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My Life in E-Ink (rgoswami.me)
282 points by HaoZeke 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments

I own the BOOX Note 2, it's an android tablet with some E-Ink friendly modifications. It's the best electronic reading experience I've ever had:

- It's 10.3", perfect for reading PDFs like scientific papers without being too large to carry around.

- The included reader is stellar, with special modes for reading PDFs, comicbooks, etc.

- The included note-taking app is pretty good and fully featured. It integrates with the reader and there's a side-by-side mode.

- It supports every open format I've tried: PDFs, DJVU, epub, mobi and more. (Haven't tried PS.)

- I can scribble on all document types, including ebooks.

- I can install apps from the app store. In particular this means I can read my Kindle library and Wallabag feed, and...

- with Syncthing syncing is set and forget. When I download a PDF or book on my computer, I simply pick up the tablet and start reading it. Any notes I make are synced back to my laptop.

- Of course, the above is in addition to the standard E-Ink features you'd expect: It lasts for weeks on a charge, the reading experience in bright sunlight is fantastic, it's lighter than an iPad, zero eye strain, etc.

I installed only the software I need for reading and syncing, but there's a lot more you could do with it since the play store and F-droid are available. You can use it as an external monitor, for instance.

I bought, and returned the Note Air.

The build quality is impressive. I had it for 2 weeks, used it for about an hour daily, and set it to only poweroff after a day of inactivity.

Its battery dropped from 100% to 48% over that time. Yes, I was quite positively impressed.

However, their theft of code (which is what you do, if you do not respect the code license, eg, gpl), the fact that even a brand new model tablet was 3+ monthly Android security updates behind, and the pcaps I took showing all the phoning home, including IPs in China...


As I said, returned. Quite sad, loved the hardware.

Would it be a security threat to have that on one’s home network?

I’d mostly want it for reading articles online and email newsletters. I could make a burner email account for this purpose.

That seems a tolerable tradeoff, as I don’t consider what I read on HN to be super sensitive. (Though others may reasonable differ there)

Vote with your money. Don’t buy stuff from companies that are doing the wrong thing.

The trouble is that it is behind your security perimeter once it is on your home network. It can start discovering other devices, monitoring traffic, enumerating ports and services, etc.

If you're set up for it, you can always set it up on a sandboxed SSID with access only to the internet (or even just to sites you choose, like an FTP server of your ebooks). This is probably a good idea with most sketchy gadgets that "need" access to the "internet" but will probably be off the table in coming years as it gets cheap enough for manufacturers to embed 5g connectivity if they want.

Sounds like a lot of work when the alternative is just using a device that doesn’t spy on you in the first place. For instance, Remarkable is a great e—ink tablet that literally gives you the keys to the kingdom: there’s a UI in the product that gives you the root PW (which is set randomly for each device).

Does remarkable have a web browser or email support? I don’t use chrome so it will be hard to add reader articles. Mostly I want to add them from twitter on ios.

Not as a 1st party feature, but there are several open source tools for doing that: https://github.com/reHackable/awesome-reMarkable

Wow those look great! Thanks. No email newsletter though right?

Maybe I can make an rss feed out of them and use goosepaper or print them to pdf.

You can print to a pdf from your browser and upload that to the device as a simple workaround. It's pretty straightforward.

Oh that sounds pretty great. How is pdf legibility vs a formatted article? I have a kobo and remember finding some pdf articles small.

Also how do you upload from the phone, can you print to a dropbox folder or the Remarkable phone app or some source so it is automatic?

Does Eero let you do this? That’s my router.

> Its battery dropped from 100% to 48% over that time

I have the same model with insane battery life. I think your unit might have been defective.

14h hours using up only 52% is impressive to me.

> and set it to only poweroff after a day of inactivity.

Might it have been this?

the poster is returning the device because of moral issues with the manufacturer, the anecdote regarding battery life was meant to indicate product quality (although rhetorically structured as a complaint and therefore confusing)


This was a pretty thorough traffic analysis of their Max Lumi device. I think it would be pretty similar with the Note Air. I bought a Max Lumi after this as there didn't seem to be much concern.

For anyone looking for pointers to buy e-Ink devices, Voja from MyDeepGuide has a comprehensible collection of different e-ink devices and is a trusted reviewer.

You can watch the comparison of all the e-Ink tablets here on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkK_HQRf6xg

This guy is indeed awesome, a very valuable resource, however he only reviews from the perspective of usage, not covering things like security updates, gpl compliance, phoning home, etc.

Thanks for sharing this. I've been pondering getting a Boox Nova 3 in the near future (mostly because it has the yellow backlight and ends up being only $5 more than a Kindle Oasis (where I live)... and then I get the benefit of all the additional features. :-)

This is what I did and love the device. You can adjust color temperature by mixing cool and warm light. Also, larger screen than the kindle and high res enough to read technical books.

