Please also see post #5 and #12 for an update on my experiences!
I just got my EZ Reader yesterday. I'm just going to review the aspects I tried. Please note I've only tried PDF, HTML, TXT, ZIP, and JPG formats.
Unlike a press release I read somewhere, the only color available was black. No red, blue or green. Bummer, but I'll live.
Shipping and delivery time:
The shipping time was exceptional! It was shipped the day after I ordered it, via Fedex Ground.
: The reader felt like quality construction. I also don't think it's ugly. True, it's not as nice as Sony's but hello ... Kindle, anyone? The page navigation buttons could stand being moved to the right side of the reader, as I usually hold my paperback books in my right hand, not my left. It has a nice solid feel in my hand, and is somewhat heavier than paperback book, but not too bad.
The SD card slot at the top of the reader does not have a rubber cover on it, so I will need to see if I can find one (otherwise, I can easily see gravity dumping tons of dirt into the hole over time).
The USB port and audio jack is at the bottom of the reader.
As mentioned in other reviews, the standard package comes with a leather case, USB charger, USB cable to connect to the computer, and a little screwdriver to open the battery door. For those people wondering why the battery wasn't installed in there by default, two guesses: 1) If a battery corrodes inside an electronic device, it destroys the electronic device too; 2) it might lessen the life of the battery
As has been mentioned in other reviews, it appears to use a replaceable Nokia phone battery. I haven't checked to see how easy it is to get a replacement battery on Ebay or Radioshack, but I've read elsewhere it's not a problem.
The leather case is a nice soft black leather, and holds the reader very securely on three sides (you just slide it in). It's much better than Sony's leather case, which holds its reader by this swinging knob thing (a friend of mine got it and it fell out of the case; she's getting Velcro to make her Sony Reader more secure). I am pleased to report I don't think Velcro is necessary for the EZ Reader.
What I found weird at first is that the magnetic clasp closes on the back, instead of the front (so the lumpy clasp part is behind). After using it for a while, I realized that the position of the clasp makes it easier to hold (and if you're laying it out flat on a table, the clasp is not sticking up right next to the ereader).
It does appear to display smudges from my oily fingers, so I have to rub it occasionally to clean the oil off. One concern of mine -- all the different ereaders have slightly different dimensions and designs, so their covers are not interchangeable (for example, there's no way in heck Sony's cover could work for the EZ Reader, since it expects a hole at the top and bottom of the reader). So there's no options to buy a pink or other color cover for the EZ reader unless you get it custom made.
Don't know how long it took to charge, since I charged it while I was sleeping. It turns out any USB charger will work; I know, since I successfully used my Motorola phone charger to charge it via the mini USB port
It also seemed like I could use it while it was charging, though I got stuck on the first page of Jane Austen, and the page turning buttons weren't responding. So not too sure if you actually can.
I tried to view text files encoded in the Chinese GB2312 encoding. When the EZ reader's system language was "English" (the default), the text file displayed Cyrillic. After I changed the system language to Chinese, the text file was able to display propertly. Loading of the 1 MB file was really fast, despite it being a 1000+ page count.
I also tried HTML files encoded in GB2312, and they displayed great. Didn't try with the system setting in English though.
Changing the system language was very easy, BTW.
Adding books was a snap! I just had to plug it into the computer, hit the OK button, and it showed up on my Windows laptop as an external drive. Weird thing was it showed up as two drives, but I could only access one of them to add files. Adding the files was as easy as copying and pasting. You cannot use the reader while it is plugged into your computer. I will try with my Mac next and see if it works too.
You do not have to put all your books in the "Ebooks" folder. You can create new folders / add files directly to the base, and it will show up.
You can add folders and subfolders to organize the books even more. It also supported and displayed non-English named folders (I used Chinese to name some folders, and it displayed fine). Just a quick note: This was after I changed the system language to Chinese; didn't check to see if it would display the Chinese folder name if the system language was English.
The display is excellent; very clear and sharp. The background is a very light grayish white. If you are near a Borders or Target or something, you can stop in and look at the Sony Reader 505 display; it's the same contrast and everything (The Sony 700's display has some reflective touchscreen over the e-ink panel, so it's actually less nice than the 505 or the EZ Reader's display).
Display Response Time:
Usually response time was very fast. Sometimes, there is the blackout of the screen that others have mentioned, but other times, I did not notice it. It takes a few seconds to load the book; I've heard that's because it needs to calculate the pagination. For really big books, it can take longer.
The EZ Reader only gives you the option of 1x, 2x, and 3x magnification. You can't make the fonts any larger than that, so the fonts may be either too small or too big for some people. For English books (I tried Hans Andersen's fairy tales), the smallest font size was a nice readable size, but may be too big for some people. For Chinese books, the smallest font size was kind of small, so the biggest font may still be too small for some people.
The buttons beep when I press down on them; I wonder if it's possible to turn off the beep. It's stopping me from trying to unobtrusively sneak in some reading at a really boring meeting
Comic books (navigation):
I tried loading some zipped chapters of Japanese manga/scanlations. The files were JPG files in a multifolder directory zipped into a ZIP file. The extension of the file was ".zip". I could only view one image at a time, and had to go back to the booklist to pick the next one. Maybe I'm missing some step here...
