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Old 11-10-2007, 11:10 PM   #1
Barcey
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CyBook Gen3 review - comparison to a PDA

I'm sure that there are others out there reading on a PDA and considering an E Ink Vizplex reader so I thought I'd write my first impressions on the CyBook Gen3 as a comparion with my Sony Clie TH55. The PDA has a very good bright back lit LCD display but isn't practical in sunlight and I get eye strain if reading for longer then an hour. I've been following the E Ink technology for years and just waiting to buy a device.

The Screen

I work on a computer all day staring at a back lit LCD display. My Cybook arrived just after noon so I plugged it in to charge it but wasn't able to try it out until the end of the day. As per normal my eyes were tired at the end of the day when I was finally able to power it up and try it out (I'm a man of uncommon will power for short periods of time). I alternated between reading a couple of pages on the Gen3 and then the Clie and I can't describe the difference. I swear that I could feel my eyes relaxing when I read the Cybook and straining when I read the PDA. You really have to see the screen to know what I mean.

I've included pictures comparing the two devices under poor indoor lighting and outdoor lighting. You can see that the PDA looks brighter indoors but believe me this doesn't make it's easier to read. The outdoor shot wasn't under bright sunlight but you can already see how much better the CyBook reflective screen is. I've managed to read in direct sunlight with the Clie but you have to hold it at just the right angle and you can barely read it. People looked at me like I have two heads and probably thought I was staring at a blank screen.

Page Turns

Hands down the PDA is better and this is the biggest disadvantage of the E Ink technology. I was half way through a chapter on the PDA Mobipocket book that I was reading and decided I didn't want to synchronize the bookmark to my computer and then back to the CyBook so I thought I could jump to the closest chapter and page forward until I found my place. This took longer then I expected because I'd read that the Vizplex was faster.

The jog dial on the PDA works well and it's an eye blink to turn a page but the CyBook takes getting used to. I found that I have to press the button with about 3/4 of the last line unread so that it turns when I'm done. This becomes automatic after a while though and you don't even think about it. The best way I can describe it is that it's like when you're reading a paper book and start to turn the page when you're a couple of lines from the bottom. One thing I've noticed is that the time isn't consistent. I'm not sure if it's the 1.0 firmware but sometimes it refreshs when I'm on the last word and sometimes I wait a couple eye blinks. This is nothing where I could meaure the difference but I don't think it's my imagination. Don't let this scare you away though because it really isn't that bad. Just buy the technology with open eyes.

Other PDA Features

The PDA has the capability of automatically scrolling the text. When I first bought it I thought I'd use it all the time... until I tried it. It's difficult to get it to scroll at the correct speed and I would constantly adjust the speed via the jog dial. It was easier to just flip the pages. If you haven't tried reading with automatic scrolling it's difficult to describe the nausea you get after reading for 1/2 an hour and then looking up and seeing the room scroll. It took me three of these sessions before I gave up but I'm a slow learner. The E Ink refresh rate won't allow this feature and I won't miss it.

I did use the colour capabilities on the PDA to change the background and text colours but I did this primarily to reduce the eye strain when reading for long periods of time. I won't miss it. I'm not one to highlight text when I read but if you do stick with the PDA for now.

Night Reading

I don't often read in the dark so it's not a big issue for me. I included some pictures to demonstrate that with an inexpensive external book light it's not a problem at all and I find it a much better reading experience then the PDA. I normally have to turn the brightness down on the Clie in the dark but didn't in the picture.

Overall Experience

I LOVE the E Ink reading experience. I find that I can read it comfortably in lighting conditions where I would not read a paper book but under proper lighting it just keeps gets better. I can't remember the last time that I've been this happy with a purchase. The combination of my love of books and gadgets is a great marriage.

It's been less then a week so am I looking through rose coloured glasses and can't see the rash that will itch and irritate me in the future? Maybe but I don't think so. Ask me in a couple of months after I've had the opportunity to try it longer and take it on vacation.

Will I wish that I waited and lust after every new technology advance? You bet I will, but I'll by enjoying reading my CyBook while I do it.

My Recommendation

Buy it you won't regret it. You know you want it.

The rational thing to do is to wait because they're just going to get better and cheaper also company XYZ is just about to come out with something better... but face it if you're reading this forum you're probably an early adopter like me and can't wait any longer. Did I tell you how happy I am?
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:50 AM   #2
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I notice that the PDA has no real margins for the book it's displaying but the Cybook has large margins on the left and right. Is this inherent in the CYbook's Mobipocket program or is it just for that book? Can the margins be adjusted when the books are created using Mobipocket's tools? I don't see any way to set the margin in Book Designer when making Mobipocket books.
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:57 AM   #3
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In the Palm/Pocket PC version of Mobi Reader there's a menu item to adjust the margins - looks like it's been set to "no margin" in this case. What's shown is the default for the CyBook - it can't currently be adjusted. I find it perfectly acceptable personally.

