Do You Want Page Turn Buttons on Your eBook Reader?

page buttons

Several years ago when ebook readers were just starting to become popular, they all used to have physical page turning buttons.

Then touchscreens started taking over a few years ago and page buttons started getting phased out. Now it’s gotten to the point where physical page buttons on a new ebook reader is a rarity.

Some people, myself included, prefer the convenience and feel of real page turn buttons.

It’s nice to just be able to rest your thumb on a button and press down to turn pages instead of messing with the added motion of swiping or tapping, which sometimes requires readjusting your grip.

Buttons are more consistent as well; sometimes taps aren’t recognized with touchscreens or sometimes the software interprets it as a long press and opens the dictionary or highlighting function.

There’s also the fact that bezels keep getting smaller and smaller all the time, and it’s easy for a thumb to accidentally cross over into touchscreen territory and cause inadvertent page turns.

There’s no question that touchscreens are more convenient for navigation, shopping, adding notes, etc. But when it comes to the simple act of turning pages, the most used function when reading, it’s hard to beat the convenience and simplicity of a page turn button.

When it comes to ereaders, there are many types of page button configurations.

The Kindle Voyage has the latest and most unique page button technology. It doesn’t actually have any buttons; there are sensors under the glass on the sides of the screen that detect presses, with three pressure settings available from low to high.

The Nook Touch was famous for its comfortable-to-hold design and embedded page buttons on each side of the screen. It’s a shame B&N decided to get rid of them on the newer model.

Some ereaders have page buttons on each side of the screen and some, like Sony eReaders, had buttons below the screen. I once reviewed an ebook reader called the Pyrus Mini that had buttons on the thin side of the frame—they were actually quite nice to use. Other devices have navigation wheels, or just buttons on one side of the screen, where you can flip the orientation of the screen depending on which hand your are using.

So what about you? Do want page buttons on your next ebook reader? If so, what kind of button layout would you want?

49 Responses to “Do You Want Page Turn Buttons on Your eBook Reader?”

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve used buttons to turn pages on my ebook reader. I’ve been indoctrinated in the swipe left/right with my finger on the screen and that’s a habit I find hard to break. Even on the Voyage I still swipe the screen. Sorry Nathan for the long answer to a simple question but my answer is no. However, I think you should be able do both, swipe or use buttons to turn the page.

  2. Have them on my “ancient” Sony T1 and still use them all the time.

    I also hate that you cannot block the touch screen while reading, to avoid accidental touches. Especially since the Sony has IR touchscreen, so almost anything registers as a touch, sometimes I fear that if I breathe harder it will turn pages 🙂

  3. Yes!

    I usually read on my phone, and on an Android could use the volume up/down button, which worked great. Apparently Apple won’t let folks do that. Sigh.

  4. I think the widespread use of tablets has made people a lot more comfortable with turning pages by tapping the screen. To people who’ve grown up with smart-phones that’s probably more “instinctive” than pressing a button.

    All else being equal I’d like to at least have the option of using the screen or buttons on an e-ink reader. But I suspect the industry will continue to move in the button-less direction.

  5. No, I just touch the appropriate area with my thumb which is around there anyway, or I swipe if I hold the reader with the other hand. Uses much less force than a button, and it’s quiet too.

  6. Yes! I loved my Nook Touch! My ideal reader would have that wide bezel, physical buttons, and contoured back. But with a new, larger screen.

  7. I read on a Nook Touch and an Android phone. I use the page buttons and the volume buttons, respectively. I usually read one-handed, and it’s really nice to leave your thumb in one place. I never have to adjust my grip or lift my thumb.

  8. Would be nice, but at this point all I really care about is Amazon finally releasing the freaking Hyphenation update and Bookerly font for my Voyage.

    • At this point the delay is starting to get ridiculous…

      • It is ridiculous and quite despicable for Amazon to announce hyphenation as coming out “soon” just to sell more Paperwhite devices. I mean seriously, if you don’t plan on releasing an update within a month of announcing it then why do it in the first place?
        My guess is that they will include the Hyphenation update on the new Voyage only and announce it as coming out “soon” to everyone else.

  9. I like the small frame in my Kobos, but I certainly miss the side buttons of my Nook Simple Touch. I don’t like the bottom controls in Sony or Onyx though.
    As Sorin says, a control to block touch on the screen when you want to use the buttons would be nice too.

