The Bookeen Muse HD ebook reader

06 May 2017

On Christmas 2016, I received the Bookeen Cybook Muse HD e-reader that I asked for after having read Genma's articles which were promoting the brand. When I tweeted about my new reader, Genma asked me to give a feedback so I'm writing it here after several months of usage in the form of several usage cases but not as a review of the object.

Context

First, you need to know my passed usage of readers. It is the first time that I own a reader, but I already lent one of the first Amazon Kindle during several months. So, beside this experience, I'm writing here as someone who doesn't know very much about the subject and only had a basic usage of a Kindle.

The Bookeen Cybook Muse HD box

Physical aspect

The reader is pretty pleasant to use. Its small size and light weight allows to store it easily and hold during a long time without getting tired. About the aesthetic, I don't find it very pretty, but not awful as well.

The screen definition is quite good, it is in its name (Muse HD), but I cannot say if it is really different comparing to other readers.

One thing I would like to point out about the hardware are the buttons to turn pages. The Amazon Kindle offered triggers which were nicer to use while the Bookeen has only simple buttons that you need to press quite a little. But is not really uncomfortable.

Jules Vernes's picture is quite nice on a HD screen

How I use the e-reader

I was interested into a reader for the following reasons:

So I will describe below the way I use the e-reader, but you need to understand everything is not due to the reader itself. They are cases where I use the reader and if some points may be painful, it is not necessarily because of the reader.

Read in transport

The e-reader is quite good for this usage: I read while in the subway, but also in bed because the tiny format is very practical. You can hold it the arms stretched while lying down in bed without getting tired. Also, even when they are a lot of people in the transport, the small size allows you to continue to read. In comparison with big books I can read, I could do nothing when I was squeezed in the transport.

Save space in the library

I can store a lot of books in the e-reader even though I don't have much yet, maybe 10 in addition to those given by Bookeen by default. Indeed, it is very convenient to read on the device, but I still like to have real books, newspapers and magazines : some may have special graphics with non-reproducible colors, some books may be like artworks with a well designed cover and simply I like to possess books that I have read and for which I may have some kind of attachment. So, having the e-reader allows me to save space in my library, but it is still filling up slowly. I still continue to buy and own physical books.

The cover is quite pretty

Read Web/PDF content

I often see free PDF and EPUB or at a free price (especially in the free software world) and which are not physically available. As I don't like to read long texts on a computer screen, having an e-reader is convenient in order to read comfortably. When the content is in Epub, there is no problem. However, when it is in PDF, the layout is often too small thus not easy to read.

Concerning Web content, I have not found a simple solution to read website's articles. Genma suggests a system with Wallabag and a Python script to load article in the e-reader, but it's too much hacking for my liking and when I think about it, the e-reader doesn't correspond to my way of reading news. I usually read my RSS feeds every morning on my computer and I share the interesting articles on several social networks according to the people it might interest. In order to do the same with the e-reader, I would need to have the possibility to share to the networks with it (taking into account that the device only has Wifi, but no 4G) and also have a good display for Web articles because the latter don't have a classical layout like simple books (it is even worse when talking about an Open Source project on Github).

Finally, my needs were partially answered for some content we can find on the Web, but not all.

Process/Annotate text

As I'm working on a report and I need to read quite an amount of texts, the e-reader can be very convenient to easily annotate span of text. The Cybook allows to either hover a text or annotate a text, but there is a small issue with the selection tool. I didn't find a way to select text which is across several pages, I could bypass the issue by changing the level of zoom, but that is really not practical.

After having annotate texts, I can export them into .epub.annot,.csvand.txt` and retrieve them by connecting the e-reader to my computer through USB. However, I don't know what to do with it. In terms of usage, I would have liked to import them into a service like Diigo on which I store all the articles for my report, but I didn't find in Diigo how to import annotations. In fact, it seems that even for other e-readers, there is no good solution to reuse annotations in other tools.

Regarding Wallabag, it would be interesting that they develop better annotation and collaboration functionalities in order to approach services likes Diigo and Delicious. With the integration of Wallabag in the Booken e-reader, I would be able to synchronize my annotations and share them directly with other people.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the e-reader is good in terms of hardware and does what we expect it to do, but with no bonus. As e-reader exist since quite some time, I thought they were going to have more advanced features like a Wallabag integration and a better annotation management. So yes, the dictionary on-board is very convenient as it allows me to rapidly get the meaning of an unknown work. However, it may be one of the only added value in comparison to a simple book.

Yet there is a great potential. I'm seeing the e-reader as a productivity tool allowing to read, process and share text. It is the only device on which reading long texts is convenient.

A part of Bookeen's e-reader's software is under GPL license. If its technical team is too small, maybe Bookeen may do a good move by making the device more "hackable" in order to let the community add new features and have more often updates.

Anyway, my article may seem rude because the Bookeen Cybook Muse HD is very nice, but I'm quite frustrated it is not better exploited.

PS: After having published the French version of my article, Bookeen had answered several points on Twitter. I will not translate everything to English, but in short Bookeen is working on a new UI which will then allow to integrate Wallabag. That's why there a not many updates for the moment and Wallabag is still not available.

Tweets from Bookeen and Wallabag in French