With the recent launch of the Amazon Kindle 2, the eBook reader market is a hot topic once again. I have been interested in the technology behind eBook readers and e-ink for a while. The offers have been pretty slim in years past, however. I was at Fry’s Electronics the other day and happened to pass by what was now an “eBook reader section”, so I stopped and looked. Now, they of course did not have a Kindle to play with since you can only get it through Amazon, but they did have several others. They had three that utilized e-ink technology; 2 Sony, and an Astak EZ Reader. For the most part they were the same, and unfortunately that means they all have the same screen flicker that comes with the territory when you are using current e-ink technology. The fourth unit they had was a Jetbook from ECTACO. This unit was different in that it didn’t use e-ink, but rather a VGA monochrome reflective-type TFT LCD. This screen is very easy on the eyes and does not suffer from the same screen flicker “problem”.
Overall I really enjoyed the unit, it was very portable and easy to carry. Had a quick power on time and was comfortable to hold. For page turning, you can use the 2 page turn buttons on the bottom face of the unit, or a thumb slider on the left hand side of the unit. Both worked quite well. After the first few days I was sold on the unit, until, yes unfortunately there is an until, I looked at a PDF book. Up until that time I was reading a .txt text eBook. With text files, the page flips were instant, very clear and fit the screen perfectly. Now, when you move to PDF books, it’s a whole different game. PDFs don’t fit the screen very well, and unfortunately the page flips take considerably longer, making it just about as uncomfortable as the e-ink flicker.
Finally, price. With the Kindle coming in at a hefty $359, the Jetbook is cheap at only $199. However, with the limited number of book formats it works with, and the inability to display PDF eBooks as well as .txt files, it makes it still too pricey for what you get. If this unit was $99, it would probably be worth keeping for text files.
For now it looks like I am back to Stanza and my iPhone for eBook reading, at least until the Kindle (or other models) fix the e-ink flicker and page change delay. It’s coming soon though, I can feel it!