My screen reader has a hard time with PDF documents. As I delve into more niche textbooks, I increasingly find them only in print/PDF rather than EPUB.

This makes it difficult to learn when the screen reader's OCR is not good. Would it be fruitful to ask people for LaTeX versions of their textbooks or would this be poorly received? I write LaTeX content fairly often, so I think this should be easily comprehensible if I listen to it in bulk.

The issue may also be related to using scihub/libgen, which may have worse prints of the books/papers (although I've seen this in my purchased PDFs as well).

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    I don't know your personal circumstances, but depending what they are, it's possible your university has someone whose job is to solve problems like this for you. Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 21:15
  • 10
    Can't you get a better screen reader?
    – Nick S
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 22:19
  • 3
    I am on the whole enthusiastic for the desire for "source-available" documents. But it seems like you would be happy with an epub. Have you considered asking for that instead? Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 8:21
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    @yarchik Essentially, for the same reason the OP wants the source. I think people have a right to read and use the document the way they see fit. That includes increasing print size, changing colour and font, converting to other formats, reading aloud, correcting typos, adding marginal notes, copying text for legitimate purposes (i.e. with attribution), learning the typesetting language... The list goes on. Copy-pasting (with attribution, where appropriate) is a good thing. Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 13:28
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    @PabloH Nothing is easily converted to EPUB. I know because I'm struggling with that very problem. Also note that, since many EPUB readers do not support MathML, equations in EPUB are as likely to be images as in PDF.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 16:45

3 Answers 3


Slight frame challenge: Instead of just asking for a LaTeX source, which might indeed come across very strange, tell the author what you told us: Your screen reader is struggling with the PDF, and you're looking for a better way, for example the source. The author might be more likely to give you the source if they understand your reason, or maybe they know how to get an epub or other format from the publisher (or they might even go through the trouble of compiling the source into an epub).

  • I would say this is a more useful answer to the OP than the one by @DCTLib, but the points about why an author might not even have the source or be allowed to give it away are good ones. Asking the publisher might be a better way to go. Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 23:21
  • Would I need to have bought the textbook for this? I generally use scihub/libgen for exploratory reading
    – user760900
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 18:20

It is certainly uncommon to ask for LaTeX sources of textbooks, and while some authors may provide them for you, it is fair to expect that this will rarely work out, for a variety of reasons.

  1. The author of the text book may suspect that you need the LaTeX code for another reason, e.g., for including a part in a thesis document or so.
  2. The copyright of textbooks often/normally lie with the publishers, who may not like it if an author gives out the source for something they legally own.
  3. LaTeX code that you did not write yourself is rarely easy to read. It's often full of macros for injecting key words, equation symbols, and the like.
  4. In the disciplines that don't use equations a lot, it's quite likely that only the publisher has the LaTeX code (or the source file for any other software they may have used instead) for a book, because the author actually wrote it in a different format and then professionals formatted the whole thing.

Because of reasons 1 and 2, I would find such a request very strange as an author, but probably not strange enough to try to remember your name when receiving your e-mail.

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    For point 4, depending on the publisher the book might be more likely to have been formatted in some other software like InDesign.
    – Anyon
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:09
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    Re point 4 - I would say it's more likely that the author used LaTeX and the publisher converted, than the other way round, at least in physics
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 9:59
  • All points are quite valid, especially point 3. Much better to ask for ePub.
    – yarchik
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 13:14
  • @Anyon Thanks, I've added that possibility to the answer.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 20:37
  • (keywords?) Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 23:50

There is no guarantee that the source is in LaTeX

LaTeX is a pain to write, but we all love its output. There are several tools that generate output that looks like LaTeX's from documents that weren't written in it. For example, I am an enjoyer of Pandoc. I write all of my work in Markdown, but Pandoc makes it look like I wrote LaTeX. Similarly, I know of people who use LyX which is not LaTeX but generates output indistinguishable from it.

I do not know how common such non-LaTeX approaches are, but in such cases, you're doomed.

  • You don't need to use the largest possible heading font to preface your barely-two-paragraph answer.
    – Nik
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:14
  • @user1271772 Fair point. I've reduced it.
    – J. Mini
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 18:18
  • Thanks, I'd still recommend just using bold font in this case (or maybe ### or #### if you really want it to be bigger), but your newer version is already significantly looking significantly better in my opinion.
    – Nik
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 18:57

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