Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ebooks (Vol. 2): Okay I Want, but Which One?

Thanks largely in part to 1) Oprah mentioning it on her show, and 2) no one being able to buy anything from Amazon's website without seeing a Kindle ad, the Amazon Kindle has burst out to a commanding lead in the dedicated ebook device sales market. However, just because they're becoming the iPod of ereaders, doesn't mean they're the only kid on the block you should look at. I've compiled a list of the big players out there, and you can decide for yourself which one you like more. Next volume, we'll discuss where you can GET books for your device - because not every device, can display every book format.

Kindle 2
Manufacturer: Amazon
Price: $359
Available: Amazon.com only
Specifications:
Display: 6" diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8" x 5.3" x 0.36".
Weight: 10.2 ounces.

System requirements: None, because it doesn't require a computer.

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.
Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint's 3G high-speed data network. Check our wireless coverage map for availability. This expanded coverage is only available for Kindle 2. See Wireless Terms and Conditions.

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.
Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery. Book cover sold separately.

Review:
(CNET) The good:
Slimmer and sleeker looking than the original Kindle; large library of tens of thousands of e-books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs via Amazon's familiar online store; built-in free wireless "Whispernet" data network--no PC needed; built-in keyboard for notes and navigation; a faster processor speeds up the device; with 2GB of internal memory, it's capable of storing 1,500 electronic books; font size is adjustable; improved battery life; displays image files and plays MP3 and AAC audio; compatible with Windows and Mac machines; new Text-to-Speech feature allows you to have text read aloud.

The bad:
No expansion slot for adding more memory or accessing files; files such as PDFs and Word documents aren't natively supported, and need to be converted at 10 cents a pop by Amazon; no protective carrying case included; battery is sealed into the device and isn't removable; hardware and content is still too expensive.

The bottom line:
While it's still short of perfection--and has a price tag that's too high--the Amazon Kindle 2 offers a range of improvements that makes it the best overall e-book reader we've seen to date.
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Reader Digital Book 700
Manufacturer: Sony
Price: $399 ($259 non-touchscreen 505 model available)
Specifications:
Weights and Measurements
Dimensions (Approx.) : Approx. 5 1/9 x 6 7/9 x 13/32 inches (127.6 x 174.3 x 9.7 mm)
Weight (Approx.) : 10 oz. without soft cover

Power
AC Power : Optional AC Charger requires 120 Volts 60Hz
Battery Life (Approx) : Up to 7,500 continuous page turns (or up to two weeks worth of reading)

Battery Type : Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
Recharging Time : Approx. 4 Hours with USB charging from powered Computer or Approx. 2 Hours when using optional AC wall charger

Media Formats Supported
DRM Text : BBeB Book (Marlin), ePub
Image : JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP
Unsecured Audio : MP3 and AAC7
Unsecured Text : BBeB, ePub, TXT, RTF, Adobe® PDF10, Microsoft® Word (Conversion to the Reader requires Word installed on your PC)

Display
Gray Scale : 8-Level Gray Scale
Resolution : Approx. 170 Pixels Per Inch
Screen Size : 6" Measured Diagonally
Technology : E Ink® "Electronic Paper"
Touchscreen
Review:
(MobileTechReview) Sony has worked a near miracle with their touch screen and touch-centric user interface. The Reader is simply a joy to use in terms of ergonomics, control and navigation. This is by far the most natural way to manage, navigate and read books we've seen so far. Alas, its lesser contrast doesn't warm our bookish hearts, and for those in love with e-ink's paper-like look, that's a tough one to swallow. For those new to eBook readers or those who don't mind reading from matte notebook displays, the PRS-700 has greater appeal. As always, the Reader is a great way to carry around a huge library of books and avoid the storage issues of traditional books. We aplaud Sony's support for a variety of formats, both DRM and non-DRM, especially native PDF and ePUB support. Though it lacks the cool wireless shopping feature we won't complain since all book purchases are downloaded to our PC and we can read those books on the PC too.