I would imagine that Bookeen will add margin adjustment at some point; they seem to be highly responsive to user feedback.
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Old 11-11-2007, 10:21 AM   #4
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Personally, I've taken to not having margins when formating books. I find I like it better that way.
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Old 11-11-2007, 10:38 AM   #5
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On the Cybook I have been reading with Verdani and the third smallest font size and then the width is OK since it gives med 60 characters or so per line.
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Old 11-11-2007, 10:45 AM   #6
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Using Book Designer and a base font size of 11point and a margin of maybe 3 or 4 on each side, I'm getting about 55-58 characters per line on an older formatted book. Newer formatted books use the same font size in BD, but the margins are set to 0 each side and the word spacing is less for more characters per line.
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Old 11-11-2007, 11:00 AM   #7
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It's useful to have at least a small margin on the Gen3 if you're using the leather case (as I imagine most people are), because the case is quite thick and, in some lighting conditions, casts a distinct shadow onto the outside edge of the screen.
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Old 11-11-2007, 02:22 PM   #8
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The lack of adjustable margins, and adjustable line spacing, are the worst features of MobiPocket's Java based reader. The Cybook apparently isn't using the Java version, but it has the same limitations. The Windows Desktop version can adjust both (see image), although "single" line spacing is the smallest it allows and I would like more lines per page than that.

These features are much more significant on an E-Ink device because of the slower page turn. Less white space means fewer page turns. It can also mean worse readability, which is why making it adjustable is so important.
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Old 11-11-2007, 05:47 PM   #9
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the symbian version of mobipocket also allows for variable font sizes, line heights and borders.

@barcey: nice review. a good read, sort of makes you want to go out and buy one of these things right away
okay, it's sunday night, and i have no idea where in austria i would get one of them, but now that i#ve been on this board for a while, reading about and looking at pics of these eInk devices, i slowly start to see where the advantages are in comparison with a pda.
but, one thing that will always be important to me is night reading. i read before i go to sleep. sometimes *instead* of going to sleep
but being able to read with minimal sleeping-wife-annoying-light-emission is a fundemental part of my reading. are there back-lit eInk devices available?
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Old 11-11-2007, 11:19 PM   #10
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Hello Mores - I understand the need to read at night. I have used an Audiovox, iPaq, and a Treo mainly for use at night. I have also used an ebookwise reader because of the backlight. I became intrigued about an E Ink device based on the enthusiastic information found in this forum. The old Sony Credit Card offer was impossible to resist. There are a few threads that discuss night lights that work great with these devices. I too have a spouse that appreciates minimal light - this one is my current favorite - http://www.mightybright.com/Book_Lig...uctDetail.html.

My eyes really enjoy the E Ink experience regardless of the lack of backlight. I do most of my reading at night and these are really easy on the eyes.
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Old 11-12-2007, 03:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mores View Post
but, one thing that will always be important to me is night reading. i read before i go to sleep. sometimes *instead* of going to sleep
but being able to read with minimal sleeping-wife-annoying-light-emission is a fundemental part of my reading. are there back-lit eInk devices available?
eInk screens are opaque, and hence cannot be back-lit; lighting would need to be from the side or the front.

Many people are happily using clip-on book lights with these devices.
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Old 11-12-2007, 10:58 AM   #12
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Excellent review, Barcey!
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:03 PM   #13
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Great comparison. My TH55 was my reading device of choice for several years, and I was planning on going back to it when I bought a Treo just for the books. I bought a Sony Reader instead, and couldn't be happier. Glad to see your pictures with a book light, I haven't bought one yet and last night wound up having to use the screen on my Treo to light my Reader! (FYI, it worked pretty well.)
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Old 11-12-2007, 02:50 PM   #14
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This doesn't seem to have much to do with a CyBook, more of a Viziplex vs PDA reading. The points made pretty much apply to any of the recent eInk screens, like the Sony 505.

I would be interested in a CyBook review that discusses the reader specifically, how it compares to other readers in the same class, etc...
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Old 11-12-2007, 07:10 PM   #15
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Erm. A much fairer comparison would be to show a 600x480 pda with Georgia (which looks like the font you are using on the CyBook). I think you'd find it hard to choose between them. The font you have on the Clié has got to be the ugliest font I've seen in a long time. No wonder your eyes were giving you grief.
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