Endless Ideas BeBook
Thousands of books are now available to download from the Internet, some for free and others at a price, and bookshops are promoting eBook readers as a clever way of carrying a whole library around.
If the idea of reading a book on a screen puts you off, you need to see the new electrophoretic display technology, because it's a very different thing from the familiar glowing LCDs.
The screen on the BeBook is fantastic. It doesn't use a backlight, so it's gentle on the eyes. Yet it's readable in sunlight and from a wide range of angles, and because it uses much less power than an LCD, it lasts for ages on a battery charge. It's really not so different from print.
While the problem of making electronic text as readable as a book seems close to being solved, the user interface can still interfere. The BeBook's controls aren't the most intuitive, and are awkwardly placed. You have to wait a few seconds for the unit to start up, which is annoying if you're constantly putting down and picking up your book. There's also a slight delay when choosing menu options and turning pages.
If you can put up with those limitations, the BeBook offers some notable features, such as support for international scripts including Chinese, Japanese and Cyrillic. It also supports more file formats than other readers, including Word documents and even PowerPoint presentations as well as a host of obscure eBook formats. It can play MP3s, so you can listen to music while you read, or indeed play audiobooks as long as they're in MP3 format, and the relatively large internal memory will store several hours' worth. However, audio will reduce the battery life considerably.
Getting eBooks onto the BeBook is simple: you connect it to your PC via USB and synchronise using the the Mobipocket software. Mobipocket.com offers news feeds and free samples of books.
The BeBook's controls are a bit clumsy, and the cheap wallet is probably best left behind. At this price, it's only the best reader if you really need the international fonts or esoteric formats.