Came with a case and stylus.

The BOOX tablets seem really interesting. I'm wondering if you or anyone has tried a terminal app (e.g. termux)? Is the refresh rate fast enough?

It's usable, but only just, and you have to fiddle with your colorscheme (most of the defaults are unusable for some colors).

My major problem with basically all the BOOX devices is they're violating the GPL by not releasing their kernel/uboot sources.[1]

[1]: http://bbs.onyx-international.com/t/install-linux-or-alterna...

I've tried it with the Boox Note Air 10.3 (arrived a couple of weeks ago!), it's decent enough but I had to install the termux-styling apk to change its background from black to white. I think it works better that way.

The refresh rate is good enough for me but I'm not very picky so YMMV. I'll try to use it for work one of these days using ssh, so I'll report back once I've done so.

With all the phoning home, and lack of security updates, you may want to reconsider ever entering anything sensitive into a Boox product.

Some time ago I had a sign in attempt with password on my Google account. Inputting the password on the Boox was one of my theories as to how it was stolen. I've since made a dedicated account for the device, and the sign-in is now done via a one time token so that risk is mitigated.

My Max Lumi can be used as a monitor, and it is possible to work on it, but visual feedback is sluggish and you have to accept a lot of artifacts for the sake of speed.

I do hope to try coding in the sun with it some time. Got it in winter though, so haven't yet.

You have to make sure you don't have a cursor. Normal printing is fast enough, but the typical block-style cursor makes it not really usable for me (Tolino Epos (Gen1)).

I recently tried the Note 3. Very cool device! My impression of the Google Play app support: it works, but the experience isn't as good with 3rd-party apps as it is with the first-party Boox apps. I tried loading the Kobo app, as well as Evernote and OneNote. In the Kobo app, text was not as clear (even on the clearest setting) and the page turning experience was off (it had to sort of re-orient the text). Neither OneNote or Evernote were usable for note-taking with the pen.

All of this is probably to be expected, but I wanted to share because the idea of being able to run any android app is certainly part of the appeal of the device.

It is still a good device, but when comparing it to other e-ink devices on the market, I'd really consider the Google Play support to be a bit more of a novelty than something you would actually use unless you have a very specific use case and don't mind a less than stellar app experience.

Hi thanks a lot for sharing. You never feel that 10” is too small for PDF? With charts especially. I know it will scale well with ePUB

It has a crop-margins feature for reading PDFs that (for most documents) makes the text size slightly larger than it would be printed on letter sized paper. It's pretty seamless. For two column documents there's a "quarters" reading mode.

It's not a great experience for a PDF with no margins and a complicated layout (like some magazines.)

I’ll second the Note 2. It’s the greatest gadget I’ve ever owned. Completely supplanted paper/pens for me!

I have a BOOX Note (v1) and found no reason whatsoever to replace it. The auto PDF margin crop functionality Just Works, the only reader I've seen where this problem is solved to any degree of satisfaction.

I vastly prefer reading PDFs off the Note than on a computer, regardless of the paper size.

How's the page turning speed and/or screen refresh speed?

I remember looking at an e-ink reader years ago and thought it was unusable because of the weird page refresh/slow page turn.

They've generally gotten faster over time.

The newer ones also have partial refresh modes that are faster still, but not quite as clean, which lets you trade speed for clarity. The fastest modes work for video (sort of) and at least the Boox have lots of configuration options e.g. different apps can refresh at different speeds, the refresh rate can vary when you start scrolling (in standard android apps that aren't optimised for e-ink, in readers you generally "page" through text) and can set it to do full refreshes after X amount of actions, or manually force a refresh.

But, as all the above probably indicates, if you have it on full quality mode, then there's a noticeable delay and flicker as it fully blacks out the screen to "clear" it and then displays the next page.

This is particularly bad for some of the color ones, as they seem to only be able to do each color layer in sequence.

Also, as far as I know, it's the only ebook-reader with USB-C.

What software do you use for reading and syncing with your BOOX?

The OP mentioned Syncthing .. I have a similar workflow where I use dropbox to sync(with dropsync installed on boox)

google drive

Maybe this is just way too niche, but I've been wondering why there hasn't been any e-ink based laptops with a powerful enough of a processor (e.g. 10th/11th gen core i7 would be great) and ability to put enough RAM (e.g. 16GB) to run a development environment.

Something like that would be oh so light and great/easy to carry around. And something purely used for dev doesn't need to have the ability to play videos, etc. (that would just be distracting anyway, right? =)

I know there have been a few tablet/reader-based devices that use e-ink and have the ability to run Linux, but of the ones I've seen, none of them seem to have powerful enough of a CPU (and definitely not enough RAM).

