e-reader

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Onyx Boox is not content to just sit idly in the marketplace while the competition rushes out new e-readers for the holiday season. On the heels of the Afterglow 2, Onyx has just released a bare bones Basic reader to do battle against the Kindle.

The new Onyx Boox Classic features a six inch e-Ink Pearl HD display screen with a resolution of 1024 X 758. This device does not have a touchscreen, instead you will have to rely on the D-Pad to browse and navigate the device. This concept seems to be a bit retro, since most modern e-readers now have a touchscreen display, but the price is only 69 €.

Underneath the hood is a single core 1 GHZ Freescale processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. The hardware itself is fairly competitive on the marketplace, and should keep things robust in terms of user experience and features.

One of the main selling points on the entire modern Onyx portfolio is the fact they all run an open version of Android. This allows users to tap into Google Play to download and install any app they want. Sadly, this reader only has Android 2.3 and does not have the ability to install any 3rd party content.

The Onyx Basic is really designed to compete against the Kindle 5 . On the companies sales page, it basically pits both of the devices head to head and the Onyx comes out on top. This e-reader is available now, and apparently quite the hit in Poland!  If you are looking for something cheap and cheerful, this e-reader fits the bill.

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When it comes to buying an e-reader for the first time or upgrading to the largest and greatest, there are lots of factors to consider. Do you want a very large screen to fit a copious amount of text or are you looking for something with a great ecosystem to buy eBooks? Over the course of the last month we asked the question, what do you look for in an e-reader? 694 people weighed in and today we look at the results.

Arguably the most important factor people look for in an e-reader is a large screen. 25.43% of the voting popular made it apparent that when it comes to reading digital books, a very large screen makes a world of difference. High resolution came in second with  16.62%, which makes it quite evident that high PPI  and overall screen clarity matters.

Things were more competitive with the next tier down. 9.68% of the vote said that portability was important while 7.66%  mentioned that an e-reader with open Android is important. 7.66% of the population stated that price is most important while 7.23% of the said that a particular e-reader brand, such as Kindle, Kobo or Nook weighed in on their decision.

What was most surprising about this vote is that serious readers aren’t engaged with gimmicks such as GoodReads, X-Ray, Badges, social media or achievements. A paltry 1.01% of the vote said things were totally unimpressive.

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Amazon is gearing up for the holidays by slashing some of the prices on their tablets and also positioning themselves to push lots of Fire TV sticks.

The Fire TV Stick is a cheap alternative to the Fire TV system that launched earlier this year. In essence, the $39 stick connects to the HDMI port on your HDTV for instant access to movies, TV shows, music, photos, apps, and games. It features a dual-core processor, 2x the memory of Chromecast, dual-band, dual-antenna (MIMO) Wi-Fi, and exclusive features like ASAP for instant streaming. Plus, it comes with a remote control for simple and easy navigation. You can also use the free Fire TV Remote App for Fire phone, Android phones, and coming soon to iPhone to search using just your voice.

The Amazon branded stick is shipping today, but new orders might be a bit delayed, due to the sheer amount of people opting to try out this new system. It is currently estimated that if you place your order today it won’t get shipped out until early January. Hopefully Amazon will get more manufactured and reduce the wait time.

Amazon is also discounting some of their tablets. The new Fire HD 7 normally costs $139 and is now on sale for $119, also the variant released last year, the seven inch HDX is only $179.99.

Also, if you are thinking of subscribing to Amazon Prime for the first time or renewing your membership you can get a $40 discount on the new Basic Touch 2014 model. Simply start/renew your membership and then add the product to your cart for the free voucher.

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The Sony Digital Paper is the first large screen E Ink device aimed at business professionals and a stark departure from consumer e-readers.  The product up  until this point has only been available through key Sony partners and sold online, prospective owners have not got a chance to try it out to see if its the right fit for them, until now.

Sony executives have announced that the DPT-S1 Digital Paper is now on display  at Sony Stores to “touch and feel” the device, especially to realize the lightness and also the fluid handwriting.  It is currently available at the Sony Store at Stanford University in Palo Alto and the 550 Madison Avenue Store in New York.If a customer likes way they see, these locations have plenty of units in stock for $999.99. Not to mention that people from overseas have another option if they, a relative or colleague is in the neighborhood!

