Fair Ebook reader?

Requests for other types of devices have apparently come up in this forum a couple of times and as I understand it, Fairphone is currently focusing purely on phones (which makes sense for various reasons). With that background, I wanted to ask if anyone knows if there are companies following comparable philosophies for ebook readers?


I bought an ereader a little over a year ago and I really delved into the ereader market, which was revealed to be quite small. No manufacturer states anything about the sources of their materials, which leads me to believe there are no fair ereaders as yet.

Which probably has something to do with the aforementioned size of that market - the smartphone market is huge so there’s room for niche companies like FP, but as ereaders aren’t anywhere near as popular and the people who do buy them tend to use them for a long time, there are only a few manufacturers.

I think the fairest option for now is a second-hand device. You can find perfectly good used ereaders for bargain bin prices online - I even spotted a €15 Kobo in a local thrift shop a couple of days ago. It seems that while not many people buy ereaders, there’s a fair proportion of them who lose interest and sell them off for cheap.


I guess e-readers do generally score well on durability, so that’s something at least… They also use very little energy.


E-readers are compared to physical books. There’s one situation where I recommend not using an e-reader: when you go beach. The sand particles are terrible for your screen. You’re better off with a physical book then, IMO. Also, on vacation, its an electronic device so customs might wanna get access to it.

Which one to get? Get one not encumbered by DRM, like a Kobo. If you got the money, buy a reMarkable (2 is a nice update, and on pre-order now), though that’s more than an e-reader (its basically a notebook), you can SSH into it etc.


The main reason for using an e-book reader device would be the very low energy consumption because of the “e-paper” screen. But as I prefer “one device for all”, I use smartphone apps (and the battery life is very good on the fairphone 3). It would be less good in bright sunlight however, but I mostly read at home. And it supports color images, which is still very rare on e-readers.

I would love to have a “hybrid screen” with an e-paper-mode. I’ve heard of a smartphone with a second e-reader-screen or something like that, but that seems to be a niche market.

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FWIW, I ended up buying a Pocketbook Touch Lux 4 and it’s a fantastic device. It’s never been connected to the Internet, it doesn’t force you to create accounts or synchronise or any of that nonsense. It’s pretty customisable, including the possibility to remap hardware buttons, and the devs are remarkably responsive - I requested a feature (the option to change some home screen shortcuts) and lo and behold, one update cycle later, there it was.

Reads just great, front light can be set very low, meets my needs perfectly. Has a Sudoku app and some other stuff, I think it even has a web browser if you’re so inclined. If you just want to sideload ePubs, I recommend it wholeheartedly; no idea about how well it does with stores and DRM stuff, though.


Ebook Readers are fantastic. On every place, every time. I read since 2011 electronic books and still love it.

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I have a waterproof Kobo. It is much easier to read an e-book in the bathtub than an actual book! Also, I can order e-books via Bol.com (a popular online store in the Netherlands), switch on the WiFi on my ereader for a minute and start reading straight away :slight_smile:

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For me the Ebook is making it possible to read a book in bed. Due to rheumatism I can’t hold a book in my hands.


I also like reading in bed without having to turn on the light. Some might argue you can do that on your phone but if I do that I won’t sleep all night…

That’s good to know, favorable point for Pocketbook. I needed to do this thing to run my Kobo Aura Edition 2 fully offline, :sweat_smile:

I chose a Kobo e-reader because its software is open source (Linux-based), has compatibility with the standard ePub format¹ and, well, sells at a really good price². I’m quite surprised it’s still selling to date, more than three years after buying it, and still receiving regular OS updates with new features.

I don’t know what’s their fairness, in the Fairphone way of producing electronic devices, but it’s quite durable as almost every e-reader, like @Dosenheini pointed above.

We can maybe do a list of things to care about when looking for an ethical e-reader? In no particular order except for the first one:

  1. Second-hand is better and more ethical than new.
  2. e-ink screens are better for your eyes, plus more energy-saving. Go for it unless you need a color screen.
  3. Repairability. Research that your device is not the worst nightmare to disassemble or has official spare parts. It helps if it has repair and disassembly guides available online (e.g. on sites like iFixit).
  4. No software lock-in: support for standard formats like ePub to avoid DRM and walled-garden e-book stores (that discards any Amazon thingy). That accounts for interoperability and cultural preservation.
  5. No login-wall: possibility to use it fully offline since the first start. No need to create an account on some (probably) DRM-enabled book store. That accounts for longevity, since you can factory reset your device anytime without fearing the login service to be down (enterprises die! Your device shouldn’t).
  6. Regular software updates for increased life-span (and open source for an extra mile, transparency and hackability).
  7. …you name it, I forgot a lot, probably.

