Do You Want Page Turn Buttons on Your eReader?

N85A6611It may be hard to remember this in 2016, when the Paperwhite has become the archetypal ebook reader, but there was a time when ereaders all used to have page turn buttons.

The first Kobo ereader, the first Nook, the first four Kindles, and all the Sony Readers all had page turn buttons (even Google's ereader had page turn buttons), but then touchscreens started taking over about five years ago. Manufacturers started phasing out page buttons in favor of minimalist designs, and now physical page buttons are so uncommon that they are a rarity on new ebook readers.

Sure, some device makers like Onyx, Pocketbook, and Boyue keep releasing ereaders with page turn buttons, but for a lot of people the first new ereader they've seen with real page turn buttons (and this doesn't include the faux buttons on the Kindle Voyage) is the new Kindle Oasis.

Some readers, including this blogger, prefer the convenience and feel of real page turn buttons. In fact, we like buttons so much that we seek out reading apps for smartphones that let you repurpose volume buttons as page turn buttons.

We find it easier to maintain a one-handed grip, and turn the page simply by pressing down rather than tapping or swiping  the screen, which sometimes requires adjusting one's hold on the ereader.

Buttons are also more consistent in how they respond to your touch; one often has to be careful with a touchscreen to make sure that the taps are recognized as page turns, and not as a long press (this could trigger the note-taking or dictionary look-up function).

kindle_oasis_cafeAnd then there's the the fact that bezels are getting smaller all the time. Even when you're holding your ereader with your thumb or finger off the screen, it's easy for your finger to slip onto the screen and cause inadvertent page turns.

And now Amazon has recognized that fact, and brought page turns buttons back into vogue with the Kindle Oasis.

This $290 ereader hearkens back to an early ereader, the Rocket eBook.

The Rocket eBook holds the distinction of being the very first ereader. It was never commercially successful, but as you can see it does share certain design elements with the  Kindle Oaxis.

rocket-ebook

The Rocket eBook was just the first of many ereaders with page turn buttons. They could be found on ereaders of all shapes and sizes, including the Pocketbook 360, with its 5" screen, the Pocketbook Inkpad (8" screen), and even on large screen ereaders like the Kindle DX or the Onyx Boox Max.

When it comes to ereaders, there are many were/are may different ways that page turn buttons could be configured. Some, like the models mentioned above, only had buttons  on one side of the screen, while others like the Nook Touch, the early Sony Readers, and the first several Kindles all had page turn buttons on both sides of the screen or below the screen.

Other ereaders had navigation wheels (or d-pads which doubled as page turn buttons), and one even had the page turn buttons mounted on the edge of its frame. That ereader was the Pyrus Mini from Trekstor, and it was the smallest ereader I've ever seen.

And now the Kindle Oasis has page turn buttons to one side of the screen, and an accelerometer so it can tell which way is up and flip the screen orientation to suit both lefties and righties.

Alas, the Oasis costs more than most of us can afford, but it's still a good inspiration for the following question:

Do want page buttons on your next ereader? If so, what kind of button layout would you want?

lead image via Mashable

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

39 Comments on Do You Want Page Turn Buttons on Your eReader?

  1. I miss my buttons from my Kindle keyboard. I upgraded to the Paperwhite and while I can adapt to the touchscreen, I much prefer turning pages with a button. It is, as you say, not always easy to tap the screen without changing hand position. I sometimes even use my other hand to tap as I read through a book.

    I just am not sure it is worth $290 to upgrade again. Maybe a Voyage would be enough better: most people seem to like the pressure buttons on the Voyage.

  2. I’m surprised there’s no mention of the Bookeen Cybook readers in your list, as every one has dedicated page-turn buttons, including our current model, the Cybook Muse. In fact we’ve kept them largely because we’ve had such continual positive feedback from our users, many of whom have told us that the physical buttons were one of the reasons they chose a Cybook over other models.

