My E-Ink "Writerdeck" Setup

Published: 2023-05-27


I recently started experimenting with using my ereader as makeshift distraction-free writing setup. Several weeks ago I stumbled across r/writerdeck, a community of nerds attaching small displays to keyboards and was inspired to come up with my own setup. In fact, I'm writing this post with vim via Termux on a 7" e-ink display attached to a bluetooth keyboard. I've played around with Termux on my Onyx Boox Poke 3 with a bluetooth keyboard about a year ago, but never considered physically attaching it together and using it for writing, much less thought of the potential benefits.

First, what are the advantages and the use case for this other than geeky fascination? As the name suggests, a "writerdeck" is a single-purpose (though not always), distraction-free writing device that can be DIY solutions or something mass produced. The concept was initially inspired from "Cyberdecks", first imagined by William Gibson in his cyberpunk dystopic novel Neuromancer as a mobile computer. Bystroushaak's blog has a great post describing Cyberdecks.

What I had in mind with my setup, was that I wanted to focus more on reading and writing, in addition to doing stuff in the terminal. With all the distractions a traditional computer, tablet, and smartphone are capable of, using a low powered e-ink device means there's far less distractions. If I was good at ignoring the temptation of distracting myself with my laptop, I would just use that, but I'm not. However this isn't to say distractions cannot occur on a budget mobile CPU with only 32gb of storage, 2gb of RAM, and a monochromatic display, but the likelihood is significantly reduced. I can still get caught up with act of tinkering with this setup as opposed to doing something more fulfilling, but again, the black and white e-ink display drastically reduces the amount of nonsense I can get into. Honestly, using an e-ink display is also much more enjoyable when working outside and uses minimal battery life.

My Setup

Though I think it has some flaws, at least for my use-case, the KINGJIM Pomera DM30 SIL Digital Memo Pad was a big inspiration. I wanted to have the e-reader physically attached to the keyboard so I could more easily use it on my lap.


Onyx Boox Poke 3 w/ Trackpoint II Keyboard

I picked up an metallic phone/tablet stand from eBay and used some adhesive velcro to attach it to the bottom of my Thinkpad Trackpoint II Keyboard. I duct taped some rare earth magnets to the holster plate and attached an adhesive metal plate to the back up the e-reader so that it just snaps securely into the cradle. This is especially useful when I'm using it on my lap so it doesn't slide out of the cradle from any sudden jerking or readjusting how I'm sitting.

Photosynthesis Sideview Magnet Attachment
Keyboard Attachment Velcro Attachment

In terms of software, I primarily use Termux with multiple terminal sessions, which is more or less consistent with my laptop setup. I usually have a text editor (vim), file manager (ranger), music (cmus), and newsboat (RSS reader) running. I also have syncthing running in the background which syncs my documents, books, and website files.

One of the drawbacks is that this doesn't bring the screen up to eye-level, though this same problem exists when using laptops. I thought that this would be an issue, but so far it hasn't been. I start getting uncomfortable after about an hour, which is basically the same amount of time as when I'm using my laptop without an external monitor.

Also, a 7" e-ink screen is very limited in what it can do, and multi-tasking between applications is clunky and slow - but that's very much the point for something like this. This is my version of "slow tech" or "low tech", or whatever you want to call it. I would certainly never, nor could I, use this for my day job. And obviously this is this not a good solution for watching videos, doing heavy browsing, social media, or playing video games. But when I want to (at least partially) "unplug" and focus strictly on reading and writing, this is a great setup to do so.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to