The Bookeen Cybook Gen 3 is one of the lightest eReaders on the US/European market, but also thinnest on features, and does not justify the steep price in our opinion. This product marketed by the French company Bookeen was introduced in October 2007, and is a European version of the Taiwanese Netronix EB-600, the most copied eReader design in the world (a pity it isn't particularly exceptional). It has the same basic hardware as the UK COOL-ER and Elonex, the Russian Pocketbook 301, the Polish eClicto, the South Korean Soribook, NUUT and the US eSlick and Astak Mentor Lite. It uses e-Ink display technology for low glare, high contrast viewing, just like the rest of the latest generation of eReaders. However, it is showing its age, and is only capable of displaying four greyscales (compared to 16 for the latest Amazon, Sony, and iRex models); fine for text, but not good for graphics.
The minimalist design is in frosted black plastic, with only a joystick-like keypad and four other buttons to control it. While it may look good, there are complaints about the Cybook's fiddly directional controller. Likewise, not much ergonomic thought went into the page flipping mechanism, which on most eReaders is a large, long button on the edges which responds to a gentle press; on the Cybook the button is small and requires quite a click. This may seem a minor point, but since you'll be clicking it thousands of times to flip the page, more thought really should have gone into the mechanism.
It comes with 512MB of memory, enough for roughly 1,000 books. However, if this is not enough (keep in mind the Kindle 2 comes with 2 GB), then you can add more memory via the SD card slot. Unfortunately, the directory structure cannot be hierarchical--you have to have all your book, music, fonts, etc. in one massive directory with no subdirectories. This is simply unacceptable and results in major file overcrowding given continuous use. This seems emblematic of the apparently rushed nature of the Cybook's firmware, which is prone to unexpected crashes.
The lithium ion battery should last some 8,000 page turns--one of the highest on the market--or some 3 weeks of heavy reading. And other plus is we do note that it changes pages quickly, faster than the Sony PRS-505, but not the improved Kindle 2. It charges via a computer on a mini-USB 2.0 cord. The Cybook has a headphone jack (the rare, 2.5mm instead of the 3.5mm standard jack size), but no speakers.
The Cybook web page raves about fast boot time, but at 20 seconds, we really weren't impressed, as there are much quicker ones out there. With the convenience of an eReader, we'd like to be able to steal a few minutes of reading here and there, and would rather not wait to start.
Connecting: The Cybook does not have wireless capabilities of any sort, and must be synched via USB cord to a computer to download content. It also has among the poorest file format support (10 formats) of the current eReaders. At least for these formats, it does support them natively, with no conversion. However, even supported formats like large PDF documents can be a pain to read--displaying too small to be readable and difficult to navigate. When questioned about this, Bookeen noted that the Cybook was designed as an eBook reader, and PDF functionality was a "bonus feature." We're not expecting PDA functionality, but Bookeen's competition does have so much more flexibility regarding other file formats.
The Cybook is really based around the encrypted Mobipocket format, which gives it access to a large catalogue of copyrighted ebooks via numerous retailers' websites. Of course, it doesn't even come close to the access on Amazon's Kindle Store, but then no other reader does.
The Cybook relies heavily on the Mobipocket Desktop Reader (ironically, a company which was acquired by Kindle manufacturer Amazon in 2005) rather than any inhouse solution, to organize and download your ebook content. This does have some very useful functions like RSS feed update, so you can see the latest updates for your favorite sites and blogs after synching with your computer. Actually, the Mobipocket Reader software is more stable than the Cybook itself, so it's a useful workaround to use it to convert many of the PDF and Word files which crash the Cybook to a form that is safely viewable on the device.
Whatever its other problems, at least transferring content is simple. When you hook the Cybook up to your computer, it appears as a USB storage device, and you can simply drag and drop content onto it.
Accessories: You can get all the main accessories currently available by spending an extra $100 on the Cybook Gen 3 Deluxe model, which includes a case ($39.95 on its own), 2 GB SD memory card (otherwise $24.95 on its own), and an AC plug charger (not sold separately).
You can also buy a set of 2.5mm-jack earphones for $9.95.
Prices: The Cybook Gen 3 costs $350 for the basic model, or $450 for the Deluxe, via the company's website. Again, at these prices, you're far better off with a Kindle or Sony--unless Bookeen can come up with a more functional Gen 4 version very quickly which slashes at least $150 off the price, we just don't see this being a viable option.