Sony has also confirmed they are engaging in direct advertising for the first time “We’re running some ads in the The Stanford Daily digital edition.  There’s been considerable interest from individuals in the Stanford community, and from the Bay Area in general.”

I think being able to give the Digital Paper a test drive is tremendous. Up until this point if you wanted to check it out, you had to watch one of our extensive YouTube Videos, which demonstrates the full user experience. Actually being able to hold one in your hands and play with it for awhile is likely the best way to actually push more device sales.

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Black Friday is two weeks away and the holiday season is quickly approaching. Amazon is bringing back a program that will allow you to try a Kindle e-Reader or Fire Tablet for free for one month. At the end of the 30 days if you do not return it, they will bill your credit card for the full purchase price, send it back before the month is over and no worries.

The latest generation Kindle Voyage and Kindle Basic Touch are not apart of this promotion. Instead, they are letting customers try the second generation Kindle Paperwhite and two tablets they released last year. Likely, this promotion is a gambit to try and get rid of older stock because the newer devices are proving to be popular.

This promotion is only valid for select Prime members in the US, international customers need not apply. You need a valid credit card as your 1 Click Purchase and you have to make sure it does not expire beyond the 30 days.

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Amazon has issued the first major firmware update for the Kindle Voyage,  new $79 Kindle Basic Touch and the Paperwhite 2 today. A number of notable features are now available, such as the ability to share all of your purchases with family members, making it easy to accumulate a vast library of content.

New features include:

Word Wise—For readers learning English and children learning to read, Word Wise makes it easier to understand more challenging books more quickly. Short and simple definitions automatically appear above difficult words, so you can keep reading without having to stop and look up a word. To see the various meanings the same word can have in different contexts, just tap on the word to quickly bring up a card with definitions, synonyms, and more. You can adjust the number of definitions you see with a slider, dialing them up or down as you learn and grow your vocabulary. Word Wise is already available on thousands of titles, including The Hunger Games, The Giver, and Wonder.

Family Library—For the first time, you can access not only your own Kindle books, but also books from the Amazon account of a spouse or partner.

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited—For as little as $2.99 per month, kids get unlimited access to hundreds of hand-picked chapter books and early readers, all curated for age-appropriateness, so parents don’t have to spend time and money guessing what their kids will enjoy. Includes favorites such as the Harry Potter series, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce, and Newberry Medal and Honor winning books such as The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

Expanded X-Ray for Books—X-Ray now makes it easier to explore as you read—quickly flip through all the images in a book, and use the new timeline view to easily browse the most notable passages.

Deeper Goodreads Integration—Goodreads on Kindle now allows you to easily share your reading progress updates, add books from your Kindle library to your Goodreads shelves, and see your friends’ updates, ratings and reviews when looking at a book on Goodreads.

Enhanced Search—Makes it even easier to find what you are looking for by combining and previewing results from your Library, Goodreads and the Kindle Store on the same page.

About This Book—See information about the book as you start to read, including its place in a series and author information, plus mark it as “Currently Reading” on Goodreads.

Amazon tends to release firmware updates slowly. So you likely won’t get it right away. Alternatively, you can manually download and install the update by visiting  www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates  and copy the file to the root of your device by plugging your Kindle into your PC using the USB cable. Once you do this and click the update button in the settings menu your Kindle will self-update.

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A former advertising executive for Kindle is suing Amazon for wrongful dismissal. The saga begins in 2012 with the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet. Amazon was seeking launch partners in order to build traction with their Special Offers edition. Credit card company Discover signed on, as they normally participated with pilot projects at Amazon. Then things got interesting.

In a signed affidavit to the Washington Attorney office, former executive Kivin Varghese outlined the following “Shortly after the successful launch of the ad platform in September 2012, we ran into an issue with one of our large launch partners, Discover Card. In addition to paying $1.2 million to be part of the launch, we ran a promotion where they paid an extra $500,000 that was intended to encourage Kindle owners with a Discover card, to switch their default 1-click card to Discover (ahead of the holiday shopping season).

