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Old 06-20-2017, 11:46 AM   #1
bm.brooks
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Inkbook Prime Review

Background
I like to start reviews by providing some information on my qualifications so you can judge if you want to listen to my opinions, if you donít care about my background just skip ahead.

I began reading book on electronic devices back in the days of Pocket PC. I moved on to e-ink starting with the Sony PRS-500, then made the jump to the PRS-505 to be able to use ePub instead of LRF. The next jump was to the PRS-T1, to gain network capability. The browser and networking not being the most robust, I moved away from e-ink and switch to a Android tablet (~8.5 Inch size). While I enjoy the tablet for better surfing, the size, weight and glare resulted in not the best reading device. I recently ran across my old PRS-T1, and started reading a few books on it. The light turned on, figuratively speaking since the PRS-T1 doesnít have one, and I remembered why I liked the e-ink devices.

Over the 15 years and 10 devices I have read close to a thousand books electronically, a 60-40 split between fiction and nonfiction; throwing in a couple of dozen computer related technical books. I have converted books from paper, text, and HTML into eBooks. I have spent thousands of hours tweaking eBooks using Calibre, Jutoh and sometimes the raw HTML.

Hardware
Where to start? I would recommend you pop over to the-ebook-reader.com and read Nathanís various posts on the Inkbook Prime. I am going to try and not cover the same ground and really just add in bits and pieces here and there.

For me one of the biggest criteria on selecting a eReader is the ergonomics on holding the device. While I do read a lot sitting in a chair, riding in a car, etc. the place I do most of my reading is in bed. This means that gravity is working against me, which I have discovered more than once when my android tablet has slid out of my fingers and crashed into my face. Your mileage may vary but for me the size of the Prime is a great match of the size of my hand. I can easily grip the Prime, fingers on one side, thumb on the other and still be able to use the buttons.

Probably not a surprise to anyone, the Prime is mostly plastic. If you grab opposite corners and bend you get a little flex, but surprising little. In normal handholding, you donít hear or feel any flex.

The side buttons were kind of a shock to me. From the various pictures I had come to the conclusion that movement of the buttons went from the side toward the middle, in other words squeeze the device to turn the page. Instead the buttons travel from the front to the back. For me the force needed to press the button is fairly good. Just holding the device (one handed) even if my fingers are on the button very seldom does it flip the page. On the other hand, with most software I have seldom had to hit the button twice to actually make the page flip.

I am less pleased with the sensor button at the bottom. It really isnít a button that you hit and move on to something else, it is more a put your finger on it for a second or two to register then move on. The nice thing is that you really donít need to use the sensor button that often, so I tend to forget it is there.

Power button is on the back in the upper right corner. A fairly nice position for turning on/off the Prime using your index finger, really annoying position if you are using a cover (unless the case has a hole cut in it)

Reading in a variety of lighting and orientations, I have have used the front light at all levels. I havenít yet seen a shadow or a discoloration. If I had to pick, I would say the light has a slight bluish tint from white. At the lowest setting the light is too bright for my eyes when reading in a dark room. Most eReader software can easily reduce the light further down for acceptable reading level, however it is a rude awakening if you jump out of the software back to standard android. The is no built in auto-light level, the light level can be manually adjusted (or turned off) in the notification area.

Battery duration is such a hard thing to rate, it is dependant on so many things, wifi usage, lighting level, even the apps you are running. Add to that, since it is a new device I am frequently adding and removing software, hooking it up to the computer, etc. So far I am experiencing about 10-11 hours of on-screen time. This would put it on par with a good Android tablet, but somewhat less than a dedicated eReader.

Compared to a regular tablet or smartphone, the touchscreen is less responsive. Doing a slow scroll or trying to select a value on a scroll wheel (like font size) really doesnít work. Not sure if this a limitation the touch screen or the slow refresh of e-ink. Flicks work fine, so paging through a book or scrolling a website isnít a problem. It really is just the fine control that is missing, something not really needed to read books.

CPU-Z does confirm the CPU is a quad-core 1.6GHZ, the result is that I really havenít seen any lag in any application I have tried.