  10. I have no problem only using the touchscreen but I prefer tap to turn instead of swipe, much easier to do onehanded.

  11. Yes, I much prefer to have them! I am weird about not always trusting the touch screen, and I like to have the option.
    I have a Kindle Voyage, and whether I use the buttons or not depends on how I’m sitting or laying. (I’ve also had the Nook Glowlight, and I liked the option of the buttons, but it required a hard enough press to make my hand hurt after awhile, and I only used the buttons if it wasn’t responsive after a couple swipes. It was rooted and a little slow, so this did sometimes happen.)

  12. I’m happy with a touchscreen. I don’t miss using physical buttons.

  13. I find reading in bed with a small ereader is easier if there’s a physical page-turn button;I’m usually holding the device in one hand.

    Additionally, although she doesn’t like ereaders, my 85-year old mother reads with a Kindle DX. I bought it for her a couple years ago because she screwed up everything with a touch screen. She doesn’t understand the device. So, having a non-touch screen ereader is a blessing for her.

    I’d suggest that people with various disabilities would find physical pages turn buttons useful. Someone with the use of only one arm/hand, for example. My mother has neuropathy in her fingers and that exacerbates her touch-screen issues.

  14. Prefer physical buttons. Even the phone method of using the up/down volume button to change pages is preferred to touch.

    Constantly experience accidental page turns or lack of touch recognition. Also since I tend to use my left hand for holding the ereader I prefer page turn buttons on both sides.

  15. I don’t like having to swipe. I don’t mind too much having to tap the screen (though I’d prefer to have real button options, which I’d use depending on placement and how hard they are to press.)
    Fortunately, my most used eReader (Kobo Aura HD) allows me to choose a useful tap zone, such that the left 2/3 of the screen can be tapped anywhere to page forward (as I tend to hold the reader in my left hand).
    I do enjoy having page turn buttons on my newly acquired Kindle DX. They’re on the right side, but it’s too big/heavy to hold in my left hand anyway (tends to be on a lap, etc.), so right-side buttons are fine. (And I could auto-rotate it upside down if desired.) Sorry… another not-so-short answer!

  16. Since you seem to be polling your readers on e-reader characteristics Nathan, here’s something I’ve wondered about. How many ebooks does the typical Kindle/Kobo/Nook user have on their device?

    I’ve seen some people claim to need more space than the standard 2 or 4 Gig. Since even 2 Gig works out to at least a couple of thousand books I have to wonder – are there many people out there with thousands of books on their devices?

    • I’ve probably got about 100 books in active rotation and about 200 more archived. That doesn’t include library books (public library, Open Library and Kindle Unlimited books) or various short stories, nor the e-comic book collection (about 400) via the Comixology app. After having to exchange my first two e-readers (Kindle Touch and iPad Mini) for models with more memory, I always get at least 16 gig, if not more because, I house much of my reading on the machine. I’m not always/often in wifi range and don’t want to wait for downloads and also find that much of the music I enjoy isn’t easily found via internet radio, so I add it to the machine.

      • But I assume that you read your e-comics on a tablet rather than an e-Ink device. There are lots of reasons why people might want a great deal of storage space on a tablet, but those reasons don’t really apply to e-ink readers.

        • PDFs take up a lot of space. So if you have a lot of PDFs on your e-reader you definitely need a lot of storage. I tend to use a lot of PDFs for reference purposes, and I can’t always relay on having an internet connection to access my documents.

          I’d say 4GB should be the absolute minimum storage an e-reader should have if you read/use a lot of PDFs.

          Note: if your e-reader has expandable storage (and mine does — I have a Sony PRS-T1) — that actually completely solves the storage problem.

    • I had about 250 books on my Nook simple touch (most of it Barnes and noble content) and it was constantly reminding me I was almost out of space. They weren’t comics or image heavy… They just took up more space than expected. Usually each book takes anywhere from 1 to 15 Mb so really having 2gb isn’t enough for thousands of books at all. Epigenetics in Health and Disease is a good 17 Mb file, while Harold Fry & Queenie is 3 Mb, K-Pax is a mere 300 kb, The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower is 8 Mb (which for some reason is bigger than The Lord of the Rings One Volume at 7 Mb) and The Time Machine is 6 Mb. Of course it’s not like I could read all of those all at once but it’s so much more convenient to have them on the device so I can read whatever I felt like reading at any time since I basically took it everywhere and wifi connections aren’t all over the place or very reliable when they are.

