Five Minutes with the Iliad

I managed to get five minutes with the iliad e-book reader in the Dymocks store yesterday. Now, five minutes is little more than first impressions, so that’s all this is. If I can persuade some money to appear from somewhere, it may get a more in-depth review (although I’ll have to look at the relative merits of importing a Sony Reader). Anyhow, here’s my 5 point 5 minute summary.

1. It’s bigger than I expected. More trade paperback sized than paperback sized. But much slimmer – the (optional) case does give it more bulk in the thickness department though.

2. E-Ink doesn’t have a wow factor in a bookshop environment. Here’s the thing. When you turn on an iphone, the screen screams LOOK AT ME. E-ink doesn’t. It’s sharp and beautifully clear, but it’s not bright. Which it can’t be because it’s not backlit. But I don’t carry a reading lamp in my back pocket and I suspect in a more p-book type reading environment, it will work much better. I also suspect that the mild discomfort one gets after reading on a backlit screen for a while won’t happen. More research needed.

3. It’s S-L-O-W. Loading books takes an age, page turning is (um) noticeable – although not unreasonable. The whole thing just feels like a lumbering giant.

4. The software is only *good enough*. Books are filed according to their different formats (mobipocket files are accessed from a different place from pdf files). You can write on a pdf but not a mobile pocket. But writing is clunky and a bit etch-a sketchy. The salesman said that there was wifi but no web-browser (although I think there’s probably hacks??!! gotta admit I haven’t had time to do the iliad research). He was also keen to show me how to enlarge text. You can click to enlarge text size (slow) or click an icon, circle the text you want to enlarge and it zooms in (slowly). Anyone used to the ipod touch pinch and zoom would think that they had stepped back in time about a decade…

5. You need to use a stylus to do lots of stuff. There’s hardware buttons for some functions (like page turning) but icon based stuff needs you to pull out a cheap looking plastic stylus… so 20th century palm pilot in an age of multitouch interfaces…


Overall, it looks like a flexible, hackable device though. But at $900 it doesn’t have the finesse appropriate to its pricepoint. (Bear in mind that these *are* first impressions…)

I do want to have a closer look and check out the integration with e-book titles so watch this space.

BTW: FWIW – The salesman said they had sold ‘a couple of hundred’…



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