OS/Built-In Software
While the Prime is running Android, Arta Tech has done a couple of tweaks from the standard. The biggest is that Arta Tech has written a custom settings app. It has the basic items such as setting up Wifi and Bluetooth, along with some Prime specific one such as controlling the e-Ink display and buttons. Some of the obvious or not so obvious controls missing are for sound, screen locking, and google account management, none of which I really need. I believe the android standard settings app is still in there, I have had apps kick me into it, but it isnít directly accessible.

As Nathan mentioned Arta Tech includes an setting screen to setup/define the side buttons (I have not found a control for the sensor button at the bottom). You have individual control for each button to configure paging how you want to and/or how your reader software wants it. For example Left page back; Right page forward or Upper page back; Lower page back. Beyond paging you can also include Back, Touch Panel on/off and Refresh screen into the mix. Unfortunately changing the setting requires a reboot, annoying if you are jumping between reading apps.

I have had no issues connecting to any wifi or bluetooth devices. Keeping the wifi on all the time is a power drain, so Arta Tech has implemented a timeout. The surprising (annoying) part is that it seems the timer starts when turn on the wifi, not when you stopped actually using it. Assuming the timer is set to 5 minutes, turn on the wifi, open up the browser do some surfing, start a download. It has been 5 minutes since the wifi was turned on, so off it goes even though you are still downloading.

Android is known not to be the most friendly on e-Ink resulting in a lot of ghosting. When doing various actions at the OS level or in some apps, such as the browser, the screen will periodically do a full refresh, that nice black to white blink effect. I am guessing that there is a little timer running in the background to force a full refresh to eliminate ghosting. I have yet to see this happen in any eReader application I have tried.

Speaking of screen refresh, or more specifically ghosting. I am going to break ghosting down into two different types, the traditional light gray you see in white areas and a new (?) one of letter fragments that donít erase. Most eReader software, e-Ink aware or not, has very little traditional ghosting. In normal reading you cannot see the ghosts, you have to stop and closely examine the white areas. Non-reader apps are hit and miss on the gray ghosting, never really a problem but more noticeable in some apps. When flipping between screens once in awhile letter fragments, an example would be the upright of a capital F, will remain on the left edge of the screen image after the page has refreshed. This black bar will hang around through multiple partial screen refreshes until either a full screen refresh happens, or your text (graphic) aligns with the fragment. You can force a full screen refresh by clicking the refresh button in the notification area. This occurs more frequently when jump between apps instead of screens with the same app.

The built-in launcher is mixture of a the fairly standard book display of current, prior, next married with a standard android dock bar at the bottom. One of the buttons on the dock bar will open the app drawer to get the rest of your applications. This launcher doesnít have the ability to add any widgets from installed applications. Clicking on any of the books displayed will launch the InkReader (built-in reader) application. Even if other reader applications are installed the launcher will not prompt for default reader app. I did stumble across a way to change the default reader to another, but it didnít really gain me much. The books shown in the launcher are managed by the InkReader, not the launcher. Every time you started a new book you would need to open it once in the InkReader so that it showed up in the launcher. In the app drawer you do not have the ability to change the ordering of the applications. One little quirk of the app list, if you install FBReader it is not listed.

The InkReader app does what it needs to, it allows you to read books in ePub format. From a functionality standpoint it has some nice features, along with a few quirks, from a customization format I want a little more.
  • You can pop up the TOC. However clicking on a chapter doesnít jump to that chapter. TOC has a search, but I could not make it work.
  • In the same area as the TOC you can switch to looking at notes perform searches (these worked for me) on notes. Notes are created from doing a bookmark (note is first couple of lines of the page) or selecting text and adding a note (see below). You can edit the entered note or delete either type of note within the TOC area.
  • You can search for words in a book. When doing a search the matching locations show up in a secondary list, along with some context, from which click on the list item to jump to the location.
  • Selecting a section of text, using standard android controls works well. You can bookmark, write notes, highlight, lookup in dictionary, or do a web search on selected text
  • Pinch-to-zoom works to adjust the font size.
  • Margins - Small, Medium, Large
  • Interline Spacing - Small, Medium, Large
  • Orientation - Works, I really havenít tried reading sideways for an extended period of time
  • Day/Night mode - works. Night mode does a full screen refresh on every page.
  • Fonts - 5, beyond what is built in the ebook
  • Font Size - 8 levels

Probably the biggest point is how well does it format the pages. In the book I am currently reading there is a section where one of the characters is telling a story. In comparing the section across reader apps, all of them correctly render the story in italics, however in InkReader the section is also indented. This matches the formatting of Bookari, FBReader, Coolreader and Calibre. In Moon+Reader and Alreader there is no indent. End result is that InkReader seems accurate, it is really a different question if you like accurate or want more control on the layout. On this size screen and with the option sizes of the fonts, the extra indent results in a lot of dead space.

