Going forward, I want all the articles and books that I read to be in an electronic format that is (1) searchable; (2) annotatable, (3) portable (something that I can use and annotate on my multiple devices—i.e., my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and desktop); and (4) faithful to the print version (the fonts, tables, pagination, and page layout being identical to that in the print version). Now, there’s no problem here when it comes to journal articles. Nowadays, I can get almost every journal article that I want as a PDF file that I can annotate using Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (or, on my iPad, using iAnnotate, which works great). These PDFs are faithful to the print version. And I can use DropBox to sync the annotations that I make on one device with all my other devices.
No longer do I have to constantly use email or a flash drive to transfer a PDF that I annotated on one device to the other three devices. No longer do I have huge stacks of articles cluttering up my office. No longer do I have to wade through these stacks, as if searching for a needle in a haystack, in order to find that particular passage that I’m thinking of. It’s all searchable. And I don’t have to transport boxes of articles from one location to another when I retreat to San Diego for a good part of the summer. I just need to take my iPad with me.
Books, unfortunately, are trickier. One reason why I got the iPad versus say a dedicated e-reader such as the Kindle is that the iPad can read books in multiple formats, for it has apps for the Kindle, the nook, iBooks, and Google Books. (Another reason is that there are many different and good apps for annotating PDFs that make annotating on the iPad a breeze—I believe that making annotations on the Kindle can be quite difficult.) The problem, though, is that I don’t like the Kindle, iBook, or nook versions of books. They’re not faithful to the print versions. They sometimes have errors that were introduced in the electronic conversion process. And these versions make precise citations impossible. There are, of course, ways to cite, say, the Kindle version of a book, but there is no way to cite a particular passage in such an e-version that is as precise as referring to the relevant page of the print version. Now, ebooks.com offers many important books, including Parfit’s recent two volumes, as PDFs for Digital Editions (Adobe’s e-reader software). Unlike the Kindle version, these electronic versions are faithful to the print versions, but these PDFs for Digital Editions have a number of distinct disadvantages. They’re not portable. My understanding is that you can view your purchased book only on one computer (the one that you initially downloaded it on) and only using Digital Editions software. If your computer goes to the junkyard, your book is gone. That’s ridiculous. Also, there’s no iPad app for Digital Editions. So I can’t read it on my iPad. Moreover, the sorts of annotations that you can make within Digital Editions are very limited. Now, there is software out there that can remove the DRM (the code that controls your ability to access your book using different software and different devices) from a Digital Editions PDF and convert it to a regular PDF. I’ve tried one such software program to remove the DRM on the books that I’ve purchase at eBooks.com as PDFs for Digital Editions. In one case, it worked splendidly. It produced a PDF that can be annotated and saved using Adobe Acrobat or iAnnotate. But with other books the result was something that couldn’t be saved, leaving me unable to save my annotations. Thus, I could only make and read those annotations using Digital Editions.
So, I have a number of questions that I would like us to discuss. First, does anyone know of some good software for converting the books that I’ve purchased from eBooks.com as PDFs for Digital Editions into regular old PDFs that can be annotated and saved using Adobe Acrobat or Reader? I know that such software exists, because I’ve seen many such converted PDFs on the internet. Second, is it ethical (as opposed to legal – but, of course, we can talk about legality as well) for me to convert the books that I’ve already purchased as Digital Editions PDFs into regular PDFs for my sole and personal use? Third, do others have any tricks or software suggestions that they would like to share regarding the creation and use of their own personal electronic libraries? Are there devices, e-readers, or software that you prefer? If so, what and why? Fourth, how do authors (some of our own contributors, such as Schroeder and Glasgow, are affected here) feel about having pirated versions of their books freely available on the internet? (Note to reader: I have never posted any of my collection of ebooks on the internet.) How should we feel about the practice of making such pirated versions available? Fifth, do you make use of such pirated materials? Is it wrong to do so?