eReaders In The Phablet Age

Published on June 30, 2015

Roughly a decade and a half after the first backlit touchscreen ereaders from Nuvomedia and RCA, Amazon finally got things right with the Kindle Voyage.

The combination of a reserved aesthetic, an improved display and haptics allow for an unprecedented focus on reading so that the technology can finally be secondary to the words.

Dedicated eReaders vs. Phablets

When Nuvomedia debuted its Rocket eBook in 1998 with its LCD screen and 4-16Mb(!) internal memory it cost $500. RCA’s followup, the REB 1100 cost roughly $300 and featured a similar, but improved aesthetic and haptics, with memory expansion through 64Mb or even 128Mb SmartMedia cards. Subsequent models (Ebookwise, Filament books) were rebranded versions of the RCA model with slightly improved software but very little improvements to the original hardware. While Fictionwise.com did furnish contemporary and classic titles for these eReaders, Barnes & Noble finally decided to shut the site down in 2013 migrating all accounts to their Nookbooks.com site.

RCA-ebw 4-Fronts 4-Backs

Despite their comfortable handling, seamless page-turn, and relatively long battery life these early models were altogether doomed due to very limited catalogs and a lack of support from book publishers. While the dedicated eReader itself caught the eye of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s own device would not enter the market until 2007, not until the “everything store” has compiled a digital library nearly matching the size of the inventory of its brick and mortar competition, Barnes & Noble. Between 2006 and 2010 SONY, Barnes & Noble, and even Borders released eReaders

4-Up 4-Fronts 4-Backs
All three devices are backlit, but the screen quality differs considerably with the Voyage coming out on top at 300 ppi. While it is the most expensive dedicated ereader today, its price with a case and protection plan is comparable to the eBookwise in its heyday. Barnes and Noble’s new line is going the way of tablets with the Nook by Samsung tablet light supplementing the glowlight option. Older iterations of all these devices are available on eBay.

3-Light NookVerne KindleOrigami
While the eBookwise is the oldest of the three devices reviewed here, it still features the fastest, most seamless pageturn. The screen is of low resolution and doesn’t compare to the crisp display of the Voyage or even the Nook, but the pageturn buttons are conveniently located on the left/right edge of the devices. All three devices finally moved buttons/haptics off the screen, so you are not obstructing the reading area with constant swiping motions.

Depending on your existing ebook library, you may not have the opportunity to migrate to a new bookseller. Tablets offer access to all online bookstores through a variety of apps, but for lightweight devices with a long battery life, feel free to review the information below.

FREE books for everyone!

RCA/eBookwise/fictionwise eBook Reader

Amazon Kindle Voyage

Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight