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Old 03-17-2008, 07:03 AM   #46
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Thanks!

For what it's worth, I'm pasting here a short(ish) review I put up on another forum that I frequent. I've been a bit wary of putting it up here, firstly because of course on this forum you're preaching to the converted, and this could be construed as talking down to some people who are far more knowledgeable than I; secondly because, well, it's a little critical. But I hope it's reasonably objective. I should add that (as expected) the little gadget has grown on me by leaps and bounds in the last week, especially now that I've worked out how to activate my chosen fonts (thanks guys!) - now with emboldened Lucida Bright the display really is very readable and far superior to an LCD.

Anyway, here it is:

First, the display: I took a bit of a leap of faith with my purchase, never having seen an e-ink display in the flesh before, and quite honestly I am a bit disappointed with it. While it 'approximates' to ink and paper, it's still a screen display. The matte plastic screen coating reflects light in the way that only the most annoying glossy paper magazines do, and this can be off-putting. Score one to real paper. Secondly, the display is very far from being black on white. Dark grey on light grey would be closer to the mark. The closest paper equivalent would be very low quality newsprint, or the 'toilet paper' style pulp paperbacks still sold in India for example. In strong lighting it is very good and certainly surpasses anything more traditional display technologies can offer; but in low lighting I personally think that a good backlit handheld display, on a phone or laptop, is easier on the eye. "But you can read e-ink displays on a beach in full sunlight!" its fans cry. Yes, brilliant, but that's not where I use it (if only!) - I use it in bed, or on the train, or at the bus stop, here in dull, grey northern Europe where full sunlight happens once every leap year. So: two-nil to proper paper. My third gripe with the display is the refresh rate. There is a noticeable delay every time you turn the page, while the display reflashes. You do have the option to turn off screen reflashing, which speeds things up very marginally (i.e. not enough), but it's not recommended as this leads to quite serious ghosting. The poor refresh rate makes navigation very tedious - you cannot flick through an e-book the way you would flick through a real book. Waiting for the screen to flash as you turn a page is a distinct distraction, one that isn't there when you read a paper book. Books 3, e-readers 0.

All of these problems apply to any e-book reader that utilises e-ink technology. However, I do have a few Cybook-specific gripes to get off my chest (as I have never used its e-ink competition I can't say whether these also apply to them). The first major gripe is again related to navigation, this time library navigation. One of the reasons the iPod took off the way it did was that Apple put a lot of thought into the user interface and made it fairly easy to access your music as quickly and painlessly as possible, even with huge collections of several thousand tunes. Bookeen could take a leaf out of Apple's book: library navigation on the Cybook is execrably executed. On turning the Cybook on you are taken directly to the library screen, where you can browse through your entire library (which includes music and images as well as texts). You can filter the library to hide jpegs and mp3 files, for example, and sort them by file type, by date added, or by name, but you can't use a nested folder structure to access certain genres or authors quickly; nor can you search for a given author or title. This would make navigation considerably easier; as it is, you have to click through each book using the thumb-pad, a process that can take a very long time indeed given the Cybook's slow responsiveness. So you can see why it makes very little sense to use the 2gb capacity available by inserting an SD card. I had initially planned to store several hundred books on my Cybook for ready access whenever or wherever I might need them. Seeing how difficult it is to navigate the Cybook library I've ditched that idea. It's far quicker to connect to my laptop and upload the book I need manually. (Note: Bookeen have acknowledged the demand for folder navigation in their blog and we can probably expect this feature to be added in the next firmware update.)

So: are there any compelling reasons left to buy one of these machines? I think portability is the Cybook's strong suit. Even if it's impractical to upload your entire library, you can still comfortably access a couple of dozen books from the Cybook's library screen; and you might be ready to accept the slightly gimped display over beautifully readable paper in exchange for the lightweight paperback-sized format that will let you read War and Peace in nice big letters, in a font of your choosing. Whenever I travel I tend to pack loads of books which weigh a ton and take up far too much space. Now all I need to take is my Cybook and a USB charger (which I will have in any case for my umpteen other gadgets). I'm not entirely sure that this is worth 350 euro, but that is a subjective calculation.

There are a few things I haven't covered. For example, the Cybook comes with a beautiful leather case (which costs 35 euro extra), something of a necessity as the Cybook on its own is almost too lightweight and fragile. In terms of size, as mentioned, it is roughly as large as a paperback book, and slightly too big to fit in a pocket comfortably. I'd have liked it to be slightly smaller. I've already complained about the onboard navigation software; let me also complain about the inclusion of a music player. This seems to me to be a totally unnecessary example of feature bloat, and it's doubly annoying in that one of the buttons on the side of the Cybook launches its music player, and of course it's the button which seems to get pressed by accident all the time. Another distraction to pure reading pleasure. (There's also a very dangerously placed delete button, but fortunately that's disabled under current firmware!)

