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The March of the Kindle - The Economist
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The March of the Kindle - The Economist 9 年 之前 评分: 8  
Feb 12th 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO
From The Economist print edition

Electronic books are becoming popular. Will newspapers follow?

Amazon


JEFF BEZOS, Amazon’s boss, pays attention to symbolism. He named his e-commerce company after the world’s largest river to suggest a flood of books and other products. He named Amazon’s e-book reader, launched in 2007, the Kindle to suggest that it would spark a fire (and not of the book-burning sort). This week he unveiled the Kindle 2, an improved version for the same $359, against the backdrop of a library that was once the private collection of John Pierpont Morgan. Assisting him was Stephen King, a popular author who has written a novella that will be available only on the device. The Kindle 2, Mr Bezos means to say, is about preserving a great tradition—book reading—and improving it, not about replacing it.

In many ways, this is true. The Kindle is an unusual gadget in that it does not obviously target young people, or early-adopting technophiles. Instead it appeals to passionate readers, who want no fiddling with cables (the Kindle works without a computer) or complicated pricing plans (Kindle users pay to buy books and other content, but do not have to pay wireless-subscription fees). It is, in short, perfect for older people. The Kindle is a surprisingly “conservative” device, says John Makinson, the boss of Penguin Group, a large book publisher, so it is an additional distribution channel and thus “good for us”. (Penguin is an arm of Pearson, which partly owns The Economist.)

Steve Kessel, a member of Amazon’s Kindle team, says that Kindle owners seem to read more. “It’s the convenience—they think of a book and can be reading it within 60 seconds,” he says, thanks to the instant wireless downloads, and “they’re now carrying all their books around with them all the time.” The Kindle 2 can hold about 1,500 books, and one battery charge allows two weeks’ reading. And since the screen is not backlit but imitates real ink and paper, Kindle owners can read for hours without straining their eyes.

So far, says Mr Kessel, this does not seem to spell the end of paper books, since Kindle users buy just as many bound books as before, so that their total consumption of books goes up by 2.6 times. That may change as more titles become available. More importantly, the Kindle and similar devices made by Sony and others represent only one side of the evolving e-reader market. They are for aficionados, since paying $359 for a device makes sense only if you read quite a lot of books, newspapers or magazines on it.

For everybody else, such as infrequent readers and the young and cash-strapped, the mobile phone may become the preferred e-reader. A popular software application on Apple’s iPhone, called Stanza, already turns that device into a book reader, with one-handed page turning that is ideal for public transport. A backpacker who consults his “Rough Guide” for snippets of up-to-date information in a dark tent is unlikely to tote along a Kindle and a lamp, or a paper book, if he can get the e-book on his backlit phone.

It is now only a matter of time until absolutely all books become available, and properly formatted, for mobile phones. Google, an internet giant that has been scanning and digitising books for inclusion in its search engine, now offers thousands of books that are in the public domain free on mobile phones. It seems likely that, eventually, only books that have value as souvenirs, gifts or artefacts will remain bound in paper.

Newspapers and magazines are on the same trajectory. Their paper editions are in decline in most of the developed world, as readers opt for the web versions on their computers and laptops, or on smart-phones such as the iPhone. The Kindle could accelerate that shift since it also lets users subscribe to news publications, which are automatically delivered.

All this has led to a new phrase in the book and newspaper industries: Is this the “iPod moment”? It is a layered and loaded analogy. On the one hand the iPod, Apple’s now legendary music-player, and its associated iTunes store opened up a new market for legal digital-music downloads. On the other hand, the iPod accelerated the decline in CD sales and shifted power from record labels to Apple. Will the Kindle similarly put Amazon in a dominant position, while weakening publishers?

This is unlikely. Books, says Penguin’s Mr Makinson, are different from music. Sales of CDs were harmed because iPod users could “unbundle” the albums that record labels had forced on them, and download only the songs they wanted. By contrast, there is no obvious reason to unbundle narrative books into individual chapters or paragraphs. A book sold via a Kindle thus has no marginal cost, but adds revenues. Another difference is that music was being widely pirated before Apple made legal downloading attractive. There is no such crisis in the book business.

Nor is Amazon likely to achieve anything near Apple’s power over the music industry. True, when a newspaper or magazine reader drops his paper for a Kindle subscription, he enters a billing relationship with Amazon rather than the publisher. (Neither Amazon nor its partners will reveal how the revenue is split.) But for record labels, Apple was the only viable and legal route. For the news industry, says Craig McKinnis at USA Today, a large American daily, the Kindle is “just one of the splinters” among many new distribution channels, from the web to mobile-phone applications to e-readers. What happened in music “I cannot imagine taking place” in news, he says.

