The Kindle and the Nook are not the only e-Readers out there. Aluratek has also released their own e-reader called the Libre. Libre is thin and light, features a 5″ black and white LCD display, a 24 hour battery life, an integrated MP3 player, and it will store thousands of digital books. Libre’s e-paper display is just like reading from a book, it’s easy on the eyes and it’s not backlit. It even comes with 100 timeless classics preloaded so you can start using it straight out of the box.
What’s in the box:
– 1 x Libre e-Reader
– 1 x Set of Earphones
– 1 x Mini-USB to USB cord
– 1 x Mini-USB wall charger
– 1 x Padded Libre Carrying Pouch
– 1 x Hand Strap
– 1 x Quick Start Guide
– 1 x Warrantee & Registration Card
The Libre is available in black and also in white. The Libre e-Reader is the perfect size for an eBook Reader. It’s about the size of a thin paper back book. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket, and large enough to read without flipping pages every 5 seconds. The 5″ LCD looks great and is really easy on the eyes. The screen is not as real looking as Kindle’s e-ink display; but it doesn’t have to flash black every time you flip pages. There are an assortment of buttons on Libre, but they’re pretty well labeled. The only unlabeled “button” is on the left side of the device; it slides up and down and is one of the few ways to flip pages. There are also two buttons side-by-side for flipping pages forward or backward. Along the right side are 10 buttons with numbers 0 through 9, each with 3-4 letters of the alphabet. These buttons are used mainly for text input and jumping directly to pages. On the bottom right is a set of 9 buttons. In the very center is the “OK” button. Around that are directional up, down, right, left buttons for navigating menus and flipping pages. Around the directional buttons are four function buttons: a button to toggle screen orientation between landscape and portrait, a button to search for text, a button to go back, and a button to access the on-screen menu. It’s all pretty simple to figure out. The menu system is easy to navigate, although it’s a bit sluggish.
The Libre has a bunch of great features which make it more appealing than an actual book. One of the most important is the ability to adjust the font size, and the font type. You can make the text quite large and very clear and easy to read. Libre also supports screen rotation, so you can read your e-book in a landscape or portrait format; whichever is more convenient and comfortable. Bookmarking pages couldn’t be easier. You can bookmark as many pages as you want on as many books as you want and easily navigate back to them whenever you choose. There’s a progress indicator in the top corner that displays the page you’re on and the percentage of the book you’ve read. You can navigate directly to any desired page, and you can also search for text. Plug in the included headphones, or your own headphones, and you can use Libre as an MP3 player to listen to your favorite tunes. The built in SD card slot supports up to 32gb cards; you can virtually store all the music, pictures, and books that you want. Keep in mind, the screen is just monochrome, so your pictures will also be monochrome. Libre has image support for BMP, JPG, GIF, animated GIF picture formats. It also supports a great variety of e-book formats including PDF (Adobe Digital Edition DRM/non-DRM), TXT, FB2, EPUB (Adobe Digital Edition DRM/non-DRM), MOBI (non-DRM only), PRC (non-DRM only)and RTF electronic book format.
For reading books, Libre works great. Once you’re happy with a font size you can really disappear into your book. If you read at a consistent pace you can even set a timer to turn the page for you. The screen is easy to read on, and not strenuous on the eyes. Libre’s drawback is that it’s very sluggish. Navigating the menu and your book collection is very slow. You may have to get used to looking at the hour glass. It’s not really an issue when flipping the pages of your e-reader though. One of the best features of Libre is its compatibility. It’s very easy to quickly add a variety of file formats onto an SD card and start reading away on Libre. There’s no need to convert your eBooks to any special file format. This means you can download over 100,000 free eBooks from Project Gutenberg (completely legal!). The device will also work on both Mac and Windows. The battery of the Libre is another strong point, I’ve been reading moderately every day this week and just hit 1/3 full on the battery indicator, this is on par with the 24 hour battery life Aluratek claims.
Libre is a basic e-Reader, but it does the job of being a basic e-Reader well. It lacks extras like Wi-Fi, 3G, a QWERTY keyboard, an e-ink display, apps and games. But, when it comes down to it, the extras aren’t necessarily why you buy an e-Reader. You buy it for its ease of use, a nice screen, a good form factor, and a variety of supported file formats, and good battery life. At the end of the day, that’s what makes Libre a capable e-Reader contender. The 100 books it comes pre-loaded with is a great little bonus. It’s very simple to add books to Libre, but you or the gift recipient can go weeks or months before ever having to connect it (or the SD card) to a computer. The model I reviewed did not come with a 2GB SD card, which left me with little free internal storage. Even though this model is still available on Aluratek’s website for $129.99, it’s less expensive to purchase it on Amazon with the 2GB memory card thrown in for $121.06. It’s currently available from Amazon in Black and in White. Also, you probably won’t find the contenders packing their e-Reader with as many accessories as Libre (especially a neoprene case). This price point puts it on the lower end for e-Readers. That said, the LIBRE faces fierce competition from the more advanced $139.99 Amazon 3rd generation Kindle with Wi-Fi. We think that if Aluratek would drop the price on the LIBRE to something along the lines of $99, or even $89, they could position themselves as a budget e-Reader which would open themselves up-to new audiences. As it stands, at its current price tag, chances are that most readers will opt for spending a little bit more to get the more advanced 3rd Generation Kindle.
UPDATE 11/1/2010: Borders currently sells the Libre in store for $99. Sweet!
The Good: 100 books included, great size, easy to read display, compatible with many eBook formats, accessories, good battery life, expandable via SD slot.
The Bad: Sluggish performance, retro design, you’re not left with a lot of built in storage, screen isn’t as sharp or real looking as e-Ink displays, no Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity, no direct connection to one of the major e-book stores.