Cybook Ocean with Solar Leaf Cover :: First Impressions

by Volker Weber

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We have always used Kindle book readers, ever since the second edition, which my late friend Thomas brought back from the US, when they weren't even sold here. They have very clear advantages over other tablets: you can read their e-paper display in direct sunlight and they consume very little energy. And then, sometimes, this happens:

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If you rarely need to charge something, sometimes you forget to do it. This is where the Solar Leaf Cover comes in. It hides a photovoltaic charging mechanism and makes its e-reader almost autonomous. An hour of sunlight gives you a day of reading. Not, it does not fit on a Kindle, so Bookeen sent me their Cybook Ocean, and that is why this first look is about both products.

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Bookeen is a French company and their book store carries mostly French literature. But the format they are using is ePub and the DRM mechanism is Adobe. You can't just take your Kindle books and load them into the reader, but you can easily connect it to calibre and push books from your own library to the device. DRM is bad for the customer, and technically it is very easy to unwrap the DRM envelope form your own .azw books and get to the .mobi file hidden therein. From there you get your ePubs. Bookeen has an open store policy. You can basically use any store (but Amazon) to buy your books from. I have yet to figure out how to configure it but I know people who use Thalia.de on their Cybooks.

The big difference between a Kindle and a Cybook is the screen. Kindles are 6" and the Cybook is 8". That is considerably larger. Bookeen also has smaller 6" models and they start transitioning to 300 dpi screens. The Ocean is still 167 dpi and not as crisp as newer screens. Since I am mostly reading on a 167 dpi Kindle I only notice and enjoy the larger screen.

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The Ocean has a small service door, where you can a microSD card to expand its 8 GB storage and some contacts the cover makes use of to recharge the device. Here are the pins inside the cover:

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After you put the Ocean into the cover, you have a much better experience. The build quality wasn't very convincing before, but inside the cover everything feels just right. I charged the device, put some books in, and read for a few hours. It's now laying face down with the leaf cover on top. The battery is still fully charged. Seems to work as advertized.

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