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Topic: E-readers (Read 1315 times)

  • ersi
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E-readers
It seemed that e-reader screens would converge to 6 inches, but considerably bigger devices keep being produced too.



Amazingly, after new year I still had money left, so I bought myself an e-reader. It turns out that the screen is indeed very nice to have when you read a lot of pdfs and epubs (which I do), even though the devices tend to be short on other functionality. The screen is wonderfully convenient compared to a night lamp and a book, and better than a mobile phone's LCD screen.

Insofar as e-readers are meant to display text, there should be font settings (types and sizes) everywhere. My e-reader doesn't permit changing fonts in pdfs, not even when the text reflows. There's no changing of font types and sizes in the web browser either. There should be.

The web browser should permit saving pages as text or HTML. Web-to-PDF would be nice to have. These things are easy to do in a computer and then load onto the e-reader, but it seems like a natural function for the e-reader itself.

Text-to-speech (and saving the file, i.e. conversion of text formats to audio) should be standard in sound-capable devices. Producers of e-readers should be pioneering the speech software for other languages than English. It's an accessibility thing.

More dictionaries too, particularly from other-than-English to English. And more non-Latin scripts/fonts. Producers of e-readers should be actively developing these things.

Even though e-ink screens have only shades of grey, no colours, there should be colour settings to adjust contrast and such. At least there should be a setting to invert the text and background colours. It's again an accessibility thing. Koreader is a program that fixes this particular aspect on my device, though not globally. Settings like this make sense globally.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #50
All quite true. I wish devices were treated more like regular computers as opposed to the locked-down experience they try to force on you.
The first step would be honest reporting about what's onboard. They often say it's "Linux" on the e-reader. It isn't. It's always a proprietary ecosystem. And sometimes they say it's "Android" but if there's no Google Play store, then that's not really Android as most people understand it, and if side-installing is locked, it should say so.

A few more details of comparison. I'm sure that Kobo's power button is not lit. It certainly isn't on Kobo Aura One. On Pocketbook, the lit power button works like activity indicator, so you can see that the device is busy and you don't anxiously press things but rather wait till it does its thing.

On Pocketbook Sense there's a little loophole for the accessory rope (or whatever you call it). I have found it immensely useful. Unfortunately it's not there on other Pocketbook devices.

The reader software on Pocketbook is quite adequate. I go to Koreader for one main reason: Night mode that inverts the colours. If Pocketbook's reader had night mode, Koreader would be unnecessary. With Kobo it's different - you need Koreader to make it a usable e-reader in the first place.

Another great function in Koreader is the fully tweakable statusbar.[1] In Pocketbook the page count bar shows just the page count, i.e. its woefully underused, while other things you'd like to see, such as battery status and clock, are on a whole different bar. I normally have both bars hidden away in Pocketbook and when I need to see stuff, there's a single press that brings up all the buttons, menus and bars. This is convenient enough, but Koreader's statusbar is still more economical.
...which annoyingly vanishes when you press it. Can that be turned off? And can the touch regions in Koreader be tweaked to emulate Pocketbook? e.g. the center should pop up the menus and the lower corners should turn page back and the upper corners should turn page forward. I do all my annotation and bookmarking in Pocketbook, so it's not a problem to hide bookmarking away in Koreader. But my first aim would be to suppress the toggling of the statusbar.

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #51
A few more details of comparison. I'm sure that Kobo's power button is not lit. It certainly isn't on Kobo Aura One. On Pocketbook, the lit power button works like activity indicator, so you can see that the device is busy and you don't anxiously press things but rather wait till it does its thing.
Weird, my H2O works the way you describe, at least during startup.

...which annoyingly vanishes when you press it. Can that be turned off?
You could try this: https://github.com/koreader/koreader/issues/1350#issuecomment-65896063
Code: [Select]
DTAP_ZONE_MINIBAR = {x = 0, y = 0, w = 0, h = 0}

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #52
Weird, my H2O works the way you describe, at least during startup.
I guess I haven't looked enough H2O reviews. And of course I haven't because I aimed at bigger and newer and better. But this image of One should be telling. That blue button is the only button on the entire device.


