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Old 10-08-2008, 11:17 AM   #1
orwell2k
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Question Iliad or BeBook - to buy or not to buy, that is the question...

Hi fellow eBookers,

I put this in the Iliad forum initially, probably because subconciously I want that device, but I decided to move it here since this is the appropriate forum. Since writing it I realise that for PDF viewing it may be necessary to go to the Iliad Digital Reader 1000S rather than the Book Edition, but that device is bigger and more expensive. Oh well, I will keep pondering the issues...

Like most people I joined this forum after having made extensive use of the great information provided here in helping me determine which eBook device is right for me. I am in the final throes of that decision-making process and decided I need to get some specific advice, and contribute to this forum once I join the eReader club!

Note: If you don't want to read my entire blurb here, then the bottom line is this - I am trying to choose between the BeBook (€329) and the Iliad Book Edition (€499). I would like to get some opinions from users of both devices, based on my observation and research detailed below. I basically want to read eBooks (.prc, .fb2, .txt, .lit, etc.) as well as work documents (mostly PDF, some MS Word, RTF and TXT). Also I'm interested in issues like battery life, especially for the Iliad as the BeBook seems to be impressive, and the Iliad touch screen performance for user interface, note-taking, etc. Thanks in advance!

So, my quandry is thus - I have been looking at eBook devices for some years now, and have since 2005 made use of an old Acer n10 PDA as an ebook reader (I use no other options on it). As far as it goes it's an OK device, but clearly not in the same league as an eInk / ePaper dedicated device. I have decided it's time to take the plunge, and to my surprise and joy the market does seem to have expanded somewhat in the last 4 years.

Once you get over the initial shock of the prices for most devices (esp. Iliad prices) then you can see that the technology has advanced tremendously and that perhaps, better late than never, eBook devices may actually start to become a true alternative to paper and an everyday tool in the home and office, for both work and leisure (I have a dream... ).

Anyway, I started out trying to get a Sony PRS-505, as basically they seem to be the cheapest decent device at the moment. I'm not a fan of the Sony proprietary obsession, and this has prevented me in the past from buying Sony digital cameras and notebooks, but the choices in eBook devices is much more limited so I considered them. Then comes the issue of availability outside the US, and the Sony website won't ship internationally. Neither will most US sellers (I found one selling at $274), and even then customs is an issue in Europe. European prices are, quite frankly, criminal for a lot of eGadgets - I'm a Mac user and that's my choice, but it's frustrating when the clear pricing difference between US and Europe is always in your face when you want to buy one of their products.

So, in Euroland the price benefit of a Sony loses some impact, but it's still good. Kindle is not an option outside the US, and even if it were it is an oversized ugly piece of kit that really doesn't grab me (sorry to Kindle owners, it may be a great device but even if it was an option I probably wouldn't consider it - lucky for me, I guess!).

Research so far...
My googling of the net and browsing of forums like this revealed some new devices that, whilst a little more expensive than the Sony, offer more flexibility and an open source attitude. Namely the Bookeen CyBook Gen3 and the BeBook (Hanlin V3 clone).

And lastly, there is my dream device, the Iliad! I first saw this device on the web a year or so ago, and drooled over it for weeks. Then I saw the prices and decided a 2nd mortgage wasn't wise just to get an ebook reader! But all jokes aside, the Iliad devices seem like the Crème de la Crème of the available devices. Bigger, better (and heavier, alas), with touch screen capability and a lot of software options for tailoring the device.

So, I have swung from the Sony PRS-505 to the CyBook, then the BeBook, all of which are around €300, and now back to the Iliad Book Edition at €500. My reasoning is thus:

(1) First I want to read eBooks, so a good quality reader with plenty of format choices is required - Sony is limited, although conversion tools are available; the CyBook and BeBook are both good (Mobi plus other formats, especially the BeBook that can handle FB2, my primary choice for eBook conversions); and the Iliad has the bigger/better display and is able to handle a lot of formats, including the Mobi format plus FB2 (with FBReader) and the usual TXT, HTML, XML, CHM, etc.

(2) I also want to use the device for work, where most documents are MS Word and PDF. Of course, all docs can be easily exported to PDF, so PDF handling becomes critical. Whilst BeBook certainly seems to handle PDFs okay, the Iliad seems to be the best in this area - the larger display and the native PDF support seems to provide this.

(3) I don't want a lot of other features other than an excellent eBook/eText reader - no MP3 player, no movie player, etc. The Iliad seems to fit this description, although paying more for less (features) seems counter-intuitive, although the extra cost no doubt goes into the larger display, better OS design, etc. I hesitate to say it goes into support, as iRex seems to be like the other big computer corporations (e.g. MicroSoft, and even my beloved Apple) in that they make some nice gear but do everything in their power to avoid any customer interactions beyond accepting your money. If they spent even half their effort on addressing your issues rather than avoiding you, they may actually solve some problems!