Comic books (image quality):
Image quality was like a 2nd generation photo copy. Somewhat spotty, but nowhere near the smoothness of a great grayscale manga from Viz. Still readable, though. It's only got 4 shades of gray, so I shouldn't have expected too much.
Also note that the EZ Reader won't "chop up" the image into smaller pieces (so you can't, say, zoom in in landscape mode on the first half of the pic, then hit "next" to go to the next section of the pic).
The PDF display kind of sucked for me. Not really the fault of the EZ Reader, but when you try to view a file that's meant for an 8 by 11 page on a 6 inch screen, readability decreases tremendously. I loaded a bus schedule and a PDF document on how to type in Chinese. The bus schedule was ok at the highest magnification setting. The "how to type in Chinese" doc was completely illegible, even at the highest magnification setting. It also did not reflow properly.
To be fair, I picked PDF files that had lots of tables. Other people have had great experiences, but I'm guessing that they were viewing text-only PDFs.
For people who are interested, these are the test files I used:
| How to type in Chinese PDF
English files are displayed as justified text, so spacing may sometimes be a little weird. Chinese files ... the smallest font size is the same size used in those little mainland China paperback books the size of your hand. However, because of the anti-glare and the e-ink, I have no problems reading it, as opposed to when I had to blow up the fonts enormously when I was reading on my laptop. Plus, my eyes don't hurt after reading for a while!
Navigation in the book:
You had options to jump to the first page, the last page, or a specific page in the book. Also, if you leave a book (have only tried with HTML/TXT), it automatically remembers where you left off if you re-open it later.
I have some complaints about navigation options in the book, which I'll explain later down in the post (see my section about reading serialized novels on EZ Reader).
Navigation in the booklist:
Navigation in the booklist is more inconvenient than navigating inside a book. You can only navigate by clicking the forward and back buttons. There is no way to jump to, say, page 5 in the booklist.
You can imagine the problem this would be if you had hundreds of books. The directory support helps a little, but they should really fix the software to add "Go to page xxx" support.
If you exit a book and go back to the booklist, you will end up on the page with the book that you last read. So that's good.
You can sort books in a folder by book name or date last modified. For HTML files, it uses the text in the "TITLE" element of the HTML file as the book name. These 2 options are very limiting!
I really hope that they add an option to sort books in a folder by file name too (see my gripe about reading serialized novels on EZ Reader, below).
My experience with using EZ Reader for reading serialized novels:
So in general, the EZ Reader is great. However, there are some features that I wish it would add, which would make my reading experience much better.
I tend to read a lot of serialized fanfics on the web. These fanfics are posted chapter by chapter, in HTML format. Each chapter can easily be 10-20 pages on the EZ Reader. And each complete fanfic can easily be over 300+ chapters (so that's over 3000 pages). Finally, sometimes the writer changes his/her mind about a detail in the story and goes back to change what happened in older chapters to make it fit in with what happens in the newest chapter, so I have to redownload the older chapter.
Now, what does that mean for the EZ Reader? I don't really want to use MobiPocket to compile all the HTML chapters into one "book"; I'm lazy and would really rather just drag the HTML files into a folder for the book on the EZ Reader.
Because EZ Reader uses the TITLE element in the chapters, I have a ready made table of contents when I open the subfolder (folder inside the Ebook folder) to view the chapters.
The chapter numbers are spelled out "Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc". So sorting alphabetically does not work. How about sorting by date modified? Remember that I sometimes have to redownload older chapters, so the older chapter can sometimes have a "newer" date modified. That throws the order of the chapters out of whack (e.g. I'd have chapter one, two, four, five, six, seven, three).
So, the best fix to the problem would be if I could sort the files by actual file name, since I can always guarantee those will be in the correct order (e.g. chapter001.html, chapter002.html, etc). Jinke are you listening?!!
I mentioned earlier that my serialized fanfics have hundreds of chapters. That's a problem with EZ Reader, when I can only navigate teh book list by pressing the forward and next buttons. Think how many times I have to press the button to go to the 350th "book" in the current directory! Divvying up the files into subfolders is a compromise, but I would vastly prefer to be able to go to page 50 in the folder/bookshelf as well. If I can do that inside the book, how much harder can it be to do that in the bookshelf mode too?
Ok, now I've selected a chapter and am reading it. At the end of the chapter, there's no option for me to go directly to the next chapter / file / book in the bookshelf. So I have to go back to the bookshelf (which fortunately sends me back to page 50 in the bookshelf, or wherever I last was), and then I select the next chapter to read.
That's annoying! It would be great if I could just go Options > Go to next book listed in book shelf. That would also solve my problem with the comic book files (which I mentioned earlier).
So in summary, my wish list for Jinke's next firmware update would be:
1. Ability to jump directly to a page number in the bookshelf
2. Ability to jump directly to the next "book" in the bookshelf while inside a book (the next book it jumps to should depend on what sort order you chose for the bookshelf).
3. Ability to also sort books on the bookshelf by physical file name.
This is a great, easy to use reader that just needs some minor features added to its software. I don't need wireless. I love the replaceable phone battery it uses. The accessories it comes with are great, although some enterprising merchant should start selling other covers to come with it!
BTW, I am using the firmware version that came with the reader: V2.00ASTAK.081024