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.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. […] Lookbook (review at theDigital Reader) […]

    1. julie27 December, 2010

      i bought a book and can’t find it on the lookbook! where the heck is it?

      1. Nate the great27 December, 2010

        The ebook is buried inside the Kobo software. If you want the Epub, you’ll have to download it from the Kobo website.

      2. wendy27 December, 2010

        did you sync it with your library? we just went through this.

    2. Pennie30 January, 2012

      I recieved the Lookbook for Christmas in 2010. I had problems with it from the start. I opened it and on the outside of the box it clearly stated that it came with a protective pouch… ok, where is it? It wasn’t in the box and the box had never been open. Ok, I thought that’s alright, I can always make one or pick one up (later found out that they don’t make any store bought ones that FIT the Lookbook!!) I have had numberous problems with it conecting to wifi, downloading the books period and not recognizing the forms, from the start, the screen freezes, the buttons are too tiny and they stick and the battery fully charged should last about 6 hours, is what the box says, Im lucky if the battery lasts an hour, even though it tells me it is fully charged. I can not find a SHIFT3 company listed online anywhere and the one that I do find, says that it is not affiliated in any way with the SHIFT3 consumer electronic and the lookbook. When I call the technical support number on the back of the reader, all I get is a recording telling me to hit this # for this or hit this # for that and if Im lucky I get to talk to someone that can’t even speak english and doesn’t understand one thing that Im trying to ask them. Maybe I got a bad Lookbook, but this bad Lookbook has left nothing but a bad taste in my mouth for it and it wasn’t worth the 200$ my husband spent on it for a gift (that was after taxes, orign. price was 149.00) Im my oppinion, this ereader is a piece of junk and I wish that there was a way that I could trade it for something that works better!! I would even be willing to pay the difference… I just want to throw it in the trash.

      1. peggy1 October, 2013

        i have the same problem son bought it for me 3 years ago it work fine the first couple of month but now the books that i download from kobo, when i first got it is not the same any more and i talk to kobo last not and they can not help me cause it not they ereader and told me to call tech support’s lookbook I’m deaf so i have a ereader that i can get fix it sucks

    3. Milan1 July, 2013

      I got my Lookbook as a Birthday gift and I loved it at first but then came the problems with the battery charger. I was trying to find a way that I can replace the charger I have but have hit a dead-end.
      Anyone know where I can purchase a battery charger?

      1. peggy1 October, 2013

        not for that you can’t

  2. Hilde9 December, 2010

    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.

    1. Gator Carl25 December, 2010

      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.

    2. Taurean25 December, 2010

      Agreed l0l

    3. Grace Sullivan26 December, 2010

      I have a new lookbook as well. I wanted to browse books the store had and when I clicked store the setting page for wi-fi came up. From there you should be on your own. So far I love mine.

    4. Norma23 January, 2011

      I too cannot figure out how to get the WIFI to work
      Can you help?

    5. BRENDA MARTIN26 January, 2011

      i spent half a day trying to figure it out also. First you MUST have a WIRELESS router! the PASSWORD that it asks for when you try to connect is the same as the PASS PHRASE on the BOTTOM of your router EXCEPT that it can only be a combination of 5 OR 10 letters/numbers. So the COMPANY in which you got your router from be it WINDSTREAM will have to reissue you another PASS PHRASE which is the same as PASSWORD that it requires. At first i tried to connect with my wireless router but when i wasn’t able to connect to the wifi, i went online with my desktop and set up my account with kobo, purchased a book, then installed the adobe digital edition (make sure you purchase the book that is EUB/PDF FORMATTED) which allows it to download to my online kobo library which then allowed it to transfer to my lookbook …..but not until i was able to get SYNCED to my COMPUTER thru my WIRELESS router. Which i was finally able to do once i figured out everything else on my own by the way is not included in the instructions, i wouldn’t start by reading the quick start guide if you are NOT an electronic/computer genuis it only confused me.*^#?????. i hope i was able to help save you some time and your sanity! lol;)

  3. Brianna10 December, 2010

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

    1. Tonya30 December, 2010

      Mine did that a couple times. I had te reset it to factory settings, the re-initialize the wi-fi search. I haven’t had a problem since then. Good luck.

