Reading scientific papers on Kindle with k2pdfopt

I have been waiting for some time for a new large-format eReader to be announced for reading PDF journal articles and textbooks. The Onyx Boox m96 sounds promising although the screen is “only” 10 inches in size and 13.3 inch eReaders for a reasonable price might be on the horizon. The exciting Sony DPT-S1 is unavailable, expensive and only works with PDFs. What a catastrophe! Come on, Sony!

In the meantime, I have discovered an open source project called k2pdfopt that purports to convert journal articles into Kindle-formatted pages, by splitting the pages into smaller pieces and trimming borders etc. Well, it seems it can do a lot of cool stuff, so if you are interested I suggest you go to the homepage.

I decided to test it out on Ubuntu 13.10. My test file was the seminal paper by Stoner & Wohlfarth “A mechanism of magnetic hysteresis in heterogeneous alloys”.

Well, it did a pretty good job with the default settings, although there are some problems on pages where the standard 2-column layout switches to 1-column for large equations etc. The converter split those equations over two pages, making it very hard to read them. There are also some parts where footnotes and the title at each page header break up the flow of the text and would ideally have been removed.

Still, the results were quite impressive. I know how hard it must be for a program to accurately parse a complicated PDF file, and I gave it a very difficult test article. Perhaps with easier files the results will be even better. I tried it again with Thiaville and co-workers “Domain wall motion by spin-polarized current: a micromagnetic study” and this time the results were pretty much perfect. This paper has a standard Journal of Applied Physics layout and is well formatted. The only issue was that, again, the page headers and footers from the original A4 PDF pages appear in the middle of the reflowed text. This isn’t such a big problem but it could be a little distracting, and we all know that reading hardcore scientific papers requires all of our concentration sometimes!

Until I have a 13.3 inch eReader (Onyx Boox say that they will be releasing one around Autumn 2014) I will stick to a combination of reading from my notebook screen (tiring) and printing select papers (wasteful) but now using k2pdfopt I can better utilize my Kindle too.