Indeed, the Kindle and other e-readers could be a boon to newspapers. With rare exceptions, newspapers have accustomed their readers to expect digital editions to be free. As circulation revenue has declined, this made them dependent on advertising, just as the recession hit. On the Kindle, by contrast, the news has no ads. Instead, readers seem happy to pay for it—just as they pay for services in any other industry that offers something worthwhile.
 
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回复:The March of the Kindle - The Economist 9 年 之前 评分: 4  
My EZ Reader Review

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My EZ Reader arrived Friday afternoon. I ordered it Tuesday around noon and paid extra for three-day shipping. I expected to get it maybe Monday with the Holidays and all, but I was extremely surprised.

That aside, I should premise my review with a few things. I have never owned an E Book reader before and even though I am a software developer, I have no knowledge of either the hardware or the technology. I have a Palm Pilot, so that is the closest I have come to an E-Book. My purpose for purchasing an E Book reader is pretty simple: I wanted to get rid of my paper library for space reasons and make transporting books easier (i.e. for vacation, bus ride to work, etc.).

To put it simply, I want an E Book reader that will allow me to read books. I really don't care about wireless, MP3 player, or most other advanced features that others might desire in a reader. Some of those may be nice, but overall I want an easy to use device. My cell phone (which I hate with a passion) for example is not very user-friendly and is far too complex. I have better things to do than t osift through a 100+ page user manual. That doesn't mean that I don't have a "wish-list" of desired features.

So this review is coming from the perspective of your average Joe customer and is not a technical review. This being said, here is my review:

Case:

The case is fairly nice and I am glad that I bought the bundle package that it came in. The instructions have it opening from the left, which is a little odd for me, but there is no reason that one could not just reverse it. You can bend the metal clips to secure the reader in the case, but I don't trust this 100%. I think I am going to get velcro strips and place on the back of the reader to make sure it will stay in place. I don't want to chance it falling on the floor during my bus ride to work.

SD Cards

The package bundle I bought also came with two 1 GB SD cards. Your average E Book I have found is usually well under 1 MB, so these are more than enough for me. It also came loaded with 100 classic titles, some of which I actually was planning on downloading so this saved me the trouble. Most of them are *.txt files, but a few are Mobipocket *.prc files. Looks like these are titles you can locate online, but it does save one the trouble of downloading.

EZ Reader

Appearance: The appearance is aesthetically pleasing, unlike the hideous Kindle. As my wife pointed out, this is not irrelevant.

Controls The control buttons are fairly well laid out. The only little "quirk" I noticed is that the forward page button is on the top. I would have placed it below the back page button (these are the navigation buttons on the left). It just seems a little easier to reach with the way I hold the reader.

Weight It is light and IMO easier to hold than a paper book. My arms/hands would get cramped up with a paper book while laying down and holding. This is much better.

Screen The 6" screen is nice and is easy enough to read. I could see wanting a 9.7" or whatever screen, but the smaller size is nice because it is more portable. The e-ink technology is very nice. I don't think I would want a back-lit screen like the new Sony. Maybe as an optional feature, but it would not be a deal breaker for me.

It looks like the screen has a plastic screen protector covering it. Not sure if it is supposed to be left on or removed or if it even can be replaced. I did not see anything in the manual.

Manual The manual is short,to the point and clear. The internal memory (bookshelf) has a PDF version of the user manual. I copied this to my PC to make a backup.

MP3 Player Don't care. I will use my IPod.

Navigation: The navigation is easy to use. Obviously, you are not going to be making warp speed leaps all over the place, but it is user-friendly and intuitive. I am able to fairly comfortably navigate after one read through the user manual and a few quick lookups. The page turning, while maybe not blistering fast, is fast enough and probably as quick as turning a page on a paper book.

Not sure how to quickly navigate through a book using a Table of Contents or index or if it is even possible. Easy enough to navigate to a page though (but if you change the display, your page may change).

Fonts Haven't messed with this yet.

Transferring Docs I downloaded the Mobipocket PC software, but I am not using it because it will not split out docs into directories. No problem though because it is easy enough to do via copy/paste. Nothing complex here.

E Book Docs This is really the heart of the whole thing.

Text Docs The installed classic title text docs display Ok depending on the doc. For example, Paradise Lost displays fine but some of the other books don't line break very well.

