Wednesday, August 11, 2010

eReader vs. Tablet for RPG pdfs

(see end of article for an update)

I'm tired of lugging around RPG books. I have a bookshelf full with many resting unused for years. Some were never used. I just don't see the point.

Now that I play Savage Worlds my need for new books is even smaller. Since I design most of my own settings, I usually use the supplements as source material without actually using most of the game itself. I therefor starting buying my games as PDFs to save space. The side effect was to make for a rapidly searchable text when looking for rules during my online games.

So it seemed reasonable that one of the eBook readers like a Kindle or a Nook would fill my need nicely. I posted the question to a few online forums asking for advice. I was surprised by the response.

The general consensus is eBook readers make poor PDF viewers due to the format's static, what-you-see-is-what-you-get display. What you see on the screen is what comes out on the printer. The view of that content doesn't change with screen size. The other problem is the speed at which eBook readers would search the PDF. They don't have much in the way of processing power.

So, given that, what are the other options?

You can invest in a PDF to eBook file converter. Assuming the PDF was created with separate text and images layers, these programs create a file you can read on one of the many eReaders. While this is a workable option you are at the mercy of the PDF creators so your mileage may vary.

You can invest in an iPad. It will read PDFs as well as any computer with a slick display and plenty of power for searches. My problem with that option is an iPad, once loaded, costs in excess of $600. This is pretty pricey for a game accessory.

The other option is to buy something similar to an iPad that doesn't charge Apple's exorbitant price. I'm an open source fan (thus my love of Maptool) and an Android fan. Thus I suspect I'll settle for one of the new Android tablets.

Of course, that's like saying I'll settle for dining in downtown Austin. I still have a lot of choices to make. The other problem is that tablets are rapidly changing with new models coming out constantly. This is going to make the choice even more difficult. Do I buy something affordable now or wait a few months for something even better. Its quite the dilemma.

So far, here are some of the choices. Note that these will be out of date within a month.

The Archos Tablets come in varying sizes sporting 5-9" allowing you to pick your price point and type of viewing. They have Internet tablets for web surfing, media tablets for viewing multi-media, and home tablets to do well at both.

Velocity Micro produces the Cruz Reader and Tablets. These Android based devices have an excellent price point ($200 and $300). My leanings are toward something like this.

But my aging eyes might need something larger. I'm considering waiting for the 10" Android tablets to become affordable. These would be a dream but I have no idea (at the time of this writing) how much they will cost. Still, if you're interested in investigating further, visit for a complete list.

Honorable mention goes to Notion Ink - Adam, While details are limited it certainly looks cool.

So for now I'll play the waiting game hoping that the 10" Androids drop to an affordable price. If you find a tablet with which you're please that displays and searches PDFs well, please add a comment below.

*UPDATE 12/20/2011*

I purchased a Kindle Fire and am very happy with it. I installed ezPDF to read game books. You can read my full review at Kindle Fire - the Good, the Bad, and the Must Have


  1. Maybe you'll just invest in a Tablet or Netbook Hybrid of both worlds^^. I'm thinking about buying a Asus eee PC TM101MT.
    Which is pretty nice because of the multitouch option. It's a much better iPad cause it's capable of way more and is less expensive.
    So I could run MapTool on it and the pdf at the same time and just use my fingers to work everything. ;-D

  2. I've considered something like that. If they would drop down to $300 I'd consider it.

  3. Here's an article discussion the new 7" Androids.;leftCol

  4. I finally purchased a Kindle Fire. You can read my review @