The promotion was structured in a way where anyone with a Kindle, who used their Discover card to buy a digital good (e.g. mp3 or movie), would get a $10 Amazon Gift Card. The reason the good had to be digital is because to buy a digital good you need to use your 1-click default card, and Discover’s primary objective for this promotion was to get users who had a Discover card, to make it their 1-click default so Discover could be the card of choice for holiday shopping over the course of the fourth quarter. That was the only way Discover could justify spending $10 when someone ordered a $1 .mp3 music file.

The finance team and the ad execution team (who reported to my manager via a Product Manager) put together a forecast for Discover that showed we expected the $500K to last for the full 60 days of the promotion, and it had a wide ranging buffer, so we would monitor it weekly. I was not allowed to see the data that went into the forecast – only the finance team putting together the forecast was allowed to see that data – I and others were just provided a range.

About 10 days into the promotion, the Ad Execution team found that over $300,000 of the $500,000 allocated for the promotion had been spent. I had our development team look into the data to find out how this could happen – Was it fraud? Was it a bug?

What we found was that there were tens of thousands of Kindle e-ink owners, the vast majority who hadn’t even seen the promotion details (as customers had to click on the ad to see the details), were qualifying for the $10 Gift card because every day, there are thousands of customers who own a Kindle and already have Discover set as their 1-click default card, that buy a digital good on Amazon in the ordinary course of their activity. As soon as we found this out, I sent out a 7-step solution that I recommended we implement to fix the issue, which involved being transparent with Discover about the issue and refunding a significant portion of the promotional funds that went to subsidized behavior. Munira disagreed with my approach, directing me to spin this as ‘good news, that the promotion is tracking ahead of plan’ and urged me to try to get more budget from Discover. Meanwhile the promotion continued to run and within a few more days we had gone over the $500,000 budget.

Our finance and ad execution team had missed the key fact when doing the forecast – the forecast should have shown that there was a 100% certainty that the promotion as structured, would go through the $500,000 budget within a couple of weeks given everyday activity. This was clear, the data was available during the forecast, and it was missed.

So in other words, Discover was essentially paying $10 to tens of thousands of users who had no idea the promotion was going on, and were just subsidizing existing behavior – Discover was paying $10 mostly to consumers that already had Discover set as their 1-click default and were unaware of any Kindle promotion. That was not Discover’s intention, nor was it Amazon’s when we ran the promotion. But it was our mistake to rectify.”

A number of internal emails were sent between project managers of the advertising platform, trying to get Discover to pay more money, without divulging that e-Ink owners were the ones taking advantage of the promotion. According to the emails, Amazon executives directly downplayed the amount spent directly to Discover. Also, according to the legal filing Amazon lied to Discover about specific metrics and page impressions on the custom landing page for the promotion. When Discover pulled out of the promotion, this is when it all hit the fan.

The Ad executive was brought in for his monthly PIP meeting, where they went over milestone goals. He was scolded for not asking Discover for more money, even though he knew all of the funds were spent and Amazon still had not fixed the bug for e-ink Kindles. He was asked to transfer to another department, and upon refusing went to HR and was promptly fired.

The legal brief ended with “To me, it seems like a culture of treating its employees like robots and numbers. And perhaps that is what spawns and encourages the kind of dark behavior I saw at Amazon. Employees aren’t just Bezeos-Bots and numbers. Customers aren’t just a source of free-cash flow at any price.”

You can read the entire legal briefing HERE. It is very long and a compelling read for Amazon intrigue.

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UK bookseller WHSmith has been carrying Kobo e-Readers since 2011. Sales have been brisk and the two sides have reached a new agreement that will extend the partnership until 2018.

During a recent earnings call, the bookseller has acknowledged that eBook sales have not seen the dramatic gains they have in years past. “According to publishers the rate of growth and penetration of eBooks has slowed with value penetration estimated to be around 15% – 18%, with growth closer to 20% than the 100% we have seen in recent years.”