    • I appreciate that you don’t hide yourself behind a pseudo like many other brand would do, I’ll consider buying a Bookeen instead of a Pocketbook. But please make a 8″ HD carta screen reader.

      • Hi Kiga, thanks for your message. 🙂 We try to discuss directly with our users as much as possible, so hiding behind a pseudo would be counter-productive from our point of view.
        We’ve already got a large-format reader available, the Cybook Ocean, although I’m not sure what the status is on availability of HD screens, we’ll surely upgrade it when that becomes possible (larger size screens are harder and more expensive to manufacture, we had to wait for E-Ink to make the version we’re using now). Don’t hesitate to follow us (blog http://blog.bookeen.com/ twitter @BookeenTeam facebook https://www.facebook.com/Bookeen/…) to keep up with all our news.

  3. The best I’ve tasted is the wheel of my old Papyre 5.1. Super comfortable . I do not understand that no manufacturer has repeated it.

  4. I prefer to swipe or tap the screen. My main complaint against buttons is inconsistent tactile feedback from device to device. Mechanical buttons also wear out over time. But I don’t object to having page turn buttons availble on my ereaders. I just never use them.

  5. I thought I wanted buttons until I wore out the buttons on my first two Nooks. After that I gave up on buttons.

    The Oasis is still cheaper than the Rocket was even ignoring inflation. $299 vs. $290. Most people won’t care, but I thought it was interesting.

  6. Not sure how I feel about this. The buttons were fine on the Kindle 3. I miss them on the Paperwhite, but it’s been a long time since I’ve used my Kindle 3. I sure don’t miss its pointless waste of space physical keyboard. I suspect the Voyage buttons are the ideal middle ground, but I’ve not had a chance to try the Voyage.

  7. I like the touch buttons on the Voyage. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I tap the screen. I think they belong on both sides of the device to accommodate easy hand-switching. Putting them only on one side and making the device rotatable simply seems like a cost-cutting measure, not an improvement either aesthetically or functionally.

    • I am in agreement. I love the haptic touch on my Voyage but would welcome the old-school buttons I had on my Kindle 2. I’m often reading while holding a baby, so the ease of using either side is key for me. Turning the entire device is a hassle.

  8. I don’t miss any buttons on my kobo aura h2o.

  9. I started reading eBooks on a Pocket PC, migrated to a Sony reader, then to a Nexus tablet and now to a Samsung tablet.

    The pocket PC and the Sony eBook reader had page turn buttons. These were the first thing to fail on each device, and turned an otherwise useful device into scrap. The buttons were also magnets for dirt, and were very hard to clean

    Neither of the tablets require the use of buttons, although I could reprogram the volume up/down button for that function. Instead I got used to using a swipe motion to turn pages. This took about 10 minutes of reading to get used to, and I have never thought about it again. Swipe doesn’t wear out a screen, and screens are easy to clean with a little spray cleaner and a soft cloth.

    So, basically, I don’t care if my next device has buttons or not. If, however, it has page turn buttons then they must have a working life of about one to two million page turns, and they can’t have a crack where the button sticks through the casing. I won’t buy another device with cheap, short lifetime buttons, or one that I can’t spray with cleaner.

  10. No buttons for me. I want waterproofing and a flexible substrate.

  11. No, not really – I’m perfectly satisfied with my PW2, but would like a faster processor, slightly better resolution and definitely TTS.

  12. I’m still using Kindle 4 with page turn buttons on both sides. I’d like to see a USB accessory with a rocker switch — a padded hand rest that slipped over one side of the device for single hand reading. If any one is up for design & manufacture

  13. I held on with my Kindle Keyboard for a long time largely for the benefit of the page-turn buttons. I finally switched to the Voyage for the benefit of the screen and do use the page-turn press zones, but find both the response and feedback erratic. In all truth, if they made a Keyboard with the PW2/Voyage display I’d gladly stick with that and accept the weight and bulk without complaint.

