Why Aren’t 9.7-inch E Ink eReaders More Common?


Onyx Boox N96 vs Kindle Paperwhite

A long time ago there was once a Kindle with a large 9.7-inch E Ink screen called the Kindle DX. It lasted for two model generations before it was slowly phased out.

It wasn’t an unpopular device. Most people seemed to like it quite a bit for what it was at the time; there weren’t a lot of people complaining about it, other than the fact the software wasn’t updated.

In fact the reviews at Amazon confirm it wasn’t a failure. It had an average rating of 4.0 stars.

That’s better than the current entry-level Kindle with 3.9 stars and it’s the exact same rating as the new Kindle Oasis.

So why was the 9.7-inch Kindle DX retired and never seen from again?

Lots of people still ask about it. The larger screen was great for those with vision problems or just anyone who likes to read with larger font sizes and to have a bigger screen for content like PDFs and comics.

In today’s market there’s only one company still selling ereaders with 9.7-inch E Ink screens in the US: Onyx.

Pocketbook used to offer 9.7-inch models, but overall it has been an uncommon size. Sony has never offered a 9.7-inch ereader and there’s never been a Kobo or Nook in that size either.

But as Apple has proven with the iPad, that’s a popular size, especially with the 4:3 ratio screen that’s well-suited for PDFs and other reading content.

It’s kind of surprising there aren’t more 9.7-inch ereaders available.

It’s not like they are overly expensive. Right now the Onyx Boox N96ML with a frontlight is priced at $339 on Amazon, and the dual-touch model is $329.

That’s not much more than the 7-inch Kindle Oasis without ads, especially the 32GB model that sells for $299, and the cellular model is $349.

When it comes to reading PDFs, the 9.7-inch screens are a huge improvement over 6 and 7-inch screens, despite the fact the larger screens have lower resolution.

The newer 13.3-inch and 10.3-inch Onyx models are getting all the interest, but for a fraction of the price the 9.7-inch Carta screen on the Onyx Boox N96 is quite nice. I still like using the N96ML for PDFs, and the fact that it has a frontlight gives it an edge over the larger Onyx Boox Max and Boox Note. Too bad there aren’t more options for large ereaders with frontlights.

26 Responses to “Why Aren’t 9.7-inch E Ink eReaders More Common?”

  1. I am guessing cost. All the large large ereaders are like $600 or more

  2. I do not see an edit option here. Personally I would not want one over 8 inches. I like the new Oasis but wish it was 0.5 inches taller, keep width the same, that way it will feel more like a book

  3. I loved my DX, but had battery issues. I bought a smaller Kindle and fell in love with the convenience. However, when Amazon (for a short period) reintroduced the DX, I bought one. It is still in its box on a shelf in my bedroom closet. Never used it. I now have an Oasis 2, which i love. Also, I maintain 2 Paperwhites, 1 in my car’s armrest and one in my briefcase. However I must say that I am a little disappointed it the Oasis 2 battery. Not sure I would go off the Kindle-Amazon reservation for another brand. Another brand would have to be something special. As a marketing cynic, I see the secondary brands only as design and feature laboratories for Kindle.

    • Hey Bob,

      I’d buy that boxed DX from you if you want to sell it — my son has vision problems and his regular format kindle is exacerbating them because it’s too small even if he enlarges the font. We were told we need to get a larger Kindle but they don’t sell them anymore! Not sure about going off the reservation myself–the Onyx website seems sketchy and Sony only does PDFs. The new ReMarkable is more about sketching and I’m not sure if I could get our huge Amazon library on it in any case.


      • Actually I found a DX on eBay–there are quite a few for sale there. Was sorely tempted by the ReMarkable but I think we’ll wait until the price comes down and it’s updated a bit.

    • How much do you want for the boxed Dx? I want a large screen for college textbooks.

  4. When it comes to reading PDFs, the 9.7-inch screens are a huge improvement over 6 and 7-inch screens, despite the fact the larger screens have lower resolution.

    Yes, the 9.7 screen is great for PDFs!

    I was very fortunate in my purchase of the DX. Two-three years ago Amazon had them for sale @ $100. I believe I found out about the sale from this blog.I paid even less due to a discount due to previous purchases.

