BeBook Club Review

Overview

BeBook are new to the eReader market and the Club reader was released around November in 2010 as a back to basics approach to reading devices. It was released as a simplified version of its more premium sibling the BeBook Neo, both being launched at the same time. The BeBook Club incorporates some of the style and features as seen in other readers on the market, however not quite matching up to the competition.

bebook club

Hardware and Features

The BeBook Club is a very basic device (not a bad feature as the makers were up front about the simplicity from the start), its main features are; the 6" eInk Vizplex screen, keeping up with competition in terms of screen technology allowing the display to be read in direct sunlight. The BeBook Club also gives readers a range of options in text size and making bookmarks, allowing the reader maximum ease of use. The battery life is long on the BeBook Club giving the user up to 12,000 page turns or 25 hours of music playback. Which leads us on to the next feature, the BeBook Club supports MP3 files in order for the user to have music playback on the move. Not only this but the MP3 player within the device has been designed so that the user can change playback whilst they are still viewing documents, which is normally a problem for other devices, which didn't seem to think of this when including audio support in their devices.

Technical Specifications

Dimensions: 121 x 10.6 x 196mm – The BeBook club is fairly small and thin, allowing the user to carry the device around with them.

Weight: 278grams (including the weight of battery)- The club is definitely heavier than most other readers on the market, almost double some, although it is still fairly easy to transport. The device feels better built due to the increase in weight, however it can be slightly too heavy for some users to hold for a long period of time.

Display: 6" eInk Vizplex screen, Resolution of 600x800. – This matches up with most competitors on the market, using exactly the same technology as the Cybook Gen 3, the screen offers no glare and an easy read display.

Memory: Internal Storage of 512MB, Expandable up to 16GB – The memory on the BeBook Club is definitely a strong point, with the choice of expandable memory meaning the user is unlikely to run out of space on the device.

RRP: £149 – This is the RRP including VAT, which although the BeBook club was marketed as a cheaper option, isn't in particular compared for other readers on the market.

Supported Formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT, MP3, WAV, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMP – The supported formats on the BeBook Club are fairly solid and about match most of the competitors on the market.

What's in the Box?

bebook club box

The BeBook Club comes packaged in a cardboard box printed with a graphic of the reader; it is simple and does what it needs to, reflecting the style of the reader. Within the outer sleeve is a plain white box, this opens up to reveal the BeBook, quite heavily packaged in bubble wrap etc, which is something I have not seen in a reader before. Under this is a compartment storing the accessories that come with the reader, this is a standard 2.0 USB cable, in order to connect the device to the computer for charging or transferring files to the device. A quick start guide, to help the user get up and running with the reader as quickly and smoothly as possible, and a company warranty, just in case anything goes wrong with the hardware of the reader this will be needed to replace the device under warranty.

Connectivity

The BeBook's main form of connectivity is the USB connection used to connect the BeBook Club to the computer in order to transfer files and charge the device, this works well although on older machines the connection can be fairly slow and struggle to handle the device. The BeBook Club does not come with PC software and therefore the reader works like a mass storage device, with the user simply dragging and dropping the files they desire on to the device. Due to the fact it is a hardship to search for books on the device it is best to split your files in to separate folders here, perhaps authors or publishers, however you best feel you would be able to find your books. The BeBook Club does not contain any wireless connectivity (No 3G or Wi-Fi) therefore the only way to get files and eBooks on to the device is to connect it to the computer, I suggest buying an AC adaptor for the device as charging from a computer is very time consuming, and a pain for people who don't use a computer a lot, it also means the user can be used whilst travelling away, particularly useful for business users.

Supported file formats

The technical specifications for the BeBook Club lists EPUB, PDF, TXT, MP3, WAV, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMP as the supported formats for the device, looking overall, compared to other readers the list is fairly limited. EPUB stands for electronic publication and is the format that was developed to support eBooks due to its re-flowable content, therefore it is an expectation on any device. PDF stands for publication display format, which supports files created in adobe suites, for example brochures made in Adobe InDesign, a massive benefit for any user, particularly educational users, in addition to the BeBook's ability to draw and annotate documents. Other than that the BeBook supports a few variations of documents, graphics and also MP3. The audio file support on the BeBook Club is fairly sophisticated compared to some readers which only have MP3, the BeBook Club also supports WAV files. Supported formats that the BeBook Club is missing out on are mainly the Microsoft Document formats produced in programmes such as Word, Power Point and Excel.

