I have been on the hunt for a small color dedicated ebook device for quite some time. When I saw a Sunday ad that Walgreens was selling a 5 inch color reader I immediately ordered one. The reader does not support DRM, but I don’t find that a deterrent. The listed price is $149.99, but Walgreens is having a promotional sale price of $99.99. The sale price has been going on for two weeks now and could change any time. I also had to pay state taxes. Shipping was reasonable at a flat rate of $5.00. At that price I expected regular Postal delivery, but the reader was delivered by UPS.
The packaging was quite nice and included the reader, earphones, USB cable and AC charger. A Quick Guide was included in the box, but did little more than illustrate the parts of the reader. A more detailed user manual is available on Delstar’s website and a manual is also on the reader. Currently the only color choice is white, but the Delstar site also shows a black model. The reader also comes with a matching leather case, which is a bonus these days, but was not a part of the box contents. Instead it was in a plain plastic bag that was shipped with the reader. The device is secured by elastic on the corners and doesn’t distract from the reader. I don’t like elastic tabs, but the Delstar cover does a nice job of holding the reader in place. To further secure the reader I would suggest a couple of Velcro tabs on the back since over time I am sure the elastic will stretch out. The cover also has an inside pocket to hold other items such as an index card or a small cleaning cloth.
The hardware is well-built and doesn’t feel like a $100 reader. The front is a nice plastic, and I was surprised to see that the back is sturdy brush metal. On the bottom there is a slot to add a hand strap, but none was included with the reader. I love the simplistic design of this device. There are not a lot of buttons to confuse users and they are self-explanatory. Openbook has three options for page turns, with buttons on the bottom for going forward or backward as well as buttons on the left and right sides. This makes the device quite usable for left and right handed people, as well as reading in landscape mode. There is also a zoom button with three settings, small, medium, and large. I found it really comfortable to hold, very easy to navigate since it supports folders. Out-of-the-box usability is important to me and the Openbook passes the test.
The first thing I noticed on the reader is that the screen is noticeable narrower than my Opus and Pocketbook 360 readers and not much longer. The display is not as bright as I expected, but it can be adjusted. Even at the highest settings the background was not as white as I prefer. Instead it was an off-white almost beige color. This turns out to be a good thing since it makes reading easier on the eyes while giving the pages a warm feeling. The reverse setting of white text on black background is very nice and perfect for night reading. Text is very clear using either background.
This is where the Openbook falls a bit short because actual capabilities don’t match the features boasted on neither Walgreens nor Delstar websites. The featured supported formats are: ansi, unicode txt, doc, pdf, html, pdb, fb2, and epub. I tested each format except ansi and couldn’t get pdf, pdb, fb2, or html files to open. The other formats opened, but all formatting was absent. I also did not get cover art. When I tested epub files, I also gained some weird characters. Most distracting was the large right hand margin when using portrait mode. The margins were better in landscape.
It’s times like this that I am truly grateful for user forums such as Mobileread. A Delstar representative showed up in the forum ready to help. Later that evening a firmware update was made available to fix the doc and pdf formats. Instructions were sketchy and the video instructions were not very easy to see. Forum members came to the rescue and posted step-by-step instructions. It took me two tries, but I was able to update my reader. The update did fix the margin issue and I was then able to get fb2 files to work, but my epub files still had the weird characters and no cover art. Unlike some users I could not open pdf files even after the update, but then again I never experienced any of the lockups that were reported. Other features that showed up after the update were bookmarking and jump to page, Features that are still missing is the ability to change text color and set font size.
I really believe that this reader has great potential, but I did return my device. The process was painless since returns can be made at any Walgreens. I will buy the device again when more of the bugs have been worked out. Hopefully that will be soon because I already miss the little reader. From what the Delstar Rep wrote, new shipments will come with upgrades already installed.
Delstar should have introduced the Openbook as a txt, pdf, and doc reader adding the statement that more formats such as epub were on the way. This would have kept expectations a bit more in check, preserved the company’s reputation, and given the company time to test the reader’s firmware more thoroughly. Even as a text/doc reader $100 isn’t a bad price. I do know that if the Openbook was presented that way I would not have returned it. I didn’t expect the reader to be the greatest; I just wanted it to support the files and features that the manufacturer claimed.