Because programming on e paper would be horrible. You can’t scroll text properly. You would be limited to page up/down. And then it takes a second or few to do that.

And then the e paper panel costs a bunch so what would be a $1000 laptop becomes $4000 and is strictly worse for the vast majority of users.

There are e-ink displays with higher refresh rates where scrolling is possible, like Dasung's new e-ink monitor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9qrURPAtnY

That's amazing. It's so retro... One is tempted to build with it some kind of steam punk computer.

e-ink screens are objectively worse for our eyes than an IPS panel screen. I mean, this is besides the fact that e-paper screens are also more expensive and less capable than the standard iridescent screen that we spend 24 hours on daily.

Is an IPS screen displaying static content better than a properly illuminated sheet of paper? I hardly believe that.

Of course I remember how difficult was to properly illuminate my notebooks when I was a kid. I guess I'd end up with two lamps on my sides and they are difficult to move as easily as a laptop.

For dynamic content, eg ls -la, scrolling through a file, watching to a video, doing a video call, it's no contest.

I know, counter-intuitive it was for me too!

Professor Michael Young, Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey C. Hall won a Nobel Prize for research in this area in 2017.

[1] https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2017/press-releas...

[2] https://bubblin.io/blog/daylight-energy-fatigue

Conclusion of [2]

"If you are a night owl, you might be better off with a tablet, but if you are a daytime reader who prefers reading outside in the Sun, then a reflective e-reader or a physical book is a better option.

Other than that, there is no difference between the two screens."

> e-ink screens are objectively worse for our eyes than an IPS panel screen.

That's not actually true. I have glasses explicitly to prevent eye-strain for when I'm working on the computer, even when it is an IPS/retina display with 2X pixel scaling. However I don't need glasses at all when reading books on a kindle or kobo.

Which glasses are these? I'm finding that my eyes are pretty much permanently strained while I'm staring at my computer screen...

I went to an optometrist and got a prescription. I actually went to two different optometrists and one of them misdiagnosed me. My prescription is extremely minimal, +1.25 on one eye and -1.25 on the other or something like that but it makes all the difference. If your eyes are extremely strained you may need to ask for the extremely strong eye relaxant drops when you visit your optometrist.. and warn him or her that you may have minus eyes. Apparently it's hard to properly diagnose minus eyes without doubling up on the eye drops.

Not OP, but I ordered one of these[0] recently. Really a game changer.

P.S I'm not affiliated in any way

0: gmg-performance.com

Weren't blue-light filtering glasses proved to be with no known benefits? E.g. [1].

Personally, I'm very sensitive to light and get frequent debilitating headaches. Blue light filter changes very little for me. Making the whole screen just red with something like flux (together with my glasses that also block blue light) might help around 5-10%, but the migraine still comes full force (maybe 10-15m later).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkJY9bgLyBE

I think your experience with migraines can hardly inform a typical person's experience with blue-light filters and a random hidden camera exposé is not really going to "prove" anything. Also, flux is aimed at sleep regulation, where blue-light filtering is aimed at claimed damage reduction and increased acuity.

However, there do seem to be no studies proving efficacy, indeed.

> I think your experience with migraines can hardly inform a typical person's experience with blue-light filters

I would guess it's the opposite--because I'm extremely sensitive to light in general, I'd think if blue-light filters were effective, they'd be even more effective on me, which they aren't.

> Also, flux is aimed at sleep regulation

People seem to equate "less blue light" with "better" and yet when I make my screen dark orange/red, it does nothing.

Also note that I said something like Flux.

Last but not least, my glasses also have blue-light filter in them. So I'm reducing blue light with both HW and SW and it has very minuscule effect on me, personally.

Of course, it's anecdotal experience and nothing more. But I get an eye twitch when I see stuff like "blue filter is a game changer". Sounds like placebo to me.

>And then the e paper panel costs a bunch so what would be a $1000 laptop becomes $4000 and is strictly worse for the vast majority of users.

IMO, this is fundamentally a niche object. But that nicheness means that if it did exist, it would have several options without worrying about pissing off the mainstream.

#1 on that list is that you don't need to seamlessly emulate an LCD screen with an e-ink screen - instead of having a single multiplexed screen, have 2-3 80-char-wide separate e-ink screens and have text on each of them.

This has two advantages: one, it's cheaper because e-ink screen costs scale geometrically with size, not linearly. And two, AIUI partial-refresh doesn't work well when you're literally refreshing a third or half of your screen, but two completely independent screens can obviously refresh independently of each other. I'm assuming partial refreshes are faster due to taking a smaller absolute number of pixels, and not due to being a smaller proportion of the screen, so e.g. a quarter of a 4" screen will refresh the same speed as a full 2" screen refresh but faster than a full 4" screen refresh.

