Tell me more about e-ink e-readers
December 11, 2018 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Piggybacking on this previous question, I'm looking for recommendations for e-ink readers.

Here's a list of the most important features I care about. Ideally, it should:
1. have no internet access at all or at least have a hardware/software switch to turn off wireless
2. not require/store any unnecessary personal information (no nonsense like this, please)
3. be loaded with books by plugging a USB cable into a computer running any OS and being recognised as a regular removable storage drive or, failing that, demand only the use of Calibre or other free software for management (vendor exclusive software is unacceptable)
4. have a (micro)SD card slot, or internal storage easily replaceable by non-techies
5. use standard connectors for charging and in case the battery is empty (or dead, or absent) the device must nevertheless be fully usable if plugged into a wall socket
6. have physical buttons for operation

Any devices out there meeting all or most of these? Any other features I should be considering?
posted by Bangaioh to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would look into the pocketbook 360 (original), though it lacks replaceable storage.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2018

Ok so i have a kobo and 2 kindles (as daddy IT). The kobo is a little older model but gets regular firmware updates. I don't have a kobo account that is any more complicated than a throwaway email address and password. I don't actually think its needed for anything ON the kobo (unless you want to buy from their store which obviously needs an account, regardless of brand). You can 100% plug a cable im and drag files onto it as a storage drive. You can disable wifi and it will never turn back on unless you want it to (no phoning home).

The kindle wants an Amazon account. Not a paid one, so again throwaway email etc. Once past that same thing. Disable wifi forever, plug a cable in and transfer files.

Really, unless you have a moral position on not creating a more or less disposable account (which is totally valid if you do) either one is peachy. As a family we have standardized on kindle for the kids as they have tons and tons of free books with a basic prime account and kindle unlimited but the kids are little ao these things are waaaayyy offline.

Just a final thought. Im firmly in the e-ink for president camp. It's stunning technology. Straight out of science fiction. Your eyes perceive it as paper. Read in full sign, no eye strain (compared to active display) battery life measured in weeks (seriously). I love them. Take a chance and jump in, you'll never go back.
posted by chasles at 6:16 PM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Crap. Forgot to add re the removable storage thing. It's just not a thing. Small players have all been crowded out of ereaders by $79 kindles. Kindle and kobo dont have micro sd. Ergo, not really an option. I can say that 2gb is a LOOOOTTTTTT of books. Like a lifetime. This desire is likely to go unfulfilled unless i am utterly unaware of a reader (which is totally possible!)
posted by chasles at 6:32 PM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

To piggyback on what chasles said - the Kindle Paperwhite (the newest edition) comes in either 8GB or 32GB. Plenty of room for books, magazines, newspapers, personal documents - you name it. It doesn't have physical buttons, though, so that might be a total dealbreaker for you.
posted by Roger Pittman at 6:36 PM on December 11, 2018

Huge fan of the Kindle Keyboard which hits all your points except removable media. I hacked mine so it doesn't require an Amazon account and doesn't show ads and I put in all my own screensavers. I've had it for years and never run out of space (it has about 3GB available) though I mostly read EPUB books (it will handle PDFs but they are sort of terrible with a screen that size). Physical buttons. Wifi totally turn-offable. Read while plugged in, sure. Works elegantly with Calibre. Standard charging cable. They cost less than $50.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 PM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

You want to ask this on the mobileread forums. Those obsessives will know which old ereader will fit the bill. Maybe an old Sony? You can sometimes find one for sale on the sell subforum there.

I have an old Kobo with an sd slot, but I can't vouch for privacy. Kindle won't work at all if you give a crap about privacy, nor will nook. Go and ask at mobileread. Of it's possible, someone there will know.
posted by liminal_shadows at 7:54 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not too paranoid about privacy, but I sideload all of my ebooks onto my Kindle via Calibre so I always keep it on airplane mode to save battery life. If you use a throwaway account, only sideload, and always turn on airplane mode, then Amazon can't know anything about the books you put on the Kindle.

I used a Kindle Keyboard for 7 years before finally upgrading to the new waterproof Paperwhite. The page refresh is a little slow on the Keyboard but it was still acceptable (and my Kindle still fully functional after all that time). I actually miss the physical page-turn keys.

Agreed with chasles that your microSD criteria is going to be the most difficult to find, by far.
posted by serelliya at 11:59 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Onyx Boox sells small e-ink readers with micro SD cards. They are Android based devices, somewhat customizable I believe, and I’m pretty sure you don’t need an account to use them. Not sure about the physical buttons.

You can also find out more about non-Kindle/Kobo/Nook e-ink readers at
posted by hungrytiger at 1:03 AM on December 12, 2018

I think the Nook Simple Touch with or without Glowlight (not the Nook Glowlight or Nook Glowlight Plus, however. Nook Simple Touch) will meet all your needs, but it's not a current model. You can find them by the truck-load on ebay, however.

You can side-load books via USB, no internet is required at all, you can expand the storage (although 2GB goes a long, long way), it has buttons, etc. I owned one and liked it. I never actually used the micro SD slot, however, because the built-in storage is freaking huge and unless you are reading graphic novels (not a good choice for an e-reader, IMHO) or PDFs, you'll be able to get your entire library on there without needing external storage. Still, it's there.

Or you can take a look at this.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2018

Nook Simple Touch
I have this and it meets everything you ask for except being usable when plugged in with a dead battery. Also, the battery is not easily replaceable - though mine is over 6 years old and still holds a charge.
posted by soelo at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2018

FWIW a good backlight is wonderful. My wife's ereader does not have one, mine does, and she is jealous.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2018

Thank you all for your answers.

I regret listing expandable storage as a desirable feature, it's not disk space I was concerned about but being able to replace it in case it goes bad. Seems rather pointless because there are more obvious points of failure than flash memory and an expansion slot would probably do me no good if the internal flash is required for booting.

soelo, thanks for the dead battery confirmation. Unfortunately, based on previous experience with mobile phones and Kobo's user manuals, I expect their ereaders to be no different as the manuals mention charging the device for 1 hour before using it. Which I translate as: if the battery is dead and can't hold a charge anymore, the device is bricked.

Despite that, at the moment I'm still leaning towards some Kobo device, preferably one still in production, they seem to hit the right combo of hackability and popularity. Time to browse the mobileread forums for a bit, I suppose.
posted by Bangaioh at 8:23 AM on December 14, 2018

Nook batteries aren't impossible to replace, just not easy.
posted by soelo at 10:20 AM on December 14, 2018

If you are side-loading everything then you have a backup copy of all your documents (on the computer from which you side-load), so you won't lose anything. It's true the device will be dead if the internal storage goes bad but I've got one e-reader that's 10 years old (one of the first, maybe the first, Sony e-readers). It doesn't hold a charge very well (by which I mean the charge will last a few days instead of a few weeks), but other than that it's fine. If the battery is completely dead, however, then the device is pretty much toast.

For the Nook I just verified that you do need an account to start it up, but you can use a bogus email address. It asks for a credit card, but you can skip that step if you like.

I'm honestly not using the Nook anymore (I have a better, shinier one). If you want to try it out I can send it to you. Be warned there's no backlight (they are great).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:10 AM on December 15, 2018

« Older Odd Holiday Album From the 80's   |   Help me buy perfume in Chicago Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments