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).


  1. fjtorres8 March, 2012

    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.

    1. Nate Hoffelder8 March, 2012

      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.

      1. fjtorres9 March, 2012

        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.

        1. Nate Hoffelder9 March, 2012

          Oh, yes, Irex. I was trying to forget them. They were spectacularly bad about getting their firmware out on time.

  2. […] the Jetbook Color is still not worth buying.It’s been just over a month and a half since I last covered the Jetbook Color, which means I missed an update. It was still on loan at the time, and I just got it back a few […]


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