Jetbook Color – A Second Opinion

Editor's Note: The JBC, Ectaco's 9.7" color E-ink ereader, got its first scheduled update earlier this week. I was planning to post my opinion on the improvements, but my unit is currently on loan to a friend. He was thinking about selling it his local schools.

Charlie has installed the update and he is only marginally happier with the JBC than I was. Here is what he thought of it. FYI: Charlie used to sell ereaders. He has had his hands on more large screen ereaders than me, so he knows what he's talking about.


by Charlie Dulin

I think my initial use of the Jetbook Color has left a negative impression that it won't be able to over come. I am getting the feeling that I won't be happy with it no matter what improvements they bring. Here are some examples from this update.

1. I figured out how to just highlight.

  • open menu,
  • select "text selection mode" for the stylus, then highlight
  • click “menu: on the display with the stylus
  • exit that menu without doing anything.

It's great that this feature works but it's so many steps. The worst part is I don't get to choose what color the highlight is. It's a color screen, and I want to use several different colors for things that go to different ideas (as it is shown on the box).

And why is the stylus menu so awkward? Why can't I choose line thickness, eraser, color etc just by clicking icons in a strip along the top or bottom?

2. The update also added some new textbooks, and that's much better than the other references included with the JBC (when it shipped). However, I was going through the pre-algebra texts and it talks about learning how to use a graphing calculator. There is a graphing calculator on board - can I access it from the text? No.

With Pocketbook I can open a menu, select from the last 10 things (either other books or programs like the graphing calculator!) then quickly jump back to the textbook where I left off. I can't do that here.

3. I can zoom in, write with the pen and then zoom out. Fantastic. However, about every 2 seconds it "saves" and shows a little disc icon on the screen. Also, the zoom only goes to 150% , With other devices I have as much as 400% zoom, giving me much more room for notes. And again, everything is through the menu: Click menu, click zoom, click 150, click menu , click stylus mode, click drawing, draw/save/draw/save, click menu, click stylus mode, click stylus off, exit menu, use buttons to pan around, start over. At normal reading mode I can easily still read the writing and I probably could have written it without zooming.

In comparison: With my Onyx M90, I can use the stylus and select zoom to zoom in on, for example, a chart (I did this last night) which brings it up to like 400% full screen. I then scribble all over it with no saving delay, then click an icon on the bottom of the display to switch to panning mode. I then slide around to another part of the page, click the icon back to scribble, write some more and then zoom out (to fit display/hide margins etc). The text I just wrote is so small that it looks like dots and straight lines when in normal reading mode.

I feel like every update is just going to leave me feeling like "here's one more thing they haven't done yet".

Addendum - why can I turn on wifi and configure it even though there isn't anything that the JBC can do with it after that? I think they should have waited to turn on the wifi menu until we could do something besides turn it on and off (a web browser, for example).

4 Comments on Jetbook Color – A Second Opinion

  1. Sounds like another case of shipping hardware with beta-grade (at best) software to generate revenue and enrolling buyers in the Firmware of the month club.
    That was very common 4 years ago when ebook readers were still a hobbyist/early adopter niche and customers were willing to put up with half-baked products. Today? I don’t think that approach is going to get them very far.

    • Bookeen did that with the Cybook Gen 3 in fall 2007 and spring 2008. It worked out okay but then again we have a bunchaton of options now.

      • So did iRex, the Hanlin resellers (BeBook, etc), and a lot of Netronix resellers.
        Pocketbook did it more recently with the 701/IQ. (In the end they just gave up on some of the features, too.)
        Some times the vendor eventually shipped a stable full-featured release, some times not.
        Nowadays, though, the high volume vendors ship product that works from day one and don’t advertise features they can’t offer at launch; the bar is higher.

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