Color E Ink has long been the white whale — terrible pun not exactly intended — of e-reader technology. So when I heard about the Pocketbook Color, the first color e-reader for consumers available outside of China, I wanted it immediately.
I read at least a book a week, many of them on my Kindle, and it’s profoundly sad to see a grayscale version of what is actually a stunning, glittering cover illustration like those on Stan Parish’s Love and Theft or Ella Berman’s The Comeback. During the pandemic, the number of books I read on my Kindle has soared, as publishers who typically send me paper copies have been forced to send me digital copies instead.
Despite the maxim that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, almost all of us do. Book covers are a vital part of the reading experience, and yet, with every other e-reader, they’ve been diminished to a dismal, soul-sucking gray. Any other images, such as maps in fantasy novels, portraits in biographies, illustrations in children’s books, and comic books are rendered practically pointless by the muddy black and white reproductions available in the Kindle and other e-readers.
Until the Pocketbook Color. At least, that’s what I hoped when I first received a review unit. The device, which costs $230, maintains the benefits of any e-reader: It’s a light, distraction-free, easy-on-the-eyes way to read books and documents when you can’t, or don’t want to, carry around physical copies or read them on your phone. (Research shows that reading on an E Ink display may have benefits versus a typical smartphone or tablet.) Unfortunately, the device is not quite ready for the average consumer; it’s too small and the colors too muted to satisfyingly render what is ordinarily a crisp, vivid image found in a print book. The images, however, are leagues ahead of anything the Kindle or other e-readers can deliver, which makes me hopeful that in a product generation or two, the Pocketbook Color will be ready for prime time.
What is E Ink?
E Ink is not just a type of display; it’s also a brand. Originally released in 1998, the innovation, developed by two…