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iphone pdf readerAfter years of craving and saving, I’m finally able to afford an iPhone (yay!). And being the bookworm that I am, one of the first things that I am going to do is try to find a way to read my PDF collections on the iPhone’s rather small but gorgeous display and bring my ebooks everywhere I go.

So I searched the web and found several possibilities. One of the easiest ways is to use an iPhone PDF reader called GoodReader Lite. This is the free version of the more fully featured GoodReader. But for everyday users, the Lite features are good enough.

Aside from PDF, GoodReader is also capable of viewing text files (.txt), office documents (.doc, .xls, .ppt), images, HTML documents – and even music and videos.

Put The Books On The Bookshelf

You can download the app from the iTunes Store and follow the usual app synchronisation process from your iTunes to install it to your iPhone/iPod Touch. To save some writing space, I will refer to both the iPhone and iPod Touch as iPhone only – unless mentioned otherwise. (And the terms “ebooks” and “PDF” are also applicable to other types of files supported by GoodReader). So, no discrimination here.

The first thing that you should do after installing GoodReader on your iPhone is to move your eBooks to the phone. The process is not as simple as it sounds because by default, you can’t just drag and drop your files to iPhone’s storage.


iphone pdf readerLuckily, GoodReader provides several methods that you can use to achieve this, such as transferring the files via Wi-Fi or downloading them directly from the internet. But the easiest way to do it is by using GoodReader’s USB desktop client. This client will enable your computer to read your iPhone’s GoodReader folder as another storage location.

There are two types of desktop client for GoodReaderUSB: the Windows version and the Mac version. Download and install the client according to your OS. The following was made using the Mac version but the steps are more or less similar on both sides.

After installation, plug your iPhone to the computer and open the desktop client. There are three main panes on the window: the device list, the GoodReader application list, and the storage.

iphone pdf reader

You can directly drag and drop the documents to the storage pane, or you can create new folders to organize the ebooks.

As the majority of eBooks contains mostly text and some images, the transfer process will be done in a flash.

iphone pdf

Close the client and unplug the iPhone.

Let’s Read

Now comes the fun part: reading. Open GoodReader Lite on your iPhone

iphone pdf

And browse to the location of the files.

iphone pdf

The free Lite version of GoodReader limits users to only 5 files inside its folder.

pdf on iphone

If you need to put and view lots of eBooks/documents on GoodReader, you might want to upgrade. But I personally think that upgrading is unnecessary (at least for me) because changing the content of GoodReader’s folder is a snap and reading books takes time. It takes seconds to refill the folder and five books are enough to fill weeks of my time.

The first time you open a document using GoodReader, you’ll see a screen filled with menus.

pdf on iphone

But don’t worry, they will disappear by themselves leaving you with a clean interface. To bring back the menu, tap the middle screen once.

pdf on iphone

You can use iPhone’s famous multi-touch gestures to help with your reading. Pinch out to zoom the page, tap and drag your finger to pan around, and slide to scroll.

06 Zoom.jpg

If you want to read only the text portion of your document, you can use the PDF Reflow feature – the box icon from the bottom menu. This still-experimental feature is similar to the Readable web service which is also used in Safari’s Reader feature Quickly & Easily Add Safari's Reader Feature To Chrome & Firefox Quickly & Easily Add Safari's Reader Feature To Chrome & Firefox Read More .

07 PDF Reflow.jpg

One of the advantages of this feature is the ability to copy the text from one entire page to the clipboard to be used in another application.

08 Copy Text To Clipboard.jpg

You can always go back to the normal view by tapping on the back button.

You can also change the text settings by tapping on the round “Settings” button at the bottom menu.

08b Text Settings.jpg

And it turns out that tapping on different part of the screen will give you different results. To know more about this, tap the Help button and choose “Show Tap Zones“.

09 Help - Tap Zones.jpg

And the “Cheat screen” will appear.

09b Tap Zones.jpg

Another Alternative Method

There’s another method to put your eBooks onto your iPhone that you can try: using Dropbox (as described here The 3 Best Free iPhone PDF Readers The 3 Best Free iPhone PDF Readers Read More ), and adding the files that you want to keep in your iPhone using “Favorites“. There are no limitation on how many documents that you can transfer, however, my experiment showed me that transferring large PDF files over the internet could take some time.

Or maybe you could combine Dropbox and GoodReader? Use Dropbox to store many small size PDFs/documents, and GoodReader to quickly transfer and store 5 big (and most important) ebooks.

GoodReader is also available for iPad (no Lite version, though). And if you have an iPad, I’m sure you’ll have a far better ebook reading experience. But for those with an iPhone/iPod Touch, GoodReader Lite can help you to use your gadget as a very capable ebook reader and multi format document viewer.

If you know of any other similar iPhone PDF readers or other methods, please share them with us using the comments below.

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  1. GreaterD
    July 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Too bad there isn't an option to have the iPhone verbalize your PDF. This is a way cool app though.

  2. thurana
    July 10, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Hi Njuguz,

    I've tried to search for the app you've mentioned and can't find it everywhere (all I could find is the apps from Discovery channel, and I assume this is not what you are referring to).

    Could you share the link to it so I can try the app? Thx.

  3. Njuguz
    July 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    How about the discovery app?

    • Anonymous
      July 10, 2010 at 6:06 am

      Hi Njuguz,

      I've tried to search for the app you've mentioned and can't find it everywhere (all I could find is the apps from Discovery channel, and I assume this is not what you are referring to).

      Could you share the link to it so I can try the app? Thx.