Literati Reader Review

Overview

The Literati is a brand new color screen which has been released on to the market under the brand name of Sharper Image although the manufacturers are actually known as Merchsource. This is the only reader currently on the market released by this particular brand. The reader is fairly new with its release date being late October 2010. The device is available to be purchased from a variety of department stores such as Macy's, Bath and Beyond, Bed, Best Buy, J.C Penney, Kohl's and also a few other retailers.

literati reader

Hardware and Features

One of the main features that has strongly been promoted with the Literati is the design of the reader with the manufacturers claiming two years development on the product prior to the release. With built in wireless connectivity and the built in bookstore working in partnership with the Kobo store, the user can easily download books to the device without the need for a computer. The Literati has a benefit as the reader comes pre-loaded with 25 classics meaning the user can get down to using the reader straight away. There is also a further 125 free eBook classics available from the bookstore.

The customizable features on the Literati mean that the reader can alter the typeface of the book that they are reading and also the size of the font to make it easy for the reader view. Personalising the books that are being read on the device gives the greatest ease of read as it is suited perfectly to the reader.

The most unique feature on the Literati e-reader is the night reading mode. As the Literati has a backlit screen the brightness on the display can be turned up to allow the user to view the display even in the dark meaning that no extra accessories have to be bought to allow this feature, as is seen on eInk readers on the market.

Technical Specifications

Display: 7 inch color LCD display, 800 x 400 – The screen on the reader is said to be a fairly good quality color screen, the screen is much taller than it is wider giving the reader a more narrow display however the colors displayed on the screen are vivid and bright and the screen does not have much glare, making it easy to read from.

User Interface: QWERTY keypad including a navigational pad, page turn touch sensors – The main interface on the Literati is button input with the QWERTY pad being perfect to input text and the navigational pad in the bottom right corner of the device being used to turn pages. There are also sensors on the sides of the reader which respond and change the page when swiped or pressed however they have had poor feedback from users.

Memory: 256MB Built-in memory, SD card slot to allow for expandable memory – The internal storage on the device is fairly poor and as a result the reader will most likely have to buy a memory card to expand the memory on the device.

Supported Formats: Adobe EPUB/ PDF, DRM free EPUB, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG – The reader is fairly limited in terms of supported formats and is very document orientated, there is also the support for images which is to be expected due to the color display

Connectivity: Wi-Fi connectivity, USB 2.0 – The Wi-Fi connectivity on the device allows the user to download books straight to the device which in theory can eliminate the need to connect the device to a computer (via the USB 2.0 connection) in order to transfer files on to the reader giving the device much more mobility.

What's in the Box?

The Literati device comes packaged in an extremely large box bearing in mind the size of the product, being almost double the size of packaging used to box other readers on the market. The box is designed to look like a book and features an image of the Literati reader on the front of the packaging and the technical specifications of the device on the back of the box. The lid of the box simply flips open as the cover of a book would to reveal the actual device held in place by a plastic casing.

On first appearance the reader seems very tall and narrow which makes me question how well the display will handle eBooks and PDF's. The plastic casing must be cut open to get to the reader and the accessories that come with the device are also stored in this plastic casing. The only accessories that come with the device are a USB 2.0 cable, to connect the device to a computer in order to manage files and this can also be used as a method of charging. There is also an AC adaptor with the Literati that allows the device to be charged from the mains, definitely a plus as most readers on the market have this purchased separately.

Connectivity

One of the Literati's main features is that it includes wireless connection, which in this case is the Wi-Fi connection. There is no web browser built into the device and therefore this connection is there to be used with the Kobo bookstore on the device to download books. It is always a benefit to have Wi-Fi on a reader as it means that the user can easily download books straight on the device without having to connect it to a computer which is a big attraction for users who do not use a computer a lot or may not even have one.

The Literati does not have any official software to be used in conjunction with the device. When the device is connected to a computer it is picked up as if it was a USB or an external hard drive, simply being listed as a mass storage device. The process of getting books on to the reader is simply a case of choosing the eBook files then dragging and dropping them on to the device. This seems simple enough however the files don't always transfer therefore it is important to try loading a few of the new files before turning off the reader and ending up not being able to read any of the files when you come to use the reader.

Supported File Formats

The Literati is a very basic reader and is designed as an introduction device for users who have probably not had an e-reader before, easing them into a simple device. The supported formats on the device are Adobe EPUB/ PDF, DRM free EPUB, TXT, JPEG, GIF and PNG, as can be seen from this list the formats supported on the reader are mostly document based, and therefore the Literati is purely for reading rather than music or videos.

