One of the best things about ebook readers is that they come with the E Ink display. E Ink screens have been specifically created to be as paper-like as possible.
E Ink screens:
1. provide great contrast,
2. offer wide viewing angles and
3. have ultra-low power requirements
E Ink Corporation logo
All this, coupled with the fact there is no backlight, means you will be able to read the ebook for hours without getting the eye fatigue so common with tablet displays or computers. You can also expect at least a few weeks of battery life (depending on your reading habits, of course).
E Ink displays have been around for almost 10 years now and there are multiple product generations available. You’re likely to see one of the following used in your ereader of choice:
- E Ink Pearl. Announced in 2010, this is one of the first generations of the product. It’s still used in many entry-level models
- E Ink Carta. Announced in 2013 this is an updated version of E Ink displays with increased pixel density of 212 ppi. Older generation Kindle Paperwhites and Kobo Aura use this technology
- E Ink Carta HD. The latest generation of E Ink displays feautures the highest 300 ppi pixel density and is used on most recent ebook models, including Nook Lowlight Plus, Kindle Paperwhite/Voyage/Oasis and Kobo Aura H20/One
There are three main specs when it comes to e-reader displays:
- screen size,
- resolution/pixel density, and
- backlight (which is usually, in fact, front light)
The most popular screen size among ebook readers by far is the 6″. All Kindles have a 6″ screen, as well as NOOK by Barnes and Noble and many other models. 6 inches hits the sweet spot for most people – it’s large enough for comfortable reading experience and it’s small enough to fit in most handbags and purses.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a smaller screen e-reader nowadays, though there are some older models still available online.
If you’re after a large screen ebook reader (comics and manga lovers, among others, enjoy the larger screen space), there are models with 6.8″ and even 7.8″ screens.
Similar to smartphone, tablet and computer displays, the higher the pixel density (usually defined in PPI or pixels per inch) the sharper the image will be. While this metric is crucial for smartphones, computer screens and tablets, it’s way less important for ebook readers, since text does not have to be as sharp as a picture or illustration.
Cheaper models, including the original Kindle and Kobo Touch 2.0, have a smaller 167 ppi resolution. More expensive ones come with a higher pixel density of up to 300 ppi.
First generation of ebook readers had no backlight and to use them at night you had to either sit by the lamp or use a clip-on reading light.
Newer generations of e-readers come with adjustable built-in backlight, allowing you to change the screen brightness depending on the conditions. Most manufacturers install several white LED lights on one or more sides of the screen. Most models feature between 4 and 10 LEDs (Kindle Oasis is the champion here with 10 white LEDs. Generally, the more LEDs, the more uniform the overall lighting will be, though there are other things in play here as well.
Some models (Kobo Aura One) even feature additional RGB LEDs that allow you to change the color settings to reduce the blue-light exposure, which is what keeps you up and may cause issues with sleep when reading before bed. This is a very welcome addition to the ereader technology and we’re keen to see how it plays out in the longer term.