I rarely store files on my hard drive these days. Since I discovered DropBox, I use it to store pretty much everything. I also discovered recently that it makes a great portable library.
One of the best things about DropBox is the ability to access your files on any device, including smart phones and tablets – the same places you often read e-books. And because there are thousands of free books available as PDF files, you can store these in DropBox to read at your leisure.
As with my Kindle library, my DropBox library is organized by category. First I created a folder called “Books.” Then, within that folder, I created folders for each category or genre: writing, economics, history, etc. When saving a book, I also change the file name to the full name of the book and the author using this format: TITLE by AUTHOR. For example, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. Because the file names PDFs come with are often not helpful in identifying the work, this makes finding a book much easier. It also makes locating books using the DropBox search function easy. From your “Books” folder, simply use the author’s last name or part of the title as a search term and it will find your book – very helpful if you have a lot of books.
One of the great things about a DropBox library is how easily you can share your books. PDF files, like any other file, can certainly be attached to emails and sent to others. But, with DropBox you can easily share the folders you create with another DropBox user. This way they can read any book you save in the shared folder – something not as easy to do with Kindle or other e-readers.
So how do you read these books? You can simply open the files from your computer and read them on the screen. But that limits portability. You can also open them via the DropBox application on the iPad. This solves the portability problem but you must scroll through the document vertically – not ideal for reading in my opinion.
To read them more like other e-books, you’ll need to take an extra step or two. The best options I’ve found are opening the document in iBooks or sending it to Kindle. Within the DropBox iPad app is a feature called “Open in.” This gives you a drop down list of all the apps on your iPad that will open the file. One of those will be iBooks. Once opened there you can read the document using a more book-like right to left page swipe. IBooks also preserves the original formatting of the PDF and faithfully reproduces any images. A drawback is you cannot highlight text and make notes in the book. If this is important to you, you can purchase an app like PDF Expert This will allow you to read with page swipes as well as highlight and make notes.
Finally, if you have a Kindle you can send the PDF document there using your Kindle email address. Create an email with the document as an attachment, being sure to type “convert” in the subject line. The book will show up on your Kindle a few minutes after sending. This allows the PDF to be read like any other Kindle book. You will also be able to highlight text and make notes. One drawback is that formatting sometimes doesn’t come across exactly and images are often not easy to see, especially if the originals were in color. As a consequence, this method works best for high text, low image documents.
In a future post, I’ll list some places to get free PDF books for your DropBox library.