      1. Marianne Myrick13 May, 2013

        After resetting to the factory defaults my computer won’t recognize the lookbook device and the download times out before it is completed. How did you get the new software on to the ereader. Thanks.

  4. Deanna10 December, 2010

    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.

  5. Dane Swanson12 December, 2010

    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.

  6. Tom12 December, 2010

    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.

  7. DD14 December, 2010

    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?

    1. CP29 December, 2010

      No, but if you do let us know!!

    2. dominiqe30 December, 2010

      you got to your kbo account and than once your there you go to your library and click othe one yo dont want there any more and than press the delete botton

    3. DH3 January, 2011

      The only way I have found to remove the book from the “I’m reading” once you open by mistake is to open the book and page to the last page. Once you hit the end, it goes back into the library. Very time consuming though.

      1. BookLover26 January, 2011

        It’s much quicker to hit the menu button and goto table of contents and click last chapter. Then just page to the last page.

  8. EF15 December, 2010

    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?

    1. Nate the great15 December, 2010

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

      1. Audrey Edwards22 January, 2011

        I bought my Lookbook from Walmart on black friday, it didn’t come with a case,still looking for one.
        I also bought the Literati for my daughter ,from Kohl it came withj the case

    2. Botulism16 December, 2010

      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.

      1. EF17 December, 2010

        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.

      2. Rebekah28 December, 2010

        I too am having the same problems as you!! Mine also did not come with a case (from WalMart). I’m thinking about taking mine back and putting that money towards a NOOK or Kindle.

        1. FreshsStart011930 December, 2010

          I bought mine today. It was truly an impulse purchase. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The employee told me a lot of untruths. It is pointless and does not serve my purpose. It took me all of 20 minutes of tinkering with it to put it safely back in its packaging. It is ready for its trip back home.

    3. LRoller25 December, 2010

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

    4. Sabrina29 December, 2010

      My lookbook was missing the case also.

    5. CP29 December, 2010

      Same here….no case and can’t find one to fit it either!!

      1. P.J.3 January, 2011

        If you look around for 3rd party cases, U can find one that will accept the Lookbooks size,however it may be a little loose fitting. I found one at Walmart for about $10.00 from HP netbooks. It works just fine…

      2. j5 January, 2011

        I got one for Christmas. No case – so I made one.
        I used an agenda book I got at Officemax. Took out the calendar and pad of paper and stuck in a picture hanging velcro. It’s a perfect fit!

        1. Audrey Edwards22 January, 2011

          good idea I think I’ll do the same thing,
          It seem like it want to slip out of my hands, sometimes

    6. Edie4 January, 2011

      Got a Lookbook for Christmas. It does not have a cover case in the box either.

    7. Linda10 January, 2011

      I also purchased mine at Walmart for $99.00 and of course there is no case with mine, also, I can not get on my internet even sitting underneath my wireless router, can I take this back to Walmart for a refund?

    8. AD12 January, 2011

      Yes, I, too, purhased the Shift3 LookBook and didn’t receive a case with it. I’m not happy with it, so I will be taking mines back as well. Can’t get the WiFi to work. The 25 free books weren’t on it. I had to do the factory reset. The phone number listed for tech support was the wrong number to call. Was given another phone number and they told me to do the factory reset.

    9. BAMALynn12 January, 2011

      Mine did not have a case either and I got it from Walmart today! Hope I didn’t make a mistake. I got a Kobo for Christmas but had to return it because it would not keep a charge and it never remembered where I left off. I purchased the extended warranty so if this is not a good fit for me it goes back next week. I really want a color ereader!

    10. Beverly22 January, 2011

      My LookBook from WALMART did not come with a case, either….maybe that’s why the price was disconnected! I would love to have a case, my girlfriends have other eReaders and theirs have “cases” —- hummmmm, maybe I will return mines and go for another eReader (maybe).

  9. EF16 December, 2010

    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.