Ideally, you'd want to split the e-ink screen into as many smaller screens as possible anywhere it makes sense (and design the UI in hardware), simply to reduce costs.

Sadly, large cheap single screens have made the concept of software controlled UIs so obvious that people don't even consider the alternative.

cough Back then in the old days you used page down/up because the computer was too slow to make scrolling line by line useful. You can live without scrolling.

And a function should not take up more space than a screen anyway!

I purchased a Boox Max2 and got the version with HDMI to code. What I had not realized is that I would miss source code highlighting with color coding so much. Everything else can be more or less worked around, scrolling did not bother me.

My Eink tablet does ~15 fps in monochrome operation. It can very much scroll, though you are right, one would typically use page up/down functionality. But you'd not really have to wait.

Check this ThinkBook Plus by Lenovo (2nd Gen)[1]. The latest version has an updated e-ink secondary screen with bigger and higher resolution to match the main conventional screen.


combine this project (DIY eink screen): https://www.reddit.com/r/eink/comments/ljq262/epdiy_eink_pc_...

with this latest release (Raspberry PI alternative board which supports eink): https://www.makeuseof.com/quartz64-e-ink-sbc/

and this solar powered, power first open source (eink) laptop project: https://hackaday.io/project/177716-the-open-source-autarkic-...


I'm guessing the BOM cost of the display would be far too high.

Dasung's 13" external e-ink display costs $1200.

Boox's 10" e-reader costs $500.

I can't imagine there are enough people willing to trade color and syntax highlighting for that crisp e-paper goodness on their $3000 13" development machine.

You can try the impromptu DIY version of such a device by just setting any android-based ereader in front of your laptop display and use VNC/RDP or similar to mirror your screen on the eink reader.

I personally went a step further and used my boox nova 3 and a BT keyboard [1] directly to ssh into my workstation for a while.

Though I agree, an eink based laptop in a X1 or MBA form factor would be amazing, just for the battery life alone.

[1] Logitech K480, comes with integrated tablet holder

Just get an old passive matrix LCD and pretend.

All I want is an ereader that shows up as a printer on my network, so I can just "print" to it.

Something like this exists for the reMarkable: https://github.com/Evidlo/remarkable_printer

Yeah, it works well, and Onyx Boox has a similar extension.

I have both, and.I have used it on both and found the experience great. Much preferred to pocket style save for later.

If an online article is too long for me to get throug, and I want to, I will always send to a device.

I would LOVE to hear your comparison of the both. If you have time my email is in the profile.

I will do so on Monday, but I'll message now so you can ask Qs. I'm sorry that I haven't posted comparison review yet, I realise it has been over a month since I told you I would!

> Onyx Boox has a similar extension

Could you please share the source? I’ve got a Boox Note air and would love to have this.

There are two options,

There is the print to Boox chrome extension, but I usually get good results with the send2boox website, where you just paste in URL, and.they process it.




Did you get it to work? I tried to install it on my remarkable and print to it with my Mac, but my Mac sends Postscript files which the software doesn't recognize.

I installed the reMarkable android app and I have sent so many pdfs (through remarkable's cloud) onto my device and I am so happy with it, I can draw on them ad libitum

the "send to kindle" browser extension does a great job of sending web content at least. and you can email word docs etc to kindle.

I use Pocket with my Kobo. Works great for public web pages, but not really suitable if you want to throw bank statements or doctor's reports or whatever onto a reader.

I nearly went down this route, with an old, cheap, hacked, reader-only e-ink device with all the cleverness done on a different machine and the output pre-optimised for the specific target device.

However, when I looked into it, I found that buying a Boox with a recent version of Android on it, meant that I could replace most of that with apps on the device itself, including borrowing DRM'd books from my local library, which is handy sometimes.

And the price difference didn't actually seem that bad, once I took into account my desire for a warm backlight. Maybe if I already owned a simpler device with that feature, I'd have hacked it instead.

Having said that, I don't have quite the same aversion to short length reading on e-ink, so I also use Pocket and even a browser (Firefox mobile with DarkMode addon in "light" mode) and so I'm probably getting more use out of that side of things for my money.

I have heard very good things about KOReader, but the standard Boox reader is also pretty great, and integrates with the device well (e.g. the default launcher lists books from that reader) so I've not had reason to try anything different.

As someone else has mentioned, the only bad thing about Boox I've found so far is that they seems to be withholding their Linux modifications. Doesn't affect me directly in practical terms at the moment, but it's the principle of the thing.

Oh remembered, one other potential bad thing, there are apparently core apps that phone home. People have workarounds involving fake VPN apps that block specific urls.


Note that netguard (a vpn firewall solution) is not active at boot. It gets kicked well after wifi comes up.

