable's chrome extension does the same, no? And I have full control in the print dialog to adjust the output.

There's a value if you provide a CLI tool for that, for automation.

Yep, it's basically the same thing. I've done it because it's chrome only, and there's no way to send articles from mobile.

Looks really interesting, am I missing the code on GitHub?

Nope, there doesn't appear to be any.

The github link on the site takes you to your personal github page, not the page for the sendreadable project. One downside of the way remarkable handles this sort of thing, is that I assume I have to give you my API key, which would let you read/write anything you want to the tablet. Its a lot easier to trust that you're not doing anything fishy if you provide the code to the project.

The code is definitely not open source ready and it depends on a lot of custom infra (I've hacked it up in one weekend). You can always download PDFs without logging in and automate the upload yourself if you want.

Yeah, those damn authors don't deserve any money for their hard work writing. Let's make piracy easier and pretend we're doing nothing different to a lending library!

Just as movie pirates are also the sort of people who spend a lot of money on movies, I would bet (with no proof of any kind) that the kind of person who pirates books is also the kind of person that buys a lot of books. My library has an ebook section, but they make it extremely difficult to actually work with the ebooks because of all the DRM, so Ive started browsing their catalog, and then using libgen to get the actual book since it lets me actually read the darn thing. I also have filled every wall in my house with floor to ceiling book shelves, I really dont think any authors losing money on my book piracy.

Seconded. I always buy a book in print first, read it, and then acquire a digital copy for things I want to re-read or take notes on. If I could get eBooks some other way onto my Remarkable, I would. But the DRM makes it extremely difficult/impossible.

I wish there was a way to tip authors of books that are obtained via piracy. Like, if I pirate the ebook, I'd rather give the author the money than amazon. Their cut on ebooks is pretty sad compared to print media.

I'm uninformed, as I'm into neither piracy nor libraries. What are the differences between the two from an author's financial perspective? My initial impression is that they sound equivalent; both are used to get your book for free, by people who don't want to buy it.

Libraries buy the e-book legally and loan it out to a single person who then returns it. Libraries are often forced to buy ebooks at a much higher than consumer price, supposedly to offset the cost of customers who would buy the book themselves if libraries didn't exist. The author/publisher get paid for every copy purchased by every library and no more than 1 person can be reading that copy of the book at a given time. If someone wants to permanently add it to their collection they must purchase it themselves.

It's the functional equivalent of someone buying the book and then passing it on to the next person who wants to read it.

With pirating, perhaps one person bought the book originally and then it gets sent to an infinite number of people who permanently have it in their collection. The author gets paid practically nothing.

> What are the differences between the two from an author's financial perspective?

The short answer is that libraries buy books, pirates don't.

In regards to physical books, a good place to start is understanding "first sale doctrine"[1], which allows both libraries and you to do what you want with a book once you're purchased it.

First sale doctrine does not apply to DRM-encumbered ebooks, so libraries must buy as many licenses as they wish to loan, paying three-to-five times the retail price for each limited-time license, and re-purchasing those licenses when they expire (typically after two years).

[1] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-first-sale-doctr...

Libraries who purchase books for a much smaller discount than other bulk buys drive more sales than they cost. For a new release which is when most sales are made the library only buys n copies when n * x copies are simultaneously desired by readers who want to read your book now not after a 12 week waiting list. This is to say they drive more sales than they cost.

Here is an interesting answer on the topic.


They also provide a net benefit to society by encouraging knowledge and literacy. There is a social expectation that physical goods are sold in most cases without expectation that seller will retain contractual control in order to derive maximum profit. Example nobody liked when Keurig sold coffee pots that wouldn't work with generic or indeed even older official pods via electronic tags in pods.

Also keep in mind that that we all exist in a society there is no reasonable expectation that you have a moral right to be able to use societies apparatus to maximize profit if its at societies expense. Limits are the norm.

In Germany, libraries pay 3-4 Cent per lending to VG Wort, the relevant copyright collecting society, which in turn pays royalties to the authors.

The amount of money someone is paid usually has zero correlation with what they are paid. See Cigarette execs vs school teachers.

Some of us see the virtue in authors getting incentivized in theory but think copyright at least as practiced is a net negative for society because it stops the free spread of information that would otherwise better enlighten the world. This way of thinking actually dates back to some of the founding fathers.

Nobody "deserves" to be paid because someone has arranged a pattern of bits in a way that they "own". Different laws have different up sides and down sides and we ought to pick the set of rules that results in the highest benefit/lowest cost to society. This unlike ownership of imaginary property has moral force. By choosing to treat the current rules as given good you have missed out on the opportunity to make a useful argument about the relative utility of different strategies.

Arguably the current dynamic where piracy is technically easy but practically discouraged might be far more optimum than one in which copyright was actually maximally enforced because the people who have plenty of money value convenience and pay out at a substantive portion of what they would pay in a maximum enforcement scenario whereas those who would otherwise go without are able to.

On net you end up with multiple times the positive effect of a maximum enforcement scenario while still funding authors having a decent life.

For myself I think artificial scarcity of any variety is an attempt to preserve a business model based on actual scarcity that doesn't make much sense in modern context. Ultimately it wasn't the VCR inventors job to justify to the copyright industry that home video industry made sense. The logical step towards phasing out copyright would be limiting it to a sane time frame like 7 years wherein most of the money is actually made in the first place.

To any authors reading this:

It would be cool if you would set up abilities to "donate" or direct pay you. I love getting ebooks but often its really difficult to find a drm-free version (sometimes I can get one on the publishers website).

Because there's so much friction around it I get virtually all my books from pirated sources. For books that I really enjoy I'll then go pick up the book at my local bookstore, but I'd love to have an easy, digital way to pay you.

Would be even cooler if you had a cryptocurrency address (ideally monero or maybe bitcoin) I could pay.

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