Pro: Responsive touch screen and excellent user interface. Navigating through books, notes and where you left off in a book is quick and easy. Nice design, more attractive than the original Kindle and more book-like than the Kindle 2. The touch screen means there's no need for a hardware keyboard (assuming you like to take notes and want a keyboard). A nice cover is included. Several book formats are supported natively, including ePUB, which will likely become the standard for digital books. The sidelights are a godsend to those who read in bed and don't want to disturb his/her partner. Sturdy metal casing (though that display is glass, so do take care).

Con: Screen has less contrast and clarity than earlier Sony Readers and the Amazon Kindle. Sony desktop software doesn't support the Mac.
.

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Plastic Logic Reader (no official name given)
Manufacturer: Plastic Logic
Price: unknown
Available: late 2009
Specifications/Review:From the company website:
The Plastic Logic reader supports a full range of business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. It has an easy gesture-based user interface and powerful software tools that will help business users to organize and manage their information. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for great readability and features low power consumption and long battery life.

(from reviews on the demo device)
The Plastic Logic reader's screen is larger, the size of a standard sheet of paper--8.5 by 11 inches--but it doesn't weigh much more than the other readers. It weighs 13 ounces--compared with 10.3 ounces for the smaller Kindle. And it has a display on a plastic substrate, unlike the glass screen used for the Kindle and Sony Reader, which means that it is rugged. (At Demo, Plastic Logic's CEO, Richard Archuleta, showed a video of the display being whacked with a shoe and continuing to operate.)

Instead of dealing with buttons, users can flip through the pages of a book, magazine, or PDF using a touch screen and a simple swiping gesture. The Plastic Logic reader includes a "sticky note" function and a soft keyboard for marking pages. The company hasn't made a final decision on what the reader's storage capacity will be.
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Cybook Gen 3Manufacturer: Bookeen
Price: $350
Available: yes
Specifications:
Size:
4.7" x 7.4" x 0.3"
118 x 188 x 8.5 mm

Weight:
6.13 ounces -174 g
battery included

Screen:
6" E Ink® Vizplex screen
[4.8"x3.6"- 122mmx91mm]
600x800 pixels, 166 dpi
B&W, 4 grayscale
Daylight readable
No backlight
Portrait and landscape mode

Controls:
buttons "ON/OFF", "Up ", "Down", "Right ", "Left", "Enter ", "Delete", "Menu", "Music".
Power Supply:
Universal AC 100~240V, DC 5V 700mA
Plugs: Euro 2Pin, UK 3Pin, US 2Pin
Operating System:
Embedded Linux
Software suite:
Bookeen® Multi-format eBook reader
Supported image formats: JPG, GIF, PNG
Supported sound format: MP3
Battery:
Rechargeable built-in Li-Polymer battery (1000 mAh)
8,000 screen refresh battery life
Processor:
Samsung® S3C2410 ARM920T 200MHz
ROM memory:
8 MB
RAM memory:
16 MB
Storage memory:
512 MB
Connectivity:
USB Client (v2.0) - Mini USB B connector
In the box:
Cybook eBook reading device
USB cable
Quick Start Guide
Charger (Deluxe version)
Case (Deluxe version)
2GB SD card (Deluxe version)
Extra battery (Deluxe version)
Stereo earphones (Deluxe version

Review:(TheFutureOfThings) On the plus side, we can definitely say that, for the most part, the Cybook is fairly quick and responsive. It has a readable display, good battery life, good RSS support, and as a dedicated e-book reader it usually does its job very well.

On the downside, it is hard to use the device without considering how much better it could have been given slightly improved hardware and more robust firmware.

