Does your e-reader need a screen protector?


Onyx Boox Nova Air C display

At this point in time, there are a pleasing amount of e-readers out in the wild. While we witness the advent of exciting new E Ink technologies such as color e-paper displays, there’s a question that begs to be answered. Before jumping right in, let me give you a little background as to how I arrived at this topic. As a technology writer and gadget nerd, I am a huge fan of anything that has a touch screen, classifies as a smart device, or somehow fits into the Android ecosystem. Anything with an “electronic brain” is just fascinating to play with and I love to push the boundaries of what can be done.

Having written many guides, collections, and various forms of editorial work relating to such tech, there are some bits of advice that are constantly at the tip of my tongue. These come from expertise in my field and, of course, from personal experience. When it comes to smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, or anything portable with a display, my first recommendation is to grab a screen protector before getting any other accessory. Forget wireless earbuds, straps, or even cases. I believe bolstering your device’s display protection takes number one priority.

Following this piece of advice almost religiously has saved me from major heartbreak countless times. Naturally, when I got my first e-reader a few years ago, I rushed to purchase a top-of-the-line screen guard for my precious new E Ink device. And I’m not alone in this regard. Head to Amazon or any other e-commerce website and you will find plenty of screen protectors readily available for popular e-readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition or the Kobo Libra 2. These aren’t all no-name Chinese brands either. We’re talking about trusted names such as Supershieldz, Skinomi, and IQ Shield; companies that excel at making tempered glass and protective films for flagship Android phones.

Kobo Libra 2

For whatever reason, I did not pause and think about my actions for a moment, even though I should have. After all, E-readers do not use the same display technology as traditional tablets and smartphones. They are not constructed of pure glass LCD panels or AMOLED displays that crack, shatter, and nick so easily. More recently, however, this idea really set my gears in motion and got me thinking. Do e-readers actually need screen protectors?

According to the E Ink Corporation, the organization that invented e-ink technology, all e-readers and e-paper tablets in existence either “use a traditional glass-based TFT or utilize our E Ink Mobius plastic-based TFTs”. The E Ink Corporation highlights the durability of its displays as one of the benefits of this tech, reporting that such screens are flexible and shatterproof. By that logic, these E Ink devices are in a completely different class compared to “normal” electronics such as Android phones.

I reached out to E Ink for a more direct response about my conundrum, questioning whether an e-reader requires a screen protector at all. In response, I received the following statement:

“To answer your question, no additional screen protector is needed for eReaders. E Ink (as well as nearly all other display technologies!) has a front protective sheet as part of the complete module. No additional protective sheet needs to be added on post-manufacturing.”

An Amazon spokesperson further commented:

“Amazon engineers all Kindle devices to hold up against everyday life. The Kindle Paperwhite went through rigorous testing. This includes drop and tumble testing, water immersion, among other things, to ensure durability in places customers are likely to read.”

For the most part, what these quotes all add up to is one fact: your e-reader doesn’t really need a screen protector. It’s amazing to think that all these years, I never thought about questioning my ingrained habit. There are probably hundreds of folks out there just like me, unaware of the fact that their trusty old e-reader doesn’t need anything else as a rule.

Even now, after having delved into the matter, I find it hard to rock an e-paper tablet in the nude. It’s good to know that my $10 investment isn’t exactly essential. I can forego it, should I choose to. It’s just that years of conditioning won’t allow me to take the naked pathway with my e-reader. If you’re a braver soul than me, rest assured that you’ll be perfectly alright without a film or sheet of tempered glass on top of that e-paper screen.

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