I recently ordered a new Pocketbook Color after they started selling them on Newegg, and while most people would probably focus on the color E Ink screen, the first thing that jumped out to me was how much I like Pocketbook’s design.
The design isn’t unique to the Pocketbook Color; all of Pocketbook’s ereaders have the same general design, including the 7.8-inch InkPad 3 and the 10.3-inch InkPad X.
What I like best about the design is the placement of the buttons below the screen.
To me that is the best design concept for a dedicated reading device.
Having buttons below the screen still keeps the device nice and narrow for portability, and the best thing about having buttons below the screen is it doesn’t alienate a large percentage of the user base.
Some people like having page buttons on ebook readers, and some don’t. With this type of design it appeals to both sides. If you want to use the page buttons you can, but if you’d rather use the touchscreen to page forward and back you can do that easily as well.
With devices like the Kindle Oasis and Kobo Forma they are forcing you to use the page buttons. Some people don’t like the offset design that makes the device a lot wider and less portable. Some prefer the standard design like the Kindle Paperwhite, but that type of design doesn’t appeal to folks that want to use page buttons. Pocketbook has figured out a way to appeal to both sides and I think it’s a great idea (Sony’s ereaders used to have a similar design so it’s not like Pocketbook invented it, but they are doing it better by not having the buttons stick out).
Another thing I like about the Pocketbook Color is it has a recessed screen, so you can hold it by the side without your thumb overlapping the screen and accidentally triggering the touchscreen. As I’ve said in the past, flush screens are overrated and add nothing to the reading experience—in most cases the added layer just makes the E Ink screen look worse.
Kobo really should consider copying Pocketbook’s design moving forward instead of copying the Kindle Oasis’s design. Amazon should do the same, especially with their 6-inch Kindles. Make the page buttons blend in with the lower bezel so people can use them if they want to, and if not they aren’t in the way at all and aren’t easy to accidentally activate, and best of all they aren’t drastically changing the overall shape of the device. It seems like common sense, right?
Update: I decided to change the title of this post from “the best design” to “a great design” because after further reflection it’s not that Pocketbook’s design is necessarily the best, although I think it’s probably the best current design for a 6-inch device, it’s their approach that I think is the best among current options. Most current designs for reading devices force the user to either use page buttons or a touchscreen to page forward and back. I think offering both at once is the best option so the user can decide which they’d rather use.
Kari Nikula says
I agree. I have PocketBook Touch 3 HD and Inkpad 3, I love them both.
If the screen were flush they would be perfect…
Personally I think Tolino also has a great idea: tap the back -> page forward.
What button to you use most when reading? Exactly.
Other than that I prefer the buttons on the side, they are much more usable. but not the Oasis/Forma/Nook implementation.
Check out Icarus Illumina 2 HD. The bezels are still narrow, you can use it the same right or left handed (I’m right handed but I often find myself using the left hand for using the phone or reading on the ebook reader)
It is really interesting how your opinions on what makes the best ereader experience are almost completely the opposite of mine, but we both like reading electronically.
Sportbike Mike says
I am curious what you look for in an e-reader for it to be the opposite of Nathan.
He prefers larger screens; I prefer smaller. He prefers recessed; I really hate recessed. I’m a fan of physical buttons but can scarcely think of a worse place for them (for my own reading) than the bottom of the screen; I wouldn’t go for that compromise at all. He also has storage opinions/preferences that I do not share. I think ereaders should be available to accomodate what both of us like, and people who have yet other opinions that might not align with either of us. It’s great that there are so many options now!
The buttons will be at the bottom of the screen unless you rotate it.
Indeed. The button placement is very comfortable in landscape mode.
I really like your perspective. “I think ereaders should be available to accommodate what both of us like” is a great line. We can have different opinions and still respectively raise good points on both sides. I do really like smaller ereaders for reading away from home, but I tend to read mostly at home. In fact I wished there were even smaller ereaders like 5″ or under to slip into a pocket easier than a 6-inch device. My main issue with flush screens is my thumb is too wide for the skinny bezels so it inevitably activates the touchscreen and causes problems.
I like that there are a lot of options internationally (and that’s how I found your blog), though I think we both get frustrated by the common ereader retailers in the US, because their e-ink devices have stayed so similar for so long. I do kind of understand, because the general public seems satisfied and doesn’t need to buy new readers often. I just think there’s a lot of potential there. I would love to try a smaller reader! Before the Nook Color came out, I used to read on my Nintendo DS, and I have a lot of fond memories of that. I guess that influenced my fascination with the seashell reader from the movie It Follows. . . something very compact and e-ink really intrigues me. Maybe someday!
Sportbike Mike says
I must agree. As much as I like my Oasis and its buttons, I’d like it better if it was symmetrical.
Sportbike Mike says
I do like the flush screen though. I would like to keep that. The Voyage was proof that it could be done very well.