Pros
Fast—faster than the Sony PRS-505
Thin, light, and small
Very good battery life, (8,000 page-flips, according to Bookeen, and many hours of MP3 playback, revealed by our test)
Latest e-paper screen—very comfortable to read in a well-lit environment
Mobipocket format and software is excellent
Good—and free—RSS support

Cons
Cumbersome page-flip mechanism
Only a few, small hardware buttons
Current firmware (late February 2008) lacks folder and subfolder capabilities, making anything with more than 100 items difficult to find
Incomplete PDF support—some files don’t open or crash the device
No SDHC support
No wireless connectivity
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iLiad Book Edition
Manufacturer: iRex Technologies
Price: $699
Available: yes
Specifications:
Display
8.1-inch (diagonal) Electronic Paper Display
768 x 1024 pixels resolution, 160 DPI.
16 levels of grey-scale
Touch sensor input
Integrated Wacom® Penabled® sensor board
Stylus (Wacom® Slim Pen)

Processor and memory
Intel® 400MHz XScale™ processor
64 MB RAM

Storage and expansion
256MB internal flash memory of which 128MB accessible to user.
Expandable via USB, MMC or CF cards.

Power and battery
Built-in rechargeable Lithium Ion battery
Charging via Power Adapter
Charging time: about 3 hours

Audio
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5-mm stereo headphone mini-jack

Communication
Built-in Wi-Fi® 802.11B/G wireless networking
Optional external 10/100MB Ethernet networking via Travel hub.
Size and Weight
Height: 217mm (8.5 inch)
Width: 155mm (6.1 inch)
Depth: 16mm (0.63 inch)
Weight: 435 grams (15.3 ounce)

Supported Formats
File formats supported : PDF / HTML / TXT / JPG / BMP/ PNG / PRC (Mobipocket)
Additional formats supported in the future.

Interface Languages
Dutch, English, German, French and Spanish.
Additional languages supported in the future.
Review:
(TopTenReviews) It seems to be marketed more toward the communal student environment. Where you can read a book on it, but you can also get anything else that can be printed off from a computer (meaning it supports PDF files). The iLiad also has more of an international base, giving users the option to get many of the international newspapers straight to their device.

One feature we liked about the iLiad was its device-to-device compatibility. When you make notes and annotate documents on the iLiad it can be transferred not only to another computer but also to another iLiad device. If you had a paper you wanted edited, you could make notes on yours, transfer it to someone else’s so they could make notes and comments and give it back to you.

Because the iLiad screen is equipped with Wacom Penabled technology, you can use the stylus to make notes, underline, draw and more. This means that you can do things like Sodoku puzzles and crossword puzzles.

The iLiad falls short compared to other eBook readers with its battery life and internal memory. The battery only lasts around 15 hours. Disappointing, especially when compared to other devices that can go for weeks. Also, the iLiad only has 4GB of internal memory, that’s holding dozens of books as opposed to the hundreds and thousands other devices can hold.

The iLiad does not have a dedicated service for providing content. You can get online and create a MyiRex account, but that allows you to make use of the daily delivery service for two newspapers. But you can get RSS feeds on the iLiad.

The iLiad has some really cool “wow” features that we think will probably be the future of eBook readers. However, even though some of the features give user some more flexibility, the lack of storage space, a dedicated content provider and compatibility with some formats gives it a low score in value.


