Thoughts on E Ink Book Readers

We rely on the Internet for education, communication and entertainment, among other things. Because many conceivable ‘no Internet’ scenarios also involve limited access to electricity, e-ink book readers and tablets are a great tool for delivering educational and entertaining content in a small, low power package. In this post I’ll primarily focus on Kindles as they are the devices with which I have the most experience although in the future I will do write ups on a few of the other E Ink devices I’ve used over the years.


  • Low power consumption = LONG battery life
  • Back-lit (usually)
  • Capacity for a large number of books
  • Specifically designed for reading
  • Highly portable

As I mentioned above, Kindles have ridiculously long battery life and are charged via USB which makes them ideal candidates for use in an IFS situation. My children’s Kindles have gone through phases that have seen moderate to heavy use. Even at those times, the battery would go for weeks without needing recharging. A Kindle threatening to die will still provide days of service. This is primarily due to the technology behind the E Ink display. E Ink isn’t an active matrix of LEDs that require a steady supply of electricity. Rather, it is a grid of microcapsules that respond to an electric charge to turn black or white. Once the charge is applied, the microcapsule remains in either the black or white state and no further electricity is required to sustain the image on the screen. Combine this with using your device in airplane mode to kill the power-hungry radios and you can really squeeze the most out of that battery.

The back-lighting on Kindles is essential for reading on nights when/where electric light is unavailable or at a premium. The more modern generations of Kindles offer either auto-adjusting or manually adjustable back-light brightness level, which is a nice feature. The light can be turned off, of course, in daylight conditions to conserve battery life. The E Ink screens don’t reflect light in full sun like glass-screened tablets do.

Computers are good at storing the written word in very small packages. Books and reference works that have very little in the way of images don’t take up much space and a Kindle can be packed tightly with this type of content. While all books, obviously, are of different lengths, have varying amounts of illustration and formatting complexity, it has been estimated that an 8 GB Kindle can hold between 1,500 and 1,800 books. I think that’s pretty good if boredom is a potential concern.

Kindles (and other E Book readers) are purpose built for this one task, reading books. The case design, button layout and operating system are streamlined and optimized for this task. As such, there is very little to get in the way of the experience and nothing going on in the background to waste power and battery life.

With the height, width and weight of a paperback novel and only a fraction of the thickness, Kindles are smaller and more portable than even ‘mini’ tablet computers. The fact that they don’t require a power source for long stretches of use further contributes to their portability.


  • Require a computer to manage (in an IFS situation)
  • Relatively limited functionality

Kindles have a few methods for adding content. Only one of them, however, will work in an IFS situation and that is connecting to a computer via USB. I use Calibre, an open source E Book management application – I’m working on a post specifically on this, so stay tuned. I strongly recommend that you take the time BEFORE an IFS situation presents itself to fill up your device(s) with as much content as possible.

The limited functionality of a dedicated E Book reader is a bit of a pro and con situation. It displays text for reading. Very well. And that’s it. It cannot run any apps, games or display video. You’ll have to find another solution for those tasks.


As with all devices intended for use in your IFS situation, set up and use your E Book reader without Internet. Restore factory settings and attempt to set up your device AND add content without connecting to the Internet. TAKE. GOOD. NOTES. You may have to do it again without being able to Google: how to set up Kindle without wifi. So figure it out now and document it.

Get more than one. Because of their low computing power, relatively small storage space and the fact that they are subsidized by advertisements and the promise of selling content, E Book readers are inexpensive as far as mobile entertainment devices go. Having 2,000 books on your device is great… until someone else wants to read something at the same time as you. Get two or more devices and share the love.


A note on Kindles – Amazon as a company kinda sucks. I’m not advocating Kindles because I think Bezos is some kind of a great guy. I’m giving information about a device I’m familiar with that is really good at serving a particular purpose. Frankly, I’m pretty sure that Amazon loses money on the devices and expects to recoup that money on advertisements and book sales. Since we will be taking part in neither, buying a Kindle and filling it with public domain books and content you may already own is actually a thumb in Bezos’s eye. For what it’s worth.

Further Reading

I’m working on a more detailed look at specifically how to manage content on an Amazon Kindle in an IFS situation and I will replace this promise with a link shortly. Check back regularly for more!

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