So, after this extensive intro, I feel I have come to a choice of two devices: (a) the BeBook at €300 (after a €25 discount), and; (b) the Iliad Book Edition at €500. I know it sounds strange to have two such seemingly disparate choices, but I figure these devices best fit my needs. And I figure if I'm willing to spend €300 then it's only a small step to €500 for what could be a far better device.

So the burning question becomes, is the Iliad Book Edition really a superior device? The BeBook seems pretty good, it seems to work as advertised, it handles lots of formats, PDF support is OK, it seems to have great battery life, it's not too bulky or heavy to carry anywhere and users seem to like it. The careful reader will have noticed a lot of conditionals in this last sentence - everything "seems" to be this or that, because I have not tried it myself (these devices don't seem to exist in most electronics shops!).

On the other hand the Iliad Book Edition is bigger and thus heavier (almost double at 435g versus 220g, although less than 0.5kg / 1lb is not bad at all), seems to handle many formats, has some software flexibility (SDK, user updates, 3rd party apps, etc.), touch screen for note-taking and user interface (seems really nice, but what the hell is this Wacom® shite all about anyway - you can't just use your finger??), is probably the best for PDF handling (which is critically important to me). Again, many "seems" used there, and some unknowns, like battery life - can the Iliad run for several days or only several hours of "normal" use?

I apologise for my verbosity and the lack of precision in my questions here, but I would like to get some general opinions from Iliad users about the device before I cough up the cash. I am also interested in what other BeBook users think of their devices, especially the Mobi and PDF support, and any FB2 usage.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-18-2008, 07:54 PM   #2
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I'm asking similar questions and have some of the same reasoning.

Sony's EReader looks great, I had a quick go with one in the Sony Shop today, but the great investment is always going to be in the books and I don't want to be tied.

I have no legacy ebooks - so the Cybook looks good as a low risk/low regret choice. But my inner geek would love to play with the iLiad.

From a work point of view its would have to be the iRex Reader for decent A4 pdf support or wait to see what plastic logic come up with. But that probably means waiting a year, and that's a long time...

I guess they key is really content. The ability to view it now, and on future devices. After all in the end this is where most of my money will be spent.

Sorry no answers, only questions.
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Old 10-18-2008, 09:19 PM   #3
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Long post, possibly short answer:
Did you know the Iliad only has upto 15hours of battery?

For me that was what made me decide for the Sony.

You'll possibly have to wait untill may 09 to get the next e-reader that supports higher than 600x800 pix. from Netronix (probably named EZ-900,and the reworked (second generation) of this device: http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/EB-900).

There's plastic logic which has a huge screen, but guess is they will be expensive. Also, not much is known about their technical specs.

Last edited by ProDigit; 10-18-2008 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 10-19-2008, 04:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProDigit View Post
Long post, possibly short answer:
Did you know the Iliad only has upto 15hours of battery?
I have to say that for me personally, that's a total non-issue. If you read on it for, say, 2h a day, you have to recharge it once a week. Is that really a "problem"?

It wasn't the battery life which made me sell my iLiad and buy a CyBook Gen3, but a number of other issues:

- The 45s or so boot time is too long; it can feel like an eternity if you only want to read for a short time.

- The MobiPocket reader on the iLiad (I'm not interested in PDFs - I bought it solely to read Mobi books on) is just AWFUL. You're stuck with one font, there are no bookmarks, you can't use any custom navigation items the books may have, you can't see the book's cover; the list is endless. It just feels like its "half done", like so much else associated with the iLiad.

- I found it too large to carry around with me everywhere I go, as I do with the Gen3. Bigger is NOT always better.

The iLiad just didn't suit me, but I know that many people love it. Horses for courses.
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Old 10-19-2008, 06:33 AM   #5
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It seems like the only e-book reader developers are free porting software for is Iliad. I have seen that fbreader is ported and even a webbrowser.
That could be a very big advantage of the Iliad. I'm not sure how functional or usable this software is though, I'm still gathering information myself.
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Old 10-19-2008, 06:41 AM   #6
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My experiences with my iLiad book edition:
- It requires some work to install and configure 3rd party software. I haven't really gotten around to do that yet, as I've 'made do' with PDFs and they suit me fine. My book files are in a large variety of formats anyway.

- The mobi support is not very good as HarryT states.

- The PDF support is very good and it can handle large files.