PDF Docs This is the biggest surprise for me (excpet for it arriving so quickly) because from what I have read, this is one of the weaknesses of the E readers. I printed out a couple of web pages using PDF Creator and transferred them. They display very well. The paging is a little messed up, but it more than suits my purpose. This was one of the uses I had not even thought about before I purchased.

Mobipocket (PRC) These display very well. I have purchased two online books already from Fictionwise and they are both very good. One thing that is not working with this format is the bookmark. This is not a hardware issue becuase they work with PDF and Text files. From what I have read so far, this is an issue with the Mobipocket software. Not sure how to resolve this because I have not had time to research. This is the biggest flaw I have found so far.

Wireless It doesn't have wireless but I really could care less. I probably wouldn't use it and if I did, it would be very rare.

Desired Features:

Dictionary: would be nice
Text Search: would be nice
Touch Screen: perhaps the best wish-list feature, but not a deal breaker; I would rather have robust reader rather than have something that might be more likely to break

It might also be nice to have a navigation feature similar to Adobe PDF docs (bookmarks, thumbnail pages). Of course, this has more to do with the E Book format, but it is seriously something that this industry should consider. Not sure how easily it could be implemented.

Customer Service Considering how quickly this arrived, I think Astak does a great job.

Price Comparable to other readers. But like other readers, still expensive considering one can buy a PC for $300.00.

Overall:

I would give this 3.5 out of four stars (if the PRC bookmark feature bug is fixed, this will go up to 3.75). And actually, I have no doubt that I have made the best purchase. I had thought about the Sony and even the Kindle, but I don't like the fact that there is such proprietary ownership of their specific DRM. Mobipocket is more open.

My only other complaint is that I read a lot of non-fiction and the choices are somewhat limited for the Mobipocket format. To have access to Sony or Amazon's catalog in Mobipocket format would be a big boost. For example, Antony Beevor's book on the Spanish Civil War is available, but not his excellent book on Stalingrad (which actually is not even available in Kindle format). This is a complaint against the industry though and not the EZ Reader.

If anything, the fact that I am 100+ pages into my first E Book should be a good indication that I have made a good purchase. Ultimately, this was the goal.

BTW, I didn't choose the EZ Reader primarily because it looked better, but it is not an irrelevant point.

The Kindle was third in my top-three list of choices, with Sony being my second option.

The main problem I had with the Kindle and the Sony is their proprietary DRM formats. You are more or less stuck into eitehr buying a Kindle or Sony respectively once you start down that road. Mobipocket is more "open".

The EZ Reader I purchased is my first reader. It is the portable one that I intend to take with me on the bus to work or vacation. They are going to soon come out with some very nice readers (9.7", flexi-screens, color e-ink, etc.). When these do come out, the odds are that my Mobipocket e-books will transfer to most of these new readers, whether or not the reader is one I purchase from Astak or some other company. And if they don't, I have the capability of converting my e books to another format as of this moment.

Can the same be said for the Kindle or Sony format books? For those you are tied to that hardware vendor, at least at the moment until they decide to open up their specific technology (or someone comes up with hacks, which they may have already???). And Amazon does not even appear to be moving as fast as Sony in coming out with new and improved versions of their readers. So how long will you have to wait for a 9.7" reader???

Sony and Amazon want to be both an E-Book store and a hardware vendor and corner the market on both.

One thing I should add to my review though is that if you are using a reader for technical docs, reference or textbooks, you probably will want a Sony or Kindle because of the search/highlighting functions. The EZ Reader is primarily for reading (novels or non-fiction books) and not reference. But then there are other technologies that are probably better suited for reference docs (I have a Palm Pilot) anyway as opposed to an E reader.
 
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最后编辑: 2009-02-15 10:05 由: zjiang.
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回复:The March of the Kindle - The Economist 9 年 之前 评分: 4  
Review of the EZ Reader, especially for serialized books in Chinese

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I just got my EZ Reader yesterday. I'm just going to review the aspects I tried. Please note I've only tried PDF, HTML, TXT, ZIP, and JPG formats.

Color choices: Unlike a press release I read somewhere, the only color available was black. No red, blue or green. Bummer, but I'll live.

Shipping and delivery time: The shipping time was exceptional! It was shipped the day after I ordered it, via Fedex Ground.

Reader: The reader felt like quality construction. I also don't think it's ugly. True, it's not as nice as Sony's but hello ... Kindle, anyone? The page navigation buttons could stand being moved to the right side of the reader, as I usually hold my paperback books in my right hand, not my left. It has a nice solid feel in my hand, and is somewhat heavier than paperback book, but not too bad.

