6 reasons why PDFs are not perfect for learning

PDFs are a good choice for reading and saving information. But not for learning. The reason is simply that PDFs were made to be viewed on large screens with high resolution.
The image shows a keyboard. The black return-key is changed to a red PDF-key
Roman Schurter
Roman Schurter
+20 years educational content creation, Community Manager and Learning Designer at Get More Brain.

They are opti­mized for read­ing long pages of text with­out hav­ing to scroll up or down, so they’re great when you have a big mon­i­tor in front of you.

How­ev­er, when you try to learn with PDFs, you’ll find that they have sev­er­al dis­ad­van­tages.

Where PDFs fail

  1. First of all they are not respon­sive. This means that they are not designed for small devices such as smart­phones and tablets.
  2. You can­not add your own con­tent, mean­ing that you can’t cre­ate your own study mate­ri­als by com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent sources. Well, you can but you need a Pro ver­sion of any PDF soft­ware.
  3. There is no inter­ac­tion. You can­not take quizzes and you can­not par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions about the con­tent.
  4. There is no mul­ti­me­dia. You can’t watch videos or lis­ten to audio files with­out open­ing them in anoth­er app.
  5. There is no copy­right pro­tec­tion. Any­one can copy and paste your con­tent with­out giv­ing you cred­it. This can be a major issue for con­tent providers who want to pro­tect their work.
  6. There is no track­ing of learn­ing progress, mean­ing you can’t see how much you have learned or how many times you have read a doc­u­ment.


PDFs have a few advan­tages but also a lot of dis­ad­van­tages when it comes to learn­ing. This is main­ly because they were not designed for that pur­pose. If you’re look­ing to learn some­thing, it’s best to find oth­er for­mats that are more inter­ac­tive and allow you to track your progress.

There are oth­er apps which are much bet­ter suit­ed for learn­ing than PDFs.

Get More Brain is a learn­ing app which allows you to add your own con­tent, includ­ing videos and audio files. It’s per­fect for cre­at­ing your own study mate­ri­als. Addi­tion­al­ly, it allows you to par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions about the con­tent with oth­er stu­dents. Get More Brain is great for inter­ac­tive learn­ing and allows you to track your progress as you go.

Get More Brain relies on Bit­mark, an open source markup lan­guage which makes it easy to cre­ate learn­ing con­tent in a struc­tured, sus­tain­able and inter­ac­tive way. Bit­mark was cre­at­ed to bring learn­ing con­tent to the smart­phone.

And yes, you could also cre­ate PDFs from Bit­mark if you still want­ed to.

This sto­ry was first pub­lished on LinkedIn (Jan­u­ary 27, 2022)