We just managed to get our hands on the new Sharper Image Literati color e-reader! It’s one of the oddest ones we have ever played with, from a design point of view. It’s powered by Kobo, and for the price, it may be a winner.
Let’s talk hardware before we get into our thoughts of the device. It features a full QWERTY keyboard, with a full line of numbers at the top. It also has symbol buttons for slashes, stars and the @ symbol. It’s a full color device with 7 inch screen and resolution of 480×800. It also has around 250 MB of internal memory and you can increase the memory to 8 GB via a SD Card.
Sharper Image has partnered with Kobo for their official bookstore and you can download up to 2 million titles in one click. Once you configure the WIFI you can shop for ebooks as soon as you configure your Kobo Account.
As far as eBooks go, you can shop with Kobo or you can load your own ebooks you have purchased or downloaded from other stores. The Literati supports ePub, Doc, PDF, and txt. Its very easy to just copy ebooks directly to your device if the ebooks do not have DRM. If they do, you can simply use Adobe Digital Editions.
Now that we have looked at the eBook formats, let’s talk about reading on the device. You have capacitive touch screen page turning buttons to go forward and backwards. They have these on both the right hand and left hand side. So no matter if you are right handed or left handed, page turning is a breeze. Page turning is robust, and although we did notice a little bit of lag, the developers have assured as that they will soon release a patch to fix this. When you are reading, you can hit the menu button to get different features such as jumping to the table of contents, looking at the dictionary, and jumping to specific chapters.
Although the E-Reader is full color, there aren’t any books that come loaded with the device that really take advantage of it. Sharper Image has told us that in October they are going to be offering magazines and cookbooks that really make the Color aspect of the e-reader, more viable. Speaking of up-coming changes, in November or December a number of reading enhancements will be rolled out, such as; Night Reading Mode, Custom Bookshelves, and “Dog Ears,” which is a good way to bookmark a specific page.
As for menu and features, you have different font and brightness settings so you can increase the font sizes. You are stuck with the default fonts of Serif and San-Serif. Really, the menu features are pretty bare bones.
Now that we have covered all of the details on this device, let’s talk turkey. What impressed us about the device was the full color LCD that gives you nice resolution and is not crashing and bug prone like the Pandigital Novel. Partnering directly with Kobo gives you long term feasbility in terms of dealing with a great company and loading your own books on it is a snap. The casing is also firm, not cheap plastic, it has a nice feel and weight to it.
What did not impress us is that there is no audio on the device. There are no speakers or a head phone jack, so there is no way to listen to MP3 or audio books. There is also no books – other then the sample Winnie the Poo book – that take advantage of the full color aspect of the e-reader. There is no way to access or install apps on the device, such as a web browser, email or otherwise. The WI-FI aspect of the device did not work at all, we tested it on a Encrypted and Non Encrypted WI-FI network and nothing worked. Sharper Image has told us that an October firmware update will fix this issue. There was also lag on the page turns and some unresponsiveness in the D-PAD and menu functions. Most of these issues can all be easily fixed in a future firmware update, so it did not a make or break our opinion with some of these drawbacks. One of the big negative aspects on this device is that the screen is very long up and down. It does not switch between landscape and horizontal mode. That is to say, it does not have an accelerometer or gyroscope.
All in all, for the entry level price of $159.00, it is a GREAT entry level e-reader. Obviously you are not paying $300.00 or more, so a lot of the features lacking in the device are not that bad. It functions good as an e-reader, which is what it is being billed as. It also comes with 150 free open source ebooks, all in epub format, so you will have no shortage of things to read when you buy the device. We dig the fact that Kobo is behind these guys. Compared to a lot of other colored e-readers out there, this is one of the best bangs for your buck. If you compare it with other pseudo e-reading devices such as the Augen Gentouch78 or the Pandigital Novel, this is a great item to buy for the holidays.
The device will be on sale mid October and you can purchase it from new Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and others.
Lastly, we want to extend our thanks to the people at Sharper Image that managed to send us out a unit before they even go officially on sale!
Visit LiteratiReader.com for more information.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.