Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Freedom From JPEG2000 Tyranny On iPad

If you’re an iPad user and a roleplayer who likes PDFs, one term has likely been the bane of your existence: JPEG2000 compression. As awesome as the iPad is for viewing PDFs, especially with GoodReader, any PDFs using JPEG2000 compression are at least buggy and sometimes unreadable.

There have always been tricks to make them work, but some PDFs are unfixable. Worse, due to many publishers locking their PDFs, there’s nothing you can do but appeal to the publisher for a fix. The problem is you have to spend your hard-earned money or do some research to even find out if a PDF will work on your iPad.

Publisher’s have gotten better about testing their PDFs before release, but for many publishers, there is a lack of skill and/or resources (and sometimes desire, sadly) to do such a thing.  And since my iPad has become my primary reading device, I have taken to just not using those books I can’t read on my iPad. I tend to read on my breaks, and lugging around a 300-page hardcover tome just isn’t convenient. This was an especially tough decision for me recently, when I had to veto my beloved Earthdawn (3rd Ed.) as a candidate for game night, since those books are epically unreadable in GoodReader, despite my efforts.

Then the other morning I had guests, one of which had a new Kindle Fire. I’ve been thinking about the Fire for my wife since she wants a tablet. I’d tried it in the store and liked it. But one thing I’ve considered is making sure there was a PDF reader that will utilize the built-in bookmarks like those added in Acrobat. Sadly many PDF readers (including Adobe’s on Android) don’t.

A quick search led us to ezPDF Reader. For $2.99 it seemed to have what Android users needed. My buddy went ahead and downloaded it. Success! So if my wife gets a Fire, or any other Android tablet, she’ll be good to go.

It’s a great app, and I liked the interface so much I wanted to see what it looked like on iPad. A quick trip to the App Store, and I was dumbstruck. It lists as a feature that it can read JPEG2000 compression! I downloaded it immediately.

It turns out it works as advertised. I can now read my beloved Earthdawn on the iPad. Pages turn a little slow when the app is set so it can read JPEG2000 (GoodReader just builds on features native to iOS - which is why its fast and JPEG2000 doesn’t work on it),  but it’s absolutely beautifully displayed.

The interface seems clunky, but it might just be that it’s different, since I’m so used to GoodReader. I haven’t even made the time to check out all the features, so I won’t call it a GoodReader “killer” just yet (though it will read those bookmarks). But at $2.99, it’s well worth the price of admission even if I only ever use it to read those pesky JPEG2000-plagued PDFs.