A couple of months ago I bought a reMarkable device for reading (I’m sure they have competitors… I didn’t comparison shop). It’s actually built for document editing, markup, and collaboration, but, I just wanted a standard paper-sized e-ink device that would let me read PDFs so I could get away from reading content on backlit screens and web browsers. Backlit screens are bad for reading for one reason or another: iPhone, too small. iPad, too heavy. Laptop, it’s a laptop. Consuming content in a web browser means you have to deal with ads interfering with rendering (jostling the screen for your attention), and simply taking up space when you’re trying to read. Reading online sucks. Even the paywall services leak ads in one way or another. The web just stinks, and increasingly I intentionally do my reading offline in order to separate content consumption, from the morass that has become “the web.”
For years I’d emailed PDFs to my Kindle (Amazon’s done a fabulous job creating e-ink readers over the years), but their PDF client doesn’t allow zooming or dynamic font sizing, so, they’re usually too hard to read on a little Kindle. Enter… reMarkable.
Here’s my workflow for reading ad-free content offline, and it’s not for the feint of heart; you have to really hate the web to go through this flow.
When someone sends me a link to an article that I want to read, or I see something in an email newsletter I receive, or I see something offline (e.g. a newspaper that I know has an online presence) that I want to dump into my reMarkable, or any other myriad ways something gets my attention, I move into the Transfer stage.
reMarkable has a few methods for getting PDFs onto the device. They support other formats, but PDF is the lowest-common-denominator for reading (most important feature being vector graphics for font rendering, and most consistent clients across all platforms/devices). They have clients for iOS and Mac sync/upload, as well as web if all else fails.
First you need a PDF, and unless the original document is one, you’ll need to build one. To get PDFs of documents on iOS and Mac checkout this post by Pete; https://www.blog.motifphotos.com/how-to-print-to-pdf-on-iphone-or-mac/. Unfortunately not all apps support “Print” via Share, but importantly Safari does, so if you’re reading something in the browser, just put it in Reader View mode (to cut the ads out), then “Print to PDF” per Pete’s instructions.
Once you have the PDF saved, you open the reMarkable client on whatever operating system you’re on and upload/import it to your cloud-based reMarkable account, and it sync’s across all of your devices.
Now you can read what was online content, in offline bliss.
Some Feature Requests
Captive WiFi portal authentication. Many locations provide WiFi access through captive portal authentication, yet reMarkable doesn’t support that kind of auth. I’d like to see this support added to the device.
Auto-Zoom-To-Fit. I’d like to see reMarkable automatically maximize the zoom level of a PDF to fill the screen width.
Font +/- Zoom Support. I’d like to see reMarkable provide UI elements that zoom the font in/out without having to pinch-and-zoom which is imprecise.
Email-to-device support. I’d like to see reMarkable support email-to-device as a way to get PDFs into the account. This would streamline the transfer process greatly.