My tcpdump tests showed a few seconds of traffic before it started blocking. This is a known thing, but it is time enough that I watched loads of traffic phone home on boot.

Another thing, is that the wifi connectivity test/beacon has been modified to point to the boox store url. This is not blocked by a VPN, and thus, anything could be happening.

To be fair, once netguard was up and running, it did block all but that, and I ran tcpdump over several days watching.

Of course, if you want any part of the Boox ecosystem, you have to let it phone home.

How crippled is it without wifi? Let's say using just the USB port for reading/annotating pdfs?

I used adb to move files on/off the device. Zero issues there.

Now sure about their note app, but I bet that review guy, mentioned elsewhere in this topic, covers it?

So worth a try then. I'm like the OP. Tons of pdfs to read already on a trusted device. (Thanks for the adb tip.)

Plus you can also use a boox as an HDMI screen from any output.

My particular Boox is a small 6 inches, so it's not ideal for that use case, and I think there's only one model that has an actual physical HDMI input but yeah I'm pleased enough with the reading experience that I may upgrade to a larger one that can be used as a coding screen, pen input tablet etc.

Again, with screensharing apps, or terminal apps as others talk about in this story, it's possible to do certain things of this nature without the HDMI cable too.

I'm currently using an older Kindle (the Touch, which sadly doesn't include a backlight at all) with a booklight cover, but it's getting very slow thanks to what I assume is storage degradation after 12 years of use. I'd really like to upgrade to a better ereading solution, but I'm at a loss right now. Here are my requirements:

- Bigger screen than my Touch (7" would be about perfect, I suspect, but I'm not too picky) - Backlight with warmness adjustability (my current light keeps my girlfriend up at night because it's not embedded) - The ability to take notes on device would be a nice add, I like to annotate PDFs and such - Ample storage to use for another 10ish years.

I don't need many bells and whistles. Unfortunately the Kobo series looks like it's a bit out of date right now, or I would just get one of those. Any recommendations?

I have an Onyx Boox Nova 3, it should perfectly fit your bill: 8", warm backlight (color and brightness are individually adjustable), comes with a pen in the box, 32gb storage (no SD card slot though), doesnt break the bank. Fast SoC and full Android as nice extras. Not affiliated in any way, just really like mine.

Reviewed here for example: https://goodereader.com/blog/reviews/onyx-boox-nova-3-review

Nice, thank you! I actually decided to get one of these after reading some of the other comments in this thread -- it's close to the Kindle Oasis in price, but the notetaking features, ability to sideload apps, and support for file types other than proprietary amazon, mobi, and PDF convinced me. I really wanted to get a Kobo a while back, but all of their devices seem slightly worse in build quality than the equivalent Kindle, and for a device I'm going to hold in my hand for hours a day that is important to me.

The Kobo Aura One with Koreader is the way to go. It just works after you turn off automatic software updates for the kobo firmware.

What do you find outdated about Kobos? I find them pretty much perfect. And the constant software updates make them even better.

Mine is a couple years old and has an embedded light that automatically adapts warmness throughout the day.

I think most of their models haven't been updated since 2018-2019. That might not be a huge deal for an ereader that I'd keep offline all the time anyway, but I would definitely be a bit sad if I paid $300 for the top-tier big-screen ereader with 32GB of memory only to have a better model come out in a couple of months, or to have them stop supporting that model soon after.

I can only violently agree with the author: koreader is incredible. When I look for ebook readers, running koreader is an absolute must. The nicest thing about it is how hackable it is, since most of it is written in Lua. When I got my Kobo Aura One, koreader did not yet support the colored background LEDs, and adding support for that was actually pretty easy. The koreader developers are incredibly helpful and it's just a great project.

Koreader is excellent. On kobo the default nickel is very wasteful of space with huge margins. And for some reason ereaders all hate left justification, even though that’s the norm on printed books.

Koreader solves all of that. I love the “style hacks” section that lets you very precisely override many layout details in the book, or even define your own. Even its status bar is much more information dense and useful than on other readers.

They don’t cater to the lowest common denominator user so it isn’t for everyone, but if you are unafraid of slightly more complex and powerful software it is superb.

I've read for hundreds if not a thousand hours on my Kobo Clara HD. I've never heard of Koreader, but from what I see it seems only really useful for PDFs ? I never read PDFs, only epubs, and it looks like on Koreader I would be missing stuff like chapter progress, length to read next chapter/rest of the book, marking finished books, etc.

Am I wrong in thinking all these quality of life things for simple book reading are not present on Koreader ?

KOReader has all these features and much more. I particularly depend on the possibility to quickly override styles in badly formatted ebooks, great support for StarDict dictionaries, OPDS support for quickly downloading books from Calibre server, and much more flexible configuration of the backlight.

Where are you getting that from? The github repo (https://github.com/koreader/koreader) lists many supported formats and features, including epubs.

