Battle of the eBooks : The Kindle vs Sony Reader vs Rex iLiad vs BeBook

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Ebooks are a natural progression for us 21st century folks, who dislike being tied down by clutter. They’re light, easy to use and can store sh**loads, but which one would you want to spend your moolah on? We take a look at the four market leaders, and include the USA ones as well (hey it’s a good exchange rate).

Round one: Size/Weight

Amazon Kindle- 292 grams, 7.5-in. x 5.3-in. x 0.7-in.
BeBook- 220grams, Width120mm Height 184mm Depth 10mm
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- 435grams and is Width155mm Height: 217mm
Sony Reader Pr 505- 260 grams, Width122mm Height 175.3mm Depth 7.6mm

Size wise they’re all about the same, apart from the iLliad which weighs around 200g more, meaning it will def weigh your bag down on those commutes. Thumbs down.

Round Two: Screen size and eInk shades

Kindle- 6-inch screen- 4 shades of eInk
Reader- 6-inch screen, 8 shades of eInk
BeBook-6 inch screen , 4 shades of eInk
Iliad-8 inch screen, 16 shades of eInk

The iLiad is a clear winner here with a larger screen and most shades, meaning it will be a lot easier on the eyes.

Round 3: Built in Storage

Amazon Kindle- 185 megabytes usable storage
BeBook- 512MB memory
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- 128MB is usable
Sony Reader Pr 505- 192MB

The BeBook rules the roost with the most internal memory.

Round 4: Expandable memory

Amazon Kindle- up to 4GB with SD
BeBook- up to 4GB with SD slot
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- Says it’s expandable via USB, MMC or CF cards. Probably looking at around 4GB of data usage.
Sony Reader Pr 505- An SD card slot and can take a 16GB memory stick

It’s hard to tell here as specs seem a little hazy. It looks like Sony might win this round, but as they all have SD slots I’m not sure it matters. Ebook files take up such small amount of space that you wouldn’t need more than 4GB.

Round 5: System Setup

Amazon Kindle-They say there’s no set up at all, and nothing to install. This is because the Kindle runs on the Whispernet data network where books can be downloaded straight from the store. You will need to be in a Wi-Fi zone though.
BeBook- Probably the easiest of them all, this works on a drag and drop system, where no software needs to be installed. If you want RSS feeds you will need to install Mobipocket on your PC though.
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- Install the iLiad Companion Software to your computer once and further updates or data transfers can then be done wirelessly,
Sony Reader Pr 505- Install Adobe editions, and install the Reader software, and then upload books to your device this way.

The BeBook is the easiest device to use as there’s no software needed, but I like the fact that the Kindle doesn’t require a computer at all.

Round 6: File formats available

Amazon Kindle- This supports 4 ebook formats – Kindle format .azw, Plain Text .txt, and unprotected MobiPocket i.e. .mobi and .prc. You can also get MP3’s on it.
BeBook- 25 formats: pdf, mobi, prc, epub, lit, txt, fb2, doc, html, rtf, djvu, wol, ppt, mbp, chm, bmp, jpg, png, gif, tif, rar, zip, mp3.
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- PDF / HTML / TXT / JPG / BMP/ PNG / PRC (Mobipocket)
Sony Reader Pr 505- EPUB eBook, BBeB Book, Adobe® PDF, Microsoft® Word, TXT, RTF and DRM files, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP

The BeBook supports the most files, but the fact that the iLiad is comfortable with mobipocket makes it second in this match.

Round 7: Connectivity

Amazon Kindle- This has built in EVDO broadband access via Whispernet
BeBook- no Internet access, though you can synch RSS feeds with a USB connection. Rumours are that they may include wireless in the next generation models.
Irex- Built-in WiFi (802.11 b/g) and Ethernet card
Sony Reader- No wireless connectivity

The iLiad is the clear winner, with its internal Wi-Fi and Ehernet card.

Round 8: Style

Amazon Kindle- white plastic body with ungainly looking keyboard make it low on the style hierarchy.
BeBook- The black plastic body gives it a rather cheap look.
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition- Sleek looking, but I reckon silver would be more stylish.
Sony Reader Pr 505- Sleek and shiny, a clear winner in the style stakes.

