How to Build a Device Library Without Taking Out a Loan

  • Sumo

There’s little more frustrating then hearing through a client that a reader is complaining about how a file looks on some device. And more often than not its some obscure Kobo or Android device.

There are probably 25 e-readers on the market, all with their own rendering and UX bugs. Except for large publishing and development offices, its financially burdensome to be expected to buy all of them the day they’re available. And yet many clients will expect you to be able to solve all of their problems.

Here’s a couple ways to build a device library on a budget.


One of my favorite places to find used and gently worn e-readers is on eBay. In the past I’ve gotten current version of Kobo and Nook tablets at the current price of last year’s models. I’ve also gotten review copies of devices that were at most used a couple times!

Be very careful to read the descriptions of each device you want to buy. A lot of sellers will post no-longer working devices for cheap. Make sure that whatever you buy has a good refund policy in case the device you buy is dead on arrival.

Kindle Outlet

Arguably, the devices you need most are Kindles. They’re the most popular e-readers and probably have the most unique bugs. A great place to get Kindle devices for cheap is the Kindle Outlet. These are Amazon factory refurbished devices at up to 25% off.

Many other manufacturers also sell refurbished items. I’ll update this as I find more: Apple, B&N

Start a Local Device Exchange

If it’s completely out of the question to purchase 10 devices (if you’re a freelancer, that’s almost certainly the case), your next best step is to get together with some friends and each purchase a few devices, so in total you have everything you might need. This isn’t perfect situation—your friend might be out of town or unresponsive on a day you need something, but if you build in some time it can be a great, inexpensive option.

Some cities have local tech groups or workshops. Some of these groups have device labs (often gained through donations) that will have a variety of devices to check on (more like Android and iOS devices, but they might have a Kindle Fire or something). Development agencies and design studios in your city might also be able to help (but you’ll likely need a personal connection to get an in).

#eprdctn Community

In the past I’ve been in some binds and have reached out the the #eprdctn community on Twitter to ask for quick screenshots of how things render on a specific device. Don’t expect a quick turnaround, but sometimes you’ll luck out.

2 Responses to “How to Build a Device Library Without Taking Out a Loan”

  1. excellent advice! I hadn’t even thought of ebay.

    Now for your follow-up post, how do you keep track of all the rechargers and usb connections? ;-D So many of these (e.g. Kindle and Nook) are proprietary.

  2. Derrick Schultz says:

    Duct tape.