Dispute the nominal growth potential of the eBook industry in the UK, WHSmith and Kobo are both bullish about the success of e-readers and multi-function tablet reading apps for the foreseeable future.

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Amazon will be opening up their online bookstore and selling e-readers in the Netherlands this coming Wednesday. Over 20,000 eBooks will be available in Dutch and 2 million in English, giving readers a ton of content to be able to devour.

In the Netherlands Amazon will be competing primarily against BOL.COM, the largest online bookstore. 60% of all eBooks currently being sold are via this website and they have a larger library, that includes 30,000 titles. The primary advantage BOL has, is that they sell their content with Social DRM and Digital Watermarks, thereby making the EPUB files able to be loaded on any e-reader, tablet or smartphone.

Amazon will be fighting an uphill battle to get market share in the Netherlands and they are hoping cheap e-readers will pave the way. The Kindle Basic will be available for €59, Kindle Paperwhite, €109, and the new Kindle Voyage will cost €189.

Update: Amazon has just updated their Android Kindle App and iOS App for Dutch support.

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The Tolino Vision 2 was announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the e-reader is now available at Worldview, Thalia, Club Bertelsmann and Hugendubel.

The mantra of the Tolino Alliance is to battle Amazon in Germany, and not let a big company dominate the market. The Tolino Vision 2 features the latest in e-Paper innovation, e Ink Carta. This is the exact screen technology found on the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Kobo Aura H2O. This will not only provide higher contrast, but also eliminate the full page refresh issues that have plagued e-readers since the very beginning. The overall resolution is a very respectable 1024 × 758 pixels and has 212 PPI. It is also being billed as splash proof, so you can dump your coffee on it, and it won’t destroy the device, its not quite waterproof though.

The actual selling of the e-reader is actually quite interesting. Each Tolino partner has the freedom to establish their own pricing.  The Vision 2 is currently retailing for 149€, but Club Bertelsmann is currently offering the best deal in the country, only charging 129€. This holiday season you can expect the price will likely fall between 105€ to 99€.

The Vision 2 has experienced a high level of demand this year, pre-orders had reached over 10,000 units. This has created a supply problem with Thalia and eBook.de who are all estimating two weeks of delivery time. Part of the reason why the supplies are stretched so thin is because the Alliance has expanded the sale of the e-reader to railway station bookstores and independent booksellers via Libri.

I think the Vision 2 is a really good e-reader if you speak German. The online bookstore mainly just stocks titles in that language but it does have an English mode for advanced users that  know how to load in their own books and have no problem using Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

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eReading in Public

This year it seems more new e-readers have come out than almost any other year and it can be quite daunting to choose the best one as a gift, upgrade or just buying one for the first time. Some devices have built in bookstores that allow you to buy eBooks, magazines and newspapers on demand, others make the users rely on finding their own books online and loading them in via the USB cable.

e-Readers tend to come in two sizes for the most part, six inches and 9.7 inches. Six inch e-readers tend to be the most popular, because of their pocket friendly nature and low entry price point. Larger readers tend to be most expensive because less people buy them and it costs more to manufacture small batches.

What is an e-Reader?

An e-Reader typically uses e-Ink technology, which mimics real paper. Smartphones and tablets use LCD displays which has light emitting from behind the screen into your eyes. This has been known to cause melatonin suppression, which basically  makes you stay up  late, unable to sleep properly. e-Readers this year have mostly adopted front-lit displays, which has the light emitting from underneath the bezel, splashing light evenly across the screen. This allows you to read in the dark, controlling the brightness levels, without the need of ambient lighting or a reading light.

e-Readers for the most part have a singular use, to read eBooks. 95% of all electronic readers were designed to purely enjoy a great book, without the distractions that smartphones and tablets provide via emails, notifications and overall distractions.

The Best Six Inch e-Readers

Amazon Kindle Voyage – The Voyage is Amazons new flagship e-reader and has a six inch screen with the best resolution in the business. Amazon has incorporated some new technology in this  model that no other e-reader on the market currently has. The first is manual page turn keys that are flush with the bezel, the buttons do not protrude. When you press down on the button to turn the page you are met with a barely noticeable haptic feedback vibration to let you know you turned a page. There is also an ambient light sensor that will automatically adjust the brightness of the screen based on your lighting conditions.

