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OSHW E-Reader- "Been there/done that?" or "Now's the Time"!

Anything about eReaders. If you want really deep discussion, though, go to
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Posts: 3
Joined: 09 Aug 2013, 21:06
E-book readers owned: Unlocked Nook Classic, Nexus 7
Number of books owned: 200
Country: United States

OSHW E-Reader- "Been there/done that?" or "Now's the Time"!

Post by code4maine »

I'll perhaps start a companion thread on, but I thought this might be an appropriate place to ask considering the combined Open Hardware/DIY expertise.

Are there any current efforts underway to create a fully Open Source E-Reader Tablet?
I don't know if it has already been attempted and/or if there are serious feasibility questions preventing such a project from coming together.

E-Readers have been on the market for at least 7 years now and access to electronic publications is still largely controlled by the device manufacturers themselves. This has forced public libraries and those working towards equal education access to come up with some awkward workarounds like the "e-rental" formats.
Of course, as soon as a proprietary device hits the market, it can be guaranteed to spawn an underground of hacks, mods and DIY workarounds and this seems to have been the focus of the open source movement over the past few years. A quick Google search for "Open Source E-Reader" turns up but its unclear if this effort is alive or dead. (If its indeed alive, then they may want to change the wording of the project description which reads "OpenInkpot was a free and open-source Linux distribution for eBook reading devices, especially with e-Paper and other high-latency, bi-stable screens." [italics added].)
In any case, OIP was focused on open source firmware, which makes sense considering the enormous popularity of custom mods for readers like the Nook Color etc... However, it may be in the realm of Open Source Hardware where the goal of a truly open e-reader may find its greatest opportunity. A great example can be found in that of the Pebble "Smart Watch" ( The pebble prototype came to fruition thanks to open tools like Arduino, and after coming up short with traditional investors, the watch shattered current crowdfunding records by pulling in in over $10,000,000 over a target of $100,000. But the real significance of the Pebble watch is in the materials it uses. Rather than try to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon who've cornered the market on LCD touchscreens, the Pebble looked to a format that should be familiar to e-book worms... E-Ink...
Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the 2013 Open Source Hardware Summit ( were witness to one of the many versatile uses of the e-paper format in the form of the "BADGEr E-Badge" ( The BADGEr was sponsored by where they make the following pitch-
We recognize ePaper is a new technology and we’re asking your help in making it better known. Up till now, all industry players have kept the core technologies closed. We want to change this. If the history of the Internet has proven anything, it is that open technologies lead to unbounded innovation and unprecedented value added to the entire economy.
Of course, at first glance there wouldn't appear to be anything innovative about using e-paper for yet another e-reader display. Its only after one takes into account the full supply chain of increasingly powerful and affordable processors, affordable e-paper displays, a wide variety of open firmwares and small-batch production services into account that the full picture becomes clear.

Again, this question warrants cross-posting on the as well, but as such a project would require an in-depth understanding of end-user needs as well as hardware interactivity, I felt it to be equally of interest to the community.
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