Friday, December 5, 2008

Understanding the Misleading Review

I read a review of the MiBook by Peter Svensson of the Associated Press. I don't think I have ever read a review that so completely missed the point of the thing the reviewer was reviewing.

You can read his review here: Svensson Review of MiBook. I will only be quoting bits and pieces.

Starting at the beginning (where I sometimes like to start), Mr. Svensson states that the company that is producing the MiBook is taking an approach to the ebook reader that is "so different that it brings into question the definition of 'book'". Really? Now I can hardly wait until he tells me about how they do that.

He moves on to say that the "books" are "memory chips with instructional videos." I see, so the new definition of a "book" is a "video." I guess that makes the local movie theater a "library." You know, I tried that approach with my mother when I was a kid. It didn't work then, it doesn't work now. Watching a video is not the same as reading a book.

Further, it seems the MiBook has "books" (videos) on cooking, home projects, gardening and child care. Hey, that's a really big selection of "books" they have there. But, where is the great literature, where are the best sellers?? (Understanding that from time to time the two are the same thing.)

Ah, Svensson goes on to say that "it's quite possible to consider it a book if it does what a book used to do." Now, I would have phrased that differently, since books still do what they were always intended to do, which is to allow a reader to read a book. The current e-ink readers still do that, and amazingly well.

Mr. Svensson notes that the MiBook is "considerably cheaper than's Kindle or Sony's Reader, "which sell (usually) in the $300-$400 range. The list price for the MiBook is $120, and you can get it on e-Bay for $75. Wow .... big difference in price there. But, wait ... there's more!!

While it comes with two books (what "books" they are, he doesn't say .... oh, I hope they are on child care!!), "[e]xtra books are $20 each." Ouch!! Thousands of books are available for both the Kindle and the Reader for FREE!! Great literature, sometimes even best sellers. Yes, you heard me right .... FREE. And, the online store prices for best sellers for the Kindle are generally $9.99, and go down in price from there. I don't have a Sony Reader, so I haven't priced their books, but I doubt that many of them run as high as $20.

So, the MiBook is cheaper up front, but then they screw you into the ground on the cost of their "books" ... which are not really books at all. Nice. By the time you've spent $300 on "books" for your MiBook, you'll have a nice little collection of instructional videos on cooking and child care, no books, and you will have spent more money that you would have for a Kindle or a Reader and thousands of books. Eeek!!

Mr. Svensson then tells us that the Kindle and Reader are "limited by their 'electronic ink' screen technology" which does not show colors and does a marginal job of showing photos, while video is out of the question. Ummm .... Mr. Svennson?? The Kindle and the Reader are for reading. The product you are reviewing is for watching videos. I realize you don't understand this, but there is a distinct difference between the two.

The MiBook is designed to be used at home and connected to a power supply (apparently the battery life is only about 2 hours at best), versus close to 20 hours for the e-ink devices, how is the MiBook supposed to "double as a . . . regular e-book reader."?? I guess it isn't supposed to, since, as Mr. Svennson notes, "the MiBook fails to fulfill its potential here, because its screen is of poor quality. Nothing looks really sharp, and it flickers. This doesn't matter so much when showing video - the screen is certainly no worse than an old tube TV set - but the idea of reading a novel or even a short story on it is unappealing."

So, in other words, the MiBook is a video viewer that makes a piss-poor excuse for an electronic book reader. Got it. He then states that it is "the most interesting e-book reader to come out since the Kindle ...." I'm sorry, really?? You still want to call this device an e-book reader??

Mr. Svensson then states that "[w]ith a better screen and some attention to the battery issue, the MiBook could have a better shot." However, he apparently also wants WiFi added to the mix. Gee, I hope he's aware that WiFi drains the bloody hell out of a battery. And, I can't help but wonder how much a better screen, better battery, and WiFi would add to the price of the product?? I see .... he wants them to "keep the price under $100."

People, this is an example of what I call the "misleading review." Just because the reviewer keeps calling this thing an e-book reader doesn't make it so. It is not intended to be an e-book reader, and I believe you would be wasting your money if you bought it as an e-book reader. If you want something better than this for less money, then purchase an old tablet PC on eBay, plug it into your wall, and download all the videos you want from YouTube. I'm sure they've got something there on cooking and child care.

If you want to read books, then either buy some books, buy a good dedicated e-book reader from any of a number of good companies, or read them on your computer or pda.

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