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Old 10-08-2008, 08:03 AM   #1
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Question Iliad or BeBook - to buy or not to buy, that is the question...

Hi fellow eBookers,

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 10-08-2008, 11:52 AM   #2
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If you spend 300€ for the BeB, you save 200€ for books.
If your budget is big, go for both and kill your doubt...



Whenever I'm choosing between two similar things with a difference in the price tag, I always go for the cheaper one. And I've never repented.
If you upgrade next year, you'll have more than you can buy now.

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Old 10-08-2008, 12:03 PM   #3
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If Mobi support is important to you, I have to say that the MobiPocket Reader is poor on the iLiad, and (from the reports of owners) very poor on the BeBook (lacking, for example, dictionary lookup and the ability to load your own fonts). Of the devices you mentioned in your post, the CyBook Gen3 has by far the best MobiPocket support. I used to own an iLiad, but sold it and bought a Gen3 because of the horrendous shortcoming's in the iLiad's Mobi reader, together with its long start-up time and poor battery life.

If, however, PDF support is important to you, the iLiad is the clear winner. I'd say really it depends what your main priority is. If it's reading Mobi fiction, get the Gen3; if it's PDF, get the iLiad.
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