I need an e-book reader for reading books and documents while commuting by public transport.


  • The installed software (OS, firmware, everything) it ships with must be free/libre. No proprietary blobs.

  • It must support opening EPUB and PDF files.


  • The device should be lightweight enough not to get tired holding it for 1–2 hours.
  • It should have a long battery life (if reading 2 hours each day, it should last for more than 2 weeks).
  • Connecting via USB to upload/download e-books. Operating systems should ideally detect it as USB mass storage device.
  • How about rooting the device? Check en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nook_Simple_Touch Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 18:34
  • @belford: Thanks! While certainly interesting for many, it’s not a solution for me. I don’t want to buy a device with proprietary software.
    – unor
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 18:56
  • Maybe the old Wexler e-book reader was the closest to Free, tho I don't think it was. All the others since then support DRM (AFAIK) which is incompatible with freedom.
    – Stefan
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 4:41
  • The closet you can come, that I know of, is getting a tablet that has a full 32 (i386,i486,i586.i686) or 64 (x64) bit processor, like one of the MS pro tablets reformatting with linux and loading calibre software. I don't know of a single open source BIOS, or other hardware device that has no proprietary firmware/blobs. To get any where near the battery life you want you need an SSD, and they ALL have closed firmware.
    – cybernard
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


You should get a Nook.

There are several variances to the Nook e-reader - mainly it's between the Simple Touch, Simple Touch with GlowLight, and now GlowLight Plus. Basically it whether you want a backlight or not or you want refurbed or new.

Let's see how it stacks up with your requirements:

  • Everything FOSS. Moot point. Every ereader comes with built in firmware and regardless if it's based on open source or not, it's going to have proprietary software to work with their hardware. Not only that, for DRM protected content, they are going to have to license the code that allows them to use that protected content. There's no way around this, but it really doesn't matter; where are you going to open source download ereader firmware that's actively developed

  • Must support EPUB and PDF. Nearly every E-Reader on the market, with the exception of the Amazon Kindle, supports the EPUB format and virtually all except for an early Amazon Kindle and a discontinued Sony Libre support PDF.1

  • Lightweight. This is purely subjective; what you can carry for 2 hours per day is totally different from what anyone else can carry for 2 hours per day. However, the Nook e-readers have consistently weighed less than 8oz (half pound) or less than 200g.

  • Long battery life. Again, very subjective as your use will vary in relation to everyone else's. However, based on the B&N spec page, it will last up to 6 weeks on a single charge 2.

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  • USB connectivity. The Nook shows up as external storage whether on a PC or a Mac.

    Nook on Mac Nook on Windows 10

1 Wikipedia: Comparison of eBook Readers

2 Per B&N: Based on 30 minutes of reading per day and 1 page refresh per minute with GlowLight at 30% brightness and wireless off. Battery life tests conducted using specific units; actual results may vary based on device settings, usage, and many other factors.

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