The Interead Cool-er is the latest product to launch in the relatively new ebook reader market.
There a few gadgets that divide opinion in the TechRadar office more ebooks, and none more so than this pink British one.
Launching this month, the Interead's MD claims the Cool-er device ushers in the 'iPod moment' for electronic reading.So will it? Or is all that little more than marketing hyperbole and PR noise?
While there are already a few electronic readers on the market in the UK – most notably the £224 Sony Reader PRS 505 and the £250 BeBook from Dutch company Endless Ideas (with new refreshes of both those devices promised later in '09) the £189 Cool-er is by far the cheapest, smallest and lightest of such devices to date.
Interead is using this as the device's USP – and is keen to highlight the fact that the Cool-er fits snugly in a suit pocket, something that you cannot do with the Sony Reader or the Kindle.
The other immediately obvious thing that strikes you about the Cool-er (the name is the giveaway, here!) is that it looks a damn sight funkier than the sober, scholarly aesthetic chosen by Sony and Amazon's product designers.
The device looks very much like an over-sized iPod nano (worryingly so) which is not altogether a good thing. While we like Apple's product design as much as the next gadget freak, we would have preferred to see a little more originality from Interead.
Also, the downside of being light (far lighter than a standard paperback) is that the Cool-er feels a little bit plasticky and cheap, when compared with those other devices.
The build quality really does not justify the £189 price point and we can only hope that once the device has been at retail for a number of months, the actual price will drop down considerably.
Those minor gripes aside, once you have spent a few days reading on the device you really do warm to it. Ardent traditionalists that are quick to declare ebooks "a passing fad" are soon won over when they realise that e-ink really works – and is a very similar experience to reading a paperback.
We have also found it far easier to carry around with us than the Sony Reader and its ilk and it has certainly been a conversation-starter on a few bus and tube journeys, purely because it looks… well, like a strange and oversized iPod nano!
The dinky 6-inch e-ink screen is perfectly fine to read from and, should your eyesight not be that good, you can choose to increase the size of the fonts, change the font style and (if you are downright weird) even read your ebook in landscape mode.
What you CAN'T do is operate the device via a touchscreen or connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or 3G – with the company reasoning that to add those types of features would mean a much higher price point.
And while we understand the logic, if you are using a touchscreen mobile such as an iPhone on a daily basis, your natural reaction is to first reach for the screen to select your book, flip the page and so on.
Once you get over the urge to poke the screen you soon master the basic button controls on the bottom and on the side of the Cool-er.
Another slight gripe we had with the device is that there is an audible 'click' every time you turn your page, which makes it rather annoying for partners who are trying to get some shut-eye while you are reading late into the night. This is such an obvious design flaw and something that Interead needs to fix.
If you have got a Sony Reader or a BeBook already then you are not going to want to downgrade to one of these, but if you are in the market for your first ebook then it really is down to which one you prefer the look of. If you prefer the bright coloured, funky design of the Cool-er over the sober, grown-up look of the other devices out there, then this one is for you.
If, however, you want a feature-rich ebook with touchscreen and internet-capability, then you might want to hang fire for six months until the new Sony, Kindle and BeBook devices arrive in the UK later in 2009.
Finally, Interead is also hoping to make a pretty packet from its online store at CoolerBooks.com.
However, even while it's early days, the store is sorely lacking in key titles and is not yet at a state where it is able to compete against the many free ebook resources out there on the internet, let alone the well-established commercial ebook stores such as Waterstone's ebook store or Amazon's ebook store. We'll be checking back in a few month's time to see how the store grows over its first few months online.
The bottom line is that the ebook works perfectly fine as an entry-level electronic reader and if it was priced around the £99 mark it would be a five-star, must-get device. At £189, it is let down by a few minor design flaws that make it feel a little bit too cheap and flimsy.