Will Memory Cards Be Phase Out for eReaders Altogether?

Sandisk Memory Card

In recent years the number of ereaders that come with memory card slots has declined dramatically.

It used to be common for all ereaders except Kindles to come with a memory card slot.

The 1st gen Kindle was the only Kindle to ever have a memory card slot.

Getting rid of expandable storage clearly hasn’t hurt Amazon in the slightest since then, as the Kindle continues to thrive, but now other companies are following suit as well.

Now Kobo has ditched expandable storage on all their recent ereaders, even their flagship Kobo Aura One.

Barnes and Noble also dropped memory card support on their last couple of Nooks.

Newer E Ink devices are going down the same path as well. The 10.3-inch E Ink reMarkable tablet that is expected to get released later this year also lacks expandable storage. It relies mainly on wireless to transfer documents instead.

Android ereaders from Onyx and Boyue still feature memory card slots, but they are in the minority. Most ereaders seem to be moving away from memory card slots altogether, not good news for people that prefer to have expandable storage on their ereaders.

What do you think? Are memory card slots neccesary on dedicated ebook readers? Or is 4-8GB of internal storage space enough?

18 Responses to “Will Memory Cards Be Phase Out for eReaders Altogether?”

  1. As long as an e-reader has 4-8 GB of internal storage, I don’t see the lack of memory card access as a problem. The Nook SimpleTouch, with only 250 MB of sideloaded content, did make a necessity of a memory card.

    When I did use a memory card, I found out that the e-reader software made it cumbersome to index a new book when there were already a lot of books on the memory card.

    I prefer books stored on my PC in Calibre to books stored on a cloud. I prefer storing books on my PC to having them on the e-reader. I keep only about 100-200 works on an e-reader.

    • I very much agree with this. I have a Kobo Aura H20 which has 4 GB onboard storage and a microSD card slot. I have a 32 GB microSD card in the Kobo but don’t use it – I had the card gathering dust otherwise. 🙂 All my books go into the main storage and I’m only using about 1.5 GB of that in total.

      I would love to keep my entire ebook library on the Kobo but that would be a nightmare. Even now, only 1.5 GB of books is awkward. The Kobo Library database GUI is a royal pain to use with any more than a few ebooks (under 50, I’d say) installed. It’s slow, clumsy and inefficient. Its saving grace is that it works very well with Calibre.

      My main objection to how the Kobo Aura H2O Library works is in the presentation of information. My 1.5 GB of books presents itself as 69 pages of listings. All you can do is sort how those titles are listed (recent, author, title, series, etc.), not reduce the volume of listings I have to wade through. If I know what book I want, yes, I can search for it and quickly access it. However, I really dislike browsing the listings as so few books (only 6 in list view) are presented on each page and there are so many pages in total.

      I have suggested to Kobo that this could be improved if the Author and Title displays were nested alphabetically, with no more than, say, 20 titles per level. i.e. A – B, C, D -F, Ga – Go and so on, with sub-hierarchies as needed.

  2. I *used* to try to carry every e-book I own, but it just meant way too much paging through the list of titles to get to what I want. Indexing that many files for searching is a nightmare. And I haven’t seen a system for collections that’s robust enough to handle large libraries in simple, multi-level structure. Nowadays I don’t keep more than 40 or so on the device. Everything else is managed in the cloud or Calibre.

    Unless color e-ink takes off and drives up the size of files, I can’t see a reason to supply a card slot.

    • Calibre has a catalog feature which creates an e-book of all books in a list that I use to browse for books by title, author, description, category and a key-word custom column that I created.

      Access this catalog feature from the right-click CONVERT menu option.

      I sideload the catalog to the device and it makes things much much easier to find items depending upon my mood. I’ve a large library and it would be otherwise just about impossible to find specific topics using Kindle or Kobo collections. Today, for instance, I was looking for a WWII espionage thriller and I found a trilogy by Sam Marquis that I’d added long ago and had forgotten (Book 1 is Bodyguard of Deception, btw, and is excellent if you like that sort of thing).

      What this does is to allow me to keep everything on my Kobo Aura One without being tied to the PC & Calibre when I want to select a book to read. Kindle’s 3GB available storage, FWIW,is way too small but the Kobo’s 6GB works just fine.

  3. It’s inherently frustrating to see card slots disappear as flash prices plummet. I may never need a 32GB SD card, but for $8 I’d plug one in in a heartbeat.

    OTOH, Amazon deserves a lot of credit IMO for offering extremely robust cloud services including free storage for mobi and pdf files, their Overdrive integration, note/highlight management, cloud collections etc.

  4. I like to keep OS & data on separate volumes on all my devices, so prefer memory cards — which are still fairly ubiquitous on the retailer-independent eReaders I favour.

    I likewise prefer to have my entire library on my eReader, and get around the ‘indexing’ problems simply by not using the eReader’s indexing, but instead author/series-if-need-be hierarchy tree in the card’s directory structure. A flat indexing-structure for more than a trivially-small number of books makes no sense to me — nor does mucking around trying to keep ‘tags’ straight on the books.

  5. I also don’t see much need for memory cards in my ereaders. But my guess is that the manufacturers see them as detrimental, while I just don’t see much use for them.