My initial impression of the reader lead me to believe that the PDF support on the device would be fairly poor due to how narrow the screen is however I was pleasantly surprised with the PDF display on the device. There is no option to change text size or font like the Literati has included for ePUB files however there is the option to zoom to 6 different levels of magnification and a full page option. The navigation wheel is used to move around the page to view the PDF and they can also be viewed in landscape.

Memory

The memory on the Literati is fairly poor compared to other readers that are currently on the market with only 256MB of internal memory, this is enough space to store around 200 books, so in theory the pre-loaded content and free books are pretty much going to completely consume your devices storage. There is however a built in SD card slot on the Literati and therefore memory cards can easily be purchased in order to expand the memory on the device.

Memory cards are not expensive and they can easily be removed and swapped for others, therefore even if the user fills the memory card there is no reason why another memory card can be bought and filled to be swapped around with the existing card depending on which data the user wants to access.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Literati reader is around 6 – 7 hours off a single charge. This is significantly lower than most readers on the market as the Literati features a backlit colour screen LCD rather than an eInk display and therefore the LCD reader needs to be lit constantly in order for the display to be visible and therefore the reader is constantly using battery power. The battery will last for a shorter amount of time if the Wi-Fi facility is being used to download books as this takes a lot of power to function.

Screen Quality

The screen on the Literati is what sets it apart from most readers on the market as it uses a color LCD display as a pose to an eInk screen. The quality of the screen is okay, when viewing the device straight on the display is easily viewable and displays bright and vibrant colors. One problem with the LCD screen is that if the user is viewing the screen at any other angle than straight on the display is obscured. As the display is backlit and the user can alter the brightness of the display the reader is suitable for reading in the dark which is a nice feature as this is not possible with eInk screens without buying an additional light.

The screen is not touch screen and therefore the user interface is completely button input with a full QWERTY keyboard. The page turn functions work with sensors on either side of the screen which need to be pressed down or swiped in order to turn the page. These have had a poor reception as they do not seem to be very effective and either do not respond or are too sensitive. The QWERTY keypad is fairly redundant due to the fact that there is no notes feature on the device and therefore there is no need to input text in to the reader.

Build Quality and Design

literati body

The Literati reader is available to consumers in the option of a white or black gloss finish giving users a choice even if it is only between the two. The design of the reader is different to others on the market due to the ratio of the display making the reader very narrow. Some people prefer the thinner display although this seems to be a personal preference however the screen still manages to display eBook files and PDF's effectively. The design of the product is overall, similar to the Kindle, and I think this was the desired effect by Sharper Image.

The reader feels strong and well-built being constructed from a solid and strong plastic. In terms of quality the reader is okay, there are some features in the design which haven't done to well including the page turn touch sensors. In terms of aesthetics the reader is pleasant and this is an advantage of the design.

Literati vs.

How does the Literati compare to other readers on the market?

The main feature on the Literati reader is its color screen and this is made clear from the way Sharper Image have marketed the device. How does the reader stack up against other readers on the market however? There are no other models released by this company and therefore the reader is simply up against readers produced by other brands on the market.

Literati vs. Nook Color

The most popular color screen reader on the market is the Nook color so how does the Literati compare? The price of the Nook Color is a massive $150 more than the Literati and therefore it is expected that the device will be slightly superior however the question is whether or not the Nook Color is worth the difference in price.

In terms of display both of the readers feature a 7" color screen which are on a par, both providing the reader with a bright and vivid display in order to view graphics on the device. The screens are slightly different due to the ratio of the screens with the Literati having a 16:9 making the display much taller and narrower than the display on the Nook.

In terms of navigating the device the Nook Color has a much more superior user interface with the reader being a fully touch screen device. The Nook also features an on screen virtual keyboard which works well with the devices ability to handle note making features on the device. This is a major leap on the Literati's user interface which has been heavily slated by users of the device. The QWERTY keypad would work quite well on the Literati however Sharper Image have not included the feature of taking notes on the reader and therefore the QWERTY input is fairly redundant.

Both of the readers have wireless connection via the form of Wi-Fi on the devices with the performance of both the readers being fairly similar in terms of speed, although the Nook is slightly quicker at downloading files.

The memory on the Nook Color is also much stronger than the storage capacity of the Literati as there is a massive 8GB internal memory on the Nook which is plenty of space to store books however this will become full quite quickly as the Nook Color can be used to display a range of other media files such as audio and video which tend to be quite large. This is still a vast difference to the Literati's fairly pathetic 256MB. Both of the readers feature SD card slots allowing the memory of the device to be expanded if extra storage space is needed.

