cool-er ereader

For a glimpse of the future, you need to look no further than the E-Ink displays found in products like the cool-er ereader. This product contains the future of the print industry, but you don’t have to wait to get your hands on it because it’s available today for £189.

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The cool-er ereader uses a 6-inch E-Ink Vizplex display that has an anti-glare finish. It doesn’t have or need a backlight and it will work in lighting conditions that you would find suitable for reading a paper-based book.

With the E-Ink technology at the heart of this product, this ereader will allow you to carry hundreds of books with you. The 1GB of flash memory is enough to store as many as 300 books and there’s an SD card slot for bumping the storage up to as much as 4GB for little cost.

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It’s clear where the designers got their inspiration from for the cool-er ereader. The eight colourful metallic colours, rounded edges and the buttons on the front are all design features that have been influenced by that well-known mp3 player. But that’s where the similarities stop. The cheap plastic exterior feels just that. It creaks and flexes under pressure and it just doesn’t look or feel like a desirable product. Perhaps that’s intentional, so you don’t feel you have to treat it as a fragile item. Which is just as well, because it’s light enough at 168g to chuck in the bag to take with you on your travels.

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Connectivity comes in the form of a standard USB connector which also work as the charging port. Because of the E-Ink display, you’re unlikely to find yourself reaching for the charger very often because energy is only consumed when you interact with the device. To keep content active on the display, the device doesn’t use any energy. This gives the ereader’s 1000mAh Li-Polymer battery enough power to last 8000 page turns.

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The cool-er ereader software supports ePub, PDF, HTML, RTF, TXT, PRC, FB2 and JPG file formats. So you can not only transfer ebooks, you can also get a whole host of text and rich static media for viewing on the ereader.

Although the purpose of this device is to read books, there is a 2.5mm audio jack at the bottom for listening to audio files – perhaps audiobooks in mp3 format.

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Powering up the cool-er ereader takes about 50 seconds. Once it’s up and running, the Linux-based OS provides you with the folder directory and file listings. It can be a little slow to get to a specific book if it’s not on the first page, so hopefully you’ve either organised a few favourites into a specific folder or renamed the book to appear at the top of the list as there’s no quick way to scroll through a long list.

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Loading some of the larger files is far from instant, with a 1.2MB PDF taking about seven seconds to appear. It’s certainly no slouch and it does remember your last position in the file. The zoom shortcut keys allow you to resize the font to one of the eight levels. Set at the smallest font size, the e-ink technology is able to show off its high-contrast crisp display with highly legible text that just looks stunning.

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When doing any sort of navigation where the screen has to change its contents, there is always this slight delay that is just a tad bit longer than you’d like it to be. This is especially true when resizing fonts or when you’re navigating the folder structure. But where it counts is the page turning and I was glad to see that the refresh rate when you navigate to the next page is minimal.

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The principle behind an ereader is not that dissimilar to that of the mp3 player for the music industry. It removed the need for a physical product to be sitting on the shelf and the same goes for this and the book. But whether an ereader will be enough to draw people away from the physical book is something that only time will tell. From a practicality point of view, this combination of technology is unbeatable. Not only does it weigh next to nothing, the battery life will far exceed even the longest of holidays.

2009-11-22 Onwah Tsang

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