Ok, so what is wrong, at least in my opinion, with the built in reader app?
  • There is no additional control of the front light brightness within the app, the system level is the only level. Already established it is too bright in a dark room for me. I can do white font on black, but then you will experience a full screen refresh between each page (i.e. the white screen eye blink effect). This point is a non-starter, I am not bouncing between apps while reading a book, InkReader in well lit, something else in the dark.
  • Every once and awhile spacing in eBooks is annoying, extra large margins or a large line height. In physical books there is a need for a reasonable size margin, for binding and holding. The bezel and rigid nature of the reader eliminates most of the need, I would want to maximize the content on a page, margins for me would be next to nothing, very little and little. Everyone has a different preference on interline spacing, my preference is a very tight line spacing. End result is that just having 3 levels of interline spacing and margins works many times, but then the bad books shows up and your option is switch to a different app, preprocess in Calibre, etc.
  • Unless I am reading from across the room, I donít need the largest 3-4 font sizes. My ideal reading size would be somewhere between 2 and 3. It would be great if they chopped a few sizes off the top and added Ĺ sizes to the bottom.
  • None of available fonts (Andada, OpenDyslexic,Droid Serif,Vollkorn,Merriweather), would have been in my 10 choice of fonts on a regular android tablet. Merriweather works reasonably well on the e-ink display, but comes across as a fairly bold (thick) font. Preferably I would like to dynamically load a font from the font directory.

Other builtin apps
  • Library - Is a pretty basic book lister. 5 books per page, list format with cover. You can sort by title, author or last accessed date. You have the ability to star (favorite a book) and list just your favorites. Arrows button to page through list or jump ahead (confusingly not jump to end just ahead some pages)
  • Files - Lot of crashes, just get something else like Solid Explorer.
  • The app store has 10-20 apps, mostly reading related. Only a few apps are displayed by default, more show up if you search for something.
  • Drive and News I havenít tried
  • Bookstore, as Nathan mentioned the books are not in English. No help for me
  • Dictionary - Not what I expected. The app just allows you to do download a dictionary file in English or Polish. Within the InkReader app, when you select a word the ďdictionaryĒ pops up. Instead of a definition of the word, the dictionary allows you to translate the word in a second language. I.e. English into German.
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Old 06-20-2017, 11:50 AM   #2
bm.brooks
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Device: Sony PRS-500;Sony PRS-505;Sony PRS-T1; Inkbook Prime
Inkbook Prime Review - Tips & Tricks

Can you install Ö
With the semi-standard e-ink disclaimer, many apps not build for e-ink may result in white/light gray text on a white background. Making it hard (or impossible to read)
  • Kindle/Moon+Reader/Kobo/AlReader/FBReader/Aldiko/Pocketbook/ - Yes
  • Amazon/APKPure/APKUpdater App Store - Yes
  • Calibre Companions - Yes (at least the demo)
  • Launchers - yes
The majority of launchers throw an error if you add a widget. Making the launcher a system app, seems to eliminate this problem
I havenít found a launcher that will set a wallpaper.
If you use an alternative launcher you cannot use widgets from the builtin library app
  • Dropbox - Yes
  • Google Drive - Not without google single sign-on (see below)
  • Perfect Viewer/Challenger Viewer - Yes
  • Chrome - Yes

Can you root the device - Yes
The Prime is built by Boyue and similar to ones from Onyx, Energy, Icarus, etc. Most (all?) of which have methods of gaining root, give them a try

Can you install google play store - Probably
After gaining root the major issue is getting the correct version of the 4 or 5 apps for the corresponding version of android. While I donít have a big need for the play store books, the play store most used facility for apps that you need to purchase.

