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Bookeen’s Cybook from Author Sandra Schwab

Author Sandra Schwab of The Lily Brand and Castle of the Wolf bought a new Cybook and wrote up a wonderful review of it. I asked for permission to republish the posts here for the Dear Author readership. The Cybook can be ordered directly from Bookeen, a French company, or through Baen’s Bar.


So last week I finally got my Cybook Gen 3, the new e-reader from Bookeen. Since this is my first e-reader EVAH!, I was extremely excited and documented each step of the unravelling of the FedEx package:

The FedEx package:

If you open it on one side and peer inside,

that’s what you see:

And here’s the Cybook box itself (pretty cool, eh?):

And inside this box, there’s another white box.

And when you opened it, you’re presented with this view:

The leather cover for the device

(they actually sent me the wrong cover: not chocolate brown, but executive black – grrrr)

And here’s the Cybook itself in its pink protection foam bag:

And here it is! The Cybook!!!

(There’s still the protective foil on the screen, hence the reflection.)

Like the Sony, the Iliad and the Kindle it uses the e-ink technology, which makes reading the screen so comfortable and comparable to reading a print book. The Cybook is slightly smaller than a normal massmarket paperback and the mantle of the unit is made of plastic — a lot of people have commented that this makes the device look cheap. Still, the overall design is rather nice (especiall when compared to the butt-ugly Kindle!!!), even if the main navigation button at the front is perhaps not ideally placed.

The Cybook is very light and very thin. It reads txt, html, pdf, and prc (Mobipocket) files; as well as jpg, gif, png and MP3 files (i.e. you can listen to music while reading). The internal storage memory is 64 MB. However, storage size can be extended with a 2 GB SD card. The device is charged via USB (either by connecting it to the PC or to a USB charger), and the battery, according to the Bookeen website, will last up to 8000 page turns (i.e. screen refreshes).

You can upload books to the Cybook either via USB (the computer treats the Cybook like a storage device) or you can put them on the SD card. The whole uploading process couldn’t be easier, really!

So far I’ve read 1 1/2 books on the Cybook and I have to say it makes for very comfortable reading indeed, I haven’t experienced any sort of eyestrain whatsoever: the screen isn’t really white, but more grayish in colour (like a newspaper) and the resulting contrast between the black letters and gray background is rather nice. Still, as a first-time e-book reader I found it somewhat strange to read without being able to feel how I’m progressing through the book. Funny, isn’t it? I would have never thought that this aspect of reading is so important to me. But I’m sure in time I’ll get used to reading on the Cybook without suffering from a slight vertigo. :)

Some negative points:

  • The organization of the library: at the moment library folders are not supported, thus in order to find a book you have to click through the pages of the library (now imagine if you’re using your SD card and have thousands of books show up in the library!)
  • A minor irritation: the Cybook doesn’t always turn the page when you press the relevant button
  • Another minor irritation: you have to press the SD card really far into the card slot to make it lock. (At first I actually thought my device wouldn’t take the card, but after some minor panic attacks, I tried again this morning and it worked like a charm when I used my fingernail to push the card in)
  • A major irritation: Bookeen’s customer service. Or rather, their momentary lack of customer service: they don’t seem to answer e-mails from customers (or at least not on a regular basis), and what’s worse they don’t keep customers informed, e.g. about changes in shipping dates. And even though the Terms of Trade on their website explicitely state that in case one of the products is not avaible and has to be replaced by another, they will send an e-mail to the customer, we did not receive any sort of prior information about the exchange of the brown leather cover to the black one. Indeed, there wasn’t even a note in the Cybook box to explain the switch. Hello? You can’t just send a completely different product to your customers. On Saturday I sent an e-mail to Bookeen to complain about this switch, but who knows when or if it will ever be answered… Duh.

Update: I’ve just got an e-mail from Bookeen about the cover. Good!

Guest Reviewer


  1. Jayne
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 07:51:21

    Wow, looking at the progressive unwrapping was almost as fun as doing it myself.

