The Open Book

November 11, 2022

A while ago, I tried building my own e-reader. I didn't want to rely on my Kindle anymore, which seemed to track ever step I made, every book I read, and every single click I made. I tried using a esp32 and a waveshare EPD. This... failed horribly. I just could not control the EDP, even when using the default examples. I ordered Waveshares esp32 dev kit, which had a EPD connector presoldered onto their custom board. It still didn't work. I concluded I had recieved a broken EPD, and moved on with my life, dropping the project.

Until I found this project. The Open Book is a project by Joey Castillo, which has a very similar goal: to create an E-Reader device that is not only serviceable, but also understandable and even upgradeable. So, after a bit of deliberation, I decided to order the components for the board.

I build the Abridged Edition, which in total cost me around 60 Euros. I ordered the PCBs at JLCPCB, the EPD at good-display (directly from china) and the rest from Digi-Key.

Ever wonder why we're in this massive global crisis? This kind of packaging probably has something to do with it...

The Open Book is split into two PCBs. First, the main board, which costs around 10 Euros on JLCPCB, and the EDP driver board, which costs around 4 Euros. The driver board is supposed to be PCBA'd but this is quite expensive. So I pulled the relevant parts out of the BOM file for it, and ordered them with my Digi-Key order. It's not that hard to solder the driver board, but it's not a beginner project.

After two days, the Digi-Key order arrived. After a week, the PCBs arrived. Sixteen days later, the EPD arrived. Weirdly enough, the Toll fee wasn't included, and I had to pay to pick up the package.

I soldered the EPD driver board with the connector I had ordered. After that I attached the rest of the components to the board. Then I moved on to the main board. This was significantly more easy to solder, probably because it's designed to be. Funnily enough, I forgot to remove the PCBWAY sponosorship symbol from the board, and sent it to JLCPCB :P

I had already build the entire board before the EPD had even arrived, so it just sort of sat around for a week or two. When it finally arrived, I plugged it in and... nothing happened. I power-cycled it and still nothing. So, I tested all the connections on the EPD Driver board, and they all seemed to be intact and functional. Next, I tried older versions of the Open book Firmware, (libros). This still didn't work.

I was running out of ideas, so I tried resoldering some connections on the EPD driver board, and it was still nonfunctional. At this point, I'd tried pretty much everything I could think of, and none of them had worked. As a last resort, I decided to try soldering in the connector that came with the EPD. I carefully removed the connector from Digi-Key (I broke it) and then attached the one that came with the display. I crossed my fingers, put in batteries and... The screen flashed and turned on!

Not everything works yet. The Open Book ignores the power switch for whatever reason and I'm still working on converting all of my books, but it can read them from the MicroSD card, correctly save my progress and paginate them(although the pagination takes around ten minutes for large books)!

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with this project. Could I have bought a different hackable reader (that was already prebuilt)? YES! A good example would be the M5-Paper. But this is a great project for those who would like to to get started with soldering and aren't afraid to spend some time debugging. You could even order fifty of them and do a Workshop (obviously with the driver board PCBA'd) to get others into electronics. This is a really versatile project, and I'm exited for the hours of use I'm going to get out of it!

Thank you for reading, and I'll see you
in the future.