The Reader throws all the other models out of the water in the style stakes.

Round 9: The battery

Amazon Kindle- a 2 hour charge for a weeks use, not counting time n the net.
BeBook- The say it will last for 7000 page turns, I’d say about 5000- that’s still a lot of books.
iRex iLiad 2nd Edition-a charge lasts 12 hours.
Sony Reader Pr 505- 2hours charge with adapter, 4 with USB.

The iLiad has the poorest battery life, but it does do the most work. I have to say I’m torn between the Reader and Kindle for the winner but The fact that Sony has an AC adapter makes it first in the battery category.

Round 10 : Pricepoints

Amazon Kindle is $359 which is £243
BeBook- £229
iLiad is 599 Euros, which is £513
Sony Reader- £199

The Verdict

The iLiad has the most features but would be heavy and clunky to use. I’d give the Kindle the overall winners badge, as for that price the amount of features and options you get are unrivalled. Second place would be the BeBook though, as it’s such a simple product that anyone can use it competently.

New Contenders:

Nintendo have just released 100 classic books on the DS, but I don’t think I’d like to try reading Dickens on that small screen. A great price though!

Related: E-book review: Long term test of the BeBook

Zara Rabinowicz


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  • Cybook? Great if you can get it to work. I had one and loved it for the first 3 days, then it developed an intermittent screen flaw that meant that sometimes it would turn on and other time forget it. And don’t get me started on the ‘customer care’! Also the page turning system is very fiddly and some features just don’t work.

  • The Kindle 2 is great; though quite gimmicky. The one drawback is that it doesn’t support pdf format; which for a travelling businessman may be quite a disadvantage. New touch screen sony is meant to be good.Has anyone tried it? For a more comprehensive list you can check through a good resource site, for comparison of ebook readers:

  • I bought a Sony EBook for traveling. We spend two months a year in Mexico and I have truly enjoyed having my Reader here. It is so easy and comfortable to use I forget it’s electronic. I even find myself trying to use a bookmark when I stop reading. I have had no problems downloading books and Classics cost $1.50 a book. I love mysteries and there are tons available in the Bookstore. The book stays charged for days. I would recommend the Reader to anyone who loves to read and doesn’t have a bookstore close by.

  • I live in Canada so have no knowledge of anything but the Kindle and the Reader. I own the reader 505 (have heard the 700’s touch screen makes it harder to read but the added back light is nice). I love it and could not care less that it has no wireless connectivity; it takes less than 5 mintues to buy and sync a book onto your Reader. Between that and the many many free books you can find with little effort on the net, I can easily put 100 books on my Reader and have somthing to read for any occasion. While I do not get anywhere near the 7500 page turns, I can usually read at least 3 or 4 longish books (~1000 turns each) between charges. The only advantage I (or people I know who own one) see for the Kindle over the Reader is that you can get newspapers and magazines. P.S. The reader really does look nice and has page turn buttons on both sides for easy one handed reading, whereas the Kindle is ugly and the keyboard annoying.

  • To me, the Kindle missing PDF support is an heavy missing feature..

    And a couple of comments on the article:
    1 – why the kindle size is in inches while the others in mm?
    2 – you should add also an “usability” paragraph (explaining why iliad is “clunky” to use)

  • thanks for posting this. one quick correction. the kindle doesn’t require being in a wifi zone because it works on Sprints EVDO network.

  • This is the first review that really had I need. I think in my case I will go for the Bebook. Still will have to compare with the Cybook. Tks

  • Just to add, I use a BeBook and it’s also comfortable with MobiPocket and allows you to buy books from MobiPocket stores to read on it.

  • Aw no Cybook? Based on your criteria it would have been the winner :)

    The iLiad officially supports up to 4Gb CF cards with 8 and 16Gb unofficially supported. It also supports drag and drop installation of books, there is no requirement to install the companion software.

    Where was the Kindle tested? I was under the impression that the EVDO connectivity made it its biggest selling point all but useless outside of the US.

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