BeBook e-reader review

Having digitised our music collections, photographs and videos we’re left with very little entertainment based on old-fashioned media formats. The printed page is the last format to go digital, but e-readers, such as BeBook, aim to turn the printed page into a digital form that can be easily carried around.

We've noticed a general malaise towards e-reader technology, maybe because books are a fairly beloved medium, but also because most people can’t comprehend reading an entire novel on a screen. The screen technology on modern e-readers is impressive enough to change people's minds though. Behind all these e-readers sits a technology, called e-paper, that utilises an electrophoretic display. Unlike standard screen technology there’s no backlight, and it doesn’t project like an LCD display. Instead it uses power to move a coloured dye around.

The screen on the BeBook looks like paper, it’s no harder to read for long periods than real paper, and it uses power only when you move from one page to another. BeBook claims to provide 7,500 page turns on a single four hour charge – more than enough to read several books. In testing it never ran out of juice. The downside is that there’s a slight delay when moving from one page to another, and the screen flashes solid black when flipping pages. On the whole, though, after using an e-reader for a few minutes you realise that it can function as an effective replacement for a physical book.

The e-reader market is off to a slow, and still relatively small, start – especially in the UK where the world’s main contender Amazon, with its Kindle reader, remains firmly off sale. Sony is the only other big-name player in this market with its PRS-505S E-Reader. Other players appear to be Hanlin and CyBook, but it was the BeBook, from Dutch firm Endless Ideas BV, that really caught our attention. Whereas Amazon sells books via a 3G connection and its Kindle Store, and Sony has gone the iTunes route by sporting Adobe Digital Editions and its eBook store (Windows-only for the time being), the BeBook appears to have firmly set its sights on the open-source, free book market. To that end, the BeBook offers support for a seemingly unending array of formats: PDF, MOBI, PRC, EPUB, LIT, TXT, FB2, DOC, HTML, RTF, DJVU, WOL, PPT, MBP, CHM, BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF, TIF, RAR, ZIP AND MP3. In fact, just about every type of format used to transfer books to a digital format is supported.

Support for DRM-enabled formats is limited to the MobiPocket format, so when it comes to purchasing legitimate new books your choice is somewhat limited. However, the book market differs from the music and film industries in that a wide body of work is out of copyright and in the public domain. There are several online projects aiming to digitise written works. The highly regarded Project Gutenberg website, for example, houses 25,000 books – the complete works of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and hundreds of other authors are just a click of a button away.

NEXT: Getting hold of e-books for free


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