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eBOOKS ARE HERE! WHERE ARE YOU?


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You've heard about them for years, but have you ever seen an eBook reading device? If you answered yes, you're among a select few. That's why THAT MONEY SHOW's Betsy Karetnick took to the streets with an assortment of competing eBook devices to find out what the average person thinks about using these new gizmos.

While nearly everyone in our informal survey agreed that eBook readers are cool, many said that cost was a big factor in deciding whether or not they'd ever buy one. Others said they simply preferred the feel of a paper book, while some were concerned about the availability of the books that they want to read. So what's right for you?

Well, THAT MONEY SHOW convinced the manufacturers of several competing eBook reading devices to send us loaners to test-drive. After an informal analysis, we created the following table to help you compare the pros and cons of each device.


 

GEMSTAR eBOOKS' RCA REB 1100

Manufacturer

Gemstar and RCA

Cost

RCA REB 1100 is $299. The upgraded version is the RCA REB 1200 (a color model which wasn’t available for us to check out) costing $699.

Description

The device looks like a slimmed down version of the classic kids toy, Etch-A-Sketch. The unit comes with built in software that is designed to do one thing: read ebooks. It’s sleek and easy to use.

What e-books are available

They’ve got a pretty good selection of current fiction and classic novels in their system. Their non-fiction categories have slim offerings though.

The process of obtaining books on their site is a little cumbersome. They hook you up to a toll free number which connects you to their computer network. Their interface is a little annoying. Once you are on their network you can only download books you know you want, or any of the regularly featured selections. For a full list of their offerings you must download their book lists, which come in category files.

Additionally, you can download books from http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Additional info.

The REB 1200, has a larger, color screen and costs about $300 more than the model we tested. The 1100 has a button that is supposed to allow you to listen to music. Push it and you will learn that this function is going to be offered in the future.

The REB 1100 holds about 10 books.

Our review

The best looking, and most likely to be read device on the market. Kind of expensive though, considering you can’t do anything else with it: no datebook, no calendar, no playing mp3 files -- just ebook reading. But if you want a handy mobile way of reading, this is the best option on the market.

 

 

PALM IIIc

Manfuacturer

Palm (hardware)
Peanutpress (software)
Mobipocket (software)

Cost

Palm IIIc costs $329
Peanutpress and Mobipocket software is FREE

Description

An advanced version of the Palm personal digital assistant line of devices, this one features a color screen and all of the functions you’d expect in a Palm device: address book, calendar, games, note pad, etc.

Palm doesn’t come with any kind of ebook reading software built in, so you have to find one, download it to your desktop computer, and then copy it to your palm device. Even though the Palm IIIc boasts a color screen, the books read in black and white with the software we used.

We checked out 2 types of ebook reading software developed for the palm. They are both easily available on the web and, best of all, they're free.

The good folks at Palm downloaded for us a free program available on the internet called Mobipocket (http://www.mobipocket.com). This website also has ebooks available for download. While the software at Mobipocket is fine, the selection of books is poor.

We prefer a similar software made by Peanutpress. The reason: better selection of ebooks for an American audience. Peanutpress’ software is available for both PDAs that run the Palm operating system and the Windows CE OS.

What e-books are available

Peanutpress has a lot of books you might actually want to read. Some of the classics are free. They’ve got Stephen King’s book, "Riding The Bullet," that is available only online for $2.95 and lots of other more popular offerings. Still, we searched for 25 titles of books we’d like to read, and only found 3 of them. Checkout http://www.peanutpress.com. If you are looking for free books, look elsewhere ... the most exciting titles on this extremely short list include the Bible and the techie sci-fi thriller, "The Hacker."

Mobipocket’s paltry offering of English ebooks and information on ebooks makes a lot of sense when you consider it’s a French company running the site. They do have a number of classics that are either free or moderately priced though.

Additional info.

Palm’s operating system runs on the Handspring Visor device too. So any of the free software designed to allow you to read electronic books on the Palm devices can also be downloaded to the Visor.

