How Do You Read Your Books?

I’m going to be honest. I don’t have time to do a post this morning and I forgot about doing it last night. In a couple of hours, I’m heading off to the North Dallas area (never fun. Traffic is never good there) to take Mom for a procedure on her back. It should be no big deal. The first time she had this done was great. But it’s never a sure thing. Especially not when the patient is nearing 90 and you’re talking about the spine. So I’m distracted, a little worried and more than a little harried as I try to get a few things done this morning. Still, I wanted to post something and came across this article when I was doing a quick check of possible topics. To break it down, the article asks if we are seeing the end of the dedicated e-book reader. And, yes, we’ve been asked this question before.

It’s been a long time since Amazon came out with the first Kindle reader. I loved those readers. The screen size wasn’t much different from what we see with Kindles today but it had a keyboard under the screen. To me, it made it easier to take notes, etc., when I was reading. But, it mad the reader bulkier and more costly. It didn’t take long for the keyboard to be replaced with a virtual one on-screen.

Since then, we’ve seen the rise of tablets, especially the iPad. Those tablets were supposed to be the demise of the e-ink readers. Everyone seemed convinced we’d see the end of the Kindle when Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire. What folks forgot was there are still people who want an e-reader that is just that–a reader. They want to read without being interrupted by emails or texts or the distraction of going online to surf the web.

Then there’s the price differential. One of the most reasonably priced tablets–and in many ways one of the most limited–is the Kindle Fire. It ranges from $49 for the 7-in. version to $150 for the 10.1″ version. Yes, you can go online and play some games on it but it is still basically an e-reader because you have to hack the OS to gain access to the Google Play store (or you did the last I looked). Without doing so, you are limited to the Amazon store and that leaves you without a number of well-known and well-loved apps, especially when it comes to games and productivity.

But let’s face it, most of those who are buying tablets, buy them to do more than just read books. They want a tablet they can use for work, etc. They want an iPad or its equivalent. A stripped down, entry level iPad (10.2″) starts at $329. The iPad mini, which will be approximately the same size as most dedicated e-readers starts at $399. The iPad Air starts at $599 and the iPad Pro starts at $799. Then you have the price of the peripherals: cases, keyboard, Apple pencil, etc. Even going with the entry level iPad, it can easily cost $500 before you’re done accessorizing and personalizing it.

However, there are new players on the market as the above-referenced article notes. E-ink displays have come a long way from those early Kindles. I’ve written about some of the new players: the reMarkable Tablet and the Boox Note Air. The newest tablet on the block comes from Kobo with its Elipsa tablet. Some are standard e-ink displays and others are color e-ink displays. Some of lit screens and others don not. But what all of these new entries into the market offer is the ability to take note, real notes. Depending on the tablet and OS, you can access app stores and use MS Word, etc. You can browse the web with a greater ease than you’ve ever been able to do before with an e-ink screen.

Also, as with the iPad or other tablets, there is a price element to be considered with these new e-ink tablets. The Elipsa “package”, which includes the tablet, a sleep cover and stylus, starts at $399. The Boox Note Air is $480. It comes with a stylus but no cover. The reMarkable 2, the current generation of the reMarkable tablet, starts at $399 and doesn’t have a stylus with it. Also, it is not optimal as an e-reader due to the way it converts the books. 

As for size, the reMarkable is close to the size of a hardback book. The Boox Note Air, which is larger than some of the other Boox e-ink tablets, also has a 10.3″ screen. The Elipsa, the only one of the tablets I’m using as an example here that I haven’t actually had hands-on, is also a 10.3″ screen. That’s great for working but not great for tossing into a purse or shoving into a pocket and running around on errands or on vacation.

Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather risk $89 for a front-lit Kindle e-reader (which you can sometimes find on sale for $49) as my e-reader on the go than $400 or more on an e-ink tablet. 

In other words, it comes down to not if these new e-ink tablets will be the end of dedicated e-readers. We’ve seen these same e-readers survive the popularity of tablets. The real question is what do you want to do with  your e-ink device? If you just want to read, the stick with a dedicated e-reader. Even if you take an occasional note on something you’re reading, you will get more for your money.