(to be continued...)
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Old 06-29-2017, 10:01 AM   #3
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bm.brooks, thanks for your review! Feel free to contact us in case of any questions!
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Old 08-08-2017, 04:01 PM   #4
bm.brooks
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It was pointed out to me that my review on the inkBOOK really didnít have a conclusion, i.e. do I like the device. At the time I wrote the review I had owned the inkBOOK for less than 2 weeks, I wanted a little more time to experiment, test and use the inkBOOK before finalizing the review. While I am currently writing up that final part of my review I thought I would drop off a few more observations/tips.

FBReader
When using the most recent version of FBReader, beyond the issue with setting screens being difficult to read (limitation 16 gray levels on e-Ink) the setting to use a custom font in a ePub doesnít have any effect. Falling back to the e-Ink specific version built for the Nook the custom font function works, along with the obvious setting screens are now readable. I havenít (yet) tried intermediate versions to determine when the custom font feature stopped working for the inkBOOK and/or for itís version of Android.

If you want to use the FBReader Book Network, you will need to install a more robust browser than the one built in. I just did the easy route and installed Chrome; I was then able to set up the upload/download/sync without any problems.

Moon+ Reader
Not my normal reading app so maybe all of these are known. There are a couple of screens that hang when using Moon+ Reader, such as the first time it pops up the configuration screen for the bottom toolbar. After exiting, killing the app, or rebooting (depending on what you can get to work) and then returning to the same screen the app will not hang again.

There are a few of issues when using a custom font override in Moon+ Reader. Some of the fonts that I have copied to the device do not show up in the list available fonts (such as Googleís Literata font), there are other fonts that are present in the list but when selected the book renders as a series of blank pages (of course, now that I wrote that I went back to find a font example, they all now work. So you milage will definitely vary)

Bookari
I havenít been able connect the inkBOOK to the Bookari network. After going through the login/configuration screen, there is no error message displayed but you are also not logged into the network. I have emailed Mantano but havenít received a response yet, if I find a resolution I will post a followup.

Recent versions of Bookari have an e-paper mode to optimize the display on e-Ink devices. Not sure if it is the inkBOOK or Mantanoís implementation (not having another e-Ink device to compare) but to my eyes the e-paper mode is actually worse the normal mode. Fonts become thinner (less bold, less black) in the e-paper mode making a lot harder to read, kind of like trying to read a book that has been left out in the rain and then dried.

Google Play Books
I listed out the steps to get a recent version of Google Play Books installed over here. Unfortunately the most recent version doesnít work with this configuration of apps, maybe someday when I have some time to kill I will make another run at finding different versions of the apps that will work.

Side note on installing Google Play Books, partitioning might become an issue. You start with 8GB of storage on the device, slicing off around a 1.5GB for the OS leaving about 6.5GB; this space is further partitioned into ďinternalĒ (little less than 1GB) and ďNANDĒ (5GB+) partitions.

The 5 apps I listed, while not huge, can take a large chunk of that internal partition. Normally you can ďmove the app to the SDĒ, which moves the app (or at least the part of the app that can be moved) to the ďNANDĒ partition. However, in getting Google Play Books working I took the shortcut of just installing the Google framework apps into the system directory, so these apps cannot be moved to the SD card. End result is that if you install Google Play Books, using the method outlined, you probably arenít going to install many other apps.

PocketBook
Strangely enough, out of all the reader apps I have used on the inkBOOK this is the only one that has a significant ghosting problem.
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Old 08-30-2017, 05:52 PM   #5
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Things which worked and didn't work for me on InkBook Prime

Howdy, this is my first post but I am grateful for the insights on this thread and this forum, and wanted to share back some things I've picked up from my InkBook prime--something things that worked, some that did not. I tried a lot of different approaches to getting the reading experience the way I wanted it, but I kept running into a few sticking points with the default functionality--the dimmest backlight level was still too bright, and the serif typefaces in the default InkbookReader were not all that great for reading long passages, in my opinion. (The inclusion of the dyslexia font however is a thoughtful addition.)

I tried FBReader, which I had used extensively in my old rooted Nook Simple Touch (the battery doesn't hold a charge anymore, hence the new ereader.) I ran into the issues others have had, in which the physical buttons wouldn't work, and the icon would not appear in the built-in app launcher. However, I was able to sideload-install my preferred fonts and use those in the reader, and the built-in light control gave me a slightly dimmer option than the system itself did.