    • I have 1123 on my Kindle Voyage. The reason is that it allows me to search for words or terms through all of my on device books and get the exact locations on every book.
      I actually have 1283 items(a couple great books collections that count as one book when they range from 20 to 50-these are not stored on device because they don’t fit)…claims of getting thousands of books are overrated. I could probably get 1150 on the device but I get a insufficient memory message.
      Storage is now cheap…another 5 dollars or so for another 4 gigs.

  17. IMHO, touch-screen is perfectly fine if the reader controls it appropriately when reading ; and it has the extreme benefit that it won’t wear down and stop working like the buttons.

  18. I prefer to use page turn buttons.

  19. To JohnS
    I doubt that people fill their e-readers with “regular” books. It’d have to be illustration heavy PDF-files or audiobooks to make a dent in storage capacity.
    I find that more then 600 books (regular novel style) becomes cumbersome. Takes longer time to find what I’m looking for etc. and usually I rarely keep more then 100+ there. After that I’ll connect to Calibre and restock with new ones.

  20. Definitely want page turn buttons. I currently have two Nook Simple Touches (original and glowlight) and use both the touch screen and page turn buttons depending on situation. The convenience of the buttons is definitely a plus.

  21. I require physical buttons. I haven’t upgraded from the Kindle Keyboard because of the lack of page turn buttons. I really want the Voyage, but I’m waiting for the price to come down about $50. So, I’ll probably be using the Kindle Keyboard for a while yet.

    My wife has been using a Kindle Touch that she got as a gift, since her 1st gen Nook battery died. She likes to read while getting ready in the morning and gets frustrated when her hair hits the screen and triggers a page turn. She’s also had problems with the Kindle skipping ahead to a seemingly random page.

  22. My first E-reader was a Sony 600TRS and one of the reasons I got it was for the touchscreen. To me, swiping is more like turning a page on a book. I never liked buttons. My kids had Nooks and I didn’t care for using the buttons. Now I read on a Lenovo tablet or my Note4 phone and swiping is second nature.

  23. I like page-turn buttons. However, they become the only heavily-used moving part on e-readers, so they’re likely to be the first things to break. Unless you drop the reader and break the screen first, of course.

  24. Short answer: Yes!

  25. I’d love page turn buttons! I hate swiping or tapping (multiple times, usually) to turn a page. My big gripe against touch screens is how smeary the screen gets after all the swiping and fingering required when I use my Fire for all its various functions (e-mail, music, web, e-reading). I’m constantly cleaning it because it ruins my enjoyment of reading, seeing the print through fingerprints and smears. I mostly read e-books now and own 3 Kindles (Touch, Fire 8.9 HD, Fire 6″ HD) and a small iPad Air and use them all.

  26. My first eReader, a Sony, had buttons as well as a touch screen. I seldom used the buttons. I occasionally made un intentional screen touches which can jump me pages ahead. I’ve tried the buttons on the older Nooks in the store but was never able to get them to work for me.

  27. Oh god yes I want page turn buttons. Actually, what I really want is a modern ebook reader in an REB1100 case. That would be glorious. Best ergonomics on an ebook ever!

    • Me too! I still read on my eBookwise 1100 and don’t know what I will do when the 4th and last one wears out. Why didn’t Barnes & Noble just improve it when they bought it? The ergonomics are perfect. I have tried the Sony PRS300 and the Kindle Fire and just can’t get used to them.

  28. Page turn buttons would be nice but font options and more customization options would be more ideal for me. However, if ratings are any indication, I think the Kindle has reached a plateau. As simple and limited as it is, people love it and are extremely happy with it. For the sophisticated user this might be disturbing because if you look at the trend, Amazon hasn’t physically updated the design or software of the Paperwhite in 4 years since it’s inception in 2012 yet people keep buying it and loving it.
    I just received an email from Amazon asking for feedback on how they can improve the Kindle, same as ever year and they do nothing based on my recommendations…

  29. Yes! I just finished reading a novel on my Kindle Basic (buttons only, no touch screen) and I decided to use it instead of my Kindle Paperwhite 2, simply because it has page turn buttons.

    I have tiny hands, so in order to turn a page with a touch screen, I have to hold the device with one hand and swipe with the other hand.

    • If swiping is a problem, why not just tap to turn a page? That’s what I do 95% of the time on my PW2, just because it’s more efficient (a tap is less than a touch-and-swipe).