Yes, agree on both your comments 100%. My dream device would be a 7 inch voyage that was waterproof.
Steve H. says
I am an offset guy myself. I do like the look of the Pocketbook InkPad X. And consider actually buying it. A little concerned that the lower corner would dig into my palm though. One reason I prefer the feel of the Forma over the Oasis is the larger radiused corners don’t dig into my palm.
Sportbike Mike says
The corners on the Oasis can be an issue. I think Amazon expected it to be held from the side only.
If Amazon made a Kindle like this in an 8-inch screen I would purchase it.
James Viscosi says
I have an Inkpad 3 and generally like it, but I would prefer to have the buttons on the side. The buttons on the Inkpad seem to be much shorter than on the smaller Pocketbooks and it’s not infrequent that I push one accidentally while adjusting my grip or whatever. That said, I recently crammed my Inkpad into an old Targus flip case that has a sort of tray along the bottom that holds the device, and which gives me much more space to rest my thumbs without clicking something by accident. I gave up the sleep/wake function of my other case, but so far it seems like a worthwhile trade …
The one feature I really like of my old iriver Story HD was the page turn bar placed at the top of the keyboard. Your thumb would naturally rest there in a one-hand hold and you could rock it up or down to change the page forward or reverse. Despite all it’s other shortcomings, I still use it from time to time because of that one feature.
I also like recessed screens so when I’m not using a case I can place it face down to protect the screen.
One thing I don’t ever see mentioned is a physical button that can select and highlight text for note-taking. It’s what I loved about the Kindle Keyboard. I like to keep my grubby hands off the screen, but all these e-readers with buttons still require me using my fat finger to hopefully highlight the right text.
Sportbike Mike says
Honestly I don’t think they design most e-readers for men. Maybe the Oasis maybe.
I’d love a high-rez, smaller (5″ or less) Epaper screen on a dedicated ereader. Something I can keep in pocket. I’d use my kindle a lot more if it were easier to carry.
I’m still holding on to my old Kindle 4 as I really like those buttons on both sides and the feel of the device in my hands. My ideal ereader would be its taller (8 inch) younger brother, with the latest built-in lighting, touch-screen and upgraded resolution. Simple and perfect for me…
I keep my kindle keyboard because it has buttons, great battery life, and will play Audiobooks!
My paperwhite 3 does not play audiobooks… wish I’d paid more attention to that lack… very annoying…
I agree with Robin mostly — smaller screens (I might be willing to try a 6.8″ now that eReaders have gotten slimmer, but nobody makes them any more) and flush bezel.
Whilst I prefer physical buttons in theory, I’ve never found ones that I particularly liked in practice (PB360, i62HD, Kepler Pro, Monte Cristo 3), and have found that with my Poke2 and Alreader X (available because of Android) I can page turn by lightly tapping the side of the screen (rather than having to swipe), which I find a similar, but preferable, experience to the (somewhat insensitive) page-turn sensors on the MC3.
I dislike the UI on the Poke2, but given that Alreader X allows me to conveniently navigate to my next book, I only have to use the UI to swap to my syncing app and back, to update my library. This also means that I’m considerably less concerned about the lack of a micro-SD slot, as I almost never have to navigate through the root of the directory structure, so the fact that my OS and my library aren’t on separate trees is no longer such an issue.
Since two years, I stopped buying Kobo ereaders. Instead, I bought three Pocketbook ereaeders (6 inch, 7 inch, 10.3 inch) and I really them. I think that Pocketbook is really improving and doing a better job than Kobo/Kindle. When I saw Kobo releasing the Nia, I really laughed. Pocketbook is now the real challenger.
Jens Lindblad says
Beg to disagree. I don’t like recessed screen because all the dust and lint assembles there and it is a pain to keep clean. Just tap on the screen if you don’t want to swipe. No need for physical buttons or asymmetrical design. Kobo Aura One HD. Perfect Design.
Obviously just my opinion
Well I completely agree. I prefer the symmetrical design so that it is more portable, the buttons are there if I want, but I can also just ignore it (which is what I usually do).
Erin @ Paperbackstash says
I like the buttons on the side myself because of how I hold the e-reader. I never hold them fully at the bottom like that. I do like smaller sizes for portability though
That’s a good point. I can see how some would prefer side buttons, especially on larger models where the balance can get top-heavy holding from the bottom.
I do like the design and set up of my pocketbook touch HD3. I don’t know if anyone else ever has this problem, but the only thing I don’t like about it is the page numbers aren’t accurate. I’m on the same page number for at least 5 page flips rather I use the buttons or the touch. I never really know how much more I have to read! I also wish someone would revisit the 5 inch screen. I loved my kobo mini but haven’t used it in a while because it has no light.
Maud Green says
For me, the Kobo Forma is the most perfectly ergonomic ereader I’ve tried. I love it and am torn between ordering a second one for backup or waiting to see if they’ll make one with color. If I do order a second one they’ll probably release a new one a week later but, thinking about it, that’s not altogether a bad thing.
