Windows Surface RT as ebook reader?

Jim Bancroft

Senior member
Nov 9, 2004
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I'm in the market for a tablet that does a good job with eBooks, maybe some multimedia stuff. Not big on games or 3rd party apps.

I read a lot of computer ebooks with code snippets in them, and while 7" tablets are good for novels, where you go from start to finish linearly, when you're flipping back and forth as in a textbook, finding this or that snippet, a 7" screen isn't enough.

I have a Nook HD+ and that's been good with its 8.9" screen, but every bit of real estate helps. For that reason I'm looking at a Surface.

I can get a factory refurb RT with 32 GB on eBay for under $200. RT generates a lot of debate, and I don't want to start another fight on its merits or perceived shortcomings. My limited question is: how does it handle PDFs, and are there 3rd party readers in the Microsoft store or am I limited to Adobe's reader, which may (or may not) be good enough on Surface?

Has anyone used a Surface for textbook/ebooks, and has it met your needs fairly well?
 

zerogear

Diamond Member
Jun 4, 2000
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Works fine, I own a Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Drawboard PDF for annotation, otherwise Reader works fine for simple highlighting. There is also Adobe Reader touch, but I rarely use that. For epubs and such, I find nook app to be nice for reading epubs, Book Bazaar is also quite good.

Surface should be fine, though it might be a little slower, but shouldn't matter too much for reading.
 

bearxor

Diamond Member
Jul 8, 2001
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I would think the biggest drawback of the original RT would be it's 1366x768 screen resolution.

Otherwise there's a ton of ebook readers in the store compatible with ARM.

Have you thought about a 10" bay trail machine like the Venue 11 Pro? You can get them for less than $350 from Dell refurb and it would up your resolution to 1080p and open up x86 compatibility.
 

Jim Bancroft

Senior member
Nov 9, 2004
212
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I would think the biggest drawback of the original RT would be it's 1366x768 screen resolution.

Otherwise there's a ton of ebook readers in the store compatible with ARM.

Have you thought about a 10" bay trail machine like the Venue 11 Pro? You can get them for less than $350 from Dell refurb and it would up your resolution to 1080p and open up x86 compatibility.

That sounds like a good one but all I really use my tablets for is eReading and the occasional video. And never in HD format, I need to spare the space on my SD card and HDD.

I'm not sure if 1366x768 hurts when reading a PDF/textbook? Don't know what resolutions those are displayed in, but I assume Microsoft wouldn't put out a tablet that has poor reading resolution?
 

desura

Diamond Member
Mar 22, 2013
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Too heavy.

also the RT is really weird to use in portrait. The ipad is much better in this regard.

Can't recommend it as one.

Now, a 7 inch tablet is decent as an ebook reader...
 

xSauronx

Lifer
Jul 14, 2000
19,586
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Too heavy.

also the RT is really weird to use in portrait. The ipad is much better in this regard.

Can't recommend it as one.

Now, a 7 inch tablet is decent as an ebook reader...

i like the surface hardware, its very sturdy but its too heavy to want to hold up as a reader.

i got my kids the nook hd+ 9" tablet cheap...works great for videos and book reading. not much for games unless they are pretty basic id much rather read from that or any other tablet than a surface on a regular basis.
 

bearxor

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Jul 8, 2001
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Too heavy.

also the RT is really weird to use in portrait. The ipad is much better in this regard.

Can't recommend it as one.

Now, a 7 inch tablet is decent as an ebook reader...

I'd have to agree. I'm basically using a Surface Pro full-time now but am SERIOUSLY considering an iPad Mini Retina just for reading duties. Thought about a Kindle Paperwhite, but the iPad is a lot more versatile.

It's way too awkward to hold in portrait and too wide to hold comfortably with one hand in landscape. But I presumed Jim would be using it on the table a majority of the time and not holding it. Instead propping it up as reference material as opposed to curling up and reading.

i like the surface hardware, its very sturdy but its too heavy to want to hold up as a reader.

i got my kids the nook hd+ 9" tablet cheap...works great for videos and book reading. not much for games unless they are pretty basic id much rather read from that or any other tablet than a surface on a regular basis.

He already has a Nook HD 8.9.

That sounds like a good one but all I really use my tablets for is eReading and the occasional video. And never in HD format, I need to spare the space on my SD card and HDD.

I'm not sure if 1366x768 hurts when reading a PDF/textbook? Don't know what resolutions those are displayed in, but I assume Microsoft wouldn't put out a tablet that has poor reading resolution?

The screen resolution was just about the biggest negative I could think of. The single-position kick stand would be the next.

It's not really that your books are in HD or anything, its more about how the fonts will look while you're reading. On the 768p screen they're going to be a lot more jagged than a 1080p screen. The 1080p screen also gives you a lot more resolution if you want to do multi-tasking.

In the tablet world, I think it is fair to say the screen resolution on the Surface RT would be "poor" for reading. It would be like going from an iPad 4 to a iPad 2. You're going to notice a significant reduction in sharpness. Now it may not bother you. And none of this is to say "Reading on a Surface RT sucks and is impossible!" because of course it's going to be just fine. I was simply saying that the 768p screen on the Surface RT would give me pause enough to consider some other alternatives.
 

Jim Bancroft

Senior member
Nov 9, 2004
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Thanks everyone, really appreciate the advice. Still on the bubble after all I've heard and need to think it over. I wouldn't use this as a poolside eReader but at the desk, so I would likely prop it up a bit, but the point is well taken; if it's that awkward in portrait mode then maybe this isn't a great idea.

