Ectaco JetBook Reviews

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Ectaco JetBook was released in March of 2008. Ectaco used to produce electronic translation devices, now it has used all of that experience to create and produce their new JetBook.

Many new entries in the reading device market use eInk screens, but Ectaco took a slightly different approach. You will find a reflexive LCD screen on the JetBook. There is no internal back light on the Ectaco JetBook LCD screen, but otherwise, it is similar to an LCD TV or monitor. Ambient light that is reflected from the screen is utilized for the display. The appearance of the screen is like the ones you might find on a calculator or wristwatch.

I was really pleased and impressed when my JetBook arrived and I opened up the box. The construction was good. Ectaco JetBook has a 5-inch screen, slightly smaller than the 6-inch screen found on a Sony Reader or Kindle. To imagine the size of the Ectaco JetBook, imagine a cross between a Palm Zire and a Sony Reader. It is pleasant to handle. The Jetbook is neither excessively heavy nor very light. One thing it should definitely do is fit comfortably in your pocket.

Like a USB thumb drive, when mounted to your computer via USB cable, your device will be perceived as a mass storage device. Another separate device is the installed SD card. The device does not include management software because it is not necessary. You can even use the file manager on your PC. I think it can be mounted on a Linux or Mac PC using any USB device, but I only tried it with Windows XP.

Ectaco JetBook’s LCD screen shows text that is sharp and clear. There are four choices available from the main menu: Books, Music, Pictures, and Settings. The first thing I did was check out the settings menu. Your choices here are: active dictionary, font, and the language of the books you read.

The two fonts that are found on this device are Arial and Verdana. I prefer the Verdana font when reading the screen. The dictionary comes in English and it also offers two types of translations: English/Polish & English/Russian. You cannot change the dictionaries or the font selections. They come pre-installed.

I imagine that if you order the Russian version, the included dictionary will be in Russian. I don’t know that for a fact, but it makes sense. The settings menu also contains a file manager, which we will discuss later.

Lastly, you can get more information about the Ectaco JetBook through the settings menu. Among the information found here is the device’s remaining internal memory space. This device is capable of holding 112 megabytes of data in its internal memory. About sixty megabytes of this comes free with the unit.

The device comes with 47MB of sample books included. This includes the dictionaries, which use 10-12MB. It is also possible to look at the SD card capacity as well as the free space. Mine is a little odd, and I think there may be something wrong, because it says I have 1960MB total with 1969MB free.

Obviously, what is contained in the “Book” menu constitutes the key part of the  eReaders. When you access the book menu, you are taken to a screen displaying files and folders. You will see the folders listed at the top and the books listed below that. When you look at the book menu, you will see a list of files and folders that is exactly like the one found in the file and folder storage area of the device. It is quite nice and lets you arrange your library on the device in whichever way you desire.

The Ectaco JetBook supports up to a 2GB SD card. If there are files and folders on the card, they will be merged with those on the device. If a folder is in existence in two locations, you will only see it on one place in your list. I like this little detail.

You can choose options on the menu. The book list can be organized by author or by title. You can modify this order by pressing the menu button when the book menu is active.

Here is something I found out that I didn’t see anywhere in the manual: There is a file naming convention included in Ectaco JetBook – Author_Name#Title.txt. JetBook just supports .pdf & .txt files in books. Because of this, it is necessary to know the title of the book and its author in order to sort your collection.

There are two choices to navigate the menus. First, you could utilize the up/down arrow buttons to relocate the highlight. You could also choose the corresponding number button found to the right of the book or folder.

I was exploring the menu, and I learned something new regarding the LCD screen. It’s quick. It’s really quick and there is no flashing. The changes are barely perceptible. This marks the true difference between eInk devices and the Ectaco JetBook.

There are a few things you can do with the menu, aside from just choosing a book via navigation of folders. One thing you can do is delete a book. Isn’t that something? You can use the device to delete a book. It is a good functionality to have. Lastly, you can select the recent read list. This list displays the books you have read most recently in descending order.

Aside from all that, the Ectaco JetBook will remember where you left off when you switch it off. It opens at the most recent book and page when you turn it back on.

