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Old 12-28-2008, 10:49 AM   #1
ccccclark
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My EZ Reader Review

My EZ Reader arrived Friday afternoon. I ordered it Tuesday around noon and paid extra for three-day shipping. I expected to get it maybe Monday with the Holidays and all, but I was extremely surprised.

That aside, I should premise my review with a few things. I have never owned an E Book reader before and even though I am a software developer, I have no knowledge of either the hardware or the technology. I have a Palm Pilot, so that is the closest I have come to an E-Book. My purpose for purchasing an E Book reader is pretty simple: I wanted to get rid of my paper library for space reasons and make transporting books easier (i.e. for vacation, bus ride to work, etc.).

To put it simply, I want an E Book reader that will allow me to read books. I really don't care about wireless, MP3 player, or most other advanced features that others might desire in a reader. Some of those may be nice, but overall I want an easy to use device. My cell phone (which I hate with a passion) for example is not very user-friendly and is far too complex. I have better things to do than t osift through a 100+ page user manual. That doesn't mean that I don't have a "wish-list" of desired features.

So this review is coming from the perspective of your average Joe customer and is not a technical review. This being said, here is my review:

Case:

The case is fairly nice and I am glad that I bought the bundle package that it came in. The instructions have it opening from the left, which is a little odd for me, but there is no reason that one could not just reverse it. You can bend the metal clips to secure the reader in the case, but I don't trust this 100%. I think I am going to get velcro strips and place on the back of the reader to make sure it will stay in place. I don't want to chance it falling on the floor during my bus ride to work.

SD Cards

The package bundle I bought also came with two 1 GB SD cards. Your average E Book I have found is usually well under 1 MB, so these are more than enough for me. It also came loaded with 100 classic titles, some of which I actually was planning on downloading so this saved me the trouble. Most of them are *.txt files, but a few are Mobipocket *.prc files. Looks like these are titles you can locate online, but it does save one the trouble of downloading.

EZ Reader

Appearance: The appearance is aesthetically pleasing, unlike the hideous Kindle. As my wife pointed out, this is not irrelevant.

Controls The control buttons are fairly well laid out. The only little "quirk" I noticed is that the forward page button is on the top. I would have placed it below the back page button (these are the navigation buttons on the left). It just seems a little easier to reach with the way I hold the reader.

Weight It is light and IMO easier to hold than a paper book. My arms/hands would get cramped up with a paper book while laying down and holding. This is much better.

Screen The 6" screen is nice and is easy enough to read. I could see wanting a 9.7" or whatever screen, but the smaller size is nice because it is more portable. The e-ink technology is very nice. I don't think I would want a back-lit screen like the new Sony. Maybe as an optional feature, but it would not be a deal breaker for me.

It looks like the screen has a plastic screen protector covering it. Not sure if it is supposed to be left on or removed or if it even can be replaced. I did not see anything in the manual.

Manual The manual is short,to the point and clear. The internal memory (bookshelf) has a PDF version of the user manual. I copied this to my PC to make a backup.

MP3 Player Don't care. I will use my IPod.

Navigation: The navigation is easy to use. Obviously, you are not going to be making warp speed leaps all over the place, but it is user-friendly and intuitive. I am able to fairly comfortably navigate after one read through the user manual and a few quick lookups. The page turning, while maybe not blistering fast, is fast enough and probably as quick as turning a page on a paper book.

Not sure how to quickly navigate through a book using a Table of Contents or index or if it is even possible. Easy enough to navigate to a page though (but if you change the display, your page may change).

Fonts Haven't messed with this yet.

Transferring Docs I downloaded the Mobipocket PC software, but I am not using it because it will not split out docs into directories. No problem though because it is easy enough to do via copy/paste. Nothing complex here.

E Book Docs This is really the heart of the whole thing.

Text Docs The installed classic title text docs display Ok depending on the doc. For example, Paradise Lost displays fine but some of the other books don't line break very well.

PDF Docs This is the biggest surprise for me (excpet for it arriving so quickly) because from what I have read, this is one of the weaknesses of the E readers. I printed out a couple of web pages using PDF Creator and transferred them. They display very well. The paging is a little messed up, but it more than suits my purpose. This was one of the uses I had not even thought about before I purchased.

Mobipocket (PRC) These display very well. I have purchased two online books already from Fictionwise and they are both very good. One thing that is not working with this format is the bookmark. This is not a hardware issue becuase they work with PDF and Text files. From what I have read so far, this is an issue with the Mobipocket software. Not sure how to resolve this because I have not had time to research. This is the biggest flaw I have found so far.

Wireless It doesn't have wireless but I really could care less. I probably wouldn't use it and if I did, it would be very rare.

