The Toshiba BookPlace Mono and Booklive Reader by Lideo are two Japan exclusives that popped by to say hello at SID Display Week 2013 in Vancouver. Obviously, with a new e-Reader we were all over it, and seems to do quite well in Japan. How does this e-Reader stack up against the competition and is it a worthy investment?
The Booklive Reader by Lideo features an older version of e Ink Pearl with a resolution of 600×800 and 16 levels of grey. It has 4 GB of internal memory, but you only have 3 GB of practical use. There is no expandable memory, so you will not be able to load more content in via MicroSD. There is a 800 MHZ processor, which tends to make things a bit speedy.
When you look at the competition in Japan with the Sony PRS-T2, Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite, they all have higher resolution then than the Booklive. This is an important factor to consider if you are into Manga, Graphic Novels and image heavy content. Resolution on PDF images, are fairly important for the types of books that are popular in Japan. The price is right though, you will spend around 7,000 yen, making it more affordable then the competition.
You can think of this e-Reader as a terminal. You only can connect to the Booklive eBook store, which has around 75,000 titles currently available. There is no internet browser, and it lacks critical essential social media features like Facebook and Twitter. It connects via WIMAX to the store, and there is no charge for data to download books, you just have to pay for them.
The Booklive has a touchscreen display that you use to pinch and zoom and click on content. It has four physical home buttons on the bottom, similar to the old Sony designs. You can hit back, home, settings etc. Finally, you will get around a solid month of use, before you have to recharge it. This falls in line with most readers, when you engage in casual reading.
The Booklive e-Reader is very simple in design, in terms of UI and the overall layout of the menu. When you first fire it up for the first time it asks for your birthday, sex, email address and name. The main screen comprises of your bookshelf, which shows the cover art by default. You can tweak the settings so it shows it in list view instead, which is useful for larger book collections.
Speaking of book collections, it supports EPUB and PDF, but you can’t load in your own books. For some reason this e-Reader only works with purchases made directly from the store built into it. This might turn a ton of users off, but will curb book piracy.
You can turn pages by tapping or flicking your hand in a gesture, obviously being a Japanese exclusive you tend to turn pages to the left. There is a big refresh issue with this unit, as every single page turn creates the flickering as the e Ink screen refreshes. There is no options to configure it, such as to make it refresh every three, six or nine pages. There are six different options to increase the size of the text when you are reading EPUB books, and no options to change the types of fonts. You can also make highlights and look words up in the built in dictionary. The main gripe of most reviewers in Japan is that the dictionary is weak compared to the competition.If you want to search, you can do it via the virtual software keyboard, which is actually one of the best features on this device.
One of the best features is being able to adjust the brightness. This is useful, since most Manga has different art styles. Some use very hard lines and some very soft, it is great to be able to turn up the brightness of the screen to give you the best Manga experience.
When you are finished reading a book, at the end of it, are links to continue reading the series. Normally, you can purchase a single issue, and if you like it, continue to buy more. Instead of making you search the next issue within the Booklive store, you get links to buy it. You can’t buy in bulk though, but most stores don’t really have a great shopping cart system on e-readers. If you subscribe to newspapers though, the new issue is delivered to you every day.
You would buy this e-reader if you are loyal to the BookLive market place for newspapers, eBooks and Manga. It is more affordable than most other e-Readers currently available in Japan. Sharp, Toshiba, Sony, Amazon and Kobo all compete heavily in that market and sometimes its hard for the smaller players to stay relevant.
In the end, I would not recommend this e-Reader. It is mostly slow and unresponsive, and the inability to load in your own books may be a deal breaker. There is a ton of eBooks available to buy, but it doesn’t matter much if all of your competition as higher resolution screens and better hardware. I would likely recommend Kobo, Kindle or Sony models better than this, mainly because of the better software and the ability to buy books in different languages. Sometimes you want to learn a new language by reading books, but Booklive only sells books in Japanese.
Interesting Design, looks unique
Virtual Keyboard is very well done
75,000 eBooks in the store
Sluggish and Unresponsive
Full e Ink refresh on every page turn
Inability to load in your own PDF or EPUB Books
No Bulk purchases of books from the store