The SD card slot at the top of the reader does not have a rubber cover on it, so I will need to see if I can find one (otherwise, I can easily see gravity dumping tons of dirt into the hole over time).

The USB port and audio jack is at the bottom of the reader.

Accessories: As mentioned in other reviews, the standard package comes with a leather case, USB charger, USB cable to connect to the computer, and a little screwdriver to open the battery door. For those people wondering why the battery wasn't installed in there by default, two guesses: 1) If a battery corrodes inside an electronic device, it destroys the electronic device too; 2) it might lessen the life of the battery

Battery: As has been mentioned in other reviews, it appears to use a replaceable Nokia phone battery. I haven't checked to see how easy it is to get a replacement battery on Ebay or Radioshack, but I've read elsewhere it's not a problem.

Leather case: The leather case is a nice soft black leather, and holds the reader very securely on three sides (you just slide it in). It's much better than Sony's leather case, which holds its reader by this swinging knob thing (a friend of mine got it and it fell out of the case; she's getting Velcro to make her Sony Reader more secure). I am pleased to report I don't think Velcro is necessary for the EZ Reader.

What I found weird at first is that the magnetic clasp closes on the back, instead of the front (so the lumpy clasp part is behind). After using it for a while, I realized that the position of the clasp makes it easier to hold (and if you're laying it out flat on a table, the clasp is not sticking up right next to the ereader).

It does appear to display smudges from my oily fingers, so I have to rub it occasionally to clean the oil off. One concern of mine -- all the different ereaders have slightly different dimensions and designs, so their covers are not interchangeable (for example, there's no way in heck Sony's cover could work for the EZ Reader, since it expects a hole at the top and bottom of the reader). So there's no options to buy a pink or other color cover for the EZ reader unless you get it custom made.

Charging: Don't know how long it took to charge, since I charged it while I was sleeping. It turns out any USB charger will work; I know, since I successfully used my Motorola phone charger to charge it via the mini USB port

It also seemed like I could use it while it was charging, though I got stuck on the first page of Jane Austen, and the page turning buttons weren't responding. So not too sure if you actually can.

Chinese support: I tried to view text files encoded in the Chinese GB2312 encoding. When the EZ reader's system language was "English" (the default), the text file displayed Cyrillic. After I changed the system language to Chinese, the text file was able to display propertly. Loading of the 1 MB file was really fast, despite it being a 1000+ page count.

I also tried HTML files encoded in GB2312, and they displayed great. Didn't try with the system setting in English though.

Changing the system language was very easy, BTW.

Adding books: Adding books was a snap! I just had to plug it into the computer, hit the OK button, and it showed up on my Windows laptop as an external drive. Weird thing was it showed up as two drives, but I could only access one of them to add files. Adding the files was as easy as copying and pasting. You cannot use the reader while it is plugged into your computer. I will try with my Mac next and see if it works too.

You do not have to put all your books in the "Ebooks" folder. You can create new folders / add files directly to the base, and it will show up.

Directory support: You can add folders and subfolders to organize the books even more. It also supported and displayed non-English named folders (I used Chinese to name some folders, and it displayed fine). Just a quick note: This was after I changed the system language to Chinese; didn't check to see if it would display the Chinese folder name if the system language was English.

Display: The display is excellent; very clear and sharp. The background is a very light grayish white. If you are near a Borders or Target or something, you can stop in and look at the Sony Reader 505 display; it's the same contrast and everything (The Sony 700's display has some reflective touchscreen over the e-ink panel, so it's actually less nice than the 505 or the EZ Reader's display).

Display Response Time: Usually response time was very fast. Sometimes, there is the blackout of the screen that others have mentioned, but other times, I did not notice it. It takes a few seconds to load the book; I've heard that's because it needs to calculate the pagination. For really big books, it can take longer.

Magnification: The EZ Reader only gives you the option of 1x, 2x, and 3x magnification. You can't make the fonts any larger than that, so the fonts may be either too small or too big for some people. For English books (I tried Hans Andersen's fairy tales), the smallest font size was a nice readable size, but may be too big for some people. For Chinese books, the smallest font size was kind of small, so the biggest font may still be too small for some people.

Buttons: The buttons beep when I press down on them; I wonder if it's possible to turn off the beep. It's stopping me from trying to unobtrusively sneak in some reading at a really boring meeting

Comic books (navigation): I tried loading some zipped chapters of Japanese manga/scanlations. The files were JPG files in a multifolder directory zipped into a ZIP file. The extension of the file was ".zip". I could only view one image at a time, and had to go back to the booklist to pick the next one. Maybe I'm missing some step here...