    I feel the same way about monitoring my progession through a book. I noticed with the IPAQ that I use, that most books load as one file and by looking at the page number at the bottom of the screen, I know how far I’ve read and how much further there is to go. But every once in a while, a book will load as individual chapters (The Wedding Officer was like this) so I can check my progress through each chapter but still have very little idea how much of the book is left. And I agree with you, I never realized how much I do this until starting to read ebooks!

    I’m now also using a Sony and the organization of books seems to be similar. I can look through the loaded files by author, title or date of transmission to the reader now (basically all I know how to do) so I’m having to page through my files 10 books per page. There’s now 116 books loaded so it’s not too bad but I agree that it could be cumbersome with a huge number. I see that there is a “collection” file so I probably need to play around with that some.

    I like the format options that the Bookeen will read and wish the Sony would do that….grrrr

  2. Sarah McCarty
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 08:14:31

    Oh, very pretty!

    This was my second choice after the Kindle. (I already have an ebookwise so the bookstore in my hand thing was the selling point for me)

    I loved the unwrapping the present feel. Nice! I think I remember reading in my pre buy research that there was a way to sort the books on the Bookeen.

    Enjoy your reader! The eink is very nice, isn’t it?

  3. Keishon
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 09:29:40

    Very informative. Thanks for this.

  4. Barbara
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 10:12:07

    Wow, that looks pretty cool.

    The only thing that turns me off though is the organization of the library. I use Mobipocket on a Axim x51v and one of the best features is I can list books under authors and then just click on the authors name and only have to scroll through that authors’ books.

    Also, I do like a backlight. Although, I bet book lights would work well with these. Wouldn’t have to worry about it interfering with page turns.

  5. Sandra Schwab
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 10:34:56

    I’m glad you all like the post. (Btw, the cat didn’t come with the Cybook, but had taken residence in my home long beforehand *g*)

    The Cybook is truly a joy to use, and the e-ink is indeed fantastic! By now I’ve also made my peace with the black cover (for one thing it no longer stinks as much as when it arrived, but has acquired a nice, leathery smell). Bookeen has promised folder support for some future software update, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll get to that soon.

  6. Sandra Schwab
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 13:43:44

    I also have to admit that I totally stole the unpacking-the-Cybook idea from Deb Richardson. Her pictures are much nicer than mine (probably because she’s got a better camera), but there’s no cat. ;)

  7. veinglory
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 18:13:38

    I think eink is a great step farward, but not comparable to paper IMHO. Even in bright light I find the contrast a little low.

  8. Sarah McCarty
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 18:27:37

    I actually find the contrast better than paper, but that might be because I can enlarge the font and increase the spacing so it’s crisper. When I read a paper book now, I find them more of an eye strain.

  9. flash
    Dec 31, 2007 @ 08:24:14

    This looks much better than the Kindle… especially since it supports more formats of ebooks.

  10. DS
    Dec 31, 2007 @ 11:16:54

    I also didn’t appreciate the need to know how far I am into the book. The Kindle arrived the other day and I was happy to note that it had a line of very small dots across the bottom that appear as I progress through the book. I am unhappy to report that readomg a book on the Kindle doesn’t make a lousy book any better/

  11. Lee
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 13:39:12

    Thanks for this post. As an online writer, I’m really interested in following the development of these devices and eventually will purchase one. When I publish my next book online sometime in 2008, I think I may number the pages as follows to solve the how-much-more-is-left question: 7 from 395 or 7/495 or something of that sort.

    Is there a search function, which I would find crucial?

  12. Presque vu XXXVIII - John Baker’s Blog
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 11:44:22

    […] Dear Author site has Sandra Schwab’s positive review of a new Cybook e-book reader. So far I've read […]

  13. Michel
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 02:54:44

    I've read 1 book on the Cybook and it is indeed fantastic!
    I use some folder support with the help of other devices (PDA and/or notebook): I use the internal storage memory of the Cybook only for reference books (dictionary, encyclopaedia) and the 2 GB SD card for all the rest.
    The SD card is organized with subfolders of the folder ‘eBooks’, and I copy in it from the subfolders the few books I am intended to currently read.
    I use my Palm TX to make the copy.
    Using the Palm TX and the Cybook give me the best combination of features, impossible to combine on a single device.
    And I can read the same books on both, using the SD card and Mobipocket (on the Palm I also use other readers: eReader, Plucker).
    My conclusion is that not a single device can have all the features because some are mutually exclusive: it is better to use a few specialized devices than a ‘universal’ one doing nothing very good.
    (I also have an Archos 605 Wifi for the video, and a MacBook to manage all those tiny devices !).