Once you pick a book, several seconds will pass before it opens. It will take longer for larger book files. But it is quite speedy. The device comes loaded with the King James Bible, which opens in under 10 seconds. Naturally, you will see the text of the book the moment it is displayed.

Look at the top of the device. Here you will find the status bar that displays the title, page indicator, current page number, total pages, and battery charge. I was looking for a way to turn off the status bar and I thought I had found it, but perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe this only occurred while using the PDF viewer.

You can turn the page three different ways. One way is to use the bar to the left edge of the device. You just slide it down to see the next page and up to see the previous page. Secondly, the corner on the left has the next/previous page buttons. Lastly, at the lower right hand corner, you will find the 4-Way Arrow Buttons.

You can also use the right and left arrow keys as next and previous page buttons. As you read, you can turn the page by holding the reader by one of the bottom corners and resting your thumb in just the right spot. That’s how it seemed in my hands, anyway.

The font button lets you control font size. You have a choice of 6 different sizes (12 point – 32 point). You can change the display from landscape to portrait and back thanks to the layout button. It takes no more time to adjust layout and font than it does to open a new book. After you are finished and the text displays again, you will see that the current page and the complete page count have been updated.

As you read your book, you can set a number of options and take a number of actions. Here are the things you can do with Ectaco JetBook : Control background music, change the code page, set alignment, jump to a chosen page, search the books’ text, and set bookmarks or move them as needed. Additionally, you are able to utilize the dictionary. When you select “dictionary,” a cursor appears on the screen. Just use the arrow buttons to hover over the word you want to look up and press the select button.

It’s all very quick thanks to the LCD screen. When you use the find feature, you will get a lot of use out of the ten buttons on the side. You can use these buttons to enter text. Your choice of entry types is: T9 entry (using a selected dictionary) or basic text entry. The LCD screen is really fast, so it is a breeze to enter text.

The foregoing is all true when a text file is read on the book. Things are a little different when you read a PDF file. Foxit Software’s Mobile PDF Reader is embedded in the Ectaco JetBook. Remember that in PDF, the arrow keys scroll rather than turning pages.

A PDF document for a letter size paper appears quite tiny on the Jetbook just like on any little reader device. Nonetheless, you can zoom in on a PDF quite freely. Additionally, you can divide the screen you are viewing into nine sections. Then the display will isolate the area you choose. The PDF viewer is now capable of reflowing text.

The Ectaco JetBook includes MP3 playing capabilities. You can use it to play MP3 audio files. You can read and play them at the same time. This MP3 player resembles a very basic player. It has a play list feature and standard player controls. Moreover, the Jetbook lets you look at pictures. These are cool, extra features, but they are not important to me, so I didn’t spend a lot of time on them.

One unique feature is that this reader includes a file manager. You don’t have to connect with a computer to perform a number of vital tasks. For example, you can: create folders, delete files and folders, rename folders, or simply move them. For example, you might set up a folder to store the books you have already read. Then when you are finished with a new book, you can just move it to that folder to reduce clutter.

The LCD screen supports this and the text entry buttons make it possible. One thing I was a little disappointed in is the fact that you can’t use uppercase letters in T9 mode. Therefore, if you want to make a folder using upper case letters, you must utilize the normal text entry method.

You will enjoy the many great features found on the Ectaco JetBook. One great thing about it is the screen is really fast and it looks good! Lots of people have expressed the desire to have a library management folder with fully nested support on their Sony and Kindle CyBooks. Searching through thousands of files would be easy with a well-structured folder system.

I like the size of this device. Of course, it doesn’t show you as much as a 6″ device, but it beats a PDA screen or a cell phone screen. You might still prefer a 6″ reading device when you are at home, curled up in front of your fireplace, but the JetBook’s compact size makes it a perfect reading device to take along where ever you go.

Even though the screen looks great and works really quickly, it is lacking in contrast when compared with the eInk screen. The base color is an off-gray. The text is black. Bright lights may cause a glare problem. Still, you can read it in sunlight if you angle it in such a way as to avoid the glare.

File format support is another important issue. Remember, only .pdf & .txt files are supported by this device. It may be difficult to find some more recent books in this format, but there are thousands of older ones you can read for free!

Another good addition would be e Reader, Mobipocket, or some other form of support for a DRM format. If it had these features, this reader would really be great!