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Review: Shift3 Lookbook

I'm looking at my Lookbook right now, and the words "squandered potential" come to mind. I first heard about this ereader from the internal CVS docs that someone sent to Engadget. I've been quietly waiting for it to be released, and I got mine about a 2 weeks ago. It's a Kindle clone based on a 7" LCD screen, and I've covered the physical description in detail in my previous post.

Before I get into the review, it's important for you to know that the Lookbook is a close relative of the Literati that we reviewed a several weeks ago. It has the same Kobo reading app and ebookstore access, so it shares a lot of the same shortcomings with respect to formatting, margins, etc. But one difference is that the Lookbook has page turn buttons instead of the Literati's swipe pads. I like buttons; they're  a heck of a lot easier to use.

I actually like how the Lookbook is designed, and if not for the poor reading experience, many debilitating bugs, missing web browser, and difficult joystick, I would recommend this devices to anyone. To be exact, I think it sucks as an ereader but it has potential has a MID. I think there's a market niche for an MID that looks like a Kindle clone, and if the Lookbook had the right software it would fit in that niche.

Unfortunately, the Lookbook is crippled by a SD card bug similar to the one found on the Literati, so I can't load my own ebooks. It also can't find ebooks that I've copied to its internal Flash storage. This is a pass fail for me.

The Lookbook also shares the wide margins, limited font choices, and poor formatting found on the Literati. But do you know what's really odd about this? I checked and the Kobo iOS app doesn't have the same problems; it showed the ebooks as made by publisher. So I really have to wonder why Kobo handed over the crippled reading app. I suppose there was nothing better, but if that were true then I wouldn't have released the app.

BTW, there have been a couple requests in the reviews of the Literati that I discuss how color image look on the screen. I can't. The ebooks I get from Kobo don't have pictures, and I can't load my own. The cover images are often in color and they look nice, but without other images I really don't care.

Battery life was disappointing; it only lasted 4 days between charges. The really bad part is that I didn't use it much, so it was in sleep mode most of the time.

One last problem that the Lookbook shares with almost all Kobo reading apps is the slow loading of ebooks. that isn't a bug they can fix; it's unfortunate consequence of how the reading app was designed.

The ebooks you buy from Kobo aren't stored on the ereader as Epub files. Instead, they're all crammed into a SQLite database. The ebooks are slow to load becuase first they have to be extracted from the database.

If you're wondering why they did this, well, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It let Kobo get around the $75k per device license fee that Adobe charge for Adobe RM. Yes, that's a nice chunk of change they saved, but in exchange Kobo inflicted a worse reading experience on us all. I don't think that was a good trade.


I'm almost tempted to keep the Lookbook. It's a poor ereader for $149, but I really want to see what happens once hackers start messing with the firmware. Give this device a decent reading app (FBReader) and a web browser and it would be a serious competition in the ereader market.

Update: The Lookbook is now available at for $123. This doesn't change my mind about it as an ereader, but the price is tempting.

About Nate Hoffelder (11126 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

200 Comments on Review: Shift3 Lookbook

  1. I like the lookbook it cost $99.00 at WALMART, but the problem is, I cant for the life of me figure out how to get the WIFI to work.

  2. im having the SAME EXACT PROBLEM! every time I try it says cannot connect to preferred wireless!

  3. Disappointing. Books I’m looking for readily available on Amazon and B&N for their eReaders, but not on Kobo. Was told to keep checking back…Kobo team may take lengthy time answering my request. So why not tell me when it’s available instead of my checking every day,, week or month? Book is new, famous author so will probably buy a used hard copy from Amazon. Not encouraged it will ever be available for my LookBook. Color covers but no color pictures. Battery life relatively short. Price makes it attractive….not much else.

  4. I agree. I can get the WIFI linked at the library on the city wide network, but nothing else. How do I know it is downloading anything? How long do I wait for action. And where are these cards to be purchased that the ad says are available? MAybe if you wish to read the 25 books already on the reader that is fine, but would I reeally have picked these 25? I doubt it.

  5. I have no problem with the WIFI, I have an old ab/g router, maybe you are trying to connect with a N router that is configured to not allow ab traffic? Or have encryption key problems?

    When you connect to the store, it updates the firmware, so they may have fixed the formatting problems since the article was written. Or maybe the problems were with books other than the free ones I’ve looked at so far.

    I still wouldn’t say its a good ereader, but hopefully someone will come up with a firmware mod to add a browser in which case it will be a cool toy.

  6. Just bought mine from walmart at the $99 price. I was able to connect to my wireless with no problem but I dont like the fact that there is no web browser so I am considering taking it back.
    I open a booked that I dont want to read and cannot figure out how to say I am not reading it. anyone figured that out?

  7. I just bought one at Walmart and to my surprise there’s no case in the box. I called Kobo and they told me that the Lookbook has never included any type of case, only the Literati. A quick check on eBay and on here shows that a case is included. Anyone else buy from Walmart or any other store missing the case?

  8. Nate the great // 15 December, 2010 at 7:08 pm //

    My Lookbook had a case. There’s even a space for it in the packaging.