If I'm understanding this correctly, koreader will let me read epubs on an Amazon Kindle. Am I right to be excited?

Yes, but you need to jailbreak your Kindle to install it. If your Kindle is recent or anywhere near the latest release - it can't be rooted.

I think you can do this with a stock Kindle, by sending the epub to the email address of your Kindle (which you can find in your account settings).

No, epubs - presumably as a competitor format - are not supported.

You can do it (email "conversion" - often just a horrible mish-mash of text and images) with PDFs and text etc.

Epubs need to be converted first by a third party service, eg calibre.

Where by “competitor” read “defined and standard”.

Yup, it will.

It's such a bummer it doesn't support Android < 4 (which means Nook Simple Touch can't run it), considering it works so well on a pretty long list of different devices.

Where does everyone get their books from? From what I could tell, all books you can buy commercially come with proprietary (Amazon) or Adobe (everyone else) DRM, making them impossible to read on koreader. It seems like you always have to buy into someone's ecosystem, or am I missins something?

I personally use Amazon. But I rarely download directly to my Kindle. I download to my PC. Use Calibre with the DeDRM plugin. Then put it on my Kindle. Or read it on my iPad. That way I’m not locked into any one ecosystem. I get to own the books for as long as I can keep the data.

I’ve heard DeDRM also works well with Adobe’s protected epubs. But I don’t have direct experience.

If Amazon ever makes it impossible to strip the DRM, then I’ll probably switch to buying physical books and getting files from LibGen. Or just using the library more.

If it's a book that's only available DRM, I buy it on the Kindle. I'm not fond of buying DRMed books, but most are only available that way, and Amazon is the most likely to still be around in the future.

For non-DRM:

Tor Books are no longer DRMed.

Baen Books -- https://www.baen.com/ -- don't have DRM, and you can buy directly from the publisher, and manage your library on their site, and download as many times as you like. You can also often purchase eArc versions, and they have a monthly subscription bundle were you can read parts of the book as it comes out, and then you get the complete book when it's done.

If you're interested in translated Japanese light novels, there's J Novel Club -- https://j-novel.club/ -- for a monthly subscription, you can read book parts for free as they're being translated. Once they're fully translated, you can then purchase the final epub directly from their site.

Books are interesting in that they both are and aren't fungible. If, say, I want to read the next Martha Wells Murderbot book, or the next Julie McGalliard Rougarou book, I have to buy that particular book.

But if I'm just looking for another book to read, I always check Tor, Baen, and J Novel Club first.

I don't know if you specifically want to buy, but I steal mine from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_Genesis

Buy off Amazon, rip the DRM using https://github.com/apprenticeharper/DeDRM_tools/releases, and then read with KOReader on Kindle.

Are there any eBook readers with wireless charging? I'd like a reader with zero ports that will survive a salt water environment.

The latest Paperwhite Kindles are IPX8 rated (it can survive in two meters of water for up to an hour at a time)

That doesn't mean it will last long in an environment with a lot of salt water, does it?

Ask HN: what would you recommend as a hackable e-ink reader? Partly reading my own archivable, un-DRM’d books; partly playing with e-ink.

I don't know if they are the best option, but Kobo stands out in terms of being a practical reader and being hackable.

A nice feature on most models prior to the Clara HD is an internal uSD card. (This is different from the externally accessible uSD slot found on some models.) Pop open the case, remove the card, make an image, and you can be assured of restoring it to a working state without any fancy tools. With the uSD card in a computer, you can examine it and modify it. The models that I have cracked open also have a place to add a header for a serial connection, though I haven't tried using it.

Kobo does not appear to have any interest in locking down their devices. Software updates are shipped as zip compressed files wrapping a gzipped tarball. That tarball is simply a directory tree containing files to add or replace. Many third-party modifications are distributed in this manner and you can do your own modifications without ever cracking the case open. (Though I do suggest opening it up and making a backup before modifying it.) As far as I know, there is no protection on the proprietary software components and Kobo hasn't said anything about third-party patches. This has been the case for nearly a decade now, which is why I lean more heavily on the word modifications rather than hacks. Most of what can be done relies upon an developer's knowledge of Linux.

There are also various projects that you can learn from. Some provide tools to make developing software for the Kobo easier, while you can examine others to figure out how to setup a toolchain. I have seen C, Rust, Lua, and Python based projects for Kobo readers.

The Kobo development forum on the Mobileread forums is the place to check out for more in depth information.

I presume that the internal sd card would help the longevity of the device as well. Like someone mentioned, they upgraded their storage. You could do the same thing, if after say 5-7 years, the card starts degrading and the reader starts slowing down.