Amazon currently has the best in class  eBook ecosystem, they control 75% of the market in North America and the UK. They have everything from fan-fiction to being able to read books before they officially hit the bookstores and even an unlimited membership that allows you to check out as many books a month as you want. The Seattle based company is in the news a lot, for good reason, they are the best.

There are some drawbacks to the Amazon ecosystem as a whole. They have their own eBook format, which makes it impossible to buy books from other stores and load them on the device. The Voyage also  has no SD Card support, so you have to use the 3.5 GB of memory with caution, especially if you are loading big PDF files on it.

Kobo Aura H2O – Canadian based Kobo released a singular e-reader this year, that is being billed as the first device you can take with you anywhere. It is completely waterproof up to five meters, fully submerged, which makes it appealing to take with you in the bathtub to the beach or on vacation.

The Aura H2O has the same resolution as the Kindle Voyage, but has a 6.8 inch screen instead of the standard six. It has an SD Card, so you can load up even more books than the Kindle and the Kobo bookstore is populated with millions of titles.

The larger screen makes reading a bit more enjoyable because more text can be displayed, making books seem a bit shorter. Flexible font control allows you to change it on the fly and advanced options allow you to even load in your own fonts. Speaking of advanced options, Kobo is the only company to balance general level options to control simple functions but it also appeals to power users with being able to control font weight or even the bright/dark levels of the text.

Kobo is second most popular eBook store in the world and  you can buy digital content in almost every country. They use the EPUB format, so  you can easily borrow books from your local library or even from other online bookstores and load them in via Adobe Digital Editions.

Icarus Illumina HD – E653 – One of the big trends of 2014 was indie e-reader companies adopting the concept of open Android. This is the same type of user experience that smartphones and tablet owners enjoy, by being able to install their own apps. The HD model runs Android 4.2, which makes it highly capable of being able to run Kindle, Kobo, Nook or any other app such as Moon+ Reader or Aldiko.

The Illumina HD is highly versatile and is able to read most popular eBook formats, you can buy books in EPUB or PDF formats from any major store and load them onto the unit via Adobe Digital Editions. There is no bookstore built into the unit of note, but because you can basically install your store of choice, this e-reader allows for unparalleled freedom and is more solid than any of the e-readers Onyx sells.

Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight – Barnes and Noble remains a force to be reckoned with in the e-reader industry, even though their market share has diminished due to Amazon and Kobo. The Glowlight was the only model the largest bookseller in the US released in 2014.

One of the ways B&N continues to be successful is due to the fact the e-Reader is sold in bookstores and most people in the US and UK live in close proximity to one. Users who experience issues with the hardware only have to drive down to their local store and receive intimidate support or to have it replaced.

Barnes and Noble was the first company to pioneer the very concept of glowlight technology and their online bookstore is well designed and highly curated. They put an emphasis on editorial and discovery in order to find the next good read.

The Nook line of e-readers tends to get lambasted by the media because it makes a click worthy headline that the company is doomed. This is the similar type of syndrome that Blackberry has experienced over the year, but Nook remains relevant and a good e-reader.

Best Large Screen e-Readers

There are a number of reasons why people tend to buy large screen e-readers. As we get older, the eyesight tends to degrade and book lovers tend to buy the large print editions of books in their local store. Doing this can get expensive as these variants often cost two or three times the cost of a paperback,. Another popular reason why people love large screen e-readers is due to the screen real estate. PDF Files and eBooks can fit more text on the screen, which appeals to students and industry professionals.

Icarus Excel – For the most demanding user that works with A4 sized documents, PDFs and has the need to interact with the content (notes, annotations, highlighting), the ICARUS Reader eXceL is unmatched. The 9.7” E-Ink PEARL touch screen has great contrast and swiftly responds to any command . With 1200 x 825 pixels it has much more detail than most e-readers (800 x 600).