  9. Just got mine from Wally’s. No case.

    I’m taking mine back. I bought it on an impulse purchase. After trying it out for one evening, no web browser, no color pictures, not much of anything, I realize I made a mistake.

    At least Wally’s doesn’t usually have a problem with returns.

  10. Looks like it only gets worse for me…

    Every single time I connect to Wifi this thing says there’s an update available. Download the update, reboot, reconnect to wifi and it forces update again. So far I’ve done the routine 10+ times.

    Guess I’ve got a dud. I’ll have to exchange it at Walmart tomorrow.

  11. Mine doesn’t have a case either.I got it @ Walmart. Does it have a built-in dictionary?

  12. sounds like we all have the same problems. if i would have known how bad it was performance-wise, i would not have bought it. definitely would not recommend it. oh…and i did get a case with mine. i bought it at cvs. too bad the insides don’t perform well.

  13. Sounds like Walmart saved themselves a good chunk of change by purchasing them without cases. I guess that explains the $30+ price difference between Wally World and other stores.

  14. Wow! Just bought one, haven’t cracked the seal. Think I’ll return it before the stampede! Thanks for the cautionary tales. Cheers for the holidays. Herb

  15. I bought one last night. Haven’t had the issues that you are complaining about. Connected just fine to the internet, downloaded a few free e-books and also made a purchase just to try everything out. It did update which took a bit of time but for the price, it works very well. It does have a dictionary, it will allow you to change the brightness levels, and also remove books using their website via your computer. All in all, I would say a good purchase. The only issue I’ve had, is opening books. It does take a few minutes but once that book is open, it works well with no issues. I haven’t tried a SD Card yet, I will tonight. If I notice anything worth posting, I’ll make sure to post it here.

  16. I haven’t had any problems except the dictionary doesn’t show definitions. I downloaded a book in a short time. I didn’t get a case either.

  17. i just got one but with all this bad talk. i think i will take it back. or should i keep it .ha

  18. Wow, glad I stumbled onto this site…I just left WallyWorld and was kicking myself for not making the purchase of the Lookbook. However they had enought that I figured it would wait until I checked it out on Google…guess it will just wait a while longer, or long while longer.
    Thanks for the imput.

  19. you guys are all i will not buy one…

  20. Having no luck connecting to my encrypted wi fi. Connects fine with the encryption off and I know my router setting are good.
    ANY suggestions please????

  21. “BIG disappointment.” I read about 100 pages a day. My ‘wonderful’ stepdaughter gave me a Lookbook. I couldn’t get it to connect to my Internet. It only takes 5-key or 10-key Internet passwords. My computer would not recognize the USB connection. I called the hotline. “Go to a free wifi store and download ver. 1.9. That will fix the problem. ” NOT! It made a USB connection once–only once. It would not recognize the SD Card. The SD card would not pop out. The box says you can overcharge the battery. If you charge overnight (for 8 hours) you are slowly damaging the battery. You can’t replace the battery. The bottom line is that Lookbook is a stripped-down e-reader intent on holding your money after the warranty runs out. Back to the store it must go.

  22. OH WOW told my husband to wait till after Christmas to buy me an e-reader but alas he couldn’t wait so he bought me the Look Book I was reluctant to open it and I decided to come see what people were saying about it, glad I did!!!!!! I guess I’ll see ya all at Wall M soon!!!!!! and no there is no case that’s why the big price drop.

  23. Just got one for Christmas….no case included :o(

  24. if you made all updates and now you can’t connect with Wifi, reset it to factory setting.
    Lost the free books they are stored, but are able to connect to the store and get the books I want, now.

  25. how do you load books you already own to it have several and cant get the reader to recognize them

  26. Ebooks bought from where?
    Ebooks bought in what format?

  27. Agreed l0l

  28. MY sweet wife bought be this “ereader” for Christmas. At first I was excited, after all, it was a first for me. Then I tried to connect to my wi-fi. No luck! Then I tried downloading a free book from Kobo. The download completed, but the ‘Lookbook’ never updated after over an hour of ‘processing’. I tried an SD card and was greeted by a useless blank screen. I thought maybe I was just incompetent, so I e-mailed the support center. Apperently their idea of 24 hour service is,”we’ll get back to you in 24 hours”, I am NOT impressed. The Lookbook is a real disappointment! It’s going back in the box and back to the store! I’ll buy the Sony reader with my refund!

  29. made in canada ! what did you expect ? this thing is JUNK lookbook is a farce wont download wont hook to the internet its typical canadian JUNK

  30. All I wanted for Christmas was an eReader. I guess I shoud have been more specific and asked for a WORKING ereader.

    I never ask for gifts at Christmas, so my girls were pretty suprised when I said I would LOVE an eReader. I run three review sites and bombarded daily with eArcs and pdfs of books. I thought an eReader would not only be great to have but beneficial. Boy was I disappointed.

    I’ve been trying since yestarday to download ePub and PDF books that I already have. I’ve tried everything possible and now I am beyond frustrated.

    I’m giving myself one more day. If nothing productive happens the LOOKBOOK is out of here and I will by myself either the kindle or Sony eReader.

    If anyone out there has had a miniscule of luck with the LookBook please share.

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