Technology Simplified

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So I splashed out on an e-book the Cybook Gen 3 (click the image for the Bookeen website at The first thing to say is that they aren’t cheap. Given that it is effectively a small computer you can expect prices to be at least half the cost of a cheap entry level notebook and all it does is display text and black and white pictures.

The Bookeen Cybook Gen3

The Bookeen Cybook Gen3

Of course the price reflects the fact that they are not yet shipping in large quantities, the cost of the new display technology and the fact that it’s a new “desirable” gadget.

So why did I buy it? Well I still find myself printing off vast numbers of pages of text for technical stuff, articles etc. As portable as a laptop is, it isn’t comfortable to use when travelling, sitting on the loo, in bed or relaxing in the garden and I often do my reading in those settings. Be assured I’m not kidding myself that somehow this makes the deal cost effective but it does make life a whole lot easier.

The Cybook is excellent. I’m very pleased with it. I’ll post more techie details about it later. What I want to focus on now is the usability. The screen is not back lit and the text is pin sharp. Reading, even when you are tired is no problem at all and I find the fact that it is a device and not a book recedes from my conscientiousness. Stupid as it might sound, a number of times now, I have found myself reaching for the top corner of the page to turn over as I’m so absorbed in my reading that I have forgotten it’s not a book in my hands. Also the Cybook is slim enough to slip into my pocket.

The Cybook connects to the PC via USB and uses the Mobipocket Reader,  available at for management. It use the .PRC or .MOBI file format. This software is a mixed bag (again I’ll return to this and the Mobipocket Creator in a later article) but the support on the forum is good. What makes it work for me is the ability to drop Windows software help files (CHMs),  PDFs, Word Docs and HTML onto the reader and it instantly converts them to e-book format. The layout may not be the greatest and the e-book format doesn’t handle complicated tables well but it is fast and effective. I now carry hundreds of pages of technical stuff I need to read and can dip into them as and when I want.

Of course let’s not forget leisure reading. There are thousands of books in PRC format on Project Gutenberg ( and there are many more sites offering free and legal books too. Reading has returned for me with a vengeance. Talking with my Danish friend Lene Stampe who works at Roskilde Unversity Library, e-books are available from most Danish Libraries, exciting times I reckon.  As an aside, have a browse of the Roskilde University site at, the university is quite special.

I would hope that the advent of this technology will never completely supplant the printed book as there is nothing like a beautifully printed book to touch, hold and read. What it inevitably will do is, like with photography and film, end the era of cheap paperbacks and make most books much more expensive. No predictions as to when but in my mind it’s a certainty.

After all time moves on.

92 · May 26, 2009 · Reviews · Tags: , , , · [Print]

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