With the stylus you can make handwritten notes, highlight text, and make annotations. And with Wi-Fi connectivity you can wirelessly browse the web and access content on the go.
The Icarus eXceLis perfect for professional environments or education, where interactivity is essential.

This e-reader also runs Android 4.0 which allows users to select the digital ecosystem of their choice, but also install other news/RSS or magazine apps.

Sony Digital Paper – Sony abandoned the consumer e-reader sector earlier this year. They developed a new product that sticky appeals towards people who need to get large PDF files. This reader is 13.3 inches in size and retails for around $999.99 in the US and has higher international availability via Shop e-Readers.

The Sony Digital Paper features a 13.3 inch e-Ink Mobius e-paper screen with a resolution of 1200 by 1600. It was designed to give you a true A4 experience, displaying PDF files as they were originally intended. The lightweight nature of Mobius gives you amazing clarity in the fonts and pictures. It also one of the most lightweight products in its class, clocking in at .08 pounds. To give you some comparison, The Kindle DX has a 9.7 inch screen and weighs 0.91 pounds and the iPad Air is 1.3 pounds.

The Digital Paper only reads PDF documents but it is possible to convert your standard eBook to PDF using online tools or eBook editing software like Calibre.

Wrap up

There was a number of notable e-readers that did not make our buying list for various reasons. Pocketbook has been making them for a number of years, but has made missteps with the internals, such as CPU and RAM which makes using it tedious. Onyx Boox also has a number of new units this year, but none of them were especially compelling.

Our recommendations reflect the best new e-readers of 2014, in terms of usability, features and ecosystem. You could get any of these for holiday gifts or give them to someone and they will not have to go through much of a learning curve.

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to another Good e-Reader Video Comparison. Today, we evaluate the new Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, which is the model released in late 2014 and the other model released a year ago.

The new 8.9 HDX model has a few things going for it, that makes it a worthy upgrade. The main aspect is hardware based and it has a faster processor, there is also graphic improvements. The most compelling aspect is the inclusion of proper Dolby Audio, which makes audiobooks, music or videos really shine using the speakers.

On the software side of things it runs a more modern version of Android 4.4, so it has more compatibility with modern apps. Amazon borrowed an element from the Fire Phone called Firefly. It can scan book covers, bar codes, UPC labels and even music and gives the price listing on the main amazon website. Finally, ASAP should appeal to video lovers, it buffers in advance content you are watching, such as episode 2 and 3, when you are watching the first one. This cuts down on loading time and allows you not break immersion.

I think the HDX 2014 edition is worthy upgrade if you own last years model or even the first generation edition. This tablet has high enough specs and internals that it will still be relevant for a few years.


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If you have a tablet or smartphone running Android or iOS you are used to a constant barrage of notifications. Notifications have been a blunt instrument for apps to try to get our attention. Every time you install something new, you get a pop-up message that asks if you want to allow it to send you notifications. If you say yes, they arrive with the same intensity as emails, draining precious battery life, making your phone more annoying than savvy. e-Readers on the other hand have never had this issue, which gives it a higher level of immersion.

I have been using an iPad for a number of years and my attention while reading an eBook is constantly shifting towards the notifications I receive. Simpsons Tapped Out is letting me know there are more aliens to be squashed or Spider-Man Unlimited is informing me that my energy is now full. Haven’t played a game in awhile, a ton of prompts suddenly say “we miss you, please come back”. Obviously you can turn these off, but if you have a ton of apps and games installed, it can take hours to tweak all of the settings.

Dedicated e-readers such as the Kindle Voyage or Kobo Aura H2O are a very different beast than your average smartphone or tablet. There are almost zero notifications, aside from low battery life or new content being synced.

Some tablets by Amazon and Kobo have tried to tackle the notification system with an improvement called “Quiet Mode” or “Quiet Time.” Its a simple feature found in the setting menu that will automatically disable all push notifications and disable popups. Sadly, these tablets have not been embraced by the global market and remain niche devices.

If you find yourself being detracted by a constant barrage of notifications while reading on your mobile device, you might want to look at buying an e-reader instead. They certainly don’t provide the same type of generalist functionality, but if you want to lose yourself in a good book, you don’t want to buy anything else.

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