    Of course the buttons add to cost, and can be a reliability issue if care is not taken in design and manufacture. But I’m quite willing to pay a premium for a device with high-quality buttons.

    I’m bemused by those who make a flat judgment that $290 is excessive. I paid more than that for a smartphone, which in my case gets a good deal less use than my e-reader. It’s a question of needs and priorities, not some absolute, abstract value.

  14. physical buttons.. no.
    haptic feedback like on the voyage.. yes.

  15. I consider PocketBooks 360 one of the best readers ever. Super-configurable software, buttons under the thumb, plastic lid that you could snap over the display or to the back of the device when reading.

    Even the newest PocketBook e-ink models feature buttons. The only exception is the waterproof model.

    Right now I use Android e-ink device with only one button – Home button. It is a good device, especially when you install alternate software that can be configured to your taste, but I still miss the buttons. Most of the standard Android software is PITA without back and menu buttons and sometimes I want to use physical paging buttons.

    ————————-

    Please note that I paid 350USD for the Sony PRS-500. And at the time this was much more money for me than 350USD today.
    I paid 270Euro for PocketBook 360 in its day.
    And the first Kindle was 350USD, if I remember correctly. And it sold out in hours.
    So, the price they ask for Oasis is not that crazy. The only difference is that back then there was no sub-hundred-dollars alternative. I am pretty sure that most people in USA could afford Oasis, if they really, *really* wanted. Most of people use mobile phone that is more expensive than that.

    • those pocketbook 360s are very hard to find in north america.
      where did you get yours?

      • They are no longer in production. Not even later versions.
        I got it long time ago here in Europe from German PocketBook distributor.

        • They used to have a couple of online sales channels in the US.
          I got my PB360 that way. Very responsive customer service too.
          Near-cost pricing on the walled garden readers squeezed them out.

  16. Nate, this sentence “Rocket eBook holds the distinction of being both the very first ereader” is incomplete. The word ‘both’ implies there is something else notable about the Rocket. If there isn’t, then delete ‘both’.

  17. No, but I do want a reader that turns the page when I make a distinctive sound — a click, perhaps — so that I can read while I’m eating toast and jam for breakfast, or sitting in the bath with the reader propped up on dry land. Surely it’s possible to add a mike and a rudimentary sound recognition system?

  18. yes, i want page turn buttons.

    i have small hands, and i can only reach whichever side of the screen i’m holding. if i have to reach the other side of the screen to do a forward or back turn, i’m going to have to use my other hand, plus it means i’d mostly only want to hold it on one side instead of using either hand.

    also, i’ve gotten used to using my Kindle Keyboard inside a ziploc bag to prevent damage when it might get wet or dirty (beach = sand), and that doesn’t work if it’s a touchscreen only.

    like a previous poster, i’d happily buy a Kindle Keyboard upgraded with the new screen. [i do like the keyboard for taking notes.]

    • I also have small hands, and buttons are important to me for using my ereader at the gym or while doing chores. (Yes, I read while I wash dishes — don’t you?) I use a Kindle Basic at the gym for that reason, and also when reading in the tub,with it in a protective case. The “faux” buttons on the Voyage work perfectly fine for me, though I did recently discover that I can tap a small way across the screen with for a page turn, which is convenient for one handed reading.

      I hadn’t realized that there were other companies besides the big 3 making ereaders, and with turn buttons, and I will certainly check them out next time I need a new ereader.

  19. I sort of like the addition of the page turn keys. What I like is that they did not make this a right or left hand device. My guess is I will prefer the page buttons over turning by pressing the screen or the Voyage’s happiness feedback. No missed presses whatsoever. The Oasis will not be for everyone and that is OK. A year from now some may write that the device was a flop because there are only 4000 or so reviews however some buyers may find this is the best reader possible.