    As the software hasn’t been updated, the DX has no boldface fonts for MOBI. I work around that by converting to TXT, then to DOCX.I modify the DOCX with a bigger and bolder font, and convert to PDF. (MS does a better job than Calibre of converting to PDF.)

    I read 2-3 PDF books a month on my DX. I read very few MOBI docs on my DX, as the fonts aren’t bold enough for me.

    • You can also have a try to convert your kindle files to common Mobi, not just PDF(PDF reading on Kindle is really not so good)

  5. Buenas noches. Creo que como las herramientas según su uso. Para PDF, una pantalla mayor 9,7 y mayor. Contras: 1. A mayor tamaño pero si la pantalla no es flexible, mayor riesgo de ruptura. 2. Menor resolución a 300 ppi. 3. Mayor costo por pulgada adicional. 4. Lenta evolución de mejoras en hardware y software. Se comentaba creo el Canvas que era Touch, con stylus, y luz. Pero solo se ofrecen 2 de estas 3. Y ningún modelo de ningún tamaño las ofrece. A la fecha nada de color tampoco.

  6. The answer is obvious a large device is unwieldy and a six inch screen is perfect!

    • A 6-inch screen is great for reading ebooks but it’s far from perfect for stuff like PDFs, textbooks, manuals, comics, manga, magazines, newspapers, sheet music, web pages, the list goes on.

      Also here’s a crazy fact that I just noticed. The 13.3-inch Sony DPT-RP1 weighs almost exactly the same as the Kindle Paperwhite with Amazon’s leather cover on.

  7. I still use my 9.7″ Kindle Dx for reading textbooks associated with my Computer Information Technology classes. That is all I use it for. I have a Kindle Oasis 2 as well but i would never use that for odds because the text and pictures are just too small. I am still astounded that a third gen Dx never surfaced. I’m not a fan of the pearl screen but it beats trying to read for hours on a tablet. I’ll probably end up with a Boox n96ml Carta with the backlight based on your review of it. It’s a little more than I’d like to spend, but if it helps me get through school it will be worth it.

    • Don’t get me wrong, the Boox N96ML has some shortcomings (it’s slow and the touchscreen is finicky) but the Carta screen itself is great. That’s why I’m surprised there aren’t more options for it.

  8. Simple answer: While the 9.7″ screen is very good for PDFs, most users have little or nothing to do with PDFs.

    I am on my HOA’s board. I have used the DX for showing other board members various documents, such as project bids or legal stuff relating to the HOA.For example, there was a dispute on whether someone running for the Board was actually a homeowner. The County had a PDF doc which indicated that for the last 8 years, he was one of the owners of that particular unit.

    Roughly a fifth of the docs in my Calibre library are PDFs, which indicates my need for an e-reader that is PDF-friendly. A lot of the docs for current events that I download from the Internet come in PDF format.

  9. I think there are several reasons why larger e-readers aren’t that popular.

    1. Cost -larger usually costs more.

    2. Size/weight -many people want something every light, paperback weight at most to hold or of a smaller size for easy transport/pocketability.

    3. Dynamic reformatting of most document formats or the ability to do so with Calibre and the ability to select larger font sizes on the e-reader, so a larger screen size may not be required.

    4. They’re most useful for PDF documents that can’t be easily reformatted, due to illustrations, etc. But, most people have a larger device of some sort whether a 9.7″ or larger tablet, or a PC or MS Surface like tablet PC.

    I have a 12″ Lenovo Miix 700(MS Surface Pro “clone” w/ M7 CPU, 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM) that serves perfectly for larger PDF files and is quite reasonably portable and does so much more than a similar sized grayscale e-ink only device would.

    Why spend a lot of money for a larger e-reader which is basally a one trick pony in comparison, and far more subject to damage with a flimsier e-ink type screen in a large format? Even the larger e-ink readers which have note-taking capability have not caught on very well for similar reasons of cost and fragility. If the market was there at the price point that had been established they’d still be making them, and selling more…

    • A couple of points, the larger 10.3-inch and 13.3-inch E Ink screens are much lighter and more durable than tablet screens because they aren’t made of glass so the fragility argument is only partially valid until they start making flexible 9.7-inch screens. Also for the record I’ve broken more tablet screens than E Ink screens. As mentioned above, the 13.3-inch Sony weighs about the same as a Kindle Paperwhite in a cover so weight isn’t a problem either. The larger devices do cost a lot but Onyx’s 9.7″ readers sell for barely more than the new Kindle Oasis and 32GB Kobo Aura One so price isn’t a big issue. If Amazon sold a 9.7″ Kindle for the same price I guarantee it would be popular. The fact that there’s only one option from some company based in China that no one has ever heard of is the main problem.

