On the subject of e-readers I have kept very quiet, when it comes to books, you just cannot beat the weight of paper. Paper offers comfort and trust that no electronic version can. The smell of new ink, the handwritten note from the author, the choice of fonts, the front and back cover, all of these are important to me as a book reviewer.

Increasingly though it has become apparent that the publishing world is moving in the digital direction. Galleys are no longer paper, but PDF’s or Word Docs. I had no real problem with the electronic format other than the fact that it kept me tied to my computer monitors. I get bored with sitting at my desk, I like to read on my front porch.

To fix the problem I decided that it was time to buy a gizmo. I was not keen on any gizmo that tied me down, and that seemed to be the case with Kindle’s, Nook’s, and the ever growing number of iThings.

I also wanted to keep the price somewhat under the cost of funding a cruise missile.

The Augen seemed like a great deal. The one I purchased cost less than filling up an SUV with gas. Although not important, it also boasted web connectivity, and  the ability to play both Audio and Video.

The box arrived a couple of days ago, and I could not wait to get my hands on it. OK, I think that Augen might have done a slightly better on the User Manual. My guess is that they employed a Mongolian Yak Herder to do the Chinese to English translation. But it was not a big problem to figure out that ‘corputer’ was really ‘computer’.

augen-ereader.jpg

For some time I have been gently exploring the world of eReaders, and not really enamoured by what I found. Nook’s and Kindle’s are top of the heap, but seem to be very limited in the formats that they can handle.

I have been playing with it for a couple of days, and when it comes to ‘bang for the buck’, this gizmo is a winner.

As mentioned earlier my need was for a flexible format device. The Augen had no problem with Microsoft Word documents, with the exception of 2007 docx formats. Files in .doc or even .rtf worked great. I solved the docx issue by simply converting the file to doc. It also did an admirable job with PDF’s.

Simply plug the device into your computer using the supplied USB cable, and the Augen simply looks like an external drive. Drag and Drop the files, life is great.

I have my $92 of value already.

OK, what else does it do?

Well it has WiFi capability so that you can buy books online. I have not explored this option, in fact for me it is a useless option. As a book reviewer the mere concept of buying a book is the stuff of fantasy. But I am sure that I am in the minority on this aspect.

The WiFi options did however pique my interest from a pure thirst to know standpoint. I dusted off an old Wifi router from my junk pile and after a couple of hours of verbal abuse it finally caved in and agreed to be part of my home network. It objected loudly to being demoted from router to mere hub, but thats another story.

The Augen had no problem recognizing the Wifi connection. In fact this morning I took the Augen outside and played with the WiFi aspect. While it could not see my router, likely because of the metal siding on the house it had no problem finding two other local WiFi routers, one of which had no security set on it!

The Augen comes with some basic web browsing abilities, and this looked like the perfect opportunity to test them out.

I selected Browser from the menu, and after about 20 seconds up popped the Google Home Page.

I bought the Augen as an eReader, so do not take this as a bad thing, but web access sucks. It is clunky and slow. It took an act of congress to persuade it to access gmail, I discovered that the trick was to start gmail with the ‘basic html’ support as default. But, it did work.

I had less success with other sites, but as a ‘port in a storm’ the Augen does beat some of the other products on the market.

It seemed to handle MP3 files with little trouble. The built in speaker is hardly what could be qualified as HiFi, but it does work. And there is a headphone jack, so you can plug in whatever your favorite noise making device might be!

It also has the ability to play video. The supported formats are limited, and none of the files I tried worked. But, I didn’t buy the unit for web access, to listen to music, or watch videos. I bought it for the ability to display the written word and this function it performs quite well.

Pull up a .doc or .rtf file and you can find few complaints. Like the ever popular iThings it is equipped with a g-thing, so rotating the unit 90 degrees moves the display from the rather narrow 480×800 portrait format to an 800×480 landscape view. This is a great feature!

Alas the g-thing for no good reason does not do the same thing with .pdf files. However a little bit of deviling revealed a work around. Just set the ‘zoom’ to max and voilà, the .pdf is in landscape and easy to read.

At under $100 I have nothing but praise for Augen’s The Book. It is not as flashy as some ereaders, but it also offers flexibility that is not found in the more expensive mainstream products.

This Gizmo is worth a look.

You can find it on www.augenus.com

Simon Barrett

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