The Kobo Mini Review

(Edited on 10 August with some fixes)

I am a gadget geek, but that is not news to anyone. Since starting my publishing endeavors, I’ve been looking into all the ebook reader options, not just the Nook or Kindle. With the advent of eBooks, we are in a situation where the tactile experience of our books are independent of the intellectual one. As such, I am enjoying exploring all that is offered to see how different companies tackle this same issue.

I recently picked up the Kobo Mini and it is fantastic.

What is it? it is a small (5 inch) epaper reader

What isn’t it? anything else

This thing has one purpose in mind: read. And for that, it does a great job. The size is really the killer feature with this reader. It is about the size of a paperback book. The screen is responsive and the device is easily held with one hand. And light, it is nice and light.

The software is responsive, and reasonably customizable. They have an achievements type system built in which marks your accomplishments: number of books finished, number of pages read, etc. Not essential to any experience, but can be fun to look at.

It works well with Calibre, which I use to organize my ebooks from Smashwords or Storybundle, allowing me to read on whatever device I want.

I found my only real complaint is that it is difficult to operate left handed because of where on the screen the “next page” regions are. A small softer customization on this part would make it fantastic. There are three options for the screen on how to change the pages on the Kobo. While none of them are what I’d prefer, it is set up so it can be used either left or right handed. After changing the setting, this became much better to use.

Small, light, great battery life, this reader really is a fantastic single minded gadget.

Blackberry Storm – A biased review

Let’s get this out of the way. I am a Mac guy, have been for years (except for some ‘experiments’ with windows in college, but isn’t that what college is for?). I wanted an iPhone before they were out. And, I want one now. There are three reasons why I will not have an iPhone: AT&T. Say what you want about Verizon, but their service is still the top. If I had an iPhone, I’d be greatful to get signal where I live.

Ok, so that is out of the way. I got a Storm on the first day. This was my first touch screen phone and my first Blackberry. The first day I owned it I spent learning how typesure keypad works and how to navigate the Blackberry OS. Everywhere I go I get “is that the new Blackberry?” and people asking about it, what I think, etc.

Here is what I think. I love it.

Let’s talk about the touch part, since that is the part that sets it aside from the iPhone, Instinct and any of the others. The screen registers your fingers as soon as you touch it. Keys will change to blue as you run your finger over them, but nothing will happen. You have to actually press the screen down for something to occur. The entire screen is a button. This reduced the number of mistakes I was making compared to the iPod Touch significantly.

There are three keyboard layouts. In vertical mode you can get either a SureType pad, or a normal phone pad (hit 6 three times for “O”). Suretype is RIM’s condensed QWERTY keyboard found on the Pearl. I was sure that I’d never figure out how to type with two letters on one key. A guy in line with me gave me some advice which has worked. “Just type,” he said, “the phone will figure out what you are trying to say.” And he was right. After a few days I can use it with some proficiency. The advantage is you can type with one hand in this manner. The other keyboard is the full QWERTY. You get this when you turn the phone on its side. Unlike the iPhone, however, you can get this keyboard in any program where you type. Actually you can pull up a keyboard at anytime by pulling it from the menu.

Speaking of menus, everything is pretty much menu driven. The ‘berry’ button (which I am sure has a much more technical name) opens the menu. You either press it again to select the highlighted option, or you select the one you want by clicking the screen.

The browser so far seems to work quite well. I used it the first day to show off the new Star Trek trailer from YouTube. Playback was good, even if the video was a bit stretched to fit the screen. Now, if you tap the screen, that is touch it but don’t push down, the browser will zoom. A feature that is useful at times, but too easy to do accidently. While the ‘real’ browser experience is nice, like my experience with the iPhone, in the end, mobile websites still work the best.

Messaging is where the Blackberry shines. There are reviews everywhere about Blackberry messaging, and from my experience, they are right. Coming from a Windows Mobile phone, it was a vast improvement. I have four email addresses set up on the phone, and push email is my new favorite thing. There are rumors of calDAV support coming to the Blackberry, which would allow syncing with Yahoo! and Google calendars (or any other calDAV ones as well).

I’ve used the media part a few times. It works pretty well. I do wish the volume control was a bit more precise. The screen is great for video and pictures. The phone has a 3.2 Megapixel camera with a flash. The pictures are good, even though there is a delay as the camera focuses. The phone can also take video at a decent resolution. Not sure I’d make a movie with it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about trying.

The OS is a multitasking OS. This means that if you have one program open, you can open others without having to close the first one. Now, this has had me digging though folders trying to figure out what an alert on the top of the screen was. (I had gotten an IM)

Ok, and as a final note, the blackberry can copy and paste. So there.