An ex-avid reader revives his passion for fantasy books thanks to a nifty e-reader by South Korea's iriver Inc. Here is his story.
By ZAM KARIM
I HAVE a confession to make: I haven't read a single book for the last three years, yet I was once an avid fantasy book reader, finishing at least two books per week.
Feist is my favourite author, followed closely by Tolkien, Wurts, Pratchett, Rowling and Eddings. I have no solid excuses for the lapse but I guess I was simply too busy with work and personal matters.
But things have changed lately, thanks to a nifty e-reader aptly called the Story. Made by iriver Inc - yes, the same company that makes MP3 and multimedia players.
This is the Story
iriver has teamed up with local bookstore chain MPH to make the the Story available here. Currently, users can only get it from selected MPH stores or purchase it online directly from the bookstore's website (www.mphonline.com).
The Story is slightly bigger than a typical book at 203.5mm wide x 127mm in length. However it is really thin - only 9.4mm thick and you hold the device in one hand when reading.
As far as its weight goes, the 284g device is as heavy as its non-digitised brethren.
The Story ships with a 6in monochrome screen which utilises E-Ink technology that displays up to 800 x 600-pixels resolution.
The technology allows the device to display text like they would appear on real paper with up to eight levels of greyscale clarity.
The e-reader is only available in white, which according to iriver, is the colour that is most non-distractive and thus would enable users to read continuously for hours without straining their eyes.
Underneath the screen is a full Qwerty keyboard and on both its sides are four large Page Turn buttons to flip the pages of the e-book.
The bottom is where you will find the earphone jack, USB port, power slider and SD card slot.
A protective cover or sleeve for the e-reader is available separately and I have to say that it is highly-recommended that you get one to protect the device from smudges and scratches.
Library in your pocket
The iriver Story supports Adobe DRM for PDF and EPUB e-books. Users can also view Office documents such as Doc, PPT and XLS directly without conversion.
For images, comics and graphic novels, the device can run ZIP, JPG, BMP and GIF files. Overall a quite comprehensive selection if you ask me.
The Story comes with 2GB of internal memory, which is enough for about 1500 e-books and documents - all you'll probably ever need for a lifetime of reading material.
However, just in case that isn't enough, the device also supports SD cards that are up to 32GB in capacity.
Apart from an e-book reader, the Story can function as a music player, which is no suprise given iriver's background.
The music player supports MP3, WMA and OGG formats so users can also store audio books to listen instead of reading their favourite books.
There is a built-in speaker at the back or users can use headphones for private listening. There is also a voice recording feature which you can use to record notes or lectures.
The built-in Qwerty keyboard comes in handy for entering data into the device's other functions such as the diary, memo and task scheduler.
Shortcut keys to functions such as book, menu, volume, media playback controls and options are located on the top row on the keyboard.
Suffice to say, the device's other functions more or less worked as advertised - MP3s played without a problem; the sound recorder captured audio pretty well despite a noisy background; and the built-in speaker produced decent sound, especially if you are the only one listening to it.
But obviously those are not the reasons for anybody to get the Story in the first place.
What we are more interested of course is the e-reader function which we will discuss in more detail next.
All you can read
The Story doesn't come bundled with any e-books. Instead all you will find on it is the device manual in PDF format.
But this is not a cause for concern as finding digital content for your e-reader is simply a Google search away.
There are many websites that offer an abundance of titles either for purchase or at no charge.
Some of the royalty-free include classics such as Aesop's Fables, Alice in Wonderland and Devil's Foot. These titles are also available for download from the MPH Online site.
If you have any unsupported e-book formats that you want to read on the Story, you can use the free, open-source Calibre or Stanza software that can convert unsupported formats to those compatible with the device.
Also there are websites such as Online-ConVert (www.ebook.online-convert.com) which allows you to convert files directly without installing any software on your PC.
In my experience, converting files with this method didn't take much time as e-book files are usually quite small.
Transferring files to and from the Story is a straightforward drag-and-drop affair. All you have to do is make sure you've already switched on the device as plugging in the USB cable when the e-reader is off will only recharge the battery.
Like most E-Ink e-book readers, the Story has a fairly long battery life of about 7,000 page-turns or basically almost a week if you read for only a few hours daily.
The Story doesn't come with any backlight so you must rely on other light sources such as a reading light or sunlight to use it. Yes, thanks to E-Ink technology, the screen is also viewable in direct sunlight with no glare.
The user interface is fairly easy to understand and navigate through without having to refer to the manual first.
I noticed a second or two of lag between each page refresh - when you flip through the e-book's pages or while navigating to access the device's other functions.
The large page turn buttons supposedly make it easy for you to turn the pages. They work nicely when you hold the device with two hands and while reading sitting or standing.
However, these buttons are quite stiff to press and I found it to be a hassle after using them for a prolonged period of time.
Thankfully, you can also use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move back or forward as they offer softer feedback when pressed.
The e-reader saves your page when you read anything so you can always pick up where you left off.
Additionally, you can also bookmark a particular passage if you decide to switch it off or move on to a new book before coming back to read it later.
Other additional features include one-touch portrait and landscape modes as well as the ability to increase text size.
With the Story, you can now forget about lugging your books while on the go as your entire library can now fit in this small device.
Plus, the Story also plays music, records voice and does slew of other things that your standard book cannot do.
Of course, this e-reader is not without its drawbacks. Top of the list is the keyboard which I didn't find useful or even necessary as typing on it was painfully slow.
The applications that require it like the diary, memo and scheduler are honestly just frivolous additions that take up memory space and have no real benefit to users.
Also, one other thing that could stop many from immediately go out to purchase this device is the price. In my opinion, its RM1,199 pricetag is pricey.
Other than that, however, I found the Story to be quite an amazing device especially when it enables a busy person like me to revive my passion for reading again.
Pros: Can store a lifetime worth of books in your pocket; easy to use; nice screen; supports various e-book and Office document formats; long battery life; plays music and records voice.
Cons: Stiff page turn buttons; built-in keyboard not really useful; pricey.
DISPLAY: 6in, E-Ink technology with a resolution of 800 x 600-pixels.
OTHER FEATURES: Voice recorder, MP3 player, copy directly without conversion, diary,memo, scheduler and support for 15 languages.
DIMENSIONS (W X D X H): 127 x 203.5 x 9.4mm
PRICE: RM1,199 at selected MPH bookstores or MPH Online.
Review unit courtesy of iriver (M) Sdn Bhd, (04) 226-0139