Bookeen Cybook Odyssey 2013

To a regular reader of my blog, the brand Bookeen should sound familiar. I’ve written before about my experience with the Orizon E-Ink eBook reader. I’ve had it for several years and except for one issue — that was promptly resolved by Bookeen — I’ve been very happy with it!
A few months ago I received my brand new Bookeen Cybook Odyssey 2013. It’s not the front lit version in case anyone is wondering. Time has really gotten away from me with the rush to complete and release both of my books this year. I’ve finally decided to sit down and review the new Bookeen Odyssey.
I’m not getting paid to say nice things about it so while I’m biased towards the brand, this is based on my experience since unboxing the product months ago. This is the good, the better, and what disappoints me. It’s essentially silly to compare the Orizon and the Odyssey side by side as they are generations apart. It is impossible not to draw some comparison in the ways they differ of course.
It’s important to be clear that the Orizon is still a viable machine. It still performs admirably in its own right. The Odyssey has just come a long way since and has some terrific improvements in some respects!
So let’s get on with the good stuff! Straight away, the Odyssey is very noticeably smaller. It’s the same sized 6 inch E-Ink screen in a slimmer, all around compact package. This makes it great to carry around and can be easily slipped in a Filofax or shoulder bag. The slight downside — and I’m quite happy with the trade-off — is that it is a little short on grasping area for your fingers. It can lead to accidental screen taps.

The immediate difference I found upon use was in speed! It operates smoothly and so quickly that it’s a pleasure. The “fast” page turn (by holding down the page turn button) is actually so fast it becomes a blur! The pages load quickly and thanks to Bookeen’s new pearl E-Ink screen, the page is a little whiter than Orizon.
Another very satisfying aspect of the new Odyssey is the battery life. I was always a little disappointed with the Orizon. With the Odyssey, charging once a month is a reality. This is based on reading an average of two to three hours per day. This is also taking into account accidental screen presses and bumping the page navigational buttons! The standby battery life is also excellent. Even without regular use I’ve found I seldom need to charge more often than once a month.
So now that I’ve told what I love about the machine what irks me? Not a lot but I feel it is worth mentioning as I’d love to see some changes in the next generation of Bookeen Cybooks!
On a small note, the Orizon feels a little less plastic than the new Odyssey. The rubberised back was a tactile pleasure. For years I read while my fingers caressed the lovely embossed Bookeen brand on that silky rubberised back. The front face had a pearly smooth feel in the Orizon. I miss that. The finish of the Odyssey is acceptable, but the tactile quality of the Orizon is just more noticeable.
The overall look of the Odyssey is the sleek less-is-more current trend. I love the look but I don’t feel the sacrifice of the cluster navigational buttons is worth it. They were just way too handy and useful. It’s a little disappointing that the gyroscope did not make it into the new Odyssey. You can still change from portrait to landscape from the touch screen though.
Annoyingly, the power button and the Micro SD slot has been moved to the bottom of the reader! I understand that this was probably done for several reasons: the cost factor and also the reduction in the dimensions of the new Cybook. Unfortunately, this is one of my gripes as the top right corner is a great ergonomic position to hold the machine and depress the power button with your index finger. At the lower bottom right it’s uncomfortable, awkward, and increases the likelihood of dropping the reader!
Orizon Compass-like Buttons
I’ve also accidentally switched off the machine in the middle of a good read! It’s just too prone to being tapped on a surface, a cushion, or even on your lap. Similarly, the micro SD slot is prone to damage or accidental ejection. It is fairly well recessed but it’s already accidentally ejected once. If I hadn’t noticed I might have lost the Micro SD card.
With the removal of the compass like buttons of the Orizon, the Odyssey now sports two semi-recessed buttons mid-way on either side. The idea of dedicated page turning buttons is a nice touch but I feel they are too easily pressed. Yes, I read in bed, and my pillows are eager to read ahead of me. It is for this reason I prefer the central buttons on the Orizon.
It may seem that I’m knit picking but while I’m a writer, I’m originally from a design field and ergonomics are something I’m passionate about. I’d love to see an excellent product get even better with the next generation and I know the people of Bookeen will take notes!
I’ve just had a peek at the previews of the new Bookeen Cybook Ocean and I like the specifications already! It looks really promising and I hope to hold it in my hands one day soon.
I still maintain that if you are in the market for a good E-Ink book reader, the Cybooks from Bookeen are excellent value for money. The company also has good businesses ethics and that is always a deal closer in my opinion.

So for those of you who understand why books should be read on an E-Ink screen, grab yourself an Odyssey Cybook, I highly recommend it.

Images courtesy of Bookeen

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