However, if you are like me and you want the convenience of an e-reader with the ability to take handwritten notes or to create new handwritten documents, look at one of the e-ink tablets. But please do your research. If you are going to use the tablet mainly for notes, the reMarkable is probably your best bet because that is what it’s made for. If, however, you are going to do a lot of reading on the tablet and want to use apps like MS Word, etc., and surf the web, look at the Boox Note Air. As for the Elipsa, it appears (and remember I have not yet tried it) to be similar to the Note Air. So if you are a Kobo customer, go with it because it links directly to the Kobo store (like the Kindle or Fire do to Amazon).

But to answer the question of it these new tablets spell the end of dedicated e-readers, the answer is no. At least not until there is a viable, and much less expensive, alternative. It might spell the end of the more expensive dedicated e-readers like the Oasis. Even that I’m not sure about.

What are your thoughts?

20 comments

  1. I switch back and forth between ereader and hardcopy. I have a Kindle Fire, but I only use it for reading, so I don’t even think of it as a tablet. I only bought the Fire instead of a dedicated ereader because it was cheaper at the time I wanted a new ereader. I don’t want to be able to surf the web from my living room. I just want to read. If I want to be online, I get up off my dead ass and walk into the office. I also use the ereader when I’m editing – reading my manuscript on the thing and making notes in my handy notebook.

    1. My go-to is my Kindle Oasis. I bought Mom one of the large Fires because of her eyes. She loves it. For editing, I do much as you do. After the mss has gone through the alpha and beta readers and the copy editor, I convert it and look at it on the Oasis. It’s amazing what I catch there that everyone missed looking at hard copy or reading on the computer screen.

  2. There are only two reasons I’m not still using my Kindle Paperwhite (though I still have it): the memory capacity was just pathetic, in relation to the ebooks I have (many, yes, acquired before ereaders were really a thing, but even the ones I’ve bought on kindle since wouldn’t all fit on there, sigh), and the fact that my phone fits in my pocket, thus making reading wherever I can snatch a moment easier 😀 (Though I *could* stuff the paperwhite, even in it’s cover, into the back pocket of most of my jeans, it…wasn’t exactly unobtrusive, lol. People don’t question your phone in your pocket, but an obvious ereader, alas…)

  3. Oh, any my fancy schmancy ipad I used a lot early on, though not for reading (too bulky). But these days? It still works beautifully, but mostly sits unused, in part because many of the apps I bought for it no longer work (because Apple stopped updating its OS five years ago, and so now the apps won’t even download/open–it’s very annoying), and because my laptop computer works better for most of the other stuff I previously used the tablet for. I can’t say I dislike the tablet but…for what it does/is…a computer still works better. (And while generally I prefer desktops to laptops–until the cost of computer components gets down to something approaching reasonable again, it’s more economical to use the laptop, even if it DOES brick itself at some point….)

  4. Years ago, when I first decided to try eBooks, I did some research into the various ones available at the time. I ended up with a Nook Simple Touch, which I still use as my primary eReader. My wife later got me a NST with Glowlight which I use as my bedside eReader. But my NST/G has a scratch in the screen and keeps flaking out/freezing on me lately. So for Father’s Day, my wife ordered me a Kindle Paperwhite. I had picked it out as it has 32G memory and is waterproof. I would have preferred eInk with a light rather than backlit, but I ordered an anti-glare screen protector so I can use it outside (hopefully).

    I resisted eBooks for quite a while, but once I started I find it’s my preferred way to read (other than reference materials) as I can take the whole library with me, and I can change the font size if need be. I still read Dead Tree Books if I have them on the shelf, or if the eBook is over priced, or possibly not even available.

    I don’t have a tablet. My daughter has a Kindle (kids) Fire that I will probably have to switch over to the generic tablet mode soon as she’s growing out of the kids apps/games. We also bought her an iPad last summer as we were expecting her to have to use it for school. I bought my wife an iPad for Christmas. But neither one reads much on their tablets right now.

      1. I have most of my eBooks on my phone as well, but I just find the screen too small to read comfortably on. I use it as an emergency back up in case I forget my NST or it freezes. I use the Moon+ app for reading on it.

  5. E-reader for fiction and some nonfiction (rentals mostly. Cost is the driver.) Print for most non-fiction. I’m still using a first gen Paperwhite.

    1. My answer is similar. Some of the non-fiction, I simply do not make progress with anything but paper. I don’t like the costs of paper, so it is generally only things I have a strong need for, and not the hundred and one things of idle curiosity.

      The rest of my reading is on desktops and laptops.

      Kindle reader for PC is some of my entertainment reading. The rest is mostly in browsers and calibre.

      I have a small laptop that I use for some writing, presentations, and reading on the toilet. Most of my reading on that is in a PDF reader that I have had some success with before. I sideload stuff, and keep it disconnected from the network.

      Non-fiction reading on most of the desktops is in the same PDF reader, or a PDF reader integrated into other software like LaTeX.

      On a newer desktop, I found that I could not print from the latest version of my usual PDF reader. I have just installed a new PDF reader on that for printing off small items.

      When I buy non-fiction, I generally buy in paper. Anything I really need, I may want for a decade or two. Nobody selling ebooks has sufficiently robust reputation that I am confident that I can get (by purchasing again or not) a new copy of the file after ten more years of business decision. And I am much too careless when it comes to preserving my own copies of files to trust that either. (Okay, if the price were lower, I would spend more readily for an ecopy. I have done so where items of interest were available cheap on kindle. But most of my non-fiction reading is in a few narrow areas, and my limit is spending the time to understand the work. Avoiding the distractions of entertainment/relaxation reading, and avoiding the risk of spending time on a book that doesn’t move me forward are worth the costs of specific paper titles.)

      I have a problem with Kindle Reader. On the computer I have it installed on, the auto update stops mid process and locks the program until I rerun the installation file.

      On the calibre end, back in January cloudflare started preventing the fanfic plug in from working on fanfiction dot net. I’ve basically stopped checking if the situation has resolved one way or another, at least until the boog finishes running its course.

      For me, the hardware is working fairly well, it is the software and maybe the user where there are unmet needs.

  6. I’m on my third kindle. The keyboard increasing the length also introduced an issue with leverage, and the case cracked on me. Then the second had batteries die.

    Tablets are strictly for interactive stuff. I’m easily distracted, and spending my reading time on a tablet results in minimal reading.

    Computers are (mostly) for work and finances.

    Console is for games.

    Keeping clear delineation helps me function.

  7. My circa-2007 5″ “Android tablet” runs Android 2.something. I found a pdf viewer that mostly worked, but I never found an .epub or .mobi viewer that would, even back when they still supported Android versions that old. I convert books to HTML and use its built-in web browser to read them. It’d a pretty basic “reading experience”, but its ancient battery is still good for more than 20 hours of reading time.

    I bought matching 7″ tablets for my wife and I a few years ago. They had gorgeous high-resolution displays. They booted into Windows 10, but had an icon to install Android instead. They worked fine for a year or so, and then a Windows update bricked mine. The manufacturer and Microsoft both acknowledged the problem, but their only suggestion was “buy a newer tablet.” I changed my wife’s tablet over to Android before Microsoft bricked it.
    I never used it for reading books; I was used to the ancient 5″ tablet and its funky softwar.e

    I found a used 10″ Samsung tablet for about what a 7″ was going for, and bought that for my wife, intending to take her 7″. She said the 10″ was awkward to handle due to its size, I I wound up with it. I use it for casual web surfing while away from my desktop, but I still do my book reading with the old 5″ tablet.

  8. I still prefer paper because it’s easier for me to flip back and forth, something I haven’t gotten the hang of on my kindle.
    I have dedicated time to read every night but as I get older, I can’t keep the story in my head as well so flipping back and forth with paper (any type) is so much easier than struggling with someone’s clunky programming where I can’t pull up the chapter listing.

    I hate audio books. I don’t use a smartphone.

  9. for reference works, paper is the way to go (As Teresa says above, flipping back and forth just doesn’t work well on e-readers)

    for reading, I prefer e-ink I started with the kindle 2, almost immediately upgraded to the DX (9″ screen, around $400 at the time IIRC) as I read fast enough that the small 6″ screen as having me pause for the page turns way too much. I upgraded the DX when a new model came out and replaced it (or at least the screen on it) at least a half dozen times when I dropped it and the glass screen shattered.

    along the way I purchased the nexus 10 tablet, a 10″ high res screen (by the numbers a higher res screen than the DX), but did almost no reading on it. e-ink is just too much better for reading than LCD.

    in 2018 I spent >$800 on a boox max2 e-ink tablet with a 13.3″ screen, just under letter sized (after I broke my DX yet again and had trouble with the replacement screen) I went with the huge screen as I had to deal with PDFs (computer manuals). It’s nice that it’s a full tablet, not just an e-reader. I don’t do a lot of non-reading on it, but it’s the thing I _always_ have with me, and it is large enough to have screen available with the keyboard up, so I use it to ssh into computers as needed pretty well. (I’ve done that with my 6″ phone and an external keyboard, the max works MUCH better) and occasionally look things up in the browser, but do almost nothing else on it. I have also found it useful occasionally for note taking and sketching diagrams that I need for other things (like the remarkable, it’s got a wacom stylus, so very good drawning/writing)

