Digital cookbook question/debate

I was looking into moving into the digital era with a nook (or similar), mainly to control the massive space my cookbooks take up. When I browsed the digital cookbooks, however, none (that I saw) included any index. So there is no way to "scan" for what chicken recipes are in the book, or if there is a recipe for artichokes (for example). You can "search" with a traditional search box, but as a recipe user, the results are completely unusable. It shows you every instance the word is used, without any context as to what the recipe title is. They might have had a new customer if they had simply kept the indexes in the back of the digital books.

I'm mainly looking for feedback on people's experiences with e-versions of cookbooks and if they have found a way to work around these difficulties.... I can't imagine browsing a 1000 page cookbook without the index lol. Am I the only one who browses cookbooks by the index (back listing instead of front)?

Sasha (Global Table Adventure)


JanetFL June 6, 2012
I too love my cookbooks! I also use a program, Home Cookin, on my laptop to save recipes from these cookbooks and elsewhere. This program allows you to categorize recipes by chapters that you create yourself. I've been using Home Cookin for several years now and love it. If anyone is interested in checking it out, go to They offer a 15-day free trial; the one-time purchase cost is $34.95.
JaneEYB June 6, 2012
Just caught up with this interesting discussion. I thought I should clarify that Eat Your Books is an index of recipes in all cookbooks - print or digital - as well as magazines and online (including Food52). So if you own eBooks you can add them to your EYB Bookshelf in the same way you would a print book and the recipes are searchable across all your eBooks at once. We have also indexed a few apps, including the 'Baking With Dorie' app mentioned and Food52's holiday app.

Sasha is quite right that eBooks are no easier to use for recipe searches than print books. A word search is no use - search for chicken and you get all recipes using chicken stock. A good search should be from a database so you search for the exact ingredient or category, as EYB does for all recipes.
Pegeen May 19, 2012
Susan G and greenstuff... on the subject of cookbooks for tablet devices... yes, there are some specifically designed for iPads and other "smart tablets" to exploit the new technology features offered by those gadgets. Here's a review by The Washington Post of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking with Dorie,", which was specifically designed for the iPad. It provides an idea of what the iPad "experience" of the book is like.
These custom-designed apps differ from "shovelware," which is taking a printed cookbook and shovelling it, so to speak, onto a device with a smaller screen, pretty much as-is without adding many new features. Such as for a Kindle or Nook e-reader. Those versions are much easier/cheaper to produce than custom apps for smart tablets, and simply allow the publisher/author to make the initial book available in an electronic format without having to invest much more money in authoring a new version for a new platform.
Pegeen May 19, 2012
I use an iPad stand that has legs flexible enough to even hang over a dish towel bar and just put my iPad in a ziplock bag.

There are pricier plastic covers:

Here's the iPad stand with flexible legs - I love it - they make them for cameras too:
BoulderGalinTokyo June 7, 2012
Pegeen, thanks for the ziplock idea. So simple, yet it never occurred to me.
nununo May 19, 2012
Even though I tried some different apps specific for recipes and found all too rigid and awkward. And I love my cookbooks.

But I found the perfect solution to go digital without abandoning my wonderful paper books: Evernote.

I fell in love with Evernote ( Here's what I do. I still use my paper books to cook. But every time I cook a recipe from one of the books, I take pictures of it and add them to a new note on Evernote and name the note after the recipe. Then I add some tags like: maincourse/dessert/soup, 10min/30min/1h/2h, india/japan/italy, give it a * to ***** rating.

The great thing about Evernote which makes it work in the end is that it has OCR which means you can actually search for text inside the photos. And it's flawless. If I search for chicken I am sure to find every single recipe containing the word chicken (both in text and photos). Unbelievable.

This way I have the best of both worlds: I get to use the precious paper books while cooking but I have the recipes with me wherever I go and so I can decide what to cook and what to shop without having to go home and read the books first.

And of course I also add there other recipes others have shared with me, found on the Internet or of which I took pictures at my friend's place.

And as if this was not enough, Evernote is totally free, cross-platform (Windows+Mac+iOS+Android+Blackberry+web) and I still use it for a ton of other stuff, both personal and professional.
BoulderGalinTokyo May 15, 2012
Well this question surprised me with your answers. I have loads of cookbooks, lovingly packed for all 21 times we moved. But I use my iPad in the kitchen because I can email the recipe to myself and its right there. I don't have to juggle three different recipes in different books. I don't think the digital has to get rid of the past unless you are trying to save space.

As to SKK's binders there comes a time when you wonder was that in the salad or the fish binder? The red or blue? 1987 0r 2002?

So I started scanning my recipes (I use Paperless) and uploading to Mac. Then you can index not only by title but main ingredient; dessert or main, where you came across the recipe, etc.
It really helps looking for recipes you thought looked good but haven't made yet. The recipes you know well, you usually don't forget where they are.