I installed two other launchers--RelaunchX, which I had used a version of on my NST, and Nova Launcher, which I've used on my phones for years. Nova Launcher had three major downsides in my opinion--greyscale tones to much of the interface, the inability to use the library widgets, and battery life. I rooted the device and re-installed Nova as a system app to make widgets available, but only the "recently-added" Library widget ever worked, and the layout did not work well, cutting off the lower parts of the book titles even when I expanded the widget. The "currently reading" widget, which was the one I was most interested in, remained invisible no matter what I tried. I think that would have worked against a white background, but since I was unable to change the wallpaper in Nova, I couldn't test that. I also tried a couple of high-contrast icon packs (downloaded from Aptoide app, which does work on the device) to address the low visibility of some of the icons, but the icon packs would not deploy across the interface, and could only be applied to icons added to the desktop, not in the app drawer. Battery life still was not great. So after that experiment, I was left with an easier-on-the-eyes, slow tablet but not a great reading-centered device.

RelaunchX had trouble launching epubs in FBReader until I found where in the settings i could set the file associations. The interface was very readable, and the battery life wasn't as bad as when I was running the more traditional tablet-oriented Nova Launcher. I wish there were more options for organizing the books on the device, but having my books organized by Author-named folders at least made for a clear navigation path to the books I was reading. Getting the launcher in a good place though made me more frustrated with the shortcomings of using FBReader on this particular device. (I still love the FBReader program, but my understanding is that the InkbookReader app is based on FB, and so there are system functions that are left unavailable to the standard FB app when used on the Inkbook.)

In a thread about one of the other android ereaders, someone had mentioned that Alreader had an e-ink option through the link on their website, so I gave it a try. Initially some of the interface was hard to read, but once I got the e-ink setting turned on, it became as usable as the Nook version of FBReader. I was additionally surprised to see that Alreader had an even more nuanced backlight control mechanism which I could set to a 1% brightness, without any grayscaling over it to keep it at the level I wanted. I found this lowest-possible-setting to be just right for reading in my environment. Furthermore, I found that if I turned off the E-Ink mode in Alreader, I didn't lose any of the high-contrast theming, and I was able to customize the overall reading experience with even more granularity. Oh--and the physical buttons worked!

Your mileage may vary, but RelaunchX and Alreader have proven to be the best combination of software to drive my new device. I don't think this combination requires rooting or major configuration changes. You can add fonts to Alreader by creating a folder called "fonts" (lowercase) in the main sdcard folder, and dropping them in. They'll show up at the bottom of the typeface list in Alreader.

Hope this helps. I was just about ready to send back the device since reading on it had been frustrating, but I'm pretty pleased with it now. Thanks again.
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Old 09-20-2017, 07:27 PM   #6
Blas
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hi guys thx for the detailed review, but what about the comics reading? Can you install apps like CDisplay to read them?
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:16 PM   #7
bm.brooks
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I did try the Perfect Viewer and Challenger Comics Viewer apps to read CBR/CBZ files. Both of them installed with no problems.

However, I didnít find reading comics on the e-ink display all that pleasurable, unless you are talking about black and white comics (such as Creepy and Eerie from Warren Publishing). Marvel, DC, etc. full color comics being translated to 16-level gray-scale, results in a comic that is a lot harder to read. Since I already own a cheap color android tablet, I went back to that for reading comics.
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Old 09-22-2017, 09:55 AM   #8
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Oh yeah I mostly read black and white comics like The Walking Dead. But I think that in this case the biggest reason for the difficult to read is the size of the screen, I'm looking for a 7'' inch screen to be able to read nicely. I wait for reviews from the BOYUE Likebook.
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Old 09-22-2017, 09:56 AM   #9
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I have a Kobo Touch for books, so idk if is really good to invest in an ereader to just read comics, cuz Kobo Touch is too small.
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Old 09-27-2017, 04:47 PM   #10
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Guys, someone can tell me if inkbook prime i can highlight pdf and save highlight and note into pdf file, so then i can read it on a mac? And is it possible to read pdf in landscape mode?
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