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The Gentle Librarian

Boox Palma

As someone who reads almost exclusively on an ereader (a Kindle Paperwhite), I have been intrigued by Craig Mod’s recent evangelism of the BOOX Palma, a pocket-sized e-ink device that he’s been using as an ereader. In the latest issue of his Roden newsletter, he explains why he likes it so much:

Once you hold a Palma, you realize that for most situations it’s an ideal reading container. On the train? In line? In the waiting room at the doctor’s office? I’ve carried my Palma with me every day for the past three or so months with the goal of reaching for it rather than my iPhone. I call it the Gentle Librarian. Soft screen, clean interface, no SIM card and so mostly no internet (it loads up with new articles while at home on Wi-Fi; I can always tether to my phone to update or add something new to read on the go), a refresh rate that is plausible enough on which to watch movies (!! hypnotizing, actually, like watching a magic trick, like what Victorians may have imagined “computer screens” to look like) but not really responsive enough to seduce you into installing social media apps. There’s a lot of friction in this little bugger, and it turns out a bit of friction is a good friend of the kind of reading we love.

Hmm. Hmm! Like Mod, I’m frustrated with Amazon’s lack of vision and activity on the ereader front and lament the time I spend on my Casino Rectangle / Dingdong Casino of Hell. Maybe I’ll try the Palma out…

Discussion  19 comments

Matt G

This looks great. I want to see more tools embrace standalone offline modes.

Steven C

Cool. But why so expensive?

Jason KottkeMOD

Because it's basically an e-ink Android phone without a SIM card, not just an ereader. So it can run any app on the Android store.

Craig Mod

Also, I kinda feel like … this is what technology costs when not done at an Apple / Amazon scale?

Steven C

Fair enough. But I don't think I can justify replacing my PaperWhite until it dies.

Pete Ashton

Amazon makes zero profit, or even a loss, on Kindles because their real business is selling the books. See also that story about Alexa being a failure for them because despite it being the most successful of the voice assistant boxes people don't use it to buy stuff.

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Tim Gray

I’ve been pretty happy with my Kobo reader…

Brady J. Frey Edited

I love my Kindle Oasis; it's the perfect design for an e-reader. I swear it's the placement of the battery on the side that allows the weight to be comfortably held with one hand (I prefer switching hands for long reads). I've tried Kobo's Sage and Libra, both with a similar design, but the battery behind the screen (probably for better battery life) makes one-handed holding uncomfortable. Maybe one of these is worth trying–I'm mildly freaking out that Oasis is discontinued, and the battery is not replaceable.

So far, my other software choices are patchwork, incomplete, and poorly designed. Kindle's ecosystem is a bummer (and it's dreadful devolving of Mac software into an iPadOS app), but they got night view so right. Kobo's night view is buried under two clicks and a scroll, and it doesn't apply to modals or menus (not fun reading at night, clicking a definition, and getting a full-blast backlit screen). I hope Kindle is 1990s QuarkXpress and Adobe comes along soon to destroy them. Until then, I've only seen half attempts.

Edit: Excuse me, dark mode.

Brady J. Frey Edited

Boox online forums say there's no full dark mode on this. That's a hard pass. I can't be the only one who enjoys extra reading time when their wife and kid are in bed.

Craig Mod

both the kindle app and readwise reader have fine dark modes — if all you're doing is reading I can't see how this would be much different than night mode on kindle (fwiw, I read with these things in bed almost every night)

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Terence Fox Edited

Wow, a pared down ebook and Readwise Reader machine is so exactly my jam. I have read so many thousands of words you’ve written and linked out to, and many thousands more that Craig has emailed to me, in Reader since they released it. I am excited to order one and try it out!

Peter Roe

I have a Palma and I love it. I originally bought it as a supplement to my Kindle Oasis, but it has completely supplanted the Kindle at this point. For me, it’s a much better size and weight. If the Kindle Oasis is a thick hardback book, the Palma is a paperback you can fit in your pocket. Works great with the Caliber ebook manager desktop app too.

Highly recommended.

Matt Smith

I bought a Moaan Inkpalm 5 a few years ago and used it in essentially the way described above (but a fair bit cheaper). It was brilliant - the fact it was pocket sized meant I had it with me all the time, so whenever I had a few minutes to kill during the day, I read a few pages of whatever book I was reading instead of browsing on my phone.

One thing I was unsure about was how comfortable it would be permanently reading on such a small screen. It didn’t bother me at all once I adjusted the font, line spacing etc.

The problem was that the screen broke after a few months. It was much much more fragile than the expectation I had for a device like that, particularly when carried in a pocket. It didn’t seem worth the cost of replacing it!

Jeremy Wallace

Relatedly -- does anyone have experience with the larger e-ink devices? For reading pdfs and maybe annotating? iPads are great, but my eyes!

Broccoli of Doom

I've had both the Remarkable 1 and 2 for years at this point. The hardware is pretty much perfection, and loading ("importing") PDFs has gotten much more seamless with the recent updates of the desktop software (you upload the document to the cloud which the remarkable then syncs with, no need to tether).
Two potential issues: (1) if you're not grandfathered in I believe there's some sort of subscription model behind their cloud services now. (2) they omit a front light to improve the writing experience (the pen tip is closer to the screen which does make a difference when compared to newer kindle versions that allow for stylus use).

Pete Ashton

Oh, thanks for the reMarkable tip. I've been pondering a big A4+ tablet but they're all so expensive and over-specced (iPad Pro...) – this looks perfect.

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Tim Hare

I'm curious about what you feel is lacking in Amazon's vision? I have a Kindle Paperwhite and it's almost the ideal reading device for me. I see people who want readers to have other functions - but then we're in the realm of 'reader plus' or 'tablet minus'. The function that's missing for me is still a reading function - the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds (which I believe _was_ in my earliest Kindle but haven't been able to verify) would be nice

Jason KottkeMOD

A review of the BOOX Palma from Jason Snell.

I'll admit that I didn't expect to like a phone-shaped e-reader. I've really come to love the design style shared by the Kindle Oasis and Kobo Libra 2, both of which feature seven-inch displays with physical page turn buttons you can rest your fingers on. And to be fair, I was less comfortable while reading on the Palma, since I needed to grip the device more tightly with my whole hand and stretch my grip to reach the volume buttons (repurposed as page-turn buttons) on the device's side. But on the other hand, this was a supremely portable reader, like a beat-up paperback you can take just about anywhere.

Pete Ashton

My pattern-matching brain thinks this post from Matt Webb is relevant to this discussion.

Mostly for the link to the forthcoming Daylight tablet.

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