TL;DR: If you’re an avid reader looking for a platform agnostic eInk eReader, I can recommend the Boyue Likebook Mars. Not quite as user-friendly out of the box as a Kindle, but using an Android platform, it offers the ability to read all of your books all the time, without having to convert, send to Kindle or otherwise futz around. For a reader who buys and reads across etailers and apps, looking to read on eInk to save eye strain, this eReader is a good choice and came with two benefits for me: reduced eye strain/headaches, and increased focus and time spent reading.
I’ve had this post in progress for awhile, but given how many people are going to be inside and looking to do more reading, I thought there might be some interest in it now, especially if you’re looking for ways to read that are less strain on your eyes!
I’m an avid reader. I know we all define that differently, but for me it means that reading is both my job and my hobby. When other people are watching TV, movies, knitting, crocheting or participating in other hobbies, I’m reading. I just don’t watch a lot of TV, even though I like the idea of TV, because my brain usually says “no thanks”. I do watch a lot of sports; my family is a sports-loving family. Especially hockey. Hockey is a wonderful sport because it’s on basically all the time for about 9 months a year (except when there’s a virus *sob*). But even during hockey on TV, I’m often reading. It’s what I do, I read. Millions of words a year. Last time I tracked it was 40+ million words in a year.
Because I also work on the computer, in addition to reading on my phone, I’d noticed a real problem with eye strain and headaches over the winter months. I do own a Kindle but because I read so much, and because I want to support different etailers, not just the Amazon goliath, I buy and borrow from a number of platforms—Kobo, Scribd, Overdrive, etc–in addition to having thousands of books on Calibre that I’ve bought, converted and stored over the years. So just trying to read on my Kindle wasn’t working for me. Inevitably, the book I want to read is on Kobo. Or Scribd. Or in my Dropbox. But not on my Kindle. But I love the eInk technology and reading on an eInk eReader for two reasons—one is that it is much easier on my eyes, but the other is that getting outside the ecosystem of my phone means I concentrate on reading for longer periods. When I’m on my phone, I tend to jump to my email, to social media, and to all those fun and mindless games on my phone’s home screen “Games” folder.
So I was thrilled to discover there are actually a line of eInk devices built that run an Android operating system and are meant to not be a tablet, but a reading device, where you can be platform agnostic and read all the ways and all the places you want to read.
I did some research and narrowed my choices down to two: the Boyue Likebook Mars and the Onyx Boox Poke. After reading reviews, watching videos, and scrolling through a number of posts on MobileRead (an excellent forum for all things and advice digital reading, if you’ve never visited) I went with the Boyue Likebook Mars, via Amazon. It is for sale on a few other places for a bit cheaper, but purchasing on Amazon offered the advantage of coming with both a cover and a screen protector and, most important, the ability to easily return if I didn’t like it or it didn’t work for me. (I recognize the irony to buying a reading device on Amazon when I try to buy books at other etailers. But their customer service is so good and makes things so easy…)
I’m happy to report that I didn’t have to worry about returns because I love this device.
Out of the box, the device needs to be updated before you do anything, because there’s a significant update that offers some new features but also completely changes the appearance of the home screen. The newest feature they’ve installed is the ability to choose your light settings (off, day, night, bed or custom) with the custom option now offering you the opportunity to mix your own setting. That means the backlight and screen can be as bright or as “night safe” as you’d like them to be. This is a great update and one I use all the time.
The Likebook comes with some standard things pre-installed. However, because this device is produced in China, a lot of what appears on screen is in Chinese. Thankfully, it’s simple to do a few things: delete the content and apps you don’t want, and access the browser to download something like Opera lite, a low-profile browser so you can get to the Play store.
Additionally, configuring the settings on the device is simple, like any Android device, and changing the settings to allow unknown downloads allowed me to get all the apps I needed.
Currently on the device I’m running Opera (for my browser), Google Play Store, Kindle Lite, Kindle, Calibre Companion, Kobo, Moon+Reader Pro, and Scribd. Calibre Companion is an app that offers access to all of your books that you’ve stored someplace like Dropbox or Google Docs. Moon+Reader is a multi-platform ebook reading app that allows you to store personal files.
With these apps, I can read all of my books at any time. However, I have to give a shout to the built-in reader that comes on the device, because it’s honestly a great ereader and you don’t need to download anything else like Moon+Reader if you’re happy with that one. I was testing out Moon+Reader because it has the ability to sync your place in a book across devices, which is a pretty sweet function.
The battery life on the device isn’t as good as that of a Kindle, because it is running the Android software. But when put on airplane mode, so the Wi-Fi isn’t sucking up battery, you can read for hours without having to recharge. If you’re reading 6 hours a day, you can probably go with recharging every other day. I’m content with this.
I traveled with this device a few times since I’ve owned it for a few months—once for a quick trip to Florida and then for a 2-week trip to Hawaii. I read with it in a variety of situations, including direct sunlight, and it’s fantastic in the light. No problems seeing the screen at all, thanks to the eInk technology.
But the biggest thing is the relief I’ve noticed from the eye strain and headaches. Switching to the eInk screen has made a huge difference to this!
However, there was one other result I’ve noticed—my focus on reading has improved quantitatively since I started using this to read. Because there’s no other distracting apps on the device (no social media or games), I focus on reading for longer periods of time and find my brain does less jumping around. I get more reading done now with less distractibility!