  30. I read with an ancient Sony PRS 505 and it is very comfortable turning the pages with the buttons both on the right side and on the bottom left. Now after 9 years of every day use of the reader one button stucs once in a while. I want to replace it with a new reader with buttons but as I can see my options are limited. I feel happy to see that other people share this opinion, because when my children take my Sony and they try to turn the pages touching the screen I feel as if I am from another century (which I am of course).

  31. Yes, button on each side of the ereader.

  32. Yes I would like page turn buttons but nowhere near as much as I would love a bigger screen.

  33. I loved kindle dx button until it did not have the click feedback when pressing it and required a little more pressure to work. Distracting.
    Got a kindle and kobo touch but have never really mastered the touch/swipe actions. Distracting.
    Settled on a kindle keyboard.
    Music, Audio books, Books, Calibre rss feeds and a couple of photos fill my device.

  34. Touching the screen doesn’t seem like it would be much of an interruption but, IMHO, the Voyage has a definite advantage over the Paperwhite in the flow of the reading because of it.

    It kind of surprised me when I noticed it. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s better to have them.

  35. Physical Buttons! Actually having both is great.

    I always hate that vendors get rid of useful features just to cut costs.

  36. Having both is good. Generally I prefer having physical buttons. Screen swiping is inconsistent, tiresome when you’re going ahead several pages and switching grips to change page is annoying.

  37. Tried the Voyage, but I’m returning it and sticking with my Paperwhite 2. First, I realized how much I prefer turning pages by swiping as it feels more like turning the page of a real book. However, what I most disliked was the feel of the Voyage — the bumpy back and vibrating buttons are a huge distraction for me, making it less “real book-like”. Finally, I found the button page turner unreliable as it occasionally skipped ahead more than one page, completely befuddling me from finding my place.

  38. Can’t stand touch screens. It’s just wrong. I was slapped on the hand for touching photographs or the TV screen as a child, and I think most people my age were also, if brought up correctly. If they weren’t, that’s their problem. We should teach our children this as well. I slapped my grandson for touching the screen on one of those tablets. He won’t use that damn thing while I’m around. Can’t people learn, DO NOT TOUCH the screen!
    If enough people do this, these stupid useless “touchscreen” phones and things will GO AWAY FOREVER.
    I’ve tried using various touch screen things and they are way too hard to figure out. You touch something by accident and it takes foreverfigure out how to get back to where you were. BUTTONS and NO TOUCH SCREEN for me.
    I love my Kobo Original. No need for “notes” or anything else. I don’t write in my books, why would I want to write on my ebook? Heck, I don’t even need most of the stuff on mine, like some kind of wireless thing, which I promptly turned off as it eats battery life, and a “store” which somehow magically delivers books from… I don’t know where? I just download to my desktop then use Calibre to put it on the Kobo via USB port!

  39. For me, buttons are a MUST. They can’t be misinterpreted by the system, they don’t require you to obscure your view with your giant fingertip, your screen stays clean, and they CAN be durable if designed to be durable.

    My dream e-ink reader would have no touch capability, and interaction would be limited to four directional buttons placed in a diamond pattern below the screen, or a 2-way UP/DOWN hat switch in the middle with LEFT/RIGHT in the corners, programmed as follows:

    LEFT and RIGHT turn pages while the book is in focus. UP opens the global menu (library, system settings, etc.), and DOWN opens the book menu (chapters, bookmarks, etc.) Inside a menu, UP and DOWN navigate, RIGHT selects an option or child menu, and BACK returns to the parent menu or exits to the current book if already in the root menu.

    I don’t type on my Kindle Paperwhite, so that’s not a feature of my ideal e-reader.

    A modest improvement would be a D-pad or up/down/left/right arrows along with BACK and SELECT buttons (which also turn pages). Typing would be slow, but it would at least be an option (remember entering text on old console games with the D-pad?).

    I’ve read that the Paperwhite’s tendency to randomly skip ahead when you try to turn the page is a glitch that occurs in some percentage of their tablets. It happens with mine, and it’s infuriating!!!

  40. Like Brooke and Harvey I use an android phone, in my case an LG4. You can lie in bed holding the phone in one hand and easily turn pages using the buttons on the back without having to use the other hand – a great advantage. But it’s getting old and a bit unreliable, and I’d like to replace it with another phone with the same functionality. I can’t find anything. Any suggestions please.

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