Post author here. I'd still recommend going over to the MobilRead forums; and picking up an older Kobo device (like the Aura HD ^_^). They don't even need any user registration (https://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=223155). There are full firmware dumps, and its super easy to modify. There are even some examples of running full blown Linux on them (https://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=220350). Plus you can bypass Nickel and stick to something really nice like Koreader for reading; or Plato or CoolReader.

I've always used Kobo e-readers because they show up as storage over USB and then you copy epub files to them and they automatically pick them up, no jailbreak required.

I don't know what's involved with trying to do the same thing with Kindles, and I don't know about hacking the firmware.

I have a recent generation Kindle Paperwhite, and you don't have to do anything special to "side-load" ebooks onto it. As long as they're in a compatible format, you just copy them into a specific directory -- IIRC it's something like /documents/Downloads -- and they'll show up on the device once it's disconnected from your computer.

> As long as they're in a compatible format

Which (as far as I remember) doesn't include epub, the ebook format.

Correct -- EPUB is still not supported, and IMO, is a very deliberate exclusion. MOBI is still supported, which was always funny to me... until I looked it up again just now and found out that Amazon bought the parent company way back, so that makes more sense actually.

Yep. With KOReader it's all smooth sailing, however.

> I've always used Kobo e-readers because they show up as storage over USB and then you copy epub files to them and they automatically pick them up, no jailbreak required.

> I don't know what's involved with trying to do the same thing with Kindles

Kindles behave in the exact manner you just described. There is no difference. (Well, the Kindle won't read an .epub. They read .mobi instead.)

Remarkable 1.

Cheaper than most other e-readers for what you get. Fully unlocked and ready for you to SSH into.

Lively, polite, and active hacker community.

In Australia this costs A$499, a bit more than the A$200-$300 budget I was willing to spend!

Any (perhaps subsidised) alternatives that I can jailbreak?

People have been developing apps and alternative shells for the Kobo for a long time. It's a bit more involved than the Remarkable but nothing close to jailbreaking a walled garden device.

I was considering getting Remarkable 2 when I am in a country they deliver to. Do you know whether it preserves the qualities of Remarkable 1 you mentioned, apart from the price?

Not sure what you mean by qualities.

The software running on both devices is identical. The main difference from my understanding is that the battery life is better on the RM2, and then pen has an eraser on the back.

I've heard mixed results about writing quality, from my reading most people have said writing on the RM1 "feels" better.

I have the reMarkable 2 and it is fully unocked and you can just ssh into it.

How DIY are you looking for? The Open Book reader is a pretty neat project.


There's Open Book open source e-ink reader. Not sure how usable it is. https://github.com/joeycastillo/The-Open-Book

The next model is planned to use the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller https://twitter.com/josecastillo/status/1356125145681846276

They would not make good e-readers. They're interesting, but the use case is more like a display device than a complete system. For example, development involves the arduino ide, while other e-readers run linux and full-blown applications.

Recently bought the Boox Nova3 and in terms of being hackable it's pretty good. It runs android so you can install anything from the app store. Runs chrome pretty well on the slight ghosting setting. I returned it for the kindle because I couldn't really see my self using it over my phone for browsing and anything I want to read long form I can get there. If you want to go all in on e-ink though I'd recommend it.


It's worth noting that Onyx actively violates the Linux kernel's license by refusing to release the source code. This hampered my hacking efforts as I was trying to build AOSP for the device.


The Kobo.

Here is an exmaple of a Bash-based extension for the Kobo, which downloads files from cloud providers for you: https://github.com/fsantini/KoboCloud

And here is a forum with lots of people sharing tips and mods for it: https://www.mobileread.com/

For something cheap (20-30$) a lot of the older Kindles are pretty interesting (and modern enough after updating OpenSSL for TLS 1.3). After "jailbreaking" you're left with a pretty normal Linux from 2012: X server, awesome WM, dbus, upstart with commented shell scripts.

Org mode on remarkable2 would have me there in seconds, especially if pen input to org mode worked right.

Or maybe onyx boox?

AIUI the RM2 still only has the official OS, which has no promises not to break APIs. There's Parabola-RM (ported by Davis R, see www.davisr.me) which gets you e.g. Xfce, but I don't know how well it works with the hardware (e.g. battery life, proper use of the RM screen's partial refresh) or unofficial RM apps (rmkit.dev and libremarkable-baswd apps right now AIUI).

Avoid Onyx Boox, they explicitly refused to honor the GPL. https://old.reddit.com/r/Onyx_Boox/comments/hsn7kx/onyx_usin...

If you're looking for non-RM alternatives, I'd start by evaluating (I haven't) the Quirklogic Papyr.