Edit: In the image, if you look carefully, you may think you see something button-like on the front too. One of them is the ambient light detector. That's usually not a good idea. It exists on my Pocketbook Sense too, and does nothing sensical on it. There was the same thing on Xperia M5 that I had for a while, and it was just ridiculously annoying. Then again, it works well on Galaxy Note 4 and I keep it switched on there. So it's possible to make it work right, but most makers fail trying.

You could try this: https://github.com/koreader/koreader/issues/1350#issuecomment-65896063
Code: [Select]
DTAP_ZONE_MINIBAR = {x = 0, y = 0, w = 0, h = 0}
Thanks, but from the comments it looks like this switches off the Hold=Go to. I'd like to retain that, but seems impossible.
  • Last Edit: 2016-12-08, 14:33:52 by ersi

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #53
But this image of One should be telling. That blue button is the only button on the entire device.
If it's like the H2O that button has a little light underneath. I'll make a vid.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #54
But this image of One should be telling. That blue button is the only button on the entire device.
If it's like the H2O that button has a little light underneath. I'll make a vid.
Well, thanks for telling. I didn't know. Reviewers evidently don't think it an important point, whereas for me it's been a life-saving detail to make my little Pocketbook Sense with its limited RAM usable, so I know if I have to restart it now or not yet.

Hold=Go to
...speaking of which, Koreader would be invincible (don't get me wrong, it's the best app on e-readers I know already), if Go to dialog had, in addition to the page slot, also buttons such as

- Next & Previous chapter (if any, i.e. if none detected, don't show the button)
- Next & Previous bookmark  ("-")
- Next & Previous highlight ("-")
- Next & Previous annotation ("-")

...speaking of which, I haven't noticed Koreader doing annotations/scribbles, which is a bit of a shame, but I guess it's hard to implement. And Koreader doesn't have a separate section for all bookmarks and highlights in the entire library.

Pocketbook got it almost perfect: Highlights, annotations, and bookmarking are globally available in a separate Notes app. I only wish the list of notes were a bit more informative. Right now it shows the book title or filename, if something's been done to it. I'd like to know exactly what is there (a highlight, annotation or a bookmark) and on what page.

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #55
Well, thanks for telling. I didn't know. Reviewers evidently don't think it an important point, whereas for me it's been a life-saving detail to make my little Pocketbook Sense with its limited RAM usable, so I know if I have to restart it now or not yet.
It doesn't help in that sense, but then again that sense hasn't been an issue for me. It's only when you turn it on, before it shows anything on the screen.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #56
In Pocketbook Sense and Touch Lux 3 the power button light works like processor activity indicator. A very welcome feature on those devices. I expect the same on Pocketbook Inkpad 2.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #57
Pocketbook Inkpad 2 is a mixed bag. I have no idea whether to be happy with or not.

The software has not been upgraded since the earlier version of Inkpad. The firmware on Inkpad 2 literally identifies itself as the same as on older Inkpad: Pocketbook 840. This can be read on the homepage, so it cannot be considered a deception, but it means that basically an old device has been repackaged a bit and sold as if a new device.

The main mode of operation and the interface are the same in Sense and Inkpad. Both devices have two arrow keys plus a power button. All keys can be somewhat configured and I have already configured them to do the same things.

The casing is new(er) on Inkpad 2, with bigger better buttons (compared both to Sense and the older Inkpad). The casing is the thing you will be paying for, because everything inside it is the same as in the first Inkpad, including the screen. Or perhaps something is missing, because at exactly the same size, the device is lighter by 50 grams compared to the older Inkpad. Still, it's a solid build, feels sturdier than Pocketbook Sense.