  14. Sara
    May 14, 2008 @ 14:45:20

    I love my Cybook! They just came out with some new features (like better event buffering) that are nice… they have the new edition of the Cybook at BooksOnBoard. I enjoyed looking at the detailed pictures… I was definitely that excited when I purchased my Cybook. :)

  15. Katy
    May 26, 2008 @ 14:22:16


    On the Sony, you can create files to store books in. For instance I have the purchased folder with books bought from the Connect store, a folder for books purchased from Samhain and Ellora’s Cave, and a folder for Shakespeare books. And whenever I buy or add new books to my reader, I move them to the top of their relevant file.

    Also, moving books around in the Reader can be slow, so a faster way is to adjust things the way you want in the Connect software and then delete any files you updated from the Reader and then re-add them. If that makes any sense.

    I’m still waiting on a Reader that works like iTunes, adjusting the format and syncing with the device…

  16. Jayne
    May 26, 2008 @ 18:41:45

    Katy, my problem with the folders is remembering to add that to a book’s description before I load it onto the reader. Which is my bad and something I need to work on.

  17. Stefan Ervik
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 18:33:58

    You can have a bar at the bottom of the Cybook that shows Your position in the book, there is a menu item called Layout or something like that where You can turn on and off different display elements. But I would also like to have page numbers, because that is how you can navigate in the book, and I would like to be able to skip 10 or 20 pages ahead if I wanted, but that is problematic as you don’t know which page You are on.

  18. Jodi
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 19:39:42

    I just got my cybook a week ago, and I love it. I agree with some others that knowing the page number would help with jumping to a specific page, that would be a great thing to have.

    I love how fast the pages turn and how little energy it uses, I haven’t had to charge it yet, and it’s still at 90% even though I use it A LOT.

    I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate not having to hold the book open. I love being able to eat and read without having to worry about the book closing on me and losing my page!

    I spent a lot of time researching the different options and I’m so glad I chose the Cybook!

    Happy Earthday everyone!

  19. Anon
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 08:28:57

    It really needs folder view, it will be perfect once this is updated…

  20. merlin
    Sep 11, 2010 @ 01:31:21

    Booken (Cybook Gen3) do not complying with warranty

    If you plan to buy one of the BOOKEN ebook readers be careful!
    They do not complying with warranty.

    After few months of use of Booken Cybook Gen 3 (Gold) the screen remained blocked and it was not possible more to use.

    Asking to Booken for the reparation in warranty, they say that screen damage is not covered. Even demonstrating that it was due to an intrinsic defect and not to damage caused for example by a fall or an impacted by sharp object as keys, screwdriver, etc (the ebook reader was on the table in a safe place and I simply open again after some days) they will no comply with warranty and asked for the reparation a cost which makes more convenient to buy a new (different) ebook reader.

    Note that the warranty do not indicates that screen is not covered by warranty.

    NOTE also that the screen was NOT broken by a physical impact, because was just on the table and with its hard cover protection. I demonstrated to them that there is no sign at all which indicate a physical impact, but still they refuse the reparation.

    Therefore, if you plan to buy one of the BOOKEN ebook readers be extremely carefull. They do not comply with warranty and will charge yo you the cost of reparation.

    For the reparation, it is necessary to send in France, with also the additional cost of international mail, and thus it is more convenient to buy a new apparatus that repair, if the cost of screen should be charged. On the other hand, they know that make an international legal opposition (because technical assistance is made only at the company headquarter in France) is to complex and at the end more costly that buy a new one.

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