One book, nine e-reader apps – Part 10
Adobe Digital Editions
And so we come to Adobe Digital Editions. Most e-book vendors release their books in ePub or PDF formats which have been protected by Adobe’s Adept DRM technology, and so usually require you to have Adobe Digital Editions on your PC or Mac to download and read the books you have bought.
Considering this, and considering the fact that it is produced by Adobe – maker of Photoshop, InDesign, AfterEffects and all such high level design tools – it is astonishing to me how poorly designed and non-functional Digital Editions is.
I should perhaps emphasize that Adobe Digital Editions (let’s just call it ADE from now on) is a desktop application, not an iPad app, unlike most of the other e-readers I have been discussing in this series. Its prime function is to act as an e-book manager and reader on your computer. I won’t discuss the downloading and library management aspects in this post, but will concentrate on its use as a reader.
For a start, I hate the customized Adobe ‘chrome’ in this application, which makes it feel not in the least like a Windows application, and is also (to my taste) very ugly – beige text on a browny-slate background. I checked it out on my MacBook as well, and it’s as bad, if not worse, on that platform. We get the same look with the Mac title bar and status bar glommed on the top and bottom. You could argue that I’m being too tough here – in my last post I discussed Calibre, whose interface design is fairly pedestrian. But at least Calibre fits within most Windows UI conventions. And this is Adobe, king of design applications!
As in Calibre, we get no margins, and no way to create them. I find this uncomfortable for reading, I don’t like the way the text completely fills the reading pane. This is even more uncomfortable once we move away from a chapter heading.
Page turning can be done by using the right and left arrow keys, but there is no transition at all, just a straight cut. You can also scroll the text continuously with the up and down arrow keys, or ‘page’ with the PageUp and PageDown keys. All this is fine, I guess, but you lose any sense of reading a book with individual, separate pages. Page numbering, because of this, is only very notional but at least the location numbers shown fall within approximately the right range for a book, unlike the crazy high numbers you see in Kindle locations.
All of this makes for uncomfortable reading, even on a mobile computer like a laptop or netbook. I would hate to have to read a long novel in ADE.
Controls and Settings
It seems that what you see is what you get in ADE. Here are the controls at the top of the reading window:
Here we have Library View / Reading View / READING menu / Location / Print / Bookmark this page / Reduce font size / Enlarge font size / Search . These should all be self-explanatory, though I will discuss Search in more detail later.
The drop-down menu under READING gives you these choices:
Again, the function of these should be fairly obvious.
There appear to be no hidden controls or settings. In fact, there seems to be no way to change any of the layout, such as margins, line spacing, paragraph spacing, and so on. You can’t change the font. I can forgive this in Calibre, but not in a product from Adobe. It is true that the layout, font, and so on shown in this example (my collection of SF stories Islands) are true to the original ePub settings. But most e-reader apps allow the user some control over layout aspects to suit their personal preference.
I thought for a second that I had found a settings or preferences function. I right-clicked on the text and up came a context menu with one item – Settings. But what you get in fact is the crazy-mad Adobe Flash settings, which must be completely confusing to the average user, and have nothing to do with the reading application:
I can’t see what this does except to act as a poor demonstration of the Flash technology. In fact, the Flash nature of the whole application is a nuisance, because there are no right-click context menus anywhere in it. All you get when you right click on anything is this silly Flash Settings dialog.
You can type a location number (with some difficulty, it must be said) into the location indicator at the top center of the window to go to that ‘page’. Or use the Table of Contents. That’s it.
You type your search term into the search field at the top right, and you are taken to the first instance, and can move between found instances using the tiny left and right arrow controls next to the search field.
While this is functional, it’s also pretty pedestrian.
Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is always visible at the left of the reading pane. I actually don’t mind this, and it works well.
This is ADE’s library view. The point I would make here is not so much about Adobe, but perhaps about the way some ePubs are formatted to yield very ugly covers:
I’m not sure if this is down to ADE or the formatting of the books, but compare this ugly, ugly view of most of the books with what you see in Calibre, or in the Kobo or in Kindle library views. I think ADE is just picking up the first image in the books, rather than the image which has been nominated as the cover in the metadata. What’s the point of seeing the Penguin Books logo as the cover of ‘The Complete Novels of George Orwell’ ?
Zip. There aren’t any. You can highlight a word or phrase, and then go to the READING drop down menu to copy or print it, but that’s about it. No dictionary, no means of permanently highlighting, no means of making notes, nothing.
As you can probably tell, I really dislike Adobe Digital Editions. It seems to me poorly designed, badly thought out, and imposed on us by the widespread use of Adobe’s Digital Rights Management scheme (which I hate anyway).
Reading a long book in ADE would seem like a penance rather than a joy.