8" screen on Pocketbook Inkpad compared to a 6" screen on Pocketbook Sense can be considered an upgrade, but only barely. Both Inkpad and Sense qualify as relatively unresponsive with annoying delays from press on keys/touchscreen to the reaction. Annoyingly, I find myself mispressing on the touchscreen more often on Inkpad than on Sense. Then again, if the press lands rightly, Inkpad is more reliable with opening big files due to added RAM (compared to Sense) even though it's not faster.

On a 6" screen it's somewhat of a struggle to fit fixed pages (such as on PDF's) to the screen. It's hardest with PDF files that are images of books shot two opposite pages at the same time.

Dual columns and particularly two pages in the same image are more comfortably viewed on 8" screen. However, with such a great surface area on hands, one easily becomes greedy for complete pages at a single glance (fit-the-page view) and that's where 8" doesn't always cut it. For some books it does, but not nearly for every book. 10" and above would be suitable for almost every book page at a single glance.

As a display device in an instruction environment, 8" screen is too small again, unless some magnifying projector is present. And the screen should not react to touches when pointing stuff out. Inkpad is insensitive to pointer pen, so that's kind of a start.

Compared to Pocketbook Sense, Inkpad adds voice (text-to-speech; through headphones only, there's no loudspeaker), but 4 GB of internal disk space is not enough to install all the voice engines I would want. In order to install two voices that I very likely need, I had to remove two that were preinstalled. So the device is already full of it when you get it! And no, I didn't add any of my own books to the internal disk. My books are on a separate microSD.

All in all, I guess I will keep it, because it amazingly fits, cover included, into the same pocket where I have been carrying my first e-reader. If Pocketbook Sense had the same amount of RAM, I would see no reason for Inkpad. Sense can be held nicely in one hand and this is what I like more about it. Sad that the two devices don't seem to fulfil two slightly different functions. Inkpad 2 serves the exact same purpose as Sense, none other, with marginally improved comfort.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #58
xreader (an Evince port by Linux Mint team) just added support for epub files. I tested.

- Open an epub. Yes.
- Scroll. No.
- Spacebar. No. Must press Next to get ahead from the first page and TOC.
- Main text is counted as a single page. Scrolling works fine there.
- Invert colours. Ok.
- Occasional messup and loss of text. Fixed by reloading.

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #59
How does one open multiple instances of the same file in xreader? In Evince you use hamburger > Open a copy. To put it in the words of a commenter where I found this workaround: "first they create a problem, by ignoring multiple invocations, then they give you a menu entry to work around the problem they created. Grr." (source).

A lot in GNOME seems broken by design. I'm often surprised how good many of the apps are in spite of that.

Also on that note, and this isn't so much on purpose although it is by design in the sense of how they decided to construct the program: fit to width hardly works at all unless all the pages are the same size. Is xreader working on that? It's really the flaw above all others in Evince.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #60
How does one open multiple instances of the same file in xreader?
Ctrl+n? (If that's what you mean.)

Also on that note, and this isn't so much on purpose although it is by design in the sense of how they decided to construct the program: fit to width hardly works at all unless all the pages are the same size. Is xreader working on that? It's really the flaw above all others in Evince.
If xreader evolves away from Evince, then people would likely turn to hate it or ignore it. It's simplest and safest to copy Evince in everything and just add the menubar. (Not sure if this will remain the policy of the project.)

But yes, I dislike the ill-fitting fit-to-width too. My preferred graphical heavy-duty pdf viewer is Qpdfview.


As to e-readers, Onyxes with their Android have an important advantage - a real keyboard can be attached to them. This makes extensive note-taking much more efficient. And 1GB RAM also could make a difference. EBookdroid would probably run fairly smoothly there, if it can be installed.

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #61
Ctrl+n? (If that's what you mean.)
That's the same action as the menu entry I was talking about, yes.

It's simplest and safest to copy Evince in everything and just add the menubar.
Actually I happen to think that in Evince the way they've designed the GUI isn't bad at all, although at first glance a traditional menubar with text is often clearer than some mysterious icons. In fullscreen in particular the extra vertical space is quite nice.