1= Kobo has a format called kePub, witch is a special ePub that loads faster and has some little features added-in. I recommend storing ePubs in an external disk for cultural preservation and loading kePubs because of the improved loading time. You can use Calibre, but beware it modifies your original files in some cases.

2= ok, its internal storage being a regular SD card that I can upgrade with some dding was a delightful experience for a tech-savvy user like me.


UK’s Ethical Consmer recommends eReaders from Bookeen. I just bought a used one on eBay and I can recommend it. Bookeen Cybook Muse HD works great, has open-source linux system that allows you to easily sideload any files you need.

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I had many ebook Reader. Seriously, each of them went defective after about 3-5 years for no apparent reason. Except once through own fault (I sat on it = broke display).

With an eBook reader (many Pocketbook models), after opening the device, I saw that the battery was glued on display and lithium batteries inflate after a certain time or after rapid changes in the ambient temperature (e.g. with an eBook reader in the bathtub and then in a colder room ). Btw, check out lithium-batteries in Dashcams - you know what I mean (in summer hot in a car, in winter cold).
So what happened?
The battery puffed up and pressed on display = broken display.
Many report the same in pocketbook readers. This is done on purpose. With Pocketbook there is no guarantee for a defective display. They stick the batteries on the display on purpose.

Today I only read on my smartphone ( FBReader App) and paper-books. It’s just annoying to buy this ebook-readers - they are built for trash. Everything is getting worse.

And I’ve always been careful with ebook-reader - electronic devices in general.
I always bought foils for the display directly + cases.

Sorry for my bad english.

I’ve had my Pocketbook basic lux for a few years now and it works just as good as the first day. I like that it accepts all ebook formats. I rarely buy regular books now, pretty much all ebooks. It’s quite a cheap device too. If you need a touchscreen they also have other models.
Generally ebook readers aren’t very evil as far as e-waste and fair labor etc. They tend to last long I think, compared to laptops, smartphones, home electronic appliances

I’ve a 8 years old Sony T3 which works like day 1, battery still last weeks, screen is still crisp and nice. Not all are trash.
I’d like to know how many people are even able to use a 8 years old smartphone, on comparison.

Wouldn’t an e-reader be comparable to an mp3-player in the sense that it’s pretty much a storage device with the capacity of opening the files that are stored on it? It seems rather obvious such a device would last longer than a smartphone, as your expectations of the device don’t change. With smartphones, we either want them to do more or do it more quickly, or we don’t, but the apps we’re running do have specific requirements.

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The secret of durability for those e-readers is that you charge them once per month or less. This extends the life of the battery exponentially.

Regarding the smartphones, in most of cases obsolescence is programmed for profit, both hardware and software. There’s no real reason why simple apps like Whatsapp or Browser shouldn’t run fine on a 5 years old processor, but they don’t.

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The good thing about smartphones is.
There are alternatives such as Fairphone, Shiftphone, Pinephone, which have been supported by the manufacturer for years thanks to their modular design. If a hardware component breaks, it can be replaced (if available). You can install alternative operating systems and continue to use apps that previously stopped supporting Stock-Rom.

The other thing is: A smartphone can be used in many ways. As an e-book reader, as a navigation system, as a dashcam, mp3 player - and also as a telephone.
This saves money on the devices. You might buy a Fairphone once every 5 years, where you also know that it will last a long time, instead of a navigation device, dashcam and eBook reader every 2-3 years, because these are purely by chance defective after the legal guarantee has expired.
It is difficult to change components without destroying these devices. Not to mention whether you can even get the components for a reasonable price.

I will never buy eBook readers, navigation device and dashcams again. ->
Usually lasts for 2-3 years. The first generations of new devices (e-book readers, navigation devices …) usually last longer than the newer generations, because the manufacturers of the new generation rely more on planned obsolescence.

One device for everything: Fairphone or the manufacturers mentioned above ->
Lasts 5 years or even longer. Most of the time, Fairphone and the other manufacturers can no longer be used because the hardware is outdated or apps have higher hardware requirements.

I think it’s more that eBook readers often don’t necessarily need updates. The reading app runs fine and the installed OS is sufficient.
For smartphones the apps need updates and so does the OS (to run the apps or to be secure enough for bluetooth, wifi, internet access a.s.o.). So I think it’s often more that there’s no longer an OS update for a device and that creates obsolescence than the old processors. I’m using a 6 years old Galaxy S4 mini with current /e/OS for Whatsapp (only) and this runs perfectly on that processor.

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