On the Nook HD+, I like it a lot (another reason I didn't leap onto Surface) and am surprised it doesn't get more attention than it does. Fine resolution, Google Play access and it's never crashed on me. And at $179 for a 32 GB edition it's the right price. Not sure what's holding it back.
 

luv2liv

Diamond Member
Dec 27, 2001
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if u want a bigger size, get kindle DX. i have one and works great for PDF. only drawback is no color. it is lightweight and the battery almost lasts forever (1 week with lots of reading).
 
Jan 6, 2013
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I own the surface pro. I am using it extensively at work for looking through pdf's, and annotating them. I don't really find to it too cumbersome to use in a work environment even in portrait. The surface RT is about 1/2 pound lighter also so it should be even better. I also second the Drawboard pdf app. It works really well.

Now am I going to take it on vacation to read a book? Probably not
 

Imaginer

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Oct 15, 1999
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Aspect ratio wise, comparatively I haven't had a problem reading on my Surface Pro 2.

Reading a typical traditional book over time, I seldom rarely hold the paperbacks or hardbacks above my head or elevated with my elbows rested on a bed lying on my stomach anyways - thus weight isn't as a factor (Surface RT should definitely be fine in this area).

Any traditional reading, I rest my arms and book on my lap when sitting anyways. I treated reading on any electronic device no different. Thus weight again isn't much of a concern.

In fact, having the kickstand helps reading further, as I have my body lying on my back, slightly elivated, head propped on a pillow, and Surface Pro 2 propped with the first (original) kickstand position and cover folded back on my chest. Dimmed for dark reading and applied color filters (some apps do this) then reading is good.

Reading while walking around, I never do that either - because even on traditional mediums, my eyes would have to account for the book moving and my arms moving to read the text (it is the same reason why I never read as a passenger in a car). Also never mind that I also need to look where I am walking!

However, you are looking specifically at the Surface RT which this quote does apply.

It's not really that your books are in HD or anything, its more about how the fonts will look while you're reading. On the 768p screen they're going to be a lot more jagged than a 1080p screen. The 1080p screen also gives you a lot more resolution if you want to do multi-tasking.

The 16:9 aspect ratio maybe a bit wide for some for one app/book but when cross referencing another app/book/web browser, this becomes indispensable as splitted, they come close to a 4:3 ratio for two side by side apps.

Depending on how your eyes perceive, resolution pixel density maybe of a concern. If that is the case, you can always look at similarly dense screen sizes on other devices (if not directly at a Surface RT) to better judge (not all the Youtube videos or other people's reviews would help you determine this).
 

Imaginer

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Oct 15, 1999
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if u want a bigger size, get kindle DX. i have one and works great for PDF. only drawback is no color. it is lightweight and the battery almost lasts forever (1 week with lots of reading).

The e-ink Kindles, come close to traditional reading, consolidated in an electronic device and as a sole purpose reader for text, it is great (but I haven't considered one, namely because it is a separate device and I like device software consolidation).

But do note, that since it is limited, an array of reading formats may not be available on the Kindle (if it is, formatting is also of a concern). It also makes for pictures or diagrams not that great since it is black and white (some greys inbetween).
 

bearxor

Diamond Member
Jul 8, 2001
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Aspect ratio wise, comparatively I haven't had a problem reading on my Surface Pro 2.The 16:9 aspect ratio maybe a bit wide for some for one app/book but when cross referencing another app/book/web browser, this becomes indispensable as splitted, they come close to a 4:3 ratio for two side by side apps.

The Surface, I suppose Windows 8 in general, is perfect for this kind of thing. You can pop open two of the PDF's side-by-side and be able to easily navigate both at the same time is great.

I suspected he was going to be using it for desk reference material, which appears right. The Surface itself is a fantastic choice for that. As I noted, the only thing that would give me pause would be that damn 768p screen. I'd probably pony up for a Surface 2, but I think he wants to keep it under $200.
 

desura

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Mar 22, 2013
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I want a Kobo Aura HD. That sucker looks like a nice ereader. It's funny how well 4:3 ratio with the ipad worked out, while everywhere else it is impossible to find 4:3 ratio monitors.
 

Nebor

Lifer
Jun 24, 2003
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Amazon purposely makes the Kindle apps for Windows 8 garbage, which is pretty dissappointing. I've tried using my Surface Pro to read books with minimal success.
 

desura

Diamond Member
Mar 22, 2013
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inspired by this thread I used my rt as an ereader for a bit.

It isn't bad. The RT's screen also overachieves for its resolution.

The main problem is the simple weight and awkwardness of the device itself.
 

Imaginer

Diamond Member
Oct 15, 1999
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Amazon purposely makes the Kindle apps for Windows 8 garbage, which is pretty dissappointing. I've tried using my Surface Pro to read books with minimal success.

The Nook app is much better anyways (though their offerings is a bit more expensive for some books and selections).

Much better zooming, panning, and interface over Amazon's Kindle app.

Comics wise, it is a toss between Nook comics and the Comixology app. The Comixology app allows a much more level of zooming and panel following. Nook just handles better (from a subjective point of view). Kindle can just be at the bottom out of the three mentioned.

I have some reference materials on Kindle though. And their e-book format is showing it's age.
 

ControlD

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Apr 25, 2005
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Amazon purposely makes the Kindle apps for Windows 8 garbage, which is pretty dissappointing. I've tried using my Surface Pro to read books with minimal success.

I've read several books on my Dell VP8 using the Kindle app and haven't had any major issues, save from needing to manually sync my last read position. I don't see much difference between the Windows 8 version and the Android version.