My main gripe with the new GUI is that they broke standard interface conventions like Alt+F, which I would expect to open the filehamburger menu. Note that Microsoft's less usable ribbon menu took very explicit pains to preserve this rather important aspect of the interface. For example, in the attached screenshot I've pressed Alt+R (to switch to the review tab) and then it shows you what to press next. So once you know these sequences you can still go Alt+R, A to accept a change just like you always could. In GNOME, you cannot.

Microsoft: 1
GNOME: 0

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #62
Ctrl+n? (If that's what you mean.)
That's the same action as the menu entry I was talking about, yes.

It's simplest and safest to copy Evince in everything and just add the menubar.
Actually I happen to think that in Evince the way they've designed the GUI isn't bad at all, although at first glance a traditional menubar with text is often clearer than some mysterious icons. In fullscreen in particular the extra vertical space is quite nice.
Extra vertical space? Fullscreen to me means no bars whatsoever. With bars, it's merely maximised at best. I consider it false what happens by F11 in Evince.

My main gripe with the new GUI is that they broke standard interface conventions like Alt+F, which I would expect to open the filehamburger menu. Note that Microsoft's less usable ribbon menu took very explicit pains to preserve this rather important aspect of the interface.
Only if your interface is English. I wouldn't consider Alt+F a standard convention when even F11 isn't. In Libreoffice (and presumably in MS Word too), F11 does something totally useless and you have to do Ctrl+Shift+j instead. Luckily it says so in the menus.

I like the way I can navigate menus in Elinks for example. Esc to bring up the menubar and the rest can be done by arrow keys. Esc or Tab, whatever else it does in the interface, should land on menubar too and arrow keys should open and navigate the menus, as a standard convention. You would perhaps say that arrow keys take forever, but that's only until you become proficient in keyboard shortcuts. Menus are good for, among other things, as a beginner's reference guide to keybinds. Menu items without references to the corresponding keybinds are a major fail in the startup information value of a graphical app interface. Once you're pro with the keybinds for most actions you need to do, Alt+F should be unnecessary.

My habit is to study and navigate the menus only when I am not familiar with the app. When the app is likeable enough so that I open it habitually and it becomes familiar to me, I open the menus only if I forgot a keybind or I need to do something new.

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #63
Extra vertical space? Fullscreen to me means no bars whatsoever. With bars, it's merely maximised at best. I consider it false what happens by F11 in Evince.
There's something to that I suppose, although I have to say that having some controls at hand can be quite useful. Actually I would argue that in a decent window manager (i.e., pretty much anything but Windows :P) the answer's obvious: what you call fake full screen is already available in Xfce under Alt+F11, whereas the F11 implemented by the app in question could go for real full screen. Or maybe real full screen should be under something like Ctrl+F11.

Only if your interface is English. I wouldn't consider Alt+F a standard convention when even F11 isn't. [...] Luckily it says so in the menus.
In Dutch I would expect it to be Alt+B, not Alt+F. The specific key is besides the point, which is that I expect those icons to respond to the same keys they always have since the 1980s if not earlier. In English, "File options" (hamburger) is Alt+F, "View options" (document with wrench) is Alt+V, and so on. In Evince you can't even press left and right to switch between the button menus! The (acceptable!) cop-out I first encountered in some Microsoft programs, but later also in Firefox, is that the actual menu is still there and it just pops out when you press the relevant keyboard binding like Alt+F, Alt+T, etc. Because frankly Alt+T, D is a lot easier to remember than Ctrl+Shift+Y.

Opera/Blink responds to Alt+F, but it feels slightly less elegant in that it only responds to that (nor does it properly underline the access keys). So you have to press Alt+F, v, d for developer tools, which may or may not be easier than Ctrl+Shift+i depending on where your hands are.