Memory

The internal memory on the BeBook is fairly limited, only offering the user 512MB. In terms of creating a library this will probably store a couple of hundred books, which is probably more than enough room, however as the reader doubles as a music device, if there are music files being held on the reader then the 512MB will probably not be enough to store everything the user wants. This is not a problem however due to the fact that BeBook have installed the Story with SD card slots, allowing the user to expand memory up to 16GB which is more than plenty of room to store both books and audio files. The beauty of an SD slot on the reader means that even though the device can only handle up to 16GB of memory at any one point, alternate SD cards can be bought and swapped around, meaning in theory the memory on this device is unlimited.

Battery Life

The battery life on the BeBook Club is definitely one of the reader's strong points. Firstly, looking at the device purely for a reading instrument, the battery life is quoted at 12,000 page turns. The battery life is measured by page turns due to the fact that the reader uses an eInk display, therefore battery/power is only consumed when the page is refreshed, which translates to every time the page is turned whilst the user is reading a book. 12,000 pages is a decent battery life, this is on one single full charge on the device, which normally takes around 5 hours. This is a substantial amount, and what I particularly like about the BeBook is that it lets the user know exactly how long the battery will last, which is always a plus over other readers who give a rough estimate based on estimates. The music playback is quoted at 25 hours, which translates to the reader staying powered for 25 hours if the user is doing nothing other than playing music. This is a decent amount of time, however the music does seriously compromise the battery life, however with a combination of the two the battery should last for around 10 days.

Screen Quality

The screen quality matches most on the market in the terms that it incorporates an eInk display, the particular model of the BeBook Club's display is an eInk Vizplex display. What the eInk display offers for the user is a display which is shown by contrast between shades rather than a backlight, this has many advantages, firstly the use of a Vizplex screen means that the BeBook can be read in direct sunlight, therefore it can be enjoyed outside as well as inside. A further advantage of an eInk display is that it only requires power to refresh the screen, therefore the reader will only consume battery life every time a page is turned or the screen is refreshed.

In terms of competition within screen quality, the BeBook Club does match up to competitors in the fact that it uses an eInk display, however the other readers on the market at the same time the BeBook Club was released, such as the Sony PRS range and also the Kindle 3, use an eInk pearl display in favour of the Vizplex screen. The difference between the two displays is that the eInk pearl uses a '16 shade grey scale' whereas the Vizplex use an '8 shade grey scale'. What this means is that the eInk pearl has a greater range of shades to make up the display, allowing graphics to be seen in much better detail. This difference is not too detrimental to the reader as there is not a vast difference between the qualities of the screen. The BeBook Club is not touch screen and the device is controlled completely by button input, therefore there is no worry of touch screen layers impairing the display, which has been a complaint of some other readers.

Build Quality and Design

The design of the BeBook Club is mixed, there are aspects of the product that are very nicely designed and feel well manufactured, yet there are also extremely poor aspects of design. One of the main design falls down with the BeBook Club is the fact that they have chosen the silver colouring of the buttons. The silver they have used looks in-expensive and tacky against the white, perhaps this is a personal opinion, however they do look cheaply made. They would have done the reader much more justice if they were white and blended in with the rest of the device. One of the good aspects of design within the BeBook Club is the brushed aluminium back. This makes the device feel much more solidly built and creates a nice weight, giving the reader some substance. Not only this but it also adds some style to the product, making it look modern and giving the illusion of a more premium product. The one worry with the back being built up of this material is the fact that when the reader is put down this will probably scratch very easily as is seen on some other products, the Sony PRS range for example, this can be solved with a case for the reader.

BeBook designed the Club to be very simple, and the design reflects this, however I feel that they should really have included a QWERTY keyboard on the reader as this would have made searching for titles and documents on the device. However the build of the product is done fairly well, due to the brushed aluminium back and strong plastic used for the BeBook Club, the device feels sturdy and well built, which is definitely an advantage of this particular reader. The plastic may not be to the taste of some users though due to the fact that the plastic has a texture too it. Which is fairly odd and something I have not seen in a reader before, the plastic definitely won't scratch easily, but it is certainly not the most attractive either.

