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Which e-Book Reader

There are five great devices to put the world's literature in your pocket... but which one's best?
Here's a summary of the pros and cons of the Sony, Bebook, Hanlin, Cybook and Kindle e-readers.

So youíre sold on e-book readers Ė and rightly so: bringing 1000 works of literature to your fingertips at the touch of a button has to be better than rooting through 1000 paperbacks occupying almost a square metre and weighing 340 kilograms!

But now that the first generation truly usable, affordable and convenient e-readers is availableÖ which to go for?

The main players in the market are Hanlin (stylish), Bebook (versatile), Cybook (impressively simple), Amazon, with the popular ĎKindleí, and Sony, whoís lightweight, slimline e-book reader is selling like hotcakes and is perhaps the most likely to become the ĎIpodí of e-readers.

There are some good sites where you can compare e-book readers for yourself, but, as one of few people I know who have used them all, Iíll run through a summary of the pros and cons of each, and which one Iíd advise going for at time of writing.

Bebook Review

Netherlands-based Bebook have a strong contender in the Bebook reader. First off, itís just a nice-looking gadget. Not austerely handsome like the Hanlin, nor ultra-sleek like the Sony (which is surely designed for gadgeteers rather than book-lovers) but pleasing to the eye, and well designed for its purpose.

Battery life on the Bebook is comparatively high at over 7,000 page turns Ė though frankly all of the popular readers have more than enough juice to satisfy an avid reader.

The Bebook comes with 150 classic titles pre-intalled, and with over 20,000 more titles available for download free from Bebookís official site, it is undoubtedly a good-value package.

Where Bebook scores better still is on compatibility. The device has been made to take just about any format you can think of (a huge advantage over the Kindle). You wonít have to worry about whether your reader can handle a particular e-book Ė it has completely universally compatibility.†

The price tag, around £230 / $340, makes it one of the cheaper of the Ďbig 5í, but not as low as the ever-popular Sony reader.†

The one area where I would mark the Bebook down is on ease of reading itself (from the eyeís point of view!). Itís so usable in all other respects that you really expect this fundamental aspect to be spot-on. Donít get me wrong Ė you can read from it Ė but letters donít seem as distinct and contrasted as with other readers, and crucially require more light for comfortable reading. Itís fine in direct sunlight Ė itís not so good out of it!


Sony Reader Review

The Sony Reader is fast becoming the standard e-book reader, and itís not hard to see why.

Basically, the machine canít be faulted. Itís ergonomically a joy to use - everything you need is exactly where you want it. Itís a sleek little beauty, surprisingly lightweight, and comfortable to hold.

While it ticks all of the most common boxes in style, the Sony reader isnít big on bells and whistles, or anything extra-curricular. There is no wifi, for example (the one area where the Kindle beats the Reader); there is no touch-screen, or annotation or note taking function; and there is no search function or dictionary.

The Sony e-book Reader does the job that its name suggests, however, with absolutely flying colours, and with the low price tag of £190 $285 it is still probably the best choice on the market.


Hanlin (V3) Review

Design-wise, if the Sony reader is a mass-produced sports car, the Hanlin reader is a Rollís Royce. Grand, austere and classic, more hardback than paperback, itís a device aimed at the book-lover rather than the gadget-lover. So whether the handsome Hanlin scores well on design really depends whether you consider that a bonus or a downer.

In line with itís more serious look, the Hanlin scores well on boring but important functionality. It has a non-proprietary (and so easily replaceable) USB adaptor, and reads Word and PowerPoint documents simply.

How to justify the extra costliness of the Hanlin over the Sony? (Itís around £240 ($350) vs. the Sonyís £190). Well the answer really lies in what you want it for. The Hanlin has a larger memory, a longer battery life and a greater range of supported formats. If you want a more convenient way to read a novel on a bus, plane or beach Ė youíre really better off with the Sony or Bebook. If youíre an executive, want to look like an executive, or are otherwise the sort of person who would have used a Filofax twenty years ago Ė youíll love the Hanlin.


Netronix Cybook Review

The Cybookís USP is its simplicity. It doesnít look bad, but there is a very slight ĎMy First E-Readerí feel about it.

Despite this, the actual mechanism for turning pages is slightly more awkward than for any other reader. If you use it for ten minutes, youíll probably see what I mean but think Iím nit-picking (which I am). If you use it for a day, and then use the Sony Reader or Bebook, youíll find them very refreshingly easy to use in comparison.

Functionality-wise, itís pretty good. Its response time is quick, it has a useful dictionary lookup function, and its battery life seems to be ever higher than the Bebookís.

At £220 ($325) it is a mid-range reader that does the job well, but without any outstanding features that make it easy to recommend over the Sony Reader or Bebook.


Amazon Kindle Review

For UK-based readers I should point out at the start that the Kindle is not available to you yet. Speculation as to when itís going to come out has turned increasingly to whether itís ever going to come out in the UK.

The Amazon Kindle is a real pioneer of the field. The first of the new generation of readers really to catch the public eye (and recently endorsed by Opera Winfrey) Ė it sold extremely well on release.

The Kindly should almost be judged in a separate category from other readers for two reasons. First, it has wifi functionality, which gives it the potential to be so much more of a versatile gadget than other readers are, and second, it unfortunately only reads ebooks in the proprietary .azw format.

Amazon isnít going anywhere soon, and since you can access the massive library of ebook online through the Kindle itself, getting hold of readable ebooks is no great problem.

What is a problem is that the Kindle looks utterlyFind Article, utterly hideous. ($350)


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Philip is the editor of Electronic Book Readers, a UK site for e-book reader news, reviews and comparison.

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