Electronic book readers turn over a new leaf
The Bebook is an electronic book reader similar to Sony’s PRS-505, which we reviewed recently.
In both cases users can download electronic book files from the internet and copy them onto the device for reading. Unlike a computer screen, there’s no backlight so there’s less potential for inducing eye-strain in the reader.
In terms of their advertised specifications the only obvious differences are that the Bebook offers an internal memory of 512MB and a single SD memory card expansion slot whereas the Sony comes with 192MB and both SD card and Memory Stick Pro Duo slots.
The Bebook also claims to be able to display compressed files and Powerpoint presentations, as well as some other formats not supported by the Sony device. On most other counts – screen size, physical dimensions, battery life, screen technology and ease of use for both right- and left-handed users they are very similar.
On first impressions, the Bebook’s grainy plastic casing looks and feels cheap compared with the smart two-tone metal of similar devices. To make things worse, its edges are quite rough and consequently it’s uncomfortable to hold when not kept in its leather casing. Setting up the Bebook involves little more than connecting it to the PC with the supplied USB cable and copying files onto it using Windows as if it were an external disk.
However, there’s no software to help users to synchronise electronic books and other files on the PC with those on the reader. This makes it hard to keep track of what files are on the reader and it isn’t helped by the Bebook’s crude menu system, which it’s necessary to use to find files.
A row of numbered buttons correspond to the folders, but the Bebook doesn’t have anything to compare to the Sony’s excellent navigation screen which makes quickly jumping to a particular named section or paragraph of a file very easy. Its zoom facility, which is imperative on such a device to ensure that text is readable, also failed to impress.
On a test PDF file containing text in a small font, the Bebook wasn’t able to zoom in on the text to make it sufficiently readable. When the same PDF was viewed on the Sony, it was possible to choose from several sizes which were perfectly readable. And although the Bebook claims to support viewing Powerpoint files, during tests it would only display the first few slides before unexpectedly reverting back to the list of files.
The Bebook’s usabilty and technical shortcomings are a shame because in some aspects it holds it own. Its screen is brighter and easier on the eye than that of its big-name rival and advancing through pages is equally very quick.
It’s a pity, then, that it is let down by a crude and unhelpful viewing interface and its grainy plastic casing.
Read more reviews
With better usability this would have been a good choice of electronic reader Good points Good quality screen; can to play some music files Bad points Poor interface; tacky feel; patchy file support
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