BeBook Club Vs.

How does the BeBook Club compare to its competitors

BeBook Club Vs. BeBook Neo

bebook clubbebook neo

The BeBook reader was released at the same time as the BeBook Neo, with the Neo being marketed as the more superior reader out of the two. There are many similarities between the two devices, which is to be expected as they are both manufactured by the same company. The first major difference between the Club and the Neo is that the Club works by using buttons whereas the Neo is touch screen. This is more of a personal preference, however the Neo's touch screen only works with a stylus which means the user needs to be aware of due to the fact if the stylus is lost or left at home then the reader is rendered useless until you've got hold of another. The main advantages of having a touch screen on the Neo is that there is the ability to make notes, annotations and drawing on the reader, which is a plus for educational use not only this but it also means that there is an on screen keyboard, allowing the user to be able to search for titles and authors, therefore the interface on the device is much easier to use than the BeBook Club.

In terms of display the Neo and the Club are on a par, both offering eInk screens which allow the users to read in direct sunlight, the one complaint with screen on the Neo however is that the touch screen layer used on the screen has caused there to be a slight glare at times, it isn't detrimental to the performance of the reader, however it can be annoying at times. In this case the Club is slightly more superior than the Neo due to the simplicity of the device allowing the display technology to do what it is best at. I feel the main advantages that the Neo has over the Club is the ability to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi as this allows more freedom when using the device, for example books can be downloaded on the move without the need to connect to a computer. One problem with the internet on the Neo is that it is very slow browsing. The other advantage of the Neo is the design, as it is much more attractive than the Club, however the massive gap in price suggests that the Neo will be more advanced, therefore it depends what style of reader the user after on which will be more suited to them. The downside of the Neo is that for the price there are many other readers on the market that offer the same features, or maybe even more.

BeBook Club vs. Sony PRS 650

Now it's time to compare the BeBook club to the other readers on the market manufactured by other brands. Firstly, the PRS 600 by Sony, these two devices are fairly comparable due to the features they include. Firstly the screens on both devices are very similar, both boasting a generous 6" eInk display, the one major difference between the two models however is that the Sony PRS 650 is touch screen. One similarity about the two devices is that neither include Wi-Fi, therefore it really is the fine tuning of the two devices which are most comparable. One advantage of the Sony is definitely the design, with the BeBook Club being kept to basics, unfortunately one of the features that was neglected was the design. In comparison to the Sony PRS 650 which has a very sleek and sophisticated design, known to be top of its game in this area. The one similarity with the two designs is that the BeBook Club includes an air brushed aluminium back, similar to the Sony which is mainly made from aluminium. It is a major advantage to use this material within the reader due to the fact that it is strong, and looks good, the one downside is that it can add a lot of weight to the device, and therefore both the Sony PRS 650 and the BeBook Club are a touch heavier than some of their competitors, which may compromise their portability.

Although the BeBook Club doesn't necessarily look as good at the Sony PRS 650 the price is much lower, making the BeBook a much more viable option for many consumers, this is one of the main reasons for bringing out the BeBook Club, to provide a more affordable reader on the market. One of the features that the BeBook Club includes as does the Sony PRS 650 is the option to enlarge fonts and change the sizes, this is very similar to the options available on the Sony however the Sony gives a wider range of options. One feature lacking in both of the devices is the ability to change the font of a book that is being read, it is possible to go into the coding of the book and change the font there, however in some cases the BeBook Club still has trouble displaying some of the font options, a slight disappointment.

BeBook Club vs. Amazon Kindle 3

The Kindle 3 is another device that, like the BeBook Club, does not have touch screen functionality. The main difference between the BeBook Club and the Kindle 3 in terms of appearance is the fact that the Kindle 3 has a QWERTY keypad, whereas the BeBook Club works purely on two buttons that turn the pages and a directional pad. This certainly makes searching for books a lot harder, therefore if you are buying the BeBook it is important to be organised in where you are placing the files you are transferring on to the reader. On the other hand the QWERTY keyboard on the Kindle 3 makes it very easy to search the device for the title of a publication but does also take up a lot more room meaning that the device is slightly larger than the BeBook Club. As a result, if you are unorganised the Kindle 3 is properly the better option for you, as no matter where the user dumps their files, they will be able to text search for the title or author. The page turns on the BeBook are fairly fast and match the Kindle 3, however they are slightly flashier, which can sometimes take the eye of reading, which can distract people easily, however I feel that this is something that the user will get used to the more that they use the device.