But the number of cookbooks hasn't changed...
petitbleu May 14, 2012
I'm not really a luddite, but there are certain areas that seem almost sacred to me. Books are one of them. My books are reflections of myself--periods I've gone through, eras, relationships, fads I've embraced, interests...I make notes in the margins, smear the pages with chocolate and grease, and embrace the challenge of keeping them open on the counter as I cook.
A dear friend and former head pastry chef at a place I worked gave me her copy of Julia Child's The French Chef. Her aunt had given it to her, and she had carried with her from restaurant to restaurant. The book is full of smears, smudges, and stains as well as her illegible scrawlings. It is one of my most prized possessions. The day an e-book can replicate that feeling of place, the passage of time, and a dear friendship, perhaps I'll buy into it.
Sasha (. May 14, 2012
I looked around "eat your books" and it seems like a decent deal, although it doesn't reduce my real cookbook collection any lol. While I prefer to thumb through my real cookbooks when hanging out, there are several cookbooks that I don't use that way and would be fine with just having online access to.

Oh well, I suppose this is a bit ahead of the times.

Maybe the editors will make the ecookbooks easier to navigate in the future... I do like the idea of ones with embedded videos etc - the interaction sounds so fun - but have yet to run across them (I did a quick search for Greenspan's, but no luck there) to test whether they are indexed properly or not.
Greenstuff May 12, 2012
Thanks for turning the discussion in that direction, susan g. I know that Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next) is interested in the concept, but I haven't checked it out. I think it's more an iPad or other tablet rather than a Kindle or other e-reader application.
susan G. May 12, 2012
I have heard that there are now ebook-cookbooks that have added features like videos. Dorie Greenspan, maybe? Anyway, I think we're going to see a lot more innovation with cookbooks on 'devices' that is not possible otherwise. Does anyone have experience with the more sophisticated new ones?
drbabs May 12, 2012
I have a few cookbooks on my iPad, and I agree that books are more flexible because of indexing and the ability to write notes in the margins. I do use my iPad in he kitchen. I'm really careful to keep it away from water and heat, but I do bring up the recipe I'm using and follow it from there. I also like reading cookbooks like novels, and for that the iPad is fine. I also have quite a few cookbooks, and I love eat your books to remind me about books I haven't looked at in awhile when I want to make something. It's all good.
drbabs May 12, 2012
Also, and I don't know if this is true for other cookbooks, but I have "In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite" by Melissa Clark on the kindle app on my iPad, and it has likable recipes in the table of contents and an index in the back.
drbabs May 13, 2012
I meant link able. Damn auto correct.
Greenstuff May 12, 2012
I have a few cookbooks on my Kindle, mostly free ones. They're kind of silly things like a group of recipes pulled together by Belgian refugees living in England during World War II. I also have a few documents and recipes I've written myself on the Kindle. That way, I'll know I have them with me when I travel.

I found Eat Your Books through another Hotline question, and it's pretty fun. Type in some ingredients, and it will point you to your cookbooks' and websites' recipes. It doesn't come close to having indexed all my books, but it has made me re-aware of some that I'd ignored for years.

I'm relatively new to the iPad, but I have Epicurious on it, and we'll see where that takes me. Right now, it keeps prodding me to add the free Food62 Hotline app!
Tarragon May 12, 2012
I'm with SKK. I read everything on my Kindle (in fact I read very few paper books for pleasure) but I do not use Kindle for cookbooks. Too hard to navigate, and no browsing pleasure! I do like Eat Your Books as suggested by Pegeen, but I use it with my physical books.
pierino May 12, 2012
Interesting discussion. I've read novels and manuscripts on an e-reader but can't imagine using a cookbook in such a way---I wasn't even aware of the index issue. I too own literally hundreds of cookbooks as well as volumes on food history. I would be flumoxed without an index. I'm still old school when it comes to the heft of a book in my hand. And I own some really old books.

Voted the Best Reply!

SKK May 12, 2012
E versions of cookbooks don't work for me. I love my cookbooks, read them like novels and make notes in them. Love the photography. Do read other books on my kindle, but cook books don't make it. Too afraid to use my IPad in the kitchen, although people say it can be done.

Print my favorite recipes out and have them in binders.
Benny May 12, 2012
This is a good question. I was thinking about trying the same thing with my nook, but haven't gotten around to it. I do love my giant collection of books though. In fact, they are a conversation starter.

I'm hoping for some good insight here.
Pegeen May 11, 2012
This comes at your question from a different angle - not a precise match to what you're talking about - but might be of interest: you may want to look at the web site "Eat Your Books" (, a subscription-based site that allows you to search the indexes of cookbooks.
susan G. May 12, 2012
To clarify, the indexes of your own cookbooks. If you have an account, you enter your books, so you can simultaneously look up an index item in all your books. What you find also gives a brief ingredient listing, so you'll have an idea of which is worth pursuing. I love it! It has given new life to the books that might have faded from memory.
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