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Old 09-24-2009, 04:05 PM   #1
Elsi
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Folders! I've got folders! - A short review of the BeBook Mini

A week ago, I received a BeBook Mini -- the new 5-inch reader built by Hanlin, which means that the hardware is the same as the Astak Pocket Pro. My BeBook arrived via FedEx from Endless Ideas in The Netherlands and I tore into the box to see what was there. Obviously, the reader was in the box; it was *on* with the User's Guide displayed, and the battery status icon indicated that there was 3/4 charge in the battery. Also in the box were a USB cable, headphones, a screwdriver to remove the battery cover, and even a couple of extra screws.

Of course, the best thing about an e-Book reader is reading, so I quickly checked to see what was on it. There was only a small text file providing the GPL notice and a PDF of the User's Guide. I opened the User's Guide and started reading. Controls were intuitive enough. There are page forward and page backward buttons on the left-hand side of the case. The "9" and "10" keys can also be used for turning the pages. And, from the User's Guide, I discovered that the toggle (which the manual calls a thumbwheel) on the right side of the case could also be used to turn the pages.

Obviously, reading the User's Guide just isn't the same as reading a good book, so I connected the BeBook to my computer to install a couple of books. All of a sudden it dawned on me that one of the menu items I had seen on the device ('Restore_PC') was actually a folder. Hmmmm...if I were to make additional folders on the BeBook, would I be able to see them when using the device? Or would it simply display the books from within the folder as my Sony PRS-505 and Kindle do? Lo and Behold! The top-level "bookshelf" page lists the folders and then the files in the root directory of the BeBook.

Of course with folders comes the challenge of how you're going to organize the files on your reader. Since I wanted to compare the rendering of different file types, and this would mean having two or four books with the same title, I first set up a folder named 'epub' and one named 'mobi'. Then, after thinking about it more, I went back and created a folder for the source of the book, winding up with folders named 'MobileRead', 'Fictionwise', and 'Baen'. I left the 'Restore_PC' folder there since I didn't know if it had any particular significance. The reader creates a folder called 'Digital Editions' which holds annotations and a pseudo-folder called 'Recent Files' which has a pointer to the files which have recently been opened on the reader.

I threw an handful of books onto the BeBook and then headed off on a two-week trip to Ireland. I have been reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie -- this month's Book Club selection -- which I downloaded from MobileRead in ePub format. After getting used to the small size compared to my Kindle & Sony readers, I found it quite enjoyable to read on the BeBook.

The functions and capabilites vary depending on the book format. For example, compare the menus displayed when reading ePub and Mobipocket books:


The ePub menu is on the left; Mobipocket on the right. ePub menu option 4 "Go to Catalog" lists the TOC with each item given its own menu option, while Mobipocket menu option "Go to ..." lists the guide items such as "Table of Contents", "Cover", and "Start Reading". Selecting a chapter is a two-step process for ePub books and three steps for a Mobipocket book.

So far, I've mostly focused on non-DRM Mobipocket books and ePub books. I can compare the same books in the BeBook with one of my other readers -- Kindle for Mobipocket books and Sony 505 for ePub books.

Some quick impressions:
  • It's small. And light. And that's almost disconcerting to begin with.
  • No cover was included in the box and although a leather sleeve is mentioned on the box, it doesn't appear on the web site yet.
  • The matte black finish is almost silky. It feels wonderful in my hands.
  • Although Mobipocket isn't listed as a supported format on the box, the User's Guide lists it and sure enough, it seems to work just fine.
  • Books are listed by the file name. There doesn't seem to be any way of displaying the books by their titles or authors. Makes it difficult with the older Baen books whose file names are something like "067131839X.epub" (which is Pyramid Scheme by Dave Freer and Eric Flint
  • The manual says there are 5 font sizes, but ePub books cycle through only 4 sizes in portrait orientation; 5 in landscape/rotated orientation. And Mobipocket books only cycle through 3 sizes and don't rotate at all.
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles downloaded in ePub format from here at MobileRead always opens to the cover, but other books -- both ePub and Mobipocket -- keep their last position after changing books and then returning.
  • Support of MS Reader (.lit) books appears to be very poor. Every line is centered, and it takes a *long* time to open books in this format.
  • Buttons need to be pressed very firmly. Sometimes when the BeBook doesn't appear to be responding, I'm not sure if it is processing slowly or if the button-press didn't register.
I have a lot more testing to do. I have not purchased any ePubs with DRM, but I do want to check this out and compare the Sony reader to the BeBook.

