Monday, September 6, 2010

Augen's TheBook. Far more than an E-Book Reader.

Augen's TheBook e-book reader is a competent value. It is available from and in some K-Mart stores. There is WiFi for access to an online e-book store as well as web browsing. It can play movies and music as well as display photos. Comparing it's capabilities to most of the MP3 players I review I would expect the price to be around $199. TheBook sells for $99.99 though, and that almost raises red flags with me. Is it too good to be true?

The Good:
- 150 e-pub books come pre-installed.
- It comes with a reasonably nice folio (fold-over) case.
- An AC charger is included.
- It plays MP4(MPEG-4) and AVI movie files.
- It plays MP3 and WMA music files.
- It displays JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP formatted digital photos.
- Reader formats supported: TXT, PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, FB2, EPUB, WORD, TCR, PAML, DOC, OPEN E-BOOK, OPEN READER, MOBI, etc.
- Support recent reading record.
- Support E-bookmarks.
- Support TEXT to Speech function.
- G-Sensor for Book and picture files.
- Onboard access to ebooks at

The Bad:
- Mine refuses to connect with my home WiFi. It does work with my local University's wifi though. It's possible the 64 character pass code I use is the problem.
- Not a touchscreen. The included joystick is slow at best, and painfully non-responsive when the device is otherwise occupied with a task.
- Only 2gb of onboard memory, with much of it taken up by the included ebooks.
- The included case "barely" holds onto it. Metal clips aren't quite up to the challenge of holding the TheBook tight in the case.
- The G-Sensor doesn't work for the web browser, music player, or menu system.
- Access to any inserted SD or SDHC card is not available from the PC when TheBook is plugged into your PC.
- Music track controls are on the screen but not accessible. It's as if the music player was designed for a desktop player and is expecting mouse taps. You can pause/play music and change the volume using page prev/next and the Enter key.
- Album cover art is not displayed in the Music app.
- Battery life is 5 hours at best. Augen avoids listing it in the user manual or on their web site.
- Volume level through the headphone jack is too loud at it's lowest setting.

Some specifications:
- Processor : ARM9 , 400 Mhz
- RAM memory: SDRAM 64MB
- Operating system: Linux2.6.24
- Compatible with SDHC cards up to 32gb.
- Dimensions: 226 x 130 x 13mm.
- Display: 7 inch, color TFT.
- Resolution: 800 x 480.
- Language: English
- Screen brightness can be adjusted to three levels.
- Onboard speaker, and 3.5mm headphone jack.

User manual HERE.

I discover my TheBook when shopping for another Augen product at my local K-Mart. At $100 I had to do a double-take. Now that I've had it for awhile I'm finding more and more great excuses for having it with me. I'm an educator and have put PDF versions of my class syllabi on it. I use its internet access over WiFi to check my web email. The note taking app on board is handy for shopping lists or lecture notes.

Summary: At $100 this ebook reader is a great value. It will need charging every day, and may frustrate anyone used to using touchscreen devices such as Apple's iPad. The screen has a nice anti-glare texture to it. Reading e-books is no harder on this device than on my Kindle. I'm keeping mine. If any problems show up my local K-Mart will give me a refund.

FTC: Mine was bought with my money.


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