Desired Features:
  1. Dictionary: would be nice
  2. Text Search: would be nice
  3. Touch Screen: perhaps the best wish-list feature, but not a deal breaker; I would rather have robust reader rather than have something that might be more likely to break

It might also be nice to have a navigation feature similar to Adobe PDF docs (bookmarks, thumbnail pages). Of course, this has more to do with the E Book format, but it is seriously something that this industry should consider. Not sure how easily it could be implemented.

Customer Service Considering how quickly this arrived, I think Astak does a great job.

Price Comparable to other readers. But like other readers, still expensive considering one can buy a PC for $300.00.

Overall:

I would give this 3.5 out of four stars (if the PRC bookmark feature bug is fixed, this will go up to 3.75). And actually, I have no doubt that I have made the best purchase. I had thought about the Sony and even the Kindle, but I don't like the fact that there is such proprietary ownership of their specific DRM. Mobipocket is more open.

My only other complaint is that I read a lot of non-fiction and the choices are somewhat limited for the Mobipocket format. To have access to Sony or Amazon's catalog in Mobipocket format would be a big boost. For example, Antony Beevor's book on the Spanish Civil War is available, but not his excellent book on Stalingrad (which actually is not even available in Kindle format). This is a complaint against the industry though and not the EZ Reader.

If anything, the fact that I am 100+ pages into my first E Book should be a good indication that I have made a good purchase. Ultimately, this was the goal.
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Old 12-28-2008, 04:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccccclark View Post
It looks like the screen has a plastic screen protector covering it. Not sure if it is supposed to be left on or removed or if it even can be replaced. I did not see anything in the manual.

Not sure how to quickly navigate through a book using a Table of Contents or index or if it is even possible.
I assumed the plastic film over the screen was for protection during shipping, so I removed it.

Table of Contents are essentially collections of HTML links. For example, in a MOBI hit the 7 key (Go To) and select the Table of Contents (if there is one, obviously). This will bring up the TOC page, hit OK -> (6) follow link. The page will redisplay with numbers by the links, enter the number of the link you want.
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Old 01-01-2009, 10:45 AM   #3
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Sorry you think the Kindle is "hideous" .... that makes you a "form over function" person in my book.

And .... only having the page keys on one side of the screen, forcing you to use a cover that only opens on the left side, and having keys that appear somewhat less than intuitive, makes that reader look less than functional.

That said, its form is not all that great. It's OK, but I wouldn't put on par with the other products that are out there.

So, I do hope that those of you who purchase it are as happy with it as I am with my Kindles (yes, I own three of them, and happen to think they are quite beautiful, as well as amazingly functional, and reliable).
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Old 01-03-2009, 08:05 AM   #4
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EZ Reader Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickyMaveety View Post
Sorry you think the Kindle is "hideous" .... that makes you a "form over function" person in my book.

And .... only having the page keys on one side of the screen, forcing you to use a cover that only opens on the left side, and having keys that appear somewhat less than intuitive, makes that reader look less than functional.

That said, its form is not all that great. It's OK, but I wouldn't put on par with the other products that are out there.

So, I do hope that those of you who purchase it are as happy with it as I am with my Kindles (yes, I own three of them, and happen to think they are quite beautiful, as well as amazingly functional, and reliable).
I didn't choose the EZ Reader primarily because it looked better, but it is not an irrelevant point.

The Kindle was third in my top-three list of choices, with Sony being my second option.

The main problem I had with the Kindle and the Sony is their proprietary DRM formats. You are more or less stuck into eitehr buying a Kindle or Sony respectively once you start down that road. Mobipocket is more "open".

The EZ Reader I purchased is my first reader. It is the portable one that I intend to take with me on the bus to work or vacation. They are going to soon come out with some very nice readers (9.7", flexi-screens, color e-ink, etc.). When these do come out, the odds are that my Mobipocket e-books will transfer to most of these new readers, whether or not the reader is one I purchase from Astak or some other company. And if they don't, I have the capability of converting my e books to another format as of this moment.

Can the same be said for the Kindle or Sony format books? For those you are tied to that hardware vendor, at least at the moment until they decide to open up their specific technology (or someone comes up with hacks, which they may have already???). And Amazon does not even appear to be moving as fast as Sony in coming out with new and improved versions of their readers. So how long will you have to wait for a 9.7" reader???

Sony and Amazon want to be both an E-Book store and a hardware vendor and corner the market on both.

One thing I should add to my review though is that if you are using a reader for technical docs, reference or textbooks, you probably will want a Sony or Kindle because of the search/highlighting functions. The EZ Reader is primarily for reading (novels or non-fiction books) and not reference. But then there are other technologies that are probably better suited for reference docs (I have a Palm Pilot) anyway as opposed to an E reader.
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