The one major selling point of the BeBook is its simplicity and due to this, and the lack of extravagant features such as Wi-Fi, the battery life on the BeBook is much more substantial than the Kindle, boasting 12,000 page turns which is a mass amount and a fair few novels, off the one charge, the Kindle 3 offers 1 month, however if the Wi-Fi is being used this is cut down to nearer 10, as a result I would say that the battery life on the BeBook is much stronger than that of the Kindle. This is compromised however by the MP3 player, as when this is in use the devices battery will only last for around 25 hours. The major disadvantage of the BeBook reader in comparison is that the BeBook online store is much more limited than that seen of Amazon. This is a massive disadvantage as there is no point having a reader if you cannot find the titles that you wish to read.

The main issue with comparing the Kindle and the BeBook is that the BeBook's price isn't that much less than the Kindles, which has more features, such as 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. If this seems like a desirable feature for the user then the Kindle is probably a better option. BeBook do offer the Neo, however this is much more expensive than the Kindle and yet does not offer 3G. The web browsing facility on the Neo is also much slower, therefore Amazon are much more advanced than BeBook in terms of connectivity and web browsing experience. In terms of being a simple reader, the BeBook achieves its goals, however with the Kindle offering additional features for only a slight increase in price it really does put a downer on the BeBook Club.

The Good

The strong features on the BeBook Club are the MP3 player, the eInk display and the inclusion of an SD card slot. One of the features that the BeBook Club kept from its more premium sibling the Neo was the ability to playback audio files. The BeBook does this well and in some aspects, much better than its competitors, this is for two reasons. Firstly the BeBook Club supports both WAV and MP3, when most eReaders only cater to MP3 files. Another nice touch with the MP3 player on the BeBook is that the songs can be shuffled, played and paused, whilst reading. This is much more convenient than on other readers as the user can continue to read whilst they are operating the music features. On other readers the user is disturbed from their book as they have to exit the document they are viewing to change tracks and then re-open the device. Another good feature on the BeBook Club is the inclusion of an SD card within the design to allow the user to expand their memory, as in more simple versions of readers this is normally removed and the user has to get by with the memory that is in-built to the device. Lastly the eInk Vizplex display is definitely a strong point, providing the user with a range of benefits that are very useful, these being the ability to read in direct light, meaning the reader is the perfect companion for the outdoors or holidays. Not only this but it also helps to maximise battery life on the device.

The Bad

The bad points on the BeBook are definitely the design and also the lack of the connectivity, they are not horrific however. The main aspect of design that I see as a problem for the Club is the fact that there is no QWERTY or on screen keypad, although this doesn't seem detrimental to the device, due to the fact it does not have the capability to browse the web or take notes, it will be a slight pain for users when they are looking for files. It will mean that users will have to be very organised in how they add their titles to the device if they ever want to find them again. Not only this but depending on how many files are stored on the device will affect the ease of use, as if there are hundreds, then it will take the user an awful long time to scroll through all their files. The lack of connectivity also means that the only way to add files on to the device is to connect the reader to a computer, which of course will limit the device slightly compared to other readers such as the Kindle 3 which have both Wi-Fi and 3G, allowing the user to download files anywhere. This wouldn't be a valid option on the club due to the overall design of the reader and its original purpose, however they are options seen in most readers on the market now which may put people off if they think that they are missing out.

The Bottom Line

The BeBook Club is perfect for a user who wants an extremely simple and basic reader, that does what they need it too, but also does it well. The BeBook doesn't look completely awful, well from behind anyway, but in fairness the overall device does look modern, regardless of some of the specifics which may not be so well designed. The reader displays files well and supports most common files, not only this but it also has the added benefit of MP3 playback, which is normally excluded from the more 'back to basics' readers, which the BeBook Club definitely is.


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BeBook Club

MRSP: $179

Manufacturer's Website