There’s no doubt that the e-reader market is ready to grow at a staggering rate in the next few years. Amazon have now released three versions of the Kindle, most recently the Kindle third generation managing to impress us just as much as the Kindle second generation did back at the beginning of this year.
Add Apple’s iBook store alongside the iPad tablet device into the equation and you have quite the war brewing. What about other third parties hoping to make an impact, though? Can they match up to the big boys in terms of both price and functionality?
That’s just what the BeBook is trying to do, so we decided to take a look for ourselves, to see how it performs.
The hardware of the BeBook is not too dissimilar to that of the Kindle, spare the next and previous page buttons on the side of the screen. The screen size is the same as the Kindle, measuring 6 inches, with a 600 x 800 resolution, although that’s where most of the similarities end between the two devices.
Navigation on the BeBook is centred around the four radial buttons underneath the screen, which allow you to access the menu, go back whilst navigating the software, and of course flick between the next and previous pages.
Unfortunately, the way these buttons are set up can make it slightly awkward to read comfortably on the device, because I tend to hold it like I would a Kindle. This results in the inability to quickly turn pages, and instead I have to shift my hand to the dial at the bottom of the device to turn the page forwards or backwards.
For me, Amazon got button placement spot on with the Kindle, and it’s something that the BeBook needs to improve upon in future versions if it’s going to be as easy to use.
It’s not all bad news though; there are actually a few things that I really enjoyed about the BeBook compared to the competition. At first, I was skeptical to see a stylus present with this ebook reader, because, well, I haven’t used one in years, and wasn’t sure how effective one would be on a device such as the BeBook.
As it turns out, it’s far more fun to create notes using a stylus on an e-ink screen than it is using a keyboard. Input was intuitive, although the display was naturally limited in responsiveness, however annotations were a dream.
Unfortunately, first impressions weren’t fantastic, as the BeBook took what felt like an age to start up for the first time when I used it (I wouldn’t let the battery die if I were you), but we got there eventually.
One great thing about the BeBook is the sheer amount of formats that it supports. Open formats such as .epub are fully supported, and of course you can also add a plethora of other file types to the device as well, such as PDF, MOBI, RTF along with image formats, too.
Unfortunately, navigation around the software is somewhat limited due to the mandatory use of the stylus. I would have loved the stylus as an extra option when I needed the odd note taking, but to use it as a full navigation tool? Not so good.
As it turns out, the lack of responsiveness in the display when you’re prodding around with a stylus is ever so slightly off putting, and navigating between features without a dedicated home button can be a problem.
Although it’s clear that the BeBook was made to achieve something capable of accepting many open formats, and including additional functionality, that functionality comes at the cost of simple navigation.
Using a stylus a lot is simply too detrimental for the BeBook to compete against a simple reading device like the Kindle, and then there’s the matter of the £240 price point. Would you pay twice as much for a BeBook as you would a Kindle? Don’t hold your breath.
All in all, the BeBook needs to do quite a bit of catching up, and price cutting, to compete in the e-reader market. Hopefully, their second generation model will continue to improve as the Kindle generations did so that it won’t be as awkward to use.