I want a proper cover. I'm carrying it in a quilted case and putting it carefully into a protected area of my backpack, but I'm not comfortable that it's protected well enough without a cover.

I'll hold off giving a rating since there are more things that I want to test. But it's looking very good -- particularly for reading the two book formats that I'm most likely to want to use: Mobipocket and ePub.
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Old 09-24-2009, 04:13 PM   #2
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Very nice review. Well done and very informative.

But I do have one question. Does ADE with ePub have the same bugs that the Astak PocketPRO has?

1. ADE page numbers on the right margin increase when the font size is increased.
2. Hyperlinks do not work properly (such as an internal Toc or an endnote).
3. No history to go back or forward.
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Old 09-24-2009, 04:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
Very nice review. Well done and very informative.

But I do have one question. Does ADE with ePub have the same bugs that the Astak PocketPRO has?

1. ADE page numbers on the right margin increase when the font size is increased.
2. Hyperlinks do not work properly (such as an internal Toc or an endnote).
3. No history to go back or forward.
Hyperlinks do work properly on the Pocket Pro (it's just that there's no 'go back').


I would assume it's the same on the BeBook since AFAIK they both use Jinke firmware that's been customized with their respective logos.
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:09 AM   #4
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The lastest FW of V5 has solved this problem: Hyperlinks. You may browse the web page as following:
http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/E.../update_v5.asp
Hope it will be OK!
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:47 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Elsi View Post
I want a proper cover. I'm carrying it in a quilted case and putting it carefully into a protected area of my backpack, but I'm not comfortable that it's protected well enough without a cover.
You may buy the cover from Jinke on-line, and the web page as following:
http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/E.../accessory.asp

The price of cover is about USD$12.
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Old 09-25-2009, 11:09 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by allen View Post
You may buy the cover from Jinke on-line, and the web page as following:
http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/E.../accessory.asp

The price of cover is about USD$12.
If only the mini had it's own case though. Not and oversized V5 case. But it being in black is a plus.
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:34 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by AnemicOak View Post
Hyperlinks do work properly on the Pocket Pro (it's just that there's no 'go back').


I would assume it's the same on the BeBook since AFAIK they both use Jinke firmware that's been customized with their respective logos.
According to another thread, the way hyperlinks work is to turn them on and then select via the numbers. So what happens if I have an internal ToC with say 15 entries? How do I select say chapter 15?
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Old 09-25-2009, 08:03 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
According to another thread, the way hyperlinks work is to turn them on and then select via the numbers. So what happens if I have an internal ToC with say 15 entries? How do I select say chapter 15?
By internal do you mean inline? If you come to a page with links on it (like an inline TOC) you just 'tap' the zero key until the link you want is selected then click OK.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:47 PM   #9
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According to another thread, the way hyperlinks work is to turn them on and then select via the numbers. So what happens if I have an internal ToC with say 15 entries? How do I select say chapter 15?
This is the way hyperlinks work for MOBI. To select chapter 15 type in 15 and then OK. If there are more that 9 links on the page you always need to hit OK after the number, if there are fewer than 10 links just the number is enough.

Hyperlinks in PDFs and ePub work more similarly to other devices (such as the Cybook). One link at a time is selected and you use the 9 and 0 keys (< and >) to select the one you want and then hit OK.
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Old 09-26-2009, 01:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
According to another thread, the way hyperlinks work is to turn them on and then select via the numbers. So what happens if I have an internal ToC with say 15 entries? How do I select say chapter 15?
this is the way mobi files work, not ePUB. for mobi if you select follow link small numbers appear beside all of the links on the page and a bar appears at the bottom to type the number into. Tap the number, if there are 15 then 10-15 will jump automatically. The numbers 1-0 will need a leading 0 or else tap ok.

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Old 09-26-2009, 02:47 AM   #11
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According to another thread, the way hyperlinks work is to turn them on and then select via the numbers. So what happens if I have an internal ToC with say 15 entries? How do I select say chapter 15?
Then you go to the link and press OK. At least in Epub. Only in mobi do you need to "turn them on". You can skip the links by using the 9 and 0 keys. So, if there are links on a page, you'll need to use either the thumbwheel or the buttons to the right of the device to go to the next/previous page. If there are no links, you can use the 9 and 0 too.
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