Personally, I don't think the RM is a good long-term partner for the Free Software community - half the reason the modding community exists is because the RM team refuses to provide some basic features in the name of "simplicity". They'll never want to support a wide variety of use-cases, they want to be like Apple. I imagine the solution here is making an RM-specific distro (and community explicitly segmented from the "RM OS with mods" community), adding support for other ewriters, then deemphasizing the RM.

Every so often I have an itch to find a good eInk tablet, and each time I come away disappointed.

Outside the remarkable and a few locked in reader only tablets, the market gets really sketchy (no pun intended) real fast. Lots of questionable companies and brands like Boox, which is disappointing as feature wise the Boox hardware seems more ideal and hackable than the comparatively (and intentionally!) primitive/restricted remarkable kit.

There are a few sort of decent companies with okay products, some even publish their modded kernel sources, but in the end I've never been able to pull the trigger on these $300+ devices that often have both severe hardware and software limitations.

eInk is cool, but it's hard to toss that kind of cash around with so many strings attached...

Koreader is said to run on the rm2. The ddvk hacks are pretty good either. I don't know about the state of alternative launchers though.

The onyx boox have bluetooth and you can connect as keyboard to it and since they have access to the play store you could probably also run vim on it. This is something I miss on the rm2.

Good, but sad info. Thanks for sharing

One of the next few updates of SuperNote is supposed to have a working markdown editor ... not sure how pen input would work.

Boox runs Android and has good pen input.

I can't read anything long on a computer screen, so I use a Firefox plugin to send articles to my Kindle to read later. It also gives me an excuse to break away from the office and screen to do some in-depth reading on whatever I'm working on.

offtopic, but color e-ink is getting better, there is already a second version for the Kaleido screens and we are getting bigger screens:


That would be amazing for comic books!

Although I image you'd need a significantly larger storage to store all sorts of high quality images, which shouldn't be an issue given how cheap storage has become.

yeah, I guess even 64 gb ought to be enough for everyone (/billgates ;p)

Memory is cheap, and you could always buy a bigger SD card afterwards, but processing power is what's relevant, if the correct SoC and Ram combo is not present, especially in e-readers that are essentially just android tablets with color e-ink screens (allowing you to sideload apps) then that will be a major drawback

just because your screen refreshes slow doesn't mean the actual app can run on 2gb ram

Color eink is around the corner. Looking forward to those. Pretty happy with kindle Oasis for now

TCL nextpaper seems like good contender with kladieo 2

Actually, I wonder how much better it will be compared to the now ancient PixelQi screens. I mean, those were black and white in reflective mode, but could display colors when used with backlight and had decent refresh rates already.

However, they typically had some glass front, which caused a lot of reflections and were somewhat dark compared to e-ink displays.

I hope the NXTPapers will be a step forward, but so far, most solutions were just considering different trade-offs.

Would love to have something like this but with a HN client.

I believe Calibre had a client to generate ePub from RSS or something.

With an android tablet like Boox, you can install any android HN client.

I've long wrestled with myself whether to buy a remarkable (2) and have finally decided against it because I expect that I will own another technical device that will be obsolete and an expensive door stopper in a couple years time (made that mistake with a 1st gen Kindle). Also, while it's extremely sleek, my main use for paper & pen these days is for editing and it's just no fun without a red pen ;-)

My expectation (and sincere hope, ngl) is that we will see a major innovation push in e-Ink displays and devices over the next year(s) and I have now resolved to buy a remarkable 3 (or 4) which will hopefully be available in color (and fully usable without any mandatory public cloud tethering). And maybe with some saner pricing options. I mean, a cover for $150? That makes it clear that this is a veblen good, not a workhorse for a wide audience (like schools, students etc.) - or it's Apple-monitor-stand-style consumer rip-off, who knows. I'd much prefer a faux-leather option anyway (not too comfortable with wrapping my tablet in dead cow skin, but don't like the $79 grey option either) but they unfortunately don't offer that.

There are plenty of non-Veblen alternatives to the remarkable with higher functionality (Dasung, Boox, etc.) but the price will still be high because of the stranglehold of e-ink patents

> the price will still be high because of the stranglehold of e-ink patents

This mistaken claim keeps getting repeated again and again. Patents are not what keeps prices high. Volume. Volume. Volume. E-Ink displays used to be 100x even more expensive in 2006 until a bunch of buyers, Sony, Amazon, came in and put down big orders that caused the product to reach the next level of scale when EInk managed to repurpose existing LCD production lines for their products. If you want Eink displays to be as cheap as LCD, then there's a really simple way. Make an order big enough to get some vendor to build a dedicated Eink factory instead of repurposed LCD builds. Or... you can keep believing there's a magical stranglehold of patents. You can prove that to yourself by asking yourself the simple question of which exact patents need to expire to magically cause the industry to suddenly all start manufacturing Eink displays. And yes, saying all of them, or patent thicket proves the claimant is not involved in the actual industry.

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