    The max2 is getting a bit long in the tooth, specifically the OS is old and not getting updated the way I think it should be(and it’s always been slow with limited ram), so I’m starting to look a little bit again. I’m finding that I’m not dealing with PDFs as much as I thought I would, so I’m thinking in terms of one of the 10″ tablets, either another boox tablet, or supernote tablet. The remarkable is just too limited.

    I’m finding that the 13″ screen is just a bit too large for efficient reading (lines are wide enough that my eyes are having to move around too much) and e-ink is able to update much faster than it used to, so it’s less critical to have as much on the page to read between page turns, but I think the 6″ screens are still a bit small

    I spend enough time reading that spending $500 every few years for a good reader that gets out of my way is well worth it.

    I found this youtube channel recently, he had very in-depth reviews and comparisons of the different e-ink tablets out there https://www.youtube.com/c/MyDeepGuide/videos especially how they work with different stylus options. I would recommend it for someone who is looking at an e-ink tablet. If you are going to write/sketch/diagram on the tablet, do yourself a big favor and make sure you get one with a wacom pen and look at the available pens

    I would actually prefer to find an e-ink tablet without a front-lit display, I don’t read in the dark,and in dim light I can enlarge the font enough to make things out without turning on a light and disrupting those around me. But it doesn’t seem like that is going to be an option any more.

  10. I mostly read ebooks on my phone as I always have it with me. My eyes have been changing in the past couple of years, so I often remove my glasses to read on the phone. Being nearsighted, I have to keep my glasses on for computer work or anything else, but after a while, I just need to rest my eyes.

  11. I have an ancient Kobo that I originally bought for my mother who doesn’t read anymore. It still works, so I use it if I buy an e-arc or an Amazon ebook. Most of my reading is done on my computer or my little tablety-laptop thing. Better screens.

    The nice thing about the Kobo is size. Big enough screen, very low weight, very long battery life, holds a bunch of books. Nice for airplanes, camping trips etc. But I haven’t been doing that for some time thanks to the WuFlu, so poor old Kobo doesn’t get out much.

  12. I’ve had a Kindle Fire HD 8 for years, and in the past few months it’s gotten very slow and unreliable. It would take up to 5 minutes to load and display the book I was reading. That process would often include two or three hard exits to the Android desktop. I finally got tired of it, and bought a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite on which I’m running the Kindle Android app. I’m very happy with the new one, even though the screen is larger (10″ as compared to 8″), which makes it a bit unwieldy to hold if I’m reading in bed. But, despite that, it’s much faster, re-opens the current book quickly, and has more memory. I’ve also installed MoonReader+, which I also have on my phone, to pick up on .epub and .pdf files as well as the native Kindle formats.

    I considered getting a Kindle Paperwhite Oasis, since most of what I read doesn’t use color and the extended battery life with e-ink is attractive, not to mention the lighter weight. I decided against it because I do use the tablet for some web surfing that I want to have in color, as well as the occasional book that has color illustrations.

    So, through practical needs, I’ve come down on the tablet/app side rather than the dedicated e-reader. I’m happy with it.

  13. *waves her Samsung galaxy variant*
    I already have it in a crazy strong case, it’s with me all the time anyways, and it’s got a screen big enough I can read AO3 fics.

  14. I read on a Kindle, my wife switches between her Kindle and books.
    Carpal Tunnel and aging eyes make me appreciate both the lighter weight and the ability to change the font size.

    The downside for us is that the Kindles do not seem to have the service life that other consumer electronics have.
    Both of the earlier keyboard Kindles failed, and both of their replacements have also had problems.

  15. My editing gets done on an old Mac Pro desktop with a nice 24 inch screen, but then I always edit in MS Word for its track changes function. Authors get back the marked up manuscript with modified file name.
    Honestly I have not cracked a real dead tree book other than occasional references for several years now.
    Reading for pleasure is done on a Kindle Paperwhite which I upgraded to when they became available for the backlit feature so I could read in bed without a light. Just picked up a second one as a refurb for fifty bucks mostly as a just in case backup.

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