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Hanlin eReader V3
Manufacturer: Tianjin Jinke Electronics Co., LTD
Price: $299
Available? Yes
Specifications:
Dimensions 184mm(L)*120.5mm(W)*9.9mm(H)
Main Display ePaper (E-ink technology)
Storage Internal/SD Card
Memory SDRAM : 32MB, Internal 2M NOR FLASH
Weight 210g
Battery Li-ION 950mAh
I/O A.3.5mm stereo audio jack for earphone, B.USB 1.1 Port, C.SD slot(extendable up to 4GB)
Working Temperature 0ºC to 40ºC
Keeping Temperature -20ºC to 55ºC
Format Support PDF, DOC, WOLF, MP3, HTML, TXT, CHM, FB2, Djvu, PNG, TIF, GIF, BMP, JPG, PPT, EPUB, LIT, PRC, MOBI.
CPU Samsung Arm9 200Mhz
Operating System Linux OS
Accessories USB cable, Charger, User Manual, Earphone
Review:
(Associated Content) The Hanlin Ereader V3 supports a very wide variety of digital book formats, supporting DOC, WOLF, PDF, HTML, TXT and many other file types without the need to convert. However, it has no wireless access so electronic books must be first downloaded to a PC and then transferred to the ebook reader by means of an SD memory card or a USB port. It fulfills its main function as a portable ebook reader quite well, although it lacks many of the additional features available in other wireless reading devices. Overall, this is not a poor quality piece of technology at all, although it lacks any real unique features to make it stand out from the fold
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FLEPia
Manufacturer: Fujitsu
Price: approx. $1,000
Available? Expected April 2009, Japan only
Specifications:
Resolution: 768x1024 (XGA)
Colors: 8 or 4,096 (depending on the mode; 8 colors refresh in 2s; 4,096 colors refresh in 10s)
Size: 210x304x12mm (A4), 158x240x12mm (A5)
Thickness 12mm
Weight: 480g (A4), 320g (A5)
Body colors: White pearl, pink pearl, silver
Features: Touch panel, scroll button, six function buttons
OS: MS Windows CE5.0
Security: AES-128
CPU: Intel XScale
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g
SD Card
USB 2.0
Stereo speaker built-in, head phone connector
Lithium polymer battery with 50 hours runtime
Review:
[Revised](FastCompany) The FLEPia is a full sunlight-visible e-ink device, capable of displaying greyscale and color imagery (with 260,000 colors) on its 8-inch touchscreen, which has 1024 x 768-pixel resolution. There's an SD memory card slot, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR and it can run for 40 hours from a single charge. It runs Windows CE 5.0, so it can be used for reading e-books, browsing the web, emailing, reading Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, PDFs, TXT files, and JPEG imagery--that means it can also be set into digital picture frame mode.

The device has two major problems. First, the screen refresh rate is an astonishing 1.8 seconds. Although the Kindle's screen update isn't pretty (with that oddly eye-grabbing color-invert) it's at least speedy. Waiting nearly two seconds for the FLEPia to change its display is almost certainly going to get tiresome. Think about reading a physical book--flipping a page takes a fraction of a second to grab it, flip it, hold the book in place and track your eyes to the top of the new page. That's a far cry from the FLEPia's performance. And when in web or email-viewing modes it'll be really annoying. The 1.8 second time is also just for 64 colors, since it rises to 8 seconds for the full 260,000 color range.
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eSlick
Manufacturer: Foxit
Price: $259 introductory (deadline passed), $299 retail.
Available? Preorders sold out; due for April shipping
Specifications:
Screen:6" E Ink® Vizplex screen 600 x 800 pixel resolution, 4-level gray scale
Size: 7.4" x 4.7" x 0.4" (188×118×9.2mm)
Weight: 6.4 ounces (180g) battery included
Color: Black , Gray(Black back), White (Light Gray back)
Connectivity: USB2.0
Operating System: Embedded Linux
Supported Formats:
eBook Formats: PDF, TXT, Any printable document(after converted to PDF using included software)
Sound Formats: MP3
Internal Memory: 128MB
Storage Memory: SD Card (2GB included. Supports up to 4GB)

Expandability: SD card slot
Certification & Regulation: FCC
Controls:Buttons "ON/OFF", "Up ", "Down", "Right ", "Left", "Enter ", "Delete", "Menu", "Music".
Plugs: Euro 2Pin, UK 3Pin, US 2Pin
Battery:Rechargeable Lithium-Battery
Processor:Samsung® S3C2440 ARM 400MHz
Review:
(CNET UK) The device appears to be pretty no-frills--there's no built-in wireless--and seems to be all about viewing PDF files (Foxit makes a PDF converter and viewer, so that's the tie-in). The eSlick uses the same E-ink technology that the Kindle and Sony Readers do and it comes with a 2GB SD card that slips into an expansion slot.

All in all, the concept is a good one. A lot of people don't want to fiddle around with a lot of e-book formats and just want a device that's an excellent PDF reader. We'll see if the eSlick is as slick a PDF reader as it says it is when it's released

1 comment:

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