It seems there are more eBook readers coming out than paperbacks these days – we recently tested Elonex’s eReader, and now specs have leaked for two new Sony models.
But while most eBook readers look largely the same, British start-up Cool-er is the first to attempt to introduce Apple-style design. Its model comes in a range of nano-esque colours and a D-pad that’s reminiscent of the famous clickwheel. It also has the fastest Linux processor in the eBook world – but can it mix it with the big boys?
The Cool-er comes equipped with 1GB of storage, which is enough to handle around 1,000 ebooks, and an SD slot that can cope with a 4GB card. It’s easy to transfer files, as the eBook uses a simple drag-and-drop system and it also works with Adobe Digital Editions.
There are thousands of free ebooks available from Project Gutenberg, and WHSmith is a great option for those looking for the latest titles. Once downloaded, you simply connect the book to your computer via USB and transfer away. The Cool-er is PC and Mac compatible, (unlike Sony’s Reader and the ILiad), and a simple micro USB connector is the only cable you need.
The majority of ebook files (barring LIT) work on this reader, and it lets you view JPEG’s and play MP3s as well. Fonts are crisply displayed on the 6in screen, but we found the clarity to be slightly dull when compared to the Elonex eReader.
You can play MP3s on the Cool-er, but you have limited options and there’s only a 2.5mm jack, meaning you need a special adapter to use your regular 3.5mm headphones. Then again, who really wants to listen to music on an eBook?
The Cool-er looks attractively Apple-esque in the hand, but in terms of usability, the button system is equivalent to running Vista on a netbook.
The interface is a bit muddled, and as the buttons aren’t raised, they’re hard to press accurately. You’ll find yourself stumbling when trying to open a book, and we kept selecting incorrect files as they were so fiddly to use.
There’s also only one set of page-turn buttons (unlike the eReader and the BeBook), which makes reading in anything but the upright position uncomfortable, and the whole experience a nightmare for left-handers.
On the right-hand spine lies two font-sizing buttons, which didn’t work on any of the books we tested them on. Text size could be adjusted by going through the menu system, but that made using it more laborious than it needed to be.
Despite failing on the navigational front and button design, the 6in screen is a joy to behold. It uses eight shades of eink to give you bright clear text, and the page-turn refresh rate is the fastest out of all the eBooks currently available.
A millisecond here or there may not feel like it matters much on paper, but for the true reading experience this is all-important.
Not so cool
The Cool-er promises so much with its attractive design and lightweight body, but it fails in terms of usability. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s the fact that for practically the same price you can get a pretty identical eBook reader without the frustrating kinks – so unless you’re swayed by colours alone, you’ll want to opt out.