Why haven't E-readers advanced like other tech?

I have an old Nook Simple Touch. Came out in 2011, $99 list price. Had mine since 2013, I think. (I right away rooted it and installed Cyanogenmod OS, use FBreader and other, old, Android 2.2 apps on it.)

It’s a bit old in the tooth. Small display: 6". No built in light. Poor contrast. So, time to upgrade.

What I want: bigger with built in light and “paperwhite” contrast. E ink, of course, for better battery usage. Maybe better dpi. It’s been 9 years, look at how far regular tablets have progressed in that time.

So I look around. What? The only qualifier I see is the Amazon Kindle Oasis (8th+ generation) with an 7" screen. Only 7"?? The current model is a $250! And that’s with “special offers”. Add $20 to get rid of those. (Although I’ve always been able to do that myself on Amazon tablets.)

Again, what?

This makes no sense to a computer person like myself. Normally I’d expect that in 9 years the cost for a slightly bigger tablet that requires such mundane CPU and memory would have drastically fallen. $50 would be pricey.

And look at other aspects of this.

Take the bezel. The Nook ST overall is 7.5" diagonally. So an 7" tablet with a modern bezel like many cell phones would be only slightly over 7". Instead the Oasis is almost 8.5". Just look at the size of the bezel, with the oversize right edge. A tablet that size should have an 8" screen. Yet another “What?”

And still only 300 dpi.

So, question time. Why are E-readers some sort of tech exception? Why aren’t they more bangs per buck? Why isn’t there the amazing leaps that you see everywhere else in this field.

The only think I can think of is the E Ink issue. Maybe patents and all that. But still doesn’t explain things like the bezel size, etc.

Dedicated e-readers were a fad. Many users ultimately decided that the benefits of e-ink weren’t so great that they justified lugging around a separate device. Sales have plummeted and so has ownership:

A bunch of reasons. (Some of these influence each other.)

a) There’s less money spent on research improving e-ink.
b) There are larger screens available, but the average ereader buyer wants something portable.
c) Ereaders are a much smaller market than phones and people are less interested in upgrading.
d) Rapid tech advancement is not a given, and expecting e-readers to follow the same path as high energy consumption screens, batteries and chips is blinkered.
f) And when it comes to price, eReaders are close to a monopoly. Amazon has killed off all real competition and has evidently analyzed the market and found they can keep the price high and make the most money that way rather than attempting to increase volume.

Is E-ink different than just black font on a white background?

That’s data from 2015, or in computer speak, forever ago. This link claims it’s now around 52%, although I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy: • E-reader ownership among U.S. adults 2009-2019 | Statista

I’m sure there are a lot of people who switched to reading ebooks on pads and phones, or who never had an ereader in the first place, but just because ereader ownership went down from a peak doesn’t mean it was a fad or that the decline will continue.

As I already mentioned it’s a much smaller market than for pads and phones, and less clamor for upgrades, but the available numbers say it’s still a sizable percentage of the population.

Yes. Fundamentally. An e-ink screen is a passive device. You send it a signal to change the picture, it changes, and then it stays there, without any power. A black font on a white background on the screen of an ipad, computer or phone draws power constantly.

There are lots of descriptions of how it works online. I wouldn’t do it credit here without illustrations.

White font, black screen works better for me. I use Aldiko on Android. The price is right, the performance flawless.
There is nothing worth changing on my 7.5" screen. When this one dies, I hope I can find another. Turns out most people would rather watch Netflix than read. As an exception, that puts me in a bit of a manufacturing hole.
9-11 inches is too darn big, and even the giant phones of today are too small.

You might find better answers here, especially in the News and General Discussions forums.

It’s huge if you like to read outdoors in bright light.

On my Wife’s an my typical vacation, we will go somewhere warm and spend time around a pool reading. A phone or tablet sucks for this.

For me, it’s the separate device. I always have my phone with me, and it works for reading ebooks just fine.

Also, battery life on e-readers is typically much longer than a tablet. My wife mostly uses her i-pad but the e-reader can run for several days (and is waterproof as well.)


It is impossible to read on a phone or tablet outside. The glare is horrible even with so-called anti-glare screens. Just thinking about it makes my eyes hurt!

There are many larger e-Ink devices. See here for example. And these. And this.

They haven’t become mainstream because e-Ink is inherently slow, and while color versions exist, they just don’t look that good.

I remember when e-ink was first developed, I read speculation on how it could be used for signage and other applications aside from e-readers. But that doesn’t seem to have happened.

The Oasis is their most expensive model, and IMHO is only going to appeal to a very small fraction of the market. Meanwhile, they’ve been improving their cheaper models: the basic Kindle is now front-lit, and the Paperwhite is now waterproof.

What they don’t have is a Kindle with a larger screen. They appear to have given up on that long ago when they discontinued the Kindle DX.

They also seem to have given up on color e-ink. Years ago I was hearing rumors about color e-readers being developed, but widely available cheap tablets seem to have KO’ed most of the demand for that,

Apart from reading outdoors, I just don’t like doing pleasure reading on a backlit screen. It’s funny - it doesn’t bother me to program or surf the web all day on a computer or tablet display. I HATE reading an actual book on a screen, though, with the glowing text being pushed into my face page after page. That said, I’ve never owned an ebook device. I read lengthy things on, gasp, paper. The ebook isn’t good for reading in bed and falling asleep with the reading material over your face, either. There’s an aesthetic quality to doing that kind of reading on pages that bend.

Yeah, the bottom line seems to be that most people don’t feel like me, and don’t mind reading all the volumes of “Game of Thrones” on an LED display. So e-ink didn’t last. The transflective display, which I thought held promise, never went anywhere either. Flexible displays which really mimic paper, and are cheap enough that you could print off an entire book you were reading to a non-rigid book like thing would be the real answer.

Right, the Oasis is the premium model. Metal body and all that. I love mine. The basic Kindle (6" 167 ppi) is $90, and the Paperwhite (6" 300 ppi) is $130.

As for the bezel - ever notice actual paper books have margins? If they didn’t, your fingers would obscure the letters. That’s the same reason e-book readers have wide bezels. These aren’t pocket-sized devices anyway, so screen-to-body ratio isn’t a big selling point.

I don’t think you want your e-reader to be all that large do you? I have a Kindle 5, so it’s 6" like the one you have. I have massive, strong, not-too-old hands and it fits just right in one hand. It appears that these are to be, at least sometimes, single-hand devices (see the image you linked to). Bigger screens mean heavier devices. Heavier and wider means you need two hands. Someone must have done the research - there’s a point where an e-reader is too unwieldy and 7.5" seems to be it.

Several reasons - most indoor reading, and some outdoor reading, can be done with a phone or tablet - and this is the problem. Not jus that it means carrying around 2 devices, but also you can do so much more with a phone or tablet - email, browse (in colour),other apps.

One of the restrictions is access to books. Kindle, for example, locked me into their store. I could send other .MOBI files to my library, but it was on their store. Another problem was software - I have a choice of apps for my tablet that read multiple file types. I can put a library on a SD card. The apps get updated with new features.

Don’t feel bad. The computer/phone has done this to many devices - from watches to typewriters, to mail, to CD and tape music players, to even cable TV. A general device that does an adequate job will often crowd out a dedicated device no matter how good.

And I would bet the usage of the online E-reader apps went up proportionately, or even more so.

I mean, I’ve had a couple of Kindles (still have one), and I find myself using my phone for 95% of my reading because I always have it around, and I don’t have to lug around a second device.

I do agree that an e-paper/e-ink e-reader is a lot better for outdoors or bright light, but for most of the time, using an e-reader app on the phone is just fine.