The supported formats on the Nook Color are much stronger than the Liberati and have enough media files supported to be considered as a multi-media device. The technical specifications for the Nook Color lists EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, Microsoft Office files, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, AAC and MP4 as the supported formats for the device. As can be seen from this list the Nook Color not only supports document files but also graphics, audio and impressively, video. This is a much wider range than the Literati reader that only supports graphic and document files. There is the expectation that the Nook will have more supported files than the Literati due to the Literati being a basic device although it might have been nice if the Liberati had included Microsoft Office file support.

The Nook is clearly a more advanced reader than the Literati however the price difference makes the Literati a more viable option for consumers who want a color screen but will not use all the other features that come with the device and therefore do not want to pay the extra cost for features that they will not use.

Literati vs. Augen The Book

Another reader on the market which is more closely matched to the Literati is the Augen The Book. Both of the readers are color screen and both are around the $100 retail device therefore it is much easier to compare the quality of the devices in terms of value for money.

Both of the devices feature Wi-Fi which allows the user to download books straight to the device. The one advantage the Augen has over the Literati is that the reader comes with a built-in web browser so that the user can easily browse the internet when they are connected to a Wi-Fi connection. The Literati does not have this feature and therefore Augen have done a much better job of utilising the facilities on the device.

The internal memory on the Augen is also larger than that of the Literati with 2GB internal storage compared to the small 256MB seen on the Literati. This is an advantage as it means more books can be stored on the reader without the need for a memory card although the Augen also supports media files and therefore the data being stored on the device is likely to be much larger than the files stored on the Literati will be. This is not a problem though as both of the readers possess the ability for expandable memory as they have built in SD card slots.

Both the Augen and the Literati have a fully button interface with both of the devices featuring a QWERTY keypad. The QWERTY keypad is used much more on the Augen reader as the device has the ability to take notes and therefore requires a text input, not only that but the QWERTY input is also useful for the reader when browsing the internet.

The Literati has a much more limited selection of supported formats on the device, only offering document files and not a very large choice within this. For the price of the Augen the device features an impressive range of supported formats with the technical specifications of the device listing EPUB, PDF, TXT, HTML, CHM, RTF, FB2, MOBI, PRC, JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WMV and MP4. As can be seen from this device the Augen supports an impressive range of document files alongside the support for graphics, audio and video files.

The battery life on the devices are the same and looking at all the features the Augen seems the better option in terms of features, especially as the reader is actually retailed at $10 less than the Literati. There are some flaws with the Augen however, these include the unfinished firmware which is still waiting to be completed/ updated and the fact that the reader can be fairly slow at loading things, this could be down to the hardware not being able to cope with so many features, which isn't a surprise considering the low price of the reader.

It seems that the color readers on the market are currently at two extremes, as the color screen is a new feature on e-readers it is still in the process of being developed. There are the two extremes, the higher price readers which are more like multi-media tablets that have an extensive range of features and work well but are hundreds of dollars, or the lower price readers such as the Literati or the Augen which are either very basic or have a vast range of features that the device cannot really handle.

The Good

The 7" color screen on the reader is a positive as it is one of the most advanced features on the device giving the user a pleasurable viewing experience in terms of showing images and colors although the screen can cause strain on the eyes, this can be reduced by turning down the brightness which is a function that the Literati possesses.

Another positive feature on the Literati reader is the fact that the device can connect to the Kobo bookstore as this allows the user to download books straight from the store which has over 2 million titles, therefore they will probably be able to find what they're looking for. The Kobo library also has the option of being used in conjunction with the applications built by Kobo for iPhone and other platforms meaning that the library on the Literati can also be viewed on other devices.

The Bad

The major downside to the Literati is that it is a very basic reader and for that reason it is not as developed as most of its competitors with a very limited range of features on the device. The other problem with the Literati is the poor user feedback that the device has received with many users not being able to get books on the device or use it properly. This highlights a clear problem with the user interface however the Literati reader has been promised new firmware which will activate a wider range of features on the device and make user interaction much easier.

The Bottom Line

The Literati is a very basic device and is only worth investing in if the color screen is important to you, for example you will mainly be using the reader to display color books such as cookbooks or children's books. If the reader is only going to be used for regular novels then the reader lacks a lot of features that other readers at the same price possess.


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Literati Reader