Oct 262009

To date, I’ve never seen a real, live Kindle – the ebook reader flogged by book-flogging Amazon empire that is bringing tears to the eyes of print publishers the world over.

For those of us clinging precariously to the underbelly of the planet down here in Australia, unless you had a kind friend in the US or get in touch with the fabulous people at PriceUSA (www.priceusa.com.au) – you can’t get hold of the much-hyped Amazon Kindle, for unclear reasons possibly related to copyright or market share or just plain obdurateness on behalf of Amazon.

We do have options; Dymocks launched the iLiad book reader two years ago to much fanfare; but I can’t tell you any more than you might google up yourself, because the $900 device (overpriced is an understatement!) was restricted to a one-only demonstration device in their city store.

Any interested gadget reviewer had to make an appointment and arrive on bended knee bearing frankincense and myrrh just to view the darned thing.

The iLiad was something of a flop  – and all was quiet on the eBook front for a while until this year, when library supplier Central Book Services came out with the EcoReader.

The EcoReader website features an extremely irritating You-Tube demo complete with bad elevator music; however the real thing is far less annoying.

The reader is the size of a light paperback (A5-ish, 220g) and sports a faux-leather black case. It doesn’t do much – just stores and displays pages, and plays MP3 files (huh? why bother!).

The big sell – particularly for anyone who has ever tried to read an ebook on nearly any portable device, including the iPod – is the screen. The ECO Reader has a 6-inch flat-matte screen using a special film with no backlighting and it’s quite easy to read. (But not as easy as a book.)

The numbered control buttons are somewhat counter-intuitive though, and when I canvassed the opinion of my assistant reviewers of the YouTube generation, the Reader was heartily dissed as follows: “Boring.”  “How do you know how much you have left to read?”  “What happens if you drop it in the bath?”  And it’s still overpriced.

Bottom line: If you’re after an eReader, this might do the trick; I suspect it’s an acquired taste
How much : $449