UPDATE ADDED 12/21/10:
Because of the many technical difficulties reported by the first round of bloggers asked to review the Literati (including me), The Sharper Image arranged to send each of us an updated replacement unit. Turns out they had installed some firmware on the original units meant to help “specialize” our review items, but it only backfired by being incompatible with the Literati itself.
I have indeed received an updated unit, and it is performing much better than the original. It now works seamlessly with my Windows 7, which is the greatest change. It’s still sometimes inconsistent with recognizing my wireless network, but that is a minor inconvenience. I’ve also had it flip repeatedly between two pages until I turn the unit off to “clear” the glitch, but it hasn’t happened enough to be a serious hindrance to my reading. They have also added the capability of reading newspaper and magazine subscriptions (which can be purchased through the Kobo store), as well as documents saved to the device or SD card.
I’m very impressed at how responsive The Sharper Image has been to user feedback, and glad to see that they will continue to offer electronic updates to the Literati (which you can download through a wireless connection). I still use my Literati regularly, and have come to really enjoy it.
I’ve never owned an eReader. I like the look and feel of books on paper. I like to chart my progress as I measure the thickness of what I’ve read versus what I have left to read. And, honestly, aren’t books portable enough?
I was sent the Literati, a new eReader from The Sharper Image, and the benefits of owning an eReader have grown on me…sort of.
The Literati is an eReader and nothing more – no bells, whistles, 3G, games, web browsing, nothing. It’s simple. It comes loaded with 25 free classic, out-of-copyright books, with access to dozens more free from the Kobo store. The Literati measures 9.5-by-5-by-.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 12.6 ounces. It boasts a back-lit 7-inch color LCD screen and comes with a handy case (meant to mimic the feeling of reading a book, I guess?).
The size – particularly the height – was a little awkward to get used to at first, but after only a few uses it was comfortable to hold. There are right and left directionals on the side of the reader (see the > and <) you can use to flip pages, but I found myself using the scroller on the bottom right corner of the keypad instead. The side directionals were either overly touchy or not responsive enough, and it just became too frustrating to use them.
The Literati is associated with Kobo, a popular online store for eBooks. In trying to browse the store wirelessly via the Literati’s built-in wireless access, I was frustrated to find that sometimes the wireless worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Each time it was unable to detect my network, I had to insert a pin into the Literati’s “reset” button (which does not erase your library…unlike the ”factory reset” option available via the menu, so watch out for that).
I actually had some eBooks on my computer I wanted to transfer to the Literati, but found that the USB cable included with the unit was of no use. My Windows 7 system didn’t so much as blink when I plugged in the USB. I was dumbfounded by that basic lack of usability.
Instead, I loaded my books onto an SD card and inserted it into the Literati’s SD portal. The unit itself has 512MB of built-in memory, but will accept up to 8GB more via an SD card. I’ve read that others have had problems with their Literati not recognizing an SD card, but I’m happy to report that my Literati quickly and painlessly loaded my books with no problems. *Note: the Literati will not upload books from an SD – the card must remain in the unit in order for you to read the book(s) stored on the card.
As far as the actual reading experience was concerned, I liked that I could quickly change the font size of the text, as well as the brightness of the screen. Using the scroll button on the bottom of the keyboard, pages turned quickly. When the Literati does have to pause for a second, it inserts a screen page with literary quotes, which I found annoying; I kept mistaking them for pages from the actual text. I am also unimpressed with the battery life, which for me was just a handful of hours.
Despite my many frustrations with using the Literati, it did at least show me the benefits of having an eReader – mainly, the constant availability of new titles, and the ability to have more than one book with you at any given time. At a list price of $159, though, I would expect more from the Literati’s performance. The Shaper Image has recognized the many bugs reported and has said there are updates coming out meant to address the concerns. I’m interested to see what kind of improvements it can make in the next couple generations of this eReader.
*Disclosure: I was sent a Literati to review via my involvement with Mom Central. I received no other compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are honest and my own. Also my own is the knowledge I gained converting an eBook file meant for use with one device to be readable on any eReader device. Thank you Google.