Final thoughts: despite the hype surrounding the launch of the Kindle, this is a technology which in my humble opinion is not quite ready for the prime time. It's expensive, very expensive, for what it does; and what it does, it doesn't do particularly well. I still believe there is a role there for dedicated e-book readers, but I'd like to see better quality, more responsive, and above all cheaper e-ink displays than exist at present.
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Old 03-17-2008, 08:05 AM   #47
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Very nicely written review. I don't agree with some of your points, but we all have our own views on these things!
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Old 03-17-2008, 03:13 PM   #48
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Very nicely written review. I don't agree with some of your points, but we all have our own views on these things!
I think it was nicely written as well. I have placed a link to this review in the wiki in the E-Ink article. http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-Ink
I think it might even be worthwhile making a wiki article on this. Some people have been mislead by the over exuberant accolades I think. Perhaps this will help balance the scale.

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Old 03-18-2008, 12:42 PM   #49
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I just wanted to share a link to a nice review I stumbled upon:
http://www.dria.org/wordpress/archives/2007/11/17/603/

The photos the review author shares on Flickr are absolutely gorgeous, the best I've seen so far:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/deb-ric...7603002185067/

In fact there is already a thread here in this forum that links to these same photos, but it's no crime to post them again...

The above review (link) may be a bit older but that doesn't really matter as it's the Gen3, probably with an older firmware version (but keep it in mind).

As a side note: are the photos linked to beautiful to the degree of not matching the real visual reading experience of the Cybook? I found the original video review that started this thread visually rather disappointing (I mean the grey background of the e-paper, as likened to monochrome LCD) and in that, these photos surprised me I must say...

Last edited by DutchBoy; 03-18-2008 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 03-18-2008, 01:25 PM   #50
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It's very difficult to capture the true appearance of an eInk screen in a photograph - in most photos it comes out looking at lot "greyer" than it really is.
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Old 03-18-2008, 07:20 PM   #51
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As a side note: are the photos linked to beautiful to the degree of not matching the real visual reading experience of the Cybook? I found the original video review that started this thread visually rather disappointing (I mean the grey background of the e-paper, as likened to monochrome LCD) and in that, these photos surprised me I must say...
They're lovely photos indeed. I'm afraid that no, they don't match the real visual experience, at least not my experience. If you look at her photos you'll see that she has paid careful attention to lighting (reflections and shadows suggest that she is using a powerful light source). Also those photos look as if they have been tweaked for levels and contrast in photoshop (not faked - just tweaked to make them look good - and they do look good).
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:04 AM   #52
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They're lovely photos indeed. I'm afraid that no, they don't match the real visual experience, at least not my experience. If you look at her photos you'll see that she has paid careful attention to lighting (reflections and shadows suggest that she is using a powerful light source). Also those photos look as if they have been tweaked for levels and contrast in photoshop (not faked - just tweaked to make them look good - and they do look good).
I look at the photos and have to agree. The most adequate representation in normal light conditions - indoors, slightly overcast spring day (like here today) out of the direct sunlight is like in no. 5 for background (the one with small white remote). The white there is white and the rest of the photos are with noticable bluish overtones.

But, in direct sunlight screen is absolutely magnificent. When I'm comparing it with my old TX... well, there's no comparison. I just have to get some good and portable lamp...

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Old 03-22-2008, 05:03 AM   #53
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Yesterday I read my Cybook in full sunlight for the first time. It was spectacularly good, in fact, I think it was better than ink on paper, because the lower contrast of the e-ink display reduces glare as compared to paper. I guess I need to move to sunnier climes!
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Old 05-08-2008, 07:22 PM   #54
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A month or so later...

Just a little update. After nearly two months I've decided that the Cybook Gen 3 is not for me... The misgivings that I talked/wrote about in this thread haven't gone away, and I can't help thinking that I could have put those 400 euro to better use. So I've decided to sell my Cybook... (see the flea market forum). I don't regret having given the technology a try - I remain a believer in e-books as a concept - I just don't think the e-ink readers are there yet, technically. I've found that I end up taking a paperback with me wherever I go, as well as the Cybook, and that's just crazy.
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Old 05-09-2008, 03:14 AM   #55
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Fair enough. We all have to find a solution that's right for us individually.
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