    From the point of view of the makers of these things ereaders are to help them sell books and memory cards are for side-loading. So the maker of the ereader probably is reluctant to include extra cost features that help us not buy books from them.

    What I’d really like to see on my e-ink ereader is the ability to easily access my books in my own personal library on Dropbox. But that’s another thing that’ll never happen as long as the book sellers make our ereaders.

    I’m not sure there’s any way out of this but I think we’d all be a lot better off if we bought ereaders from companies who aren’t trying to sell us books. I wish they were made by Asus, Acer, Toshiba, etc. Then we’d have all sorts of options and features available.


  6. Except Nook and Kobo are now selling waterproof eReaders, perhaps trying to differentiate themselves from Amazon. I suspect that making and eReader waterproof and have a memory card slot would difficult and expensive. So far the cost of the Kobo and Nook waterproof eReaders is on par with non-waterproof Kindles, so they seem a viable option. If the cost were driven up by adding a waterproof memory card slot, that would defeat their purpose. I agree with many of the posters about that with 8GB (or even 4GB) of internal memory, memory cards are not necessary because even filling that much give you too many books to find easily. Using Calibre is a better option, you just have to plan ahead if you are going to be traveling without a computer.

  7. I personally like the SD card option. Some of my files are PDF and large. The SD gives me the option of switching libraries on trips. My point is removing an option to save on production costs is disingenuous, it is not reflected in the rising cost of buying some readers. Removing the option is going to remove my interest in buying that product. I am getting sick of the constant push for online storage.

  8. Tal vez la memoria interna sea suficiente para albergar mis próximas lecturas, pero una tarjeta de memoria me permite una movilidad de contenidos sin depender de internet ni cables. Una ventaja que no quisiera perder.

  9. I used to avoid any eReaders without expandable storage, wanting to carry most or all of my library on my reader. Now that internal storage is so much higher, I’ve really not seen the need for a card, and I also have stopped trying to keep so many books in the device in the first place. It just slows everything down, trying to sort and find, etc. The most I’m ever away from my computer would be about a week, and having 100-200 books on my reader to choose from is plenty for that time. I agree that having the waterproof option is more valuable to me now than extra storage.

  10. I disagree with most of the posts here. The great thing with the external card is not just that you can put all of your books on the card and carry them with you. If the reader fails you can just transfer the card to a new reader and you are up and running. Even Amazon has recognized the value of the additional memory by releasing a 32gb Kindle in Japan. I remember once many many many years ago telling me that a computer should not need more than 32k of memory. He was wrong. There are always reasons to fill available space and options are good.

  11. I like hearing music when I read. The SD card makes this possible. Phasing out MP3 & headphones is also bad. I read on a Sony PRS-T1

  12. I have about 4.5GB of books, most of this amount are reference PDFs, so cloud-based storage is not acceptable.

    So as long as the device has 8GB I’m fine with internal storage.

    Otherwise provide external storage support for an e-reader.

    On a tablet external memory support is a must. I have about 50GB of music. I will NOT purchase a tablet that does not have an SD or MicroSD slot.

    Note: The reason that external storage is not provided on e-readers is primarily cost. My guess is that it probably costs about an extra $1 per device to provide microSD card support on an e-reader.

    That being said some of the higher end readers, i.e. that cost over $125 should provide external storage support.

  13. I don’t buy phones or tablets unless they have a microSD card slot.

    I do my reading on active displays but now that there are descent sized screens that don’t look gray I’m considering an eReader.

    I owned the first actual ereaders years ago and before that used the first tablet computers as readers.

    In my considerable experience it isn’t possible to have enough storage. I’m only going to consider readers with expansion.

    Nothing prevents you from having a few smaller cards if indexing is an issue.

    Imagine for a moment that you are in a place not convenient to wifi to load just anything you want. You might want the storage then eh?

    As for PDFs, I have enough for my games to fill several Kindles. Not to mention books I feel like reading.

    I wrote to reMarkable and asked about expandability. Their response? Users had no interest in expansion slots. A eReader of that size is made for PDFs and they expect me to be satisfied with a paltry 8gb? Even Apple gives you 16gb these days in their smallest devices. And what was I doing if not expressing interest?

    So yeah, I want those expansion slots.

  14. I refuse to purchase any e-ink reader or a smartphone or a tablet without a MicroSD slot. My collection of e-books and documents is about 30GB and includes several thousand files. I always keep all of that on my e-ink reader. I have so many GB of files because some of my documents are scanned pdf files (therefore the large file size).

    My files are sorted in folders depending on the book’s topic, genre, author and so on. It’s a conveniently organized hierarchy, which lets me find any book almost instantly. I never use my e-reader’s indexing or library feature. I see no problem with organizing that many files. Having all of them on my e-reader at all times is a lot simpler than regularly swapping files from my computer to my e-reader.

    I refuse to use cloud storage. It’s useless whenever I’m away from Wi-Fi hotspots (and that’s most of the time). I also refuse to buy devices from sellers which force me to use only their e-book shops, I prefer the freedom to choose (I currently use a Pocketbook device).