An experience using iPad Pro for working with e-books

3 minute read


Hi there, long term iPad Pro user here. 2017 iPad Pro-10.5 inch. Its been more than 2 years, huh.

This thing is crazy cool, I tell you. My original intent was to use the iPad for some simple doodling and reading e-books. Eventually, I began using it for other purposes as well like watching movies, documents editing and annotating, and now for most purposes besides software development, I use my iPad.

It was a weird experience in the early days - the idea that all your files and documents had to be organized into their respective Apps seemed a little clumsy at first, but eventually I found out the Documents App by Readdle. Available here:

It’s the Swiss knife file management app on the iPad. And best of all, its absolutely free.

Working with eBooks on iPad

From day 1, I’ve been using 3 Apps for my eBook needs:

  1. Documents by Readdle - for reading PDFs.
  2. Books app - Comes built-in, has support for both epub and PDF files.
  3. Kindle app - I’ve purchased a lot of books on Kindle. No app to read my collection except this one.

In an ideal situation, I would’ve wanted a single application for all my eBook needs, but I know its difficult for Apple and Amazon to play nice, so I’ll go with 2 apps - Books and Kindle. Still, I should’ve never needed the Documents app. Yet, here we are.

So what’s wrong with the built-in Books App?

Its the PDF Features

I bought this device back when iOS-10 was in its mature stages and iOS-11 was just around the corner. At present, it runs iPadOS-13.3 (UPDATE: Now running iPadOS-13.4). And since day-1, it can’t scroll when reading a PDF. PDF scrolling works when opening the PDFs in Files app, but not in the Books App. Is that too much ask, Apple?

Annotating PDFs needs improvement If you were reading any physical book and wanted to highlight or annotate something, you’d use a pen(cil) to markup interesting stuff and turn the pages with your fingers if you need to. Annotating documents on the iPad should be the same. Instead we do this:

  • Reach the page where you want to annotate something. So far, so good. :slightly_smiling_face:
  • You can directly tap with Apple Pencil to begin annotating if you are using the Files app. Cool, right? :thumbsup: If you are in Books, you are screwed-you need to tap that marker icon on the top right first. :thumbsdown:
  • Begin all your annotation magic on that page.
  • Once done, try turning to the next page using your fingers.
  • Oh, you can’t? :worried: You need to turn off the annotation mode by tapping that marker icon.
  • Get what I mean? The damn app can’t distinguish between my finger and Apple Pencil. :angry:

If someone at Apple is reading this, please try the PDF annotations on the Documents App for once. They are a breeze to work with. Oh, did I mention that it has PDF scrolling and you can switch between different viewing modes?

Here’s the Books App:

Here’s a screen recording of the Documents App in action:

Spot the difference above? Its much easier to work with PDFs in Documents App, because you never need to waste time turning Apple Pencil on/off. You only need to click the upper toolbar, if you ever need to change tools, or once you are done with your work - both of which are scenarios of how things pan out in the real world.

So, to conclude, I believe a PDF reader that can’t offer simple scrolling, isn’t a good reader anyway. Its a feature that has been present in any PDF reader app since PDFs first became a thing. And given Apple’s belief that they exist to make great products, I’d say its a fair standard to hold them up to.

Update: At long last, Apple has finally seen the error in their ways and now support PDF annotations the way its supposed to work and Apple Books now finally has scrolling and annotation support for PDF documents. Check out the latest iPadOS 14 for more.

Good job listening to your customers Apple!

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