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Why I can't shake my ereader

Battery life and device weight keep E Ink devices on wish lists.

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog (“B&N’s Nook with GlowLight: Why I Still Use an eInk eReader“). This version has been lightly edited.

My new E Ink reader, B&N’s Nook with GlowLight, arrived last Thursday. I’m winding down my use of a Kindle Touch and wanted to move to another ebook retailer’s platform going forward. This, of course, is a major headache since I’ve already bought dozens of DRM-protected ebooks from Amazon. I figure I’ll read the last couple I bought on my Kindle and all future purchases will be from B&N … until some other device catches my eye.

So, what do I think of the Nook with GlowLight? It’s just like my Kindle Touch, but with a built-in light. That pretty much sums it up. E Ink ereaders have quickly become a commodity. Sure, B&N was the first to build a light source into its device but I’m sure Amazon and others will be close behind. When you’re buying one of these devices, it’s less about the device and more about which retailer you want to commit to. That’s an unfortunate by-product of DRM.

I’m happy with the Nook so far, but it’s not wowing me. Then again, I didn’t really expect it to. The benefit I see for the GlowLight isn’t for reading in bed but for reading on a plane. About half the time I press that overhead light button on a plane nothing happens. The bulb is either burned out or the fixture is broken. I guess that’s another sign of the times as airlines continue cutting back on their services. Let’s just hope they spend more time making sure the engines are in better working order than the overhead lights.

Two years ago, I didn’t think I’d be using an E Ink reader at all. I had just bought a first-gen iPad and was putting my Kindle in storage. That worked for about a year. I then saw a third-gen Kindle and decided it was thin and lightweight enough to carry with my iPad. In fact, the iPad case I was using had a handy pocket that the Kindle fit into perfectly.

I ditched my iPad a few months ago for an Android tablet and now I’ll be taking that plus my Nook with me on the road. Even though I could easily read all my books on that Android tablet, I still prefer to do all my long-form reading on an E Ink device. Why?

It’s not really about the display and how great it is in the sun, as I rarely find myself reading outdoors. My eyes never had any problem reading for an hour or two at a time on the iPad display, either. For some reason, I never ran into the eye fatigue I get with my laptop’s display. The reason I’m hooked on E Ink displays has to do with battery life and device weight. If I’m reading for more than 20 minutes or so, I’d much rather hold a feather-light E Ink reader than any tablet out there. I also love that I can go weeks without recharging an E Ink device. It seems like my iPad and now my Android tablet’s battery rapidly loses juice when using a reader app on it … much more so than when I’m just watching a video on the device. I end up having to recharge that Android tablet at least every couple of days. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes me much more miserly when I’m on a plane for several hours with no power source available.

There’s talk of hybrid display devices coming out soon. Think of a tablet with the ability to switch to an E Ink-like display that’s (supposedly) easier on the eyes and offers a much longer window between charges. It sounds like it will still need a pretty large battery so it lasts long enough between charges in tablet mode. Unless battery technology changes radically between now and then, I doubt I’d buy one since it will still probably be a fairly heavy device.

Thankfully, these E Ink readers are pretty inexpensive and incredibly lightweight. I might be in the minority, but I see myself carrying both an E Ink reader and a tablet for the foreseeable future. And for now, at least, that E Ink reader is B&N’s Nook.

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  • Gary

    Over the air eBook transfer to the Nook work like Kindle and iPad? I can’t find any mention of that working other than back in 2009 a post said ‘some day’.
    Otherwise, it looks like non’B&N’ eBooks have to be installed either as a email attachment or via USB from the desktop.