- The screen is larger, but really not that much larger. It's perfect for me, who found the 6" of the CyBook on the small side, but almost only reads fiction. For tech books and the like, I think it's too small. See attached photos of an Apress book; full page, page zoomed to page width, zoomed and turned to horisontal view (sorry about the image quality). Also, the screen update is to slow for flipping through, looking for something.

- I don't see battery life as a problem. I don't use the stylus much, and in the periods where read a couple hours every day, I usually need to re-charge every 3rd or 4th day. I would not consider battery life a deal breaker.

- I had a CyBook before, and it's definitely nicer to hold because it's slim and light. (The BeBok seems to be about the same size).

I don't think the iLiad is that much better than the BeBook. I do like the larger screen, also for fiction reading, but in my opinion it's not large enough for 'professional' PDF's, tech books and such, that it's really worth it if you plan to use it for that. You're welcome to send me a few typical PDF pages, if you would like to see a photo of how they may look.

The BeBook looks like it support a wide range of formats, but I have no idea how well they are supported. With the iLiad you have the option of installing 3rd party software, but you should consider how much work you are prepared to put into it.
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Last edited by Ea; 10-19-2008 at 06:43 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 10-19-2008, 07:45 AM   #7
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If price is not an issue, then I recommend the iLiad over the BeBook for fiction reading providing you use FBReader. This works very well on the iLiad, and reads DRM-free MOBI as well as many other formats. I don't read many PDFs, but the iLiad's PDF capability is head and shoulders above that of any 6" EInk screen device.

The Java MOBI reader that comes with the iLiad reads DRMed MOBIs, but it otherwise provides barely acceptable reading experience. It does provide dictionary support though. I have not used a BeBook, but its MOBI reader is based on the same Java reader as the iLiad. The BeBook does not currently have dictionary support. The BeBook has a separate reader for FB2 etcetera which may be better, and it can even run FBReader.

I am very interested in OpenInkpot on the BeBook. It isn't quite all there yet, but an Open Source software stack that includes FBReader and a PDF reader could be very good if work is put into filling in the rough edges. In the worst case, OpenInkPot does not fill your needs and you are left with the original firmware which is probably good enough. OpenInkPot may get ported to other EInk devices, but the numeric keypad of the BeBook provides more options for the user interface.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:10 PM   #8
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It seems like the only e-book reader developers are free porting software for is Iliad. I have seen that fbreader is ported and even a webbrowser.
That's probably because there is an SDK for the iLiad provided by iRex for the device. Also, I think it runs a full linux kernal (not sure on that).

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Old 10-19-2008, 12:42 PM   #9
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open inkpot If I'm correct, is a replacement OS,or a program running in the reader?

To have support from open sources is probably a good reason to buy this type of device! Probably the only thing Sony's readers won't be having.


As far as professionalism, I think the photo's uploaded in _EA_'s attachments are about half the resolution of the screenresolution of the Iliad, so I think whatever is displayed there will be much better visible in real life than on the pictures.
With a 768x1024pix it's the best e-ink device there is so far,and enough to read a full page A4 .pdf file.
If you want more you'll have to wait for the Plastic Logics reader, according to this page: http://www.plasticlogic.com/PRPlasti...ingDevice.html
will be released in Q2 '09; but expect a high pricetag in the likes of $800.

There's another device out there the EZ-900 from Netronics also being debuted around that time.
I think it might have a resolution of 825x1200, but nothing about the resolution confirmed yet.

Plastic Logic, and 'the mentor'(EZ-900) will be your best bet.
I don't know about the EZ-900's pricetag neither. Originally it was going to be debuted at around $?600?; might be more,might be less.
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Old 10-19-2008, 01:31 PM   #10
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open inkpot If I'm correct, is a replacement OS,or a program running in the reader?
OpenInkpot is a custom Linux kernel with several applications (including FBReader).
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To have support from open sources is probably a good reason to buy this type of device! Probably the only thing Sony's readers won't be having.
I'm not sure what you mean by this remark, but Sony Reader also runs Linux (as do all current E-Ink readers, except for SoriBook), and full kernel sources are available at www.sony.net/Products/Linux/
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Old 10-19-2008, 07:38 PM   #11
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Oh, I didn't know!
So it's not their own OS?
What does the E-book Reader Matrix in the wiki mean by 'no SDK'?
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Old 10-19-2008, 09:09 PM   #12
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Oh, I didn't know!
So it's not their own OS?
What does the E-book Reader Matrix in the wiki mean by 'no SDK'?
An SDK is a "software development kit" put out by device or software makers which allows developers to write applications that work on or with their product. So, no SDK means that you have to hack and are on your own.

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