Time for eReaders to Go Back to Replicating the Experience of Reading on Paper


Sony DPT-RP1

For the past several years ebook readers have leaned in the direction of being more like phones and tablets with glass screens and metal backs.

There was a time when companies aimed to make ebook readers more book-like. Now with every year that passes it seems that most ereaders are going in the opposite direction.

They no longer seem to care about making screens as clear and easy to read as possible.

For instance, the new Kindle Paperwhite has a plastic layer over the front of the screen that’s more reflective and finger print prone than previous Kindles.

The Kindle Oasis has a glass screen and a metal back. It looks nice but it’s cold and slick and feels nothing like a book.

Ever since reviewing the Sony DPT-RP1 in 2017, I’ve hoped that other companies would copy the look and feel of it but at a smaller scale for ebook readers. Sony is the only company that’s still trying to make their devices replicate paper.

Sony’s Digital Paper devices don’t feel like a tablet or a typical ebook reader. They are surprisingly thin and light and both the front and back is covered with a texture that feels like paper, and when you write on the screen it has a scratchy feel like a pencil on paper.

Too bad Sony doesn’t make dedicated ebook readers anymore because they seem to be the only company that gets it. Reading devices should be made to replicate books and paper, not tablets and phones.

19 Responses to “Time for eReaders to Go Back to Replicating the Experience of Reading on Paper”

  1. As I agree that readers shouldn’t have tablets or phones flaws like fingerprints and light reflection, the idea of copying a book has its limits.

    People like buttons, they are very convenient on an e-reader. also the contrast on real book isn’t that good (especially on paperback) why not try to get something even more comfortable to read?

    We can aim for better than a book.

  2. That’s one thing I do miss, now that my Kindle 4’s battery has given up. My Voyage is really lovely and more suited to the majority of my reading, but I miss the e-ink screens that were less screenlike. Was the original Paperwhite more like paper? I was never sure if there was a reader with built-in lighting that had that paperlike quality. I might want to pick up something older but refubrished and try it out.

  3. But the Sony is a very limited reader without compatibility with other tools. There’s a lot of activities related to reading, that are already solved with Android apps that are integrated with people’s workflow when they are reading, so I think the efforts of Onix and similar companies with a more modern Android SO make more sense, so people can add their favorite app to solve a problem related to reading, or complement their reading, and they don’t depend on the company developing or reinventing the wheel when there’s already an app that more or less works in an eink device.

  4. Buttons are nice, but I agree with idea of being more book like and comfortable to the touch, my Oasis 2 is wonderful, but so cold in the winter, too slick all the time, I had to add a “love handle” to it to keep it from slipping from my hand all the time. I’d love a kindle like you’re talking about.

  5. I think ebook readers have not been developed as we’ll as other electronic gagets, due to their limited market and small profit they would reteurn. I can’t believe this is the all they can preovid in this side, how could be possible not to have a simplified Android tablet with a decent and responding e-ink screen? I’ve been waiting every year to see that advanced one on the table to enjoy reading books. I am disappointed now! probably will buy an ipad mini to get rid of these sucks!

  6. Kobo Forma … It is near perfect and I have owned many ereaders

  7. Unfortunately, like most things there are trade offs in manufacturing e-readers. Incorporating high quality materials and you get …an Oasis…Make it lighter and you get a Forma.
    Go more like paper and loose the page turn buttons? For me..no thanks.
    Go all out to reduce weight like the Oasis1, with its separate battery and you get other issues like COST.
    Plastic screens…if they don’t scratch…I am ALL IN. This may be the path some of the best e-readers of 2019/20 go down. I am hopeful for a 8 or 9″ Oasis3 sort of like the Forma..just a little better construction…maybe a Magnesium shell like the Voyage…lightweight and not cold.
    Unfortunately lack of competition and demand may be the real hurdle here.

  8. They MUST be able to do color. I will not use an eReader that will not let me read any book I might be interested in.

  9. With all your complaints about e-readers why dont you just go back to reading a real book if you dont care for e-readers that much when im in reading a book im into the story not thinking abiut my e-reader.

    • You have inadvertently hit the nail on the head. An optimal reader would vanish during the reading experience and not be an annoying barrier that had to be constantly dealt with. For regular fiction, pretty much any device can do this because of EPUB’s reflow. But with things like research papers, the issue is not as easily solved.
      Those here claiming otherwise have never seriously attempted to do this on a regular basis.

      • I read a dozen research papers in an average week on my Onyx Boox Max 2. The A4-sized e-ink screen works very well, and the reader is snappy enough even with complex layouts.

        Back to the original post, whilst Amazon’s ereaders do indeed seem to be going backwards, I think Onyx and Kobo are doing a relatively decent job of replicating the experience of reading on paper. I’m very satisfied with the experience of writing on the Boox Max, and with reading general fiction on my Kobo Aura One.

  10. I do not share the authors opinion. I literally could not care less that my Oasis 2 is “cold and slick and feels nothing like a book.”

    The display is beautiful, and despite what the author claims, is very easy on the eyes and makes reading a pleasure.

    The only thing I would change about it is that I would like a bit more battery capacity. Could a bigger battery make it any less like a book?

    The author is obviously entitled to his opinion, but he should realize that it is not an opinion that is universally held.

  11. I’m still using a Sony PRS-T1. Easy on the eyes, Just like a paper book. Easy to put in a pocket or back pack. Function determines form. Don’t ask it to surf the net. Available cheaply on eBay