Test driving the iLiad

I appreciated the marketing initiatives of the Simplicissimus patron Antonio Tombolini since when I first met them during the “Pesto al blogger” promo. Antonio is now in the eBook business (too, I’d add) and his company is the Italian distributor for the iRex iLiad ebook reader; and again they came up with a cool marketing idea: taking one iLiad and have it travel through Italy from one blogger to the other.That’s how some weeks ago I received a box with the iLiad that travelled for more then 6 months from blogger to blogger (and sign of this travel were visible both externally and internally the device :-) ) and tested it for a whole week (it also happened to pass to my friend Massimo Pettiti, Innovation Director at 3 Italy).The main reason I subscribed to the test was that I am really interested in this type of technology and wanted to touch it before spending money.

Fast forward to the end, before my personal considerations, am I going to buy it? In one word: no.Here below the four main aspects I consider relevant:

  • Screen technology: the iLiad uses the eInk technology for displays and boys it really rocks! The reading experience (and the images too) was far better then any other digital display (LCDs/LEDs based or portable devices such as the iPhone/iPod Touch) I ever owned. It was really like reading paper: the more the light the better the experience. YES.
  • Haptic interface: even if the iLiad weights more or less as a normal paper book I had serious problems in managing it in every position but being sitted with the device (preferably) in both my hands: reading while in bed was almost impossible since my hand covered part of the screen and every time I had to turn the page I had to change position. All the navigation buttons are placed on the left and are quite difficult to be understood (even if the affordance of the “turn page bar” is really good). NO.
  • User interface: page selection is a pain in the arse; the icons meaning is mostly obscure and no alternative text appears to help; I really disliked everything about it. NO NO.
  • Battery life: I received it with half the battery, used it daily, passed to Massimo for one week and sent it to the next blogger without recharging. Cool! YES.

The iLiad is a great reader; it’s plenty with connections (comes with wi-fi on board) and expansions (two different MM card slots) capabilities. But unfortunately the overall experience is too low on user interaction and the paper-book still wins.

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