With all of the hullabaloo over the Amazon Kindle 2’s recent release, one might think that there were no other eBook readers on the market; not so! Those who eschew DRM protection and who can do without the convenience of an online content store (I’m thinking of Amazon’s and Sony’s, specifically) should pay particular attention to the Ectaco jetBook, a reading device capable of handling .txt, .pdf, .fb2, .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, and MP3 file formats.
The jetBook measures approximately 6″ tall x 4.3″ wide x 0.5″ thick, and it weighs about 7.5 ounces. It seems a little bit blocky, but it is better looking than the Kindle 1 was. The screen measures 5″ diagonally, and it dominates the front of the device. The jetBook is available in burgundy, gray or white;
The case is composed of plastic, and it is quite solid and rigid. The jetBook actually feels like a comfortably sized reader to hold for extended periods of time, as it is not so large as to be unwieldy, and not so heavy as to cause major wrist fatigue.
On the left side is a plastic sliding Page Up / Page Down bar. Although I was at first worried that it might snap off if something hooked it just right, I never had any issues during the testing period. I would eventually find the slider to be an incredibly unobtrusive way to navigate through pages; I like it better than using a D-Pad or clicking button.
On the left of the device is what reminded me at first of one of those paper address books with the lettered tabs on the side, but in this case the tabs are numbered 0 – 9, with letters and symbols on each. The first time I looked at this alpha-numeric keyboard, I couldn’t help but think of what a chore it would be actually entering data with this method; I was right.
On the bottom left of the jetBook is another Page Up / Page Down entry method, this one situated horizontally and using buttons. It seems a little bit redundant to have the buttons there, but I suppose they would come in handy if the slider on the left was ever accidentally broken.
On the bottom right is a cluster which includes (from top left going clockwise) Menu, Font Size / Zoom, Cancel and Rotate buttons; in the center is a four way D-pad with center select. The D-pad has other uses of course, but it is also yet another way to Page Up and Page Down.
The jetBook comes with a plethora of free classics pre-installed. You’ll find many favorites are already here, including titles by the following: Daniel Defoe, the Grimm Brothers, Herman Melville, James Matthew Barrie, Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Barr, Franz Kafka, Herbert Wells, Miguel de Cervantes, Oscar Wilde, Robert Stevenson, Edward Berens, Leonardo Da Vinci, Plato, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, Fyordor Dostoyevsky, Jack London, James Cooper, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Jerome K. Jerome, John Galsworthy, Sidney Heath, Sun Tzu, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Walter Scott, William Shakespeare, and William Thackeray. There are also reference documents pre-installed, including the CIA World Book, Fodor’s Travel Guide, The King James Bible, The United States Constitution, the .pdf jeBook user manual, four websites for downloading free eBooks (in English), as well as others in Russian, Polish and (I think) Czechoslovakian, and almost inexplicably – the .pdf manual for getting a driver’s license in New York State.
This is really a great selection of reading material in and of itself – especially the classics, for those of us who have been meaning to take the time to enjoy them again; it is really handy to have such a great selection pre-loaded.
You can simply download the files you want to your desktop (Mac or PC) in a format that the jetBook accepts (.txt, .pdf, .fb2), and then drag and drop the file into the proper folder on the jetBook when it is connected to the computer via USB.
Now comes the tricky part: Not everyone is going to be satisfied with freely available classic eBooks. How can you get current bestsellers onto your jetBook? Right now, you can’t; not legally, anyway. And therein lies the rub.
Until Publishers and authors can figure out a way to merchandise their current bestsellers and past catalogs as DRM-FREE eBooks, or until Ectaco partners with a DRM-enabled eBook publisher, reading on the jetBook will be somewhat limited. But don’t let the phrase “somewhat limited” scare you – there are over 27,000 free books on the Gutenberg site and 23,000 on the ManyBooks site, alone. Even with some overlap, you should have enough reading material to last you the rest of your life.
The Ectaco jetBook is available directly from the manufacturer.