I recently succumbed to gadget lust and bought an ebook reader, BeBook to be precise. I read a lot of books and luckily they tend to be public domain works from long dead authors. My tastes allow me to take advantage of the reader while not compromising my DRM == Evil stance.
The overall experience of reading on the BeBook is quite good. Needing light to view a display on an electronic device is still surprising. The screen is a bit smaller than I expected (though I am not sure what I was expecting exactly.) which means more page turns to read a book. Turning a page does take a few moments, however, it is easy enough to anticipate and click the button while you are close enough to the end. You can then finish reading while the reader does whatever it does to render then next ‘page’.
I often end up reading in bed. It is a habit I got into while I was single and luckily I have an understanding wife so I am able to continue doing this. It is so much easier using a reader while laying down than a book. Unfortunately, the buttons emit a clunky click when pressed. I initially thought this was the death knell for reading the BeBook in bed. Luckily, the wife has yet to complain.
For reasons I have yet to figure out, the default zoom level of some pdfs can be illegible. Zooming involves pressing the number key with the magnifying glass on it. NOT the buttons with the + and -, which are for volume. That took me longer to realize than I care to admit. The zoom button cycles through the various modes in one direction. This means that if you go one step too far you have several more page refreshes to go through to get back to where you want it. This can feel like it takes a while due to the slight delay in display refresh. I don’t really plan on using this to play audio, so it would be really nice to remap the volume buttons to zoom.
There really isn’t much to say about the software. It just works. Which is both surprising and good. As far as I can tell the UI is just a file browser, if there are more ways to browse your library, I don’t know about it. Since the file view has worked well enough for me I haven’t bothered to look.
I read mostly pdfs and epub books. Rendering epub is definitely superior to that of pdfs. If I had to guess, I would say this is because epub is an open standard, pdf is extremely complex while epub has a single purpose, and it appears there is more epub content. I have not tried any other formats since they tend to have DRM and I don’t want to throw away money or support such a horrid concept.
OpenInkpot needs mention. It is a linux distro for the Hanlin v3 (BeBook) and other ereaders. It is an interesting idea and deserves some attention. I want to use it some more before I decide whether to switch. The few times I have booted it, Inkpot seems to be very similar in how the BeBook functions. At least I haven’t noticed any marked difference yet. I am definitely going to play with it again and would recommend taking a few minutes yourself.
Content. The single reason to buy these things is to put books on them. If you can’t do that, they are quite pointless. Sure, you can put feeds into ebook format and consume them that way, but then links are dead and I have found it to be rather constraining. However, I do use zinepal.com and for what it is, it works very well. (more on that in another post.)
If you don’t care whether your soul is sucked into the maw of giant corporate blobs, then DRM is for you. There are two big buy offers on your soul; Amazon and Sony. You can give them lots of money for the privilege of temporarily accessing big name authors and other pop-culture trends. Then they will take it away at a whim. Who wouldn’t want that?
Even if you did decide your soul was worth their baubles you would still have to run a vbox/vmware image of windows. Most of their spyware is not cross platform.
Your other choice is to travel into the world of Public Domain, Tech Tomes, and Unknowns. Lucky for me, this happens to be where I enjoy traveling. Reading authors that were around before the Brimstone Puking Demon was envisioned is extremely entertaining and rewarding. O’Reilly has decided that their customers are not amoral savages so there is a wealth of cool, but expensive, content. There is also a bunch of places offering self-published authors and a few publishers that have functioning brain cells, http://www.baen.com
There is enough content out there allowing you to avoid DRM altogether. It just requires a bit of work to find. I am still looking for good sources of books. I love that O’Reilly doesn’t have DRM. However, building a library of their material would be extremely expensive at $30+ a pop.
Is the BeBook worth it? Yes. It allows me to easily read classic lit, all the tech tomes I could want and find great unknown authors. Using it for only a week and I am hooked.