I'm a huge fan of note-taking ereaders. I've used at least half a dozen of them, including the Amazon Kindle Scribe, the recently-announced Kobo Elipsa 2E and even the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus. I love that I get one simple device to take care of my reading needs (I read several hours a day if I can) and make notes (mostly for work) without getting distracted by other apps, and on a screen that's not too harsh on my eyes.
I do have one gripe though: most of the note-taking ereaders I've tried are too damn large!
I mean, 10.3 inches is great – that's a great size to display pages of a comic, for example, but it is a little cumbersome. The Kindle Scribe has invariably been knocked about while I was reading on a busy train station platform during Sydney's peak public transport times. Holding the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus for more than ten minutes while reading in bed is quite uncomfortable – its 3,700mAh battery makes it quite heavy. And even the lighter Kobo Elipsa 2E just feels too big for lounging around with.
On the other hand, the Kobo Sage is the perfect size. At 8 inches, it's a decent size for an ereader and provides just enough surface area for my scribbles. I will admit that the Sage's 8-inch screen feels too small when I'm building my weekly todo list (which can be rather long), but it's more than enough for my other notes. My issue with the Kobo Sage is its awful battery life and its rather high price tag for what it offers.
So why are ereader makers producing more 10.3-inch writing ereaders when there's a gap in the market for smaller, more portable and much lighter E Ink note-takers? Honestly, I wish Kobo would update the Sage with a better battery and package the Kobo Stylus 2 (which ships with the Elipsa 2E and is much improved) with the tablet instead of the pen being an additional purchase.
Or maybe Amazon will read this article and update the Kindle Oasis with writing capabilities... only it really should come with more versatile writing tools than what the Kindle Scribe offered at launch to make it worthwhile.
What I want from my next ereader
Whether my next ereader is a Kindle or a Kobo, it definitely needs to have writing abilities, as I've gone completely paperless after using the larger E Ink tablets over last year or so. And, ideally, it should have an 8-inch display. That's my sweet spot, as I think 7 inches might just be too small for proper note-taking.
More than the display size, though, it's the final weight that matters. Most of us read while lounging on the couch or lying in bed, and to hold a large 10-inch ereader that weighs almost 400g (or more) isn't ideal – this gets heavier if you're using a sleepcover too. Smaller should mean lighter and that, in turn, makes it not just comfortable to read in bed, but also makes it portable enough to easily pack into a bag and use while you're commuting or sitting at a cafe.
And while we're still talking about reading on e-paper tablets, let's try and keep those page-turn buttons we have on the Kobo Sage and the Kindle Oasis, please. All the 10-inch E Ink writing tablets I've used don't feature physical page-turn buttons, making them even more difficult to use while reading.
If an ereader has writing features, then it ideally should ship with its matching stylus. If I'm purchasing something like the Kobo Sage, I am clearly keen on using its writing tools or I'd just opt for the Kobo Libra 2 as it's the better ereader (we think the Kobo Libra 2 is the best ereader you can buy today, period) and much cheaper to boot. Alternatively, brands could offer multiple buying options, like purchasing the ereader with or without the stylus. This might make it a bit more economical for the consumer and, therefore, make the product more popular.
I admire Kobo's remarkably versatile writing tools, but the ability to organize notes into folders and subfolders seems to have only been made available on the 10.3-inch Elipsa 2E – it's still missing from the Kobo Sage. The Kindle Scribe lets you do this though and I'm hoping it gets adopted by both brands for their next note-taking ereaders. Perhaps Kobo could roll out a firmware update to add this feature to the Sage?
And, lastly, how about a note-taking ereader with a color display? On April 26, Onyx released the Boox Tab Ultra C, which is a 10.3-inch color version of the Boox Tab Ultra. However, it uses the older Kaleido 3 screen technology from E Ink, which means the 4,000-odd colors it supports appears very muted on the display. E Ink now has the Gallery 3 screen tech in production, which promises to support far more colors, with better saturation. The PocketBook Viva, which was due to launch in March this year (but has since been delayed to an unknown date in May), will likely be the first ereader to use this screen tech, but it is just an ereader – there's no writing capabilities here. Perhaps this new screen can be adapted for note-taking ereaders too? And soon?