    1. Tonya30 December, 2010

      That’s what mine was doing. I set it back to factory settings, and then it worked fine. It didn’t even try to re-load the updates. I think they stayed in it. Anyway it’s working fine now.

  10. tonya16 December, 2010

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

    1. Bolee26 December, 2010

      I bought mine at CVS and it did come with a case, but I was diddapointed with it, no web browser, no color, and no Pic. Mine ran very slow, battery no good, returned mine. cost me $ 125.00

  11. patti16 December, 2010

    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.

  12. Herb H.17 December, 2010

    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

  13. Kelly W18 December, 2010

    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.

    1. Christine27 December, 2010

      I got mine for Christmas and like you I have had no issues. It did freeze for about 3 min after I did the initial charge, but have had no issues since. I downloaded a free book and made a purchase to make sure it worked and no problems what so ever. My brother in law received the Nook and he may have more font choices, but he has no color and has had freezing issues from the moment he took it off the charger. For what I need it for, it works!

      1. Megan28 December, 2010

        I also got mine for Christmas and love it so far! I have had no problems with the WiFi or freezing issues that everyone else seems to have. Maybe I just got lucky?! The only problem I have had so far is the battery life could be a little better but I just shut it off when I know I won’t be using it. I wish Kobo or Shift3 made cases specifically for the Lookbook but since they don’t, I ordered a case for a different brand on Amazon. Hopefully it fits! So far, I can’t complain!!

      2. Edie4 January, 2011

        Christine, Can you tell me how many fonts it has? I have not opened my enter packaging and would like to know before I do. I have a cataract and may need larger fonts in the future. Can you help me with this information?

  14. Sue19 December, 2010

    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.

  15. chilly19 December, 2010

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

  16. TLAlbert19 December, 2010

    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.

  17. jill24 December, 2010

    you guys are all i will not buy one…

  18. steve24 December, 2010

    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????

  19. Dana Roberts25 December, 2010

    “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.

  20. Terry25 December, 2010

    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.

  21. les25 December, 2010

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

    1. Nate the great25 December, 2010

      Ebooks bought from where?
      Ebooks bought in what format?

  22. Brad Loveland25 December, 2010

    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!

    1. Audrey Edwards22 January, 2011

      I download some free books ,after I open them up to page 1 close them back, automatically when I get on my lookbook all the new books are there

  23. gary estes26 December, 2010

    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

  24. Christine26 December, 2010

    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.

  25. Dee26 December, 2010

    Wow… I just got my LookBook for Christmas, never owned and was very excited about getting one. But what a big disappointment. I can’t even get pass the set date & time menu. I re-set twice and nothing. I’m glad I stumbled into this page and got a better insight of this E-book. I will be returning mine tommorrow. And no cover here either. thanks

  26. Cecile26 December, 2010

    I love mine. It was purchased at CVS and it has a nice case that was included. I did not have the problems that most have had here. It did automatically download a software update, which may be what makes the difference.

  27. Krys27 December, 2010

    I picked this out for myself, my boyfriend was buying it for me, but I should have known better when the WalMart employee said that this was such a great deal!! And, was knocking Barnes & Noble prices!!! prices are not any cheaper!
    I have been able to connect to WiFi ONE time! Not again.

    It does NOT recognize my SD card, it does NOT allow me to download books to it from my computer when connected via the USB cord…

    I am SOOO frustrated! IT’s going back! All I REALLY wanted was an Ereader!

    Live and learn, don’t try to get the best deals with technology! lol

  28. dixonpeeps27 December, 2010

    Can anyone tell me where to buy a case for this? Mine came from Wally World too, no case.

  29. rob f28 December, 2010

    cant get mine to work . finally it came to life.looked at the free books i felt like i was 16 i would not read these on a bad day guess i will return it to wally and stop at the local used book store

  30. SHAY28 December, 2010

    got one for christmas.. ‘c’ key was dysfunctional and wouldn’t let me type ‘c’.. took it back earlier today and traded for a new one. so far it seems to be working ok, but with all these reviews i’m guessing i would be better off to spend a little more money and get a kindle..
    i got my lookbook at walmart for only $80 because they price-matched Shopko.


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