  10. I think 6 inch is the best size for reading. Not too big or heavy. my ebook reader is Kobo aura. It’s light and portable! I really loves it!!!

  11. Cost and portability were my main drivers for sticking with a 6 inch reader. The ability to run koreader in landscape mode had made PDF reading bearable. I would definitely get a larger screen if the cost per inch increase wasn’t an entire 6 inch reader.

  12. Size is definitely more important to me than portability. I transferred over from Amazon to Kobo with no regrets because of Kobo’s excellent Kobo Aura One. If Amazon came out with a front lit 9.7 Kindle I would definitely move my business back to them – unless Kobo came out with that size first 🙂

    • Same here. Its very irritating to adjust font size and drag four times a single PDF page on kindle paperwhite. I’m moving to a larger device.

  13. TBH I can see anything from 6″ or 7″ Kindle neither wo spectacles.

    I would love to have 9.7″ e-reader capable for notation and even 10 colour screen to see color codes from the coding books.

    90% from my books are scanned PDF books, and Im lacking every day searchable notation from PDFs. Also the storage size of the Kindle’s 32 MB is a fraction what I would expect to have. minisd slot is must.
    Unfotunately the pricing is outrageous.

    There are several hundred millions of potential customers for this kind of reader with minor additions. I wonder why no one hasnt took the challenge.

    • Sony Digipaper?

      It’s not just that we use Google a lot and it can pick out images being useful in the same way YouTube can turn text into a slurred computer voice or acceptable captions. We need to see more active readers, there are bespoke applications specific to reading ebook or books in general for example you don’t have to fill a bag with books then a bookshelf then a desk, so on and so forth.
      Thesis or not these moments that little light turns on you could simply have a complex word or symbols highlights from a reading session so you can take it all while you read or after you read it, sometimes some of us have to do math so it is easier to get auto match like lip syncing you are not going to win a emmy or a pulitzer from reading but you might as fully appreciate that without understanding all the effort that goes into publishing and reading today there’s truly something missing for someone trying to understand readers or publishers who can’t for example use a computer to read. It’s not the best for eyesight after awhile, there’s always the right tool for the job.

  14. Small eink readers have been well-marketed, are well-differentiated from most tablets and smart phones (and less expensive), and fulfill their function well (read books easily in one hand, carry in pocket/purse).

    Large eink readers, which should be about productivity, have been poorly-marketed and are poorly-differentiated from most tablets (large readers have been poorly-designed and/or expensive). E.g., Onyx Boox are clumsier or more expensive than most Android or iOS tablets and are poorly marketed. The Sony DPT-RP1 has less functionality than a binder of paper—let alone a tablet—and is expensive.

  15. It’s basically cost.

    And for what e-readers are really good for — PDFs, there is a smaller market than for general e-reading.

  16. I understand that this is not what you are talking about but about screen size:
    9.7 is not uncommon at all, before my new GB 512 LTE 10.5i Pad Pro with the pencil which i just got, all my older iPads where 9.7 inch screen size and they are still till today 9.7 if you don’t get the Pro.

  17. My theory:
    The average person does not use pdf, because the format is mostly used with non-fiction literature. Non-fiction is often information-dense and for the majority of people it is not
    easy to read. If they ever use pdf, they use it for short periods of time on an LCD-screen. They have no issues with their eyes because they just loook at it for half an hour max. If they read for longer periods it will most certainly be a magazine in pdf. Here they don’t get the idea, that an ereader could be of any use at all, because most magazines live of their colors. The average Joe just reads his fiction Text, which has most of the time no sketches and diagrams whatsoever. It is just plain text. Why would you want a bulky and costly device for that? Everytime something you want is not available it can be due to the fact that nobody yet had the idea and the guts to try it or there is simply no big market. Everyone I ever told about large E-Ink screens asked me: What the hell would you need that for?