Our review

Reading on the Palm is an annoying way to read digital books ... probably the most annoying way. The screen is small. And if you ever wondered why we have paragraphs, this format is a great reminder .. you’ll miss them when they are gone. The best thing about this device is the abundance of free ebooks and the ability to carry books around without adding any extra weight if you already own a Palm or Visor.

 

 

ADOBE ACROBAT eBOOK READER PLUS
A.K.A. GLASSBOOK

Manfuacturer

Adobe

Cost

$39.00

Description

Glassbooks, from Adobe, is software that allows you to read ebooks on a personal computer running the Windows operating system.

You can purchase and download the software online. Like a lot of Adobe software products, the lowest-grade version of the software is available as a free download.

We were running this software on a very cool computer that was supplied as a test model by Adobe. The SONY VAIO, which definitely makes the software look good, having a color monitor that shows off the programs graphical abilities to good effect.

What e-books are available

Not as many books are available in this format yet as for the other formats on the market. It seems especially lacking in the classic literature arena where many of its competitors excel (probably because there are no copyright issues to wrangle over.) But even though they only offer 3 or so classic books of fiction, they are all available for free.

You can also buy ebooks that can be read by Glassbook software at http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Mac compatible

A mac version is expected in the Fall of 2001.

Additional info.

Adobe is developing similar software that will run on PDAs.

Our review

The coolest format for those who already have a PC and are in a hurry to read an ebook. The major downside is that this service probably doesn’t offer the ebook you want just yet. Hopefully they will in the near future. It’s especially great for viewing books with photos and illustrations, which show up as crisp, clear graphics. We're holding out for the PDA version, because how often do youwant to break out your laptop to read a book anyway?

 

 

MICROSOFT READER for the POCKET PC and desktop PCs

Manufacturer

Microsoft

Cost

Free

Description

Microsoft Reader is built-in on all new pocket PCs running the Windows CE operating system. PC users will have to download the free software, which is available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com Sounds simple, but it’s not. Because although Microsoft Reader is the name of the software for both the Pocket PC and the PC, the software is different for each device. A bait and switch tactic or just bad planning,?

Mac compatible

No.

What e-books are available

A good selection of books for the desktop PC version of Microsoft Reader is available at http://www.amazon.com. At http://www.barnesandnoble.com you can find books that will run on MS Reader for either the desktop PC or the Pocket PC. Keep in mind that many of the books on these commercial sites are available for free download elsewhere.

For instance, 1,200 free e-books are available online at the University of Virginia's web site. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/ebooks/. Many of these same books are sold at the for-profit online bookstores.

Our review

Got a desktop PC or a Pocket PC and want a lot of books you may or may not ever read? Then this is the format for you. First of all, it’s free. Nothing wrong with that. It’s about as good as the free palm OS-based software formats, but it has a lot more books available for free. So for cheapskates on the run, why not check this one out?

 

 

eBOOKMAN

Manfuacturer

Franklin

Cost

The EBM-900, Franklin’s entry model costs $129.95 with all the fixins -- microphone, speaker, multimedia memory card for memory expansion and 8 MB of built-in memory. The next step up, the EBM-901 sells for $179.95 and sports a backlight, enhanced polarized display and free content offerings. The EBM-911 retails for $229.05 and includes up to 16MB of memory and additional free content.

Description

A stand alone ebook reading device. We didn’t get one to play with, but they say they’ve got a built-in schedule and an address book in addition to the ebook reading functions.

What e-books are available

Currently, dictionaries, bibles, entertainment, children, health, general reference, entertainment and freign language titles are available.

Additional info.

Franklin boasts that all eBookman models display 87% more info than a typical handheld -- looks like we’ll have to wait and see. On this system you can download books in the Microsoft Reader format (not yet -- but MS assured us it would be available soon for the eBookman) or choose from Franklin’s own library, listen to audio books, download MP3 files, and use personal assistant features like the organizer, address book, and to do list. You can also download books from http://www.peanutpress.com as well.

Our review

Who knows? We didn’t get to check it out -- either they aren’t proud, or they’ve got supply issues, but the EBM-901 and the EBM-911 can be purchased on Amazon.




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