I had tried both the Oasis models because I liked the idea of asymmetry but neither one worked well for me. The small one was too thin to hold without my hand cramping (and the connection to the cover was unreliable) and the large one felt very heavy, slippery, and unbalanced, and had sharpish edges in the front. The wedge in the back also seemed awkwardly shaped and placed for holding it. I actually returned that one, which is very unlike me.
The Forma feels incredibly light for its size and the wedge design is much better for me; the thickness of the body increases gradually and slopes up on the front instead of the back. The back is soft, textured, and non-slip and the angle on the front from screen to wedge, gives my thumb plenty of space to rest comfortably (also on a soft, non-slip surface), without wandering onto the screen. Buttons aren’t terribly important to me but, since they’re there, I do tend to use them most of the time. Since I read mostly at home now, I keep the Forma in a sleeve, and only use a cover when I take it out of the house. Fortunately, modern covers are mostly easy to remove (my Paperwhite covers still require a dental tool).
I did also get a Libra, thinking it might be good for taking out and about but, although it’s a perfectly nice ereader it isn’t really of that much use to me. It isn’t enough smaller than the Forma to improve portability much, and the weight is almost exactly the same. It requires a cover when leaving home (especially since the screen is supposedly more fragile than the Forma’s) and I keep it in the cover even at home because it’s much more slippery to hold than the Forma.
In a perfect world, I’d like a new Forma with color (and with slightly improved page and power buttons; mine are a little sludgy) and a second, more portable, one with the same soft coatings and and lightweight screen but in a five or six inch version, with perhaps some sort of thin and light snap-on screen cover.
I wish they kept the design of Inkpad 2 for their Inkpad line. For Inkpad 2, I prefer to hold it from the side, and side button location make it easier to access. For the 6″ reader, I like the placement on the bottom. I never used Pocketbook 6″ reader, but I have used Sony prs-t2 which has similar button placement.
I had a Kindle Keypad that had lots of problems (super duper slow trying to search or navigate the index if you had more than a couple dozen books on the device) but I used it exclusively until I dropped it from a great height and broke the screen. I got it for free after my son bought it against my advice (told him he’d hate it, and sure enough …).
I managed with the KKeyboard, by only loading a handful of books onto it, but after the screen broke, I went to a Kobo H2O. That device apparently was a lemon, I had major problems with it not paging properly with some of my ebooks that worked properly on every other device I loaded them on to. And there was no way to contact Kobo (at least back then, ca 2014/2015) except via phone, which I did not have at the time. Emails to Kobo contacts in other countries were never answered, software updates did not solve the problem, tweaking the stock software or even replacing it did not solve the problem, and there was NO WAY to contact Kobo from the US if you didn’t have a phone. I wouldn’t have another Kobo if you paid me.
I replaced it with a Nook Glowlight – my son had an early Nook that he loved. The Nook Glowlight 3 sux major bigtime rocks. Can’t side load. “Shelves” don’t work. When I tried to get help with it, the B&N rep incredulously demanded to know where else I would get books besides B&N (Internet Archives, Project Gutenberg, BAEN Books, etc etc etc). I was extremely pissed to find out that nearly all of the “extra storage” on the device was inaccessible to anything other than B&N books and that shelves would only work with B&N content BY DESIGN. I would NEVER have purchased it if they had been up front about that – which, I am sure, is why they didn’t tell you that pre-purchase (and it took them YEARS to admit they were never going to “fix” the shelves since they designed it that way on purpose). I never could find any way to display a list of books on the device in just text and the “cover” icons it insists on using rendered the titles on nearly all of my sideloaded non-B&N books unreadable. I just tried to use it again – hate it. My son recently finally replaced his original Nook and after our experience with the Glowlight 3, he went back to a Kindle. He was a hardcore Nook afficiando before he bought me that Nook G3. Too bad B&N has gone the way they have with the Nook since the original. The new Nooks are virtually unusable.
Now that I know Pocketbooks are back, that’s where I’m going. I don’t want Android on my ereader, I’ve been looking for a Linux based e-reader for years now, since before the Kobo piece of crap. I really don’t get why it is so hard to find a good, generic e-reader that just works. Why can’t we just have them operate like little PCs? I’m perfectly happy to navigate a normal file system – it would make things so much easier than futzing around with “shelves” or “collections” or whatever bullshit organizational idea somebody had somewhere that just occludes finding your books. I hate touch screens – if my finger slips while holding the reader and it pages, it really ticks me off. I haven’t had a usable e-reader since I dropped my Kindle Keyboard (and IT had major problems, including no support for ePub to this very day). I want an e-ink micro-laptop with a linux operating system and Calibre, but failing that, it seems like a Pocketbook is my best bet. I’m not sure I can get one without a touch screen, but at least they still make some non-touch screen versions, and the Linux OS is a huge plus.