Now admittedly this isn't universal in the sense that Apple does something different, but this is universal on MS-DOS (at least in Microsoft programs), Windows, old GNOME, KDE, Xfce, etc.

Your last sentence is also of particular interest. In the menu-wielding Evince in Xubuntu, keyboard bindings are indicated in the menus. The vanilla Evince in Debian does no such thing. This explains why I didn't know about Ctrl+N earlier. It does have a little keyboard shortcut help dialog available (also in menu-Evince, either under the help menu or with Ctrl+F1) but you don't come across those organically. Incidentally, Ctrl+F1 is not mentioned in the keyboard shortcut window. This means that in vanilla Evince, this binding is a complete secret.

I like the way I can navigate menus in Elinks for example. Esc to bring up the menubar and the rest can be done by arrow keys. Esc or Tab, whatever else it does in the interface, should land on menubar too and arrow keys should open and navigate the menus, as a standard convention.
While it would be rather annoying to do something like that (because is Esc better than Alt+F or just different?), it would be a more interesting thing to try than breaking all keyboard menu accessibility in the name of touch.

Once you're pro with the keybinds for most actions you need to do, Alt+F should be unnecessary.
Except they are keybindings for all intents and purposes. Sure, the most frequently used actions tend to have slightly faster or more convenient alternatives, but for something with a lot of menu options like Word or Writer the menu is the keybinding. You don't press Alt+whatever, obstinately look at the menu, and press the next key. Arrow keys or the mouse would likely have a very similar result. No, what you do is you press the keyboard combination of Alt+s, m. Like this:

https://vimeo.com/200643905

You could create your own keybindings where the defaults are lacking. But I try to avoid going down my old Opera road.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #64
It was bad enough that I somehow managed to break the glass of my 8" ereader. I assumed that another Pocketbook would be the quickest possible replacement, but Koreader simply doesn't install on Touch HD. This is my third ereader now and it looks like me + ereader is simply not meant to be, even though I have invested enormously trying to cultivate the relationship over a year now.

Aside from other minor bugs, there are two big flaws in Pocketbook ereaders from my perspective:

- No way to search/sort by file name
- No inverted colours (night mode)

Eink screens are very nice to look at, but overall this is, as I originally suspected, the only thing they are good for. Touching an eink screen is generally an icky and yucky experience. Ereader industry in general has learned absolutely nothing from the successes of mobile phones and tablets. Ereader devices are fragile and clunky to use. Obvious features are missing, such as search/sort by file name, power an external monitor or serve as an external screen to other devices. Or have a real OS, such as Android.

There are exceptions in every category. It's possible (sometimes) to install external reader apps that search by file name. There is one single producer who does eink monitors and one or two producers that provide ereaders with Android. The last one is something I should have gotten this time, I guess, but I know the Android there is deliberately crippled, as if Android on its own were not crippled enough.

Mobile phones and tablets have become increasingly durable and functional. Their touchscreen is responsive and intuitive (even though I like the historical first solution - touching with fingernail - better than the prevalent flatside touch). With some of them you could make a phonecall under water. They are rich with important features, such as power an external monitor, and Android ecosystem is almost limitless.

Ereaders are hopelessly behind. Why hasn't anyone thought of making normal laptops with at least a 13" eink screen? It would not even be innovative in any sense, so what's the difficulty?

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #65
It would not even be innovative in any sense, so what's the difficulty?
Not putting oversaturated monitors all over stores wouldn't be innovative either, but I guess they're just too afraid of colors not popping. Anything that takes a longer time to appreciate is a hard sell, I guess.

  • ersi
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Re: E-readers
Reply #66
Now this is actually useful as a display device both for individual use and small class situation, not just as a personal reader https://youtu.be/Tu03JY7PXMo?t=525

  • Frenzie
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Re: E-readers
Reply #67
I assume the price will be significantly more than I'm willing to spend, but hopefully it'll pave the way through richer people the way Apple paved the way for finally improving resolution again.