If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of having dedicated page-turn buttons on E Ink ebook readers. I find it much more convenient to rest a thumb on a button to press down instead of having to reach to swipe the screen every 30 seconds and readjust grip.
Lots of people feel the same way. For a long time page buttons were standard on all ebook readers before touchscreens came along. Then they started phasing out buttons when they began replicating tablet and phone designs.
Now page buttons are making a comeback, but somehow they are considered a premium feature that requires spending 2-3 times as much on devices like the Kindle Oasis and Kobo Forma.
When looking back at all the models that have had page buttons over the years, there are lots of different types of buttons and different placements. Some work better than others.
Personally, I like having page buttons below the screen like on Sony’s older readers. Most page buttons are located along the sides of the screen, but for me the bezels are usually too narrow to get a good grip so I prefer to hold devices from the bottom instead of the side.
Another thing, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care about having a page back button. I use it so infrequently that I would be happy with a single page forward button centered below the screen. Maybe have a long-press for going back.
So what is your favorite placement and type of buttons for ebook readers?
Below the Screen
Sony’s older ebook readers have the buttons situated along the bottom of the screen, like the Sony PRS-350, which I still use to this day because of the buttons and small overall design. Pocketbook is another brand that uses this button placement.
Both Sides of Screen
Probably the most common option is to have buttons on both sides of the screen like the current lineup of Nooks. This way you can easily switch from left to right-handed reading.
A variation of sides buttons is edge buttons where the buttons are located along the very edge of the bezel like the old Kindle 3.
Sensors for Buttons
The Kindle Voyage has sensors on both sides of the screen instead of physical buttons. Some people like the sensors and some people don’t. My problem with the Voyage is the bezels are simply too narrow to hold comfortably. I can’t use the buttons without accidentally touching the touchscreen with the edge of my thumb, which triggers accidental page turns.
One Side of Screen – The Handle
The Kindle Oasis and Kobo Forma both have page buttons on one side of the screen only, with sort of a handle to hold onto. This gives these devices an odd shape, and the screen has to rotate when changing hands.
Side Edge Buttons
The most uncommon button placement is to have them along the side edge, similar to using the volume buttons on a phone to turn pages. The Pyrus Mini is the only ereader I can remember having buttons along the side edge. They were very comfortable to use so it’s surprising more companies haven’t tried to implement this idea.
Another possible option is to have buttons on the back side of a device. Of course this could make using a cover problematic but it could still work.