iRiver Story eBook Reader review

One fair criticism aimed at most eBook readers is that the build quality and design are often lacking. But not the iRiver Story: with its svelte white frame, slightly tapered casing, and embedded page-turn buttons this is a great looking piece of kit.

The iRiver Story sports a fairly typically 6in electronic ink screen that offers the usual high-quality reading experience associated with ink screens, and long battery life measured in page turns (up to 9000, apparently). We managed to use it for almost a week before recharging. Mind you, charging it up was a time-consuming process, taking almost 9 hours for us to get it back up to full charge.

Unlike the Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition the screen isn't reflective, so is great to use for long periods of time.

There's a full QWERTY keyboard with a row of navigation buttons and to side of the keyboard are large page turn buttons that form part of the case. Have buttons on both the left and right side is a nice touch for making the device ambidextrous.

On the bottom of the case sits an earphone socket, and a power slider that doubles as a keyboard lock (so you don't tap the page turn buttons when it's in a bag). A white flap reveals an SD socket although with 2GB of internal memory (and with most books weighing in at about 1MB you're unlikely to need it for book reading).

We're somewhat less convinced by the full QWERTY keyboard. Not because pressing the keys is difficult (it isn't) but the keyboard feels largely superfluous. You can take memos, and there's a diary function - neither of which are particularly convincing. The only other eBook device that shares a full keyboard is the Amazon Kindle, with its 3G connection and the online shop a keyboard makes sense (you need to type in authors names, book titles, and so on) but here we're not so sure. In some cases it's useful, the arrow keys and dedicated buttons like 'books', 'menu', 'zoom' and 'option' are all useful, but largely we felt 'what is this for'. And given that it adds an extra two inches of length to the device we can't help but feel it would be better without it.

That aside, we really like the hardware – especially the big page turning buttons. The iRiver Story is comfortable to hold, well built, looks stylish and generally feels good in the hand. It even has a built-in speaker so you play music from it. We were surprised by the audio quality of the device, largely because we'd never considered a eBook reader to be of any worth as an MP3 player. But if you like listening to music, or podcasts while you reading you'll be pleasantly surprised. And the function buttons include shuttle and volume controls so controlling audio while you read is straight-forward process.

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