This Literati review takes a look at the new color ebook reader by Sharper Image. While the name on the box says Sharper Image, it is made by a company called Merchsource.
The Literati was released in October for a suggested retail price of $199. It sells from a number of major retail stores including Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Macy's, and others.
Literati Review: First Impressions
The Literati by Sharper Image is a very basic ebook reader. That's not necessarily a knock on the device; that's how it was designed to be.
While its elongated design somewhat resembles the Augen eReader, it is in no way like that device. The Literati is not a multi-purpose ereader/tablet hybrid. It does not have a web browser or video player or even an audio player. It is solely an ebook reader.
First off, the Literati comes in a gigantic box that looks like an oversized book. Normally I wouldn't mention the box, but this one is worth a picture. It's about 13" tall and 3.5" wide. Here it is next to the box for the Sony PRS-650 to give it some perspective.
Out of the box the Literati comes with a cover, AC charger, USB cable, and some pre-installed free ebooks, with an option to download an additional 125 classic ebooks. It ties in directly with Kobo eBooks and has WiFi for connecting to the Kobo ebook store.
With its narrow screen and full QWERTY keyboard, at first glance the Literati ebook reader is a little odd looking.
It has a 7-inch color LCD display with an aspect ratio of 800 x 480—making it a lot longer and narrower than the more typical 6-inch ereader sized at 800 x 600.
The screen isn't glossy and colors are bright and vivid. The device is geared more toward books with colors, like children's books, cookbooks, textbooks, magazines, and newspapers. There's not a large selection of those just yet at Kobo, but more are coming apparently.
The page turn buttons on both sides of the screen actually aren't buttons. There's a sensor that detects when you press/swipe them, but doesn't seem to react all the time with this version of firmware. You can also use the main navigation wheel on the lower right of the device's keyboard to turn pages.
The navigation wheel takes some getting used to. The center button is higher than the outer ring of buttons, making it hard to hit the up, down, and side buttons without hitting the center one. This makes you have to use the tip of your thumb instead of the surface of it like you would with the main control on the Kindle 3.
The cover that comes with the Literati greatly resembles a book cover. It has a really nice, soft, book cover feel to it—not sure what kind of material it is. The one problem, however, is that there is an inner sleeve that holds the bottom of the unit that rides a little too close to the main navigation buttons, making them even more difficult to hit accurately with my large thumb.
The Literati is made out of hard plastic and feels pretty solid. The edges are tapered so it fits in your hand comfortably holding either one or two-handed. There are two color variations for the device, white and black.
Hands-on Literati Video Review
Preliminary Specs and Features
There aren't any official technical specs for the Literati listed yet on the Literati website, so this is what my trusty tape measure has to say: 9 3/8" tall by 4 7/8" wide by 1/2" inch thick. A little on the heavy side, I'd estimate the weight to be between 14 and 18 ounces.
For memory, the device comes with 256MB of internal memory and has an SD memory card slot.
The device can read Adobe EPUB and PDF ebooks and DRM-free EPUB and PDF files, along with TXT documents.
For EPUB and TXT ebooks, there are 5 adjustable text sizes and two text types, serif and sans-serif. There are 7 levels of brightness to adjust and there is a dictionary to look up words (you have to manually type the word to be looked-up). There's a table of contents to jump between chapters, as well as selections to go to the next or previous chapters. It needs a margin adjusting feature, though, because margins are often way too big with the narrow screen.
More features will be issued via a firmware update to add night-reading mode and custom bookshelves and bookmarks like the Kobo desktop app.
Speaking of the Kobo desktop app, the device works with and syncs with all of Kobo's reading apps. It also works with Adobe Digital Editions for borrowing library ebooks from local libraries.
Literati Review: PDF files
For PDF files there are different viewing options than with EPUB and TXT ebooks. PDFs don't have adjustable text sizes, instead there are 6 different levels of zoom, from 100% to 200% in increments of 25, with a full page option as well.
Once zoomed in, you use the navigation wheel to pan around the page. There's also an option to view the PDF in landscape mode. There is no reflow mode or hyperlink support.
The same as with ebooks, there is a table of contents, options to jump between the next and previous chapters, and a dictionary to type in words to be looked-up.
Overall, PDF support isn't anything to write home about, but it is better than I expected it to be. The device seems to naturally cut away large margins so the text fits to the edges. In default whole page view, the text is generally more legible than with 6-inch ereaders like the Kindle 3 and Sony PRS-650.
The Literati connects to the Kobo ebook store for access to a wide library of ebooks in EPUB and sometimes PDF format. Kobo's ebooks use Adobe DRM so they are compatible with a large number of ebook readers and ereader programs like Adobe Digital Editions.
One thing about the Kobo ebook store is that it has a nice clean layout with lots of sorting and searching options. The book covers are full color and look great on the Literati's screen. There are a number of categories and ways to find new ebooks. There's even a section for free ebooks.
Once you download an ebook, it becomes apart of your Kobo library so that you can download it to other Kobo-supported devices and Kobo applications.
Literati Review: Conclusion
Since the Literati doesn't play video, display photos, or surf the web, the fact that it is a color ebook reader doesn't do a whole lot for it. The vast majority of ebooks you can buy from Kobo (or anywhere else for that matter) don't have any need for color when everything is in black and white text.
However, according to the documentation that comes with the Literati, there's supposed to be a lot of color content coming to the Kobo store soon in the form of newspapers and magazines, as well as more children's books, cookbooks, and stuff along that line that has color illustrations.
The fact that the Literati has a backlit LCD screen will appeal to some and not others. It makes reading at night possible, but does have its drawbacks in that viewing quality declines in brighter lighting conditions and the battery life is only a few hours instead of a few weeks.
What it comes down to is that the Literati is designed to be a basic ebook reader for those new to ereading. It doesn't have a lot of features or customizing options, and could greatly benefit from some firmware updates to improve overall usability and stability, but it does do what it says it will in an easy-to-learn, straightforward manner. Overall, given the features of the device the price is too high, especially considering similar-priced devices like the PocketBook IQ and Pandigital Novel that have a lot more features.
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