BeBook is an E Ink-based ebook reader, which gets some things exactly right, but in other ways fails to match what's already out there. For example, the Sony Reader PRS-505 is a lot slicker, both in appearance and user interface.
E Ink is a wonderful invention. An E Ink screen is easy on the eye due to not needing a backlight, and it only draws power when updating, making it kind on the battery.
Yet because of the way it updates, scrolling isn't a practical option. In these iPhone and laptop-saturated times, you instinctively miss a scroller, but it's a limitation of the otherwise-brilliant technology rather than a design flaw on the manufacturer's part.
The BeBook is functional and workmanlike in both areas, but fails to excite or impress. It only renders four shades of grey too, unlike the Sony Reader's eight and the Kindle 2's 16, making the on-screen text look scruffy in comparison.
The BeBook also lacks features, especially compared to Amazon's Kindle 2, which has yet to be released over here. There's no WiFi for transferring or downloading books (though we're promised this for the next version, along with a touchscreen), no keyboard for taking notes and no option to have the book read out loud to you.
Nor is BeBook the fastest or the cheapest. A search for 'ebook reader' on Amazon shows the Sony device is around £25 cheaper, and turning the pages on the BeBook takes a second or two, which is annoying when you're engrossed in your book.
Its Mac compatibility could be better too. Connect through USB and it appears as a drag-and-drop drive on your desktop (and displays those irritating resource forks put there by OS X).
But, there's plenty it gets right. It handles 7,000 page turns on a single three-hour charge, boasts 512MB internal memory and offers an SD Card slot for expansion.
While other readers are tied to specific services or limited file types, BeBook can display many formats, including pdf, doc, txt, wolf, html, Mobipocket, png, tiff, jpg, bmp and rtf. It also comes pre-loaded with an impressive number of classic books, to get you started.
Eventually, someone will release the definitive ebook reader, combining style, features, versatility and power. At present, nothing scores well across the board, and your choice depends on how you intend to use it.
Pick the BeBook if you plan to view a wide range of file formats and can tolerate a somewhat sluggish performance.