and other over-engineered paper emulators

Tablets which function as reading devices, e.g. iPads, kindles, the onyx range… All else being equal, I prefer specialist e-readers because they don’t have other functions I can get distracted by. Also I like to have the e-paper screen which is easy to read, and the battery lasts for ages so you can really go off-piste. However, e-reading seems to be a punishing workflow for many tablets, and they end up being pricey.

Good tablet reading apps

  • koreader is open-source and fancy, for Android
  • marginnote seems well-considered and sexy, including flashcard integration but the bloody thing only runs on Macs and iOS, so us e-Ink people are out in the cold.

How can I get my incoming articles on my tablet?

I use Zotero plus syncthing for my journal papers, and Calibre for my textbooks.

This works, if not seamlessly, then at least smoothly.

How can I get my notes off the e-reader and into something useful?

For the Onyx (below) this means the PDF annotations are sort-of easy to extract — For kindle, 🤷. Calibre extraction no longer works. Kindle has a hack called clipbook to make them look nice if I manually export them, but exporting is the most tedious part. Possibly Klib (macOS) makes that smoother, or Kindle Mate (Windows).

Onyx Boox

My particular e-reader is from the Onyx boox range. I have a Boox Max 2. There are many more now. Max2 isn’t well documented, but there is a bulletin board.

It just works. Could be more responsive, but fast enough. Using syncthing, I get my annotations off the tablet OK because they are saved in text files. I get files on and off including embedded PDF annotations.

Firmware updates be downloaded from the manufacturer. However, installing non-manufacturer approved apps is tedious and the manufacturer app store is not large. I managed to install google play on it briefly but that broke in a recent update, and I do not care enough to fix it. Nonetheless since I only use the thing as an e-reader this does not matter greatly except that I want use syncthing to since stuff. I work around that by installing the app as an .apk file.

Missing the attached pen? Apparently Amazon code B078WLP9L8 is Onyx Max2 compatible, although that is not in fact AFAICT available? The Samsung Note 8 pen is reported to be a pretty good substitute.

Further quibbles:

  • Having all the power cords at the bottom is annoying because you want to rest the reader on its bottom, and this is just asking for trouble.
  • It claims to function as an external HDMI monitor, but I have not managed to make that work for me.
  • The wifi is weak; you have to be near the access point and keep the tablet at the correct orientation or you drop off the internet.

Resetting if it hangs on boot:

  1. connect to PC via USB
  2. Press the button below the screen (exit button) and keep it pressed. Press the power button and hold for approx. 10 seconds (to reset and reboot the Note). The LED should go off and light up again. Then release the power button and continue holding the exit button (under the screen) for 3-4 seconds . By releasing the button, you should be able to see that the device was launched in the recovery mode.

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