Bookeen Cybook Odyssey e-book reader
The one with the animated E Ink screen
Amazon's brutal drive to bring down the price of e-book readers to 89 quid has made buying one of these gadgets easy. If you're disinterested in e-book DRM formats – they're all bad, IMHO – there's little reason not to opt for this cheapest-of-the-lot model.
I'd like to be able to say the Cybook Odyssey, from French e-reader pioneer Bookeen, changes that, but despite what seems at first to be an interesting innovation – animation on an e-ink screen – it doesn't.
Don't assume that that verdict means I'm dismissing the Odyssey as an inferior product, because it most definitely isn't. It's slightly bigger, thicker and heavier than the latest Kindle, but that brings you a more solid body with a metal back and a metal-look plastic face that give the Odyssey a higher quality feel.
The back panel is rimmed with a matte plastic border and so is the 6in E Ink Pearl display. Both strips give you a little extra grip when you're holding the reader one-handed.
My only gripe with the Odyssey's ergonomic design is the power key – a tiny, spring-loaded slider on the bottom edge that needs a fingernail to push it. Bad news for folk like me who bite theirs, ahem.
I was also turned off by the Odyssey's touchscreen and accelerometers, technologies taken from the tablet world. Here, I found it too easy to catch the screen with my thumb and trigger an unwanted page turn. The Odyssey has page turn keys; as someone who holds readers in one hand, I'm happy using those.
But the touchscreen is good for keying in Wi-Fi passwords, browser URLs and bookshop searches. It's much more efficient to use than the non-touch Kindle's cursor keys, though keying in text is still a slow process.
I'd have liked to be able to turn off the touchscreen for page turns, but you can't. You can turn off the accelerometer, implemented to detect device rotations and to reformat the contents of the screen accordingly. Except even with the darn thing disabled, the screen would still slowly switch sometimes.
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