  20. Al the Great and Powerful // 16 April, 2016 at 11:30 am // Reply

    I do NOT like buttons, if they are the only choice, because they limit how I can hold the reader. I have to be able to hold it and press the buttons. Do not want.

    I prefer tapping the top and bottom of the screen of my tablet (because I can do the most common reading action, Page Forward, with my thumb, reading one-handed). I see no reason to need 2 hands to read an ebook.

  21. The Sony Data Discman was the first ereader not the Rocket.

    Kindle 3’s buttons were great. They were easy to push and wisely the forward page turn button was larger than the backward page turn button. The design of the Kindle 3 naturally put my thumb on the page turn button. Honestly that might be the best ergonomically designed Kindle ever made.

    Kindle 4’s buttons were terrible because they were on the side and hard to push. That Kindle was designed poorly. I also did not like the Nook STR buttons because they were just physically hard to push. I also did not like the stupid haptic feedback sensors on the Voyage. Squeezing a seamless bezel seemed pretty much like tapping a screen so I don’t see the point.

    The Oasis’s design looks good, they look like they put the page number buttons in a good place. But I’m not paying $300 for the pleasure of tapping buttons, that’s idiotic.

  22. Page turn buttons are 1 of the two features I have been waiting for so I can finally replace my Sony PRS-350. There are plenty of times when I don’t want to get my fingers all over the screen of my e-reader (such as when I am reading while eating).

    The other, which as far as I can tell is still missing from the Oasis, is the ability to transfer files from my PC to the reader using Calibre with all the bookshelves/collections/sets/Whatever intact. Organizing my stuff one at a time on an e-ink screen is not something I am willing to do, especially after having spent time doing it already in Calibre.

  23. The presence of the haptic touch zones on the Voyage was one of the reasons I upgraded, but I find that I actually use them infrequently. Mostly I tap or swipe the screen. Still, I’m glad to have them as an alternative.

  24. My first ebook reader was a Franklin eBookMan that had a rocker wheel and was palm-sized. The rocker fit under my thumb if held in the left hand, under my index finger if held in the right, so all I had to do to turn a page was flick it.

    I really miss that.

    I’ve often said the perfect ereader design would be the size of the Sony PRS-T1 (which was slender compared to other ereaders) with a side page turn wheel like the eBookMan.

    Even though I’ve sworn I’d never buy a Kindle or an Apple device (walled gardens – NO!), I’m REALLY tempted by the Oasis. I’ve been looking for a good ergonomic one-handed reader for a decade.

  25. The Kobo Aura ONE which is now on pre-order might answer some of the desired mentioned here. I only came across this thread as I looking for information as to whether it has the equivalent of the PagePress or faux buttons of the Kindle Voyage. Unfortunately it does not seem to have any, but everything else looks good. I am tempted.

    I currently have a Voyage and love it despite wishing for a few software changes…at least Amazon does seem to keep it updated. If I do succumb to temptation the question is whether my wife gets the Kobo Aura ONE or the Voyage. 😉

  26. Yes I want page turn buttons on my next eInk reader. I prefer them tobe like Kindle 3 (one with keyboard) have

  27. I know personally, I prefer physical buttons. Changing grip isn’t always an option when reading (hands are full, or when I’ve dealt with disability with one of my arms), so that makes touch screen readers a pain. You can’t always grip in a way that will be conducive to allowing tapping the screen, especially if you use a cover. I have several different ebook readers that I’ve collected over the years (early adopter, plus a giant eInk fan that snags one anytime I see a deal), and I only use the ones with physical buttons.

  28. I prefer to have buttons. My Nook first edition has them and I wish all readers had them. I also have a Kindle 6 and a Kobo Mini. I want a 9,7” Onyx and I see it has page turn buttons.

  29. I got a Voyage instead of another Paperwhite just because of the “buttons.” My cat sometimes decides to drape himself over one arm when I’m readying, and in that case, it’s great to be able to hold the Voyahe and press the page turn “button” with the same hand.

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