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Bookeen's Cybook Gen3 enters the UK ereader scuffle

Cybookinhand There's me thinking the ereader market in the UK was shaping up to be only a '3 horse race' between the Sony PRS-505, the iRex iLiad and the Amazon Kindle (when it finally arrives..sigh!), but today I've discovered another 'player' joining the 'fray' in the shape of the sleek looking Cybook Gen3, from French company Bookeen.

With my ereader interest at this time peaking towards the Sony PRS-505 (the iLiad is well out of my price range at this time, and the Kindle is nowhere in sight), I spent some time comparing the specs of the PRS-505 with those of the Cybook Gen3 to see how they measured up against one another. Not surprisingly, given they're built on a similar technology, both readers are quite comparable:

  • Both units are of a similar size, using a 6" E Ink® display
  • Both operate on an embedded Linux OS
  • Battery life is similar, although Bookeen publish a '8000 page turn' battery life for the Cybook Gen3, while Sony only specify '6800 page turn' battery life for the their reader.
  • Weight is similar although the PRS-505 comes in slightly heavier at 260g, compared to the Cybook Gen3 at 174g
  • Both cover a wide range of document formats - PRS-505: EPUB, BBeB, PDF, Word, TXT, RTF; Cybook Gen3: MOBIPOCKET, PALMDOC, PDF, HTML, TXT
  • Both support MP3 storage and allow playback when the reader is in use
  • Both have SD slots (with the Sony reader also possessing a slot for its proprietary MemoryStick cards) to allow for mass ebook storage.
  • Both allow screen orientation

So in terms of tech specs and features, there appears to be little to separate the PRS-505 and Cybook Gen3 from one another, but there does seem to be a distinct difference in the way the user navigates/interacts with the ereader. It's difficult to gauge either ereader's navigation/interaction system completely, but after watching video presentations of both ereaders in action, this aspect does become a little clearer.

It seems the primary navigational tool on the Cybook Gen3 is a 'rocker pad' (seen in the lower right corner of the unit). Scrolling, page turns, menu selections etc. all seem to be activated via this pad, which makes things simplified and uncomplicated. The use of on-screen pop-up menus for various functions also seem to be a heavy interaction device used by the Cybook Gen3 . The PRS-505 on the other hand, is set up with an array of buttons to facilitate its user navigation/interaction. Aside from large buttons to aid page turning, scrolling and bookmarking, a series of 10 contextual hotkeys assist navigation/interaction with the unit.

The other primary difference between the two readers is the price. The Sony PRS-505 retails at £199 (which at this time includes a CD with 100 FREE classic titles), while the Bookeen Cybook Gen3 comes in at £279. The question is, is the Cybook Gen3 worth that extra £70? Well without testing them 'in the flesh' that's a difficult question to answer. The extra buttons on the PRS-505 seem to make navigation, and interaction a bit easier, but remember these are on the cheaper of the two models. Does that mean then, that Bookeen are charging a premium for the slick, minimalist look of the Cybook Gen3, which seems to be the trend at the moment

Whatever the reason for their higher price, Bookeen certainly have one thing in their favour right now. Unlike the Sony PRS-505, which doesn't begin shipping until early September, the Cybook Gen3 is available to buy in the UK right now, via Pixmania (note: although Pixmania use a .co.uk address they are a French retailer, shipping directly from France. Try not to let that put you off too much though. I've ordered a couple of times from Pixmania, and everything has been flawless) 

So the Cybook Gen3 joins the army of ereaders hitting UK shores in the coming weeks. These are seriously exciting times for the paperless book lover! Only a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting the dire absence of ereaders for the paperless operative in the the UK and here I am discussing a veritable flood of ereaders, all of which are at the fingertips of us paperless book-loving Brits. Good Times!

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Hi, I bought the iLiad reader a few months ago, and am very disappointed. It seemed pretty good in the shop, but one of main reasons that I bought it was to upload pdf papers to read them, and mark them up, on the move. However the size of the screen is such that if you fit the pdf page to the screen the text is so small as to be unreadable. You can expand the text size to be readable but then you have to be constantly moving the page round the screen, which given the iLiad's cumbersome screen controls is quite awkward. I don't know if the other e-readers have the same problem, but to be honest I rather wish that I had waited until an A4 reader was available. As a paperback sized book reader the iLiad is OK, with good paging etc. But is really only at it's best when using the mobiPocket format that it supports directly. It is possible to download a program that converts HTML/TXT files to mobiPocket format but I have had mixed results with that.

For working with PDFs I am having better results with my tablet (Dell latitude XT) and Bluebeam software, which I am trialling. The XT has touch screen capability allowing me to page using my fingers, which works well with the Bluebeam software.

Keith,
Thank you for taking the time to leave these comments; they're most helpful.

You know, I've just 'pulled the trigger' on the soon to launch Sony PRS-505. Given that it's the first 'affordable' reader to hit our shores, I couldn't resist any longer.

The decision to buy the Sony wasn't one that came easily though. I'd held off, still fancying the iLiad, mainly because of its inking capabilities, but in the end, the MUCH cheaper price of the Sony won over. Since then I've still been kind of regretting not having the inking facility in the reader I'd ordered but your experiences have completely changed that.

Although for you I regret you having to find out the expensive way, for me I'm happy the iLiad's inking ability is not all iRex would crack it up to be (or at least not as easy to apply on the small screen).

Like you, as you probably know, I annotate loads using my Tablet PC (although I don't have the fanciness of the touchscreen XT :o)), and the Sony Reader is not a replacement for that. Rather it's for me just to read books, and in your comments you suggest that an ereader is fine for that. Keith I'm happy!!! :o)

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this is my view on this issue!
and what do you think?
I would like to know your opinion?

I bought my Cy-Book Gen 3 (Bookeen) from WH Smith for under £200. I came with a protective cover similar to the leather cover but in soft plastic. Caution should be exercised with the cover as it is open at one end and the reader can easily fall out it lifted with the open-end down.

Very satisfied with the product but with some concerns that are relevant to all the ereaders.

These are the cost of ebooks and DRM.

The books are just as expensive and often more expensive than the paper versions.

Digital Rights Management, I believe, effectively means that you do not own the books that you have bought but are only licenced to read them and on one device. If the device is lost or damaged it is possible to lose hundreds of pounds of digital books. I understand that a change of device perhaps as an upgrade will also have the same result because the device identification number is used for DRM.

I think these issues will kill these digital devices off.

I read, I believe last year, that the French have passed a law to limit the weight of childrens schoobags as it is believed that the schoolbags were so heavy that they were causing back injury. A single ereader per child would resolve this problem but then so would a laptop even allowing for the power saving and portability of epaper technology.

Regards

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