Comic books (image quality): Image quality was like a 2nd generation photo copy. Somewhat spotty, but nowhere near the smoothness of a great grayscale manga from Viz. Still readable, though. It's only got 4 shades of gray, so I shouldn't have expected too much.

Also note that the EZ Reader won't "chop up" the image into smaller pieces (so you can't, say, zoom in in landscape mode on the first half of the pic, then hit "next" to go to the next section of the pic).

PDF: The PDF display kind of sucked for me. Not really the fault of the EZ Reader, but when you try to view a file that's meant for an 8 by 11 page on a 6 inch screen, readability decreases tremendously. I loaded a bus schedule and a PDF document on how to type in Chinese. The bus schedule was ok at the highest magnification setting. The "how to type in Chinese" doc was completely illegible, even at the highest magnification setting. It also did not reflow properly.

To be fair, I picked PDF files that had lots of tables. Other people have had great experiences, but I'm guessing that they were viewing text-only PDFs.

For people who are interested, these are the test files I used:

Bus schedule | How to type in Chinese PDF

Text display: English files are displayed as justified text, so spacing may sometimes be a little weird. Chinese files ... the smallest font size is the same size used in those little mainland China paperback books the size of your hand. However, because of the anti-glare and the e-ink, I have no problems reading it, as opposed to when I had to blow up the fonts enormously when I was reading on my laptop. Plus, my eyes don't hurt after reading for a while!

Navigation in the book: You had options to jump to the first page, the last page, or a specific page in the book. Also, if you leave a book (have only tried with HTML/TXT), it automatically remembers where you left off if you re-open it later.

I have some complaints about navigation options in the book, which I'll explain later down in the post (see my section about reading serialized novels on EZ Reader).

Navigation in the booklist: Navigation in the booklist is more inconvenient than navigating inside a book. You can only navigate by clicking the forward and back buttons. There is no way to jump to, say, page 5 in the booklist.

You can imagine the problem this would be if you had hundreds of books. The directory support helps a little, but they should really fix the software to add "Go to page xxx" support.

If you exit a book and go back to the booklist, you will end up on the page with the book that you last read. So that's good.

Sorting options: You can sort books in a folder by book name or date last modified. For HTML files, it uses the text in the "TITLE" element of the HTML file as the book name. These 2 options are very limiting!

I really hope that they add an option to sort books in a folder by file name too (see my gripe about reading serialized novels on EZ Reader, below).

My experience with using EZ Reader for reading serialized novels: So in general, the EZ Reader is great. However, there are some features that I wish it would add, which would make my reading experience much better.

I tend to read a lot of serialized fanfics on the web. These fanfics are posted chapter by chapter, in HTML format. Each chapter can easily be 10-20 pages on the EZ Reader. And each complete fanfic can easily be over 300+ chapters (so that's over 3000 pages). Finally, sometimes the writer changes his/her mind about a detail in the story and goes back to change what happened in older chapters to make it fit in with what happens in the newest chapter, so I have to redownload the older chapter.

Now, what does that mean for the EZ Reader? I don't really want to use MobiPocket to compile all the HTML chapters into one "book"; I'm lazy and would really rather just drag the HTML files into a folder for the book on the EZ Reader.

Because EZ Reader uses the TITLE element in the chapters, I have a ready made table of contents when I open the subfolder (folder inside the Ebook folder) to view the chapters.

Problem 1: The chapter numbers are spelled out "Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc". So sorting alphabetically does not work. How about sorting by date modified? Remember that I sometimes have to redownload older chapters, so the older chapter can sometimes have a "newer" date modified. That throws the order of the chapters out of whack (e.g. I'd have chapter one, two, four, five, six, seven, three).

So, the best fix to the problem would be if I could sort the files by actual file name, since I can always guarantee those will be in the correct order (e.g. chapter001.html, chapter002.html, etc). Jinke are you listening?!!

Problem 2: I mentioned earlier that my serialized fanfics have hundreds of chapters. That's a problem with EZ Reader, when I can only navigate teh book list by pressing the forward and next buttons. Think how many times I have to press the button to go to the 350th "book" in the current directory! Divvying up the files into subfolders is a compromise, but I would vastly prefer to be able to go to page 50 in the folder/bookshelf as well. If I can do that inside the book, how much harder can it be to do that in the bookshelf mode too?

Ok, now I've selected a chapter and am reading it. At the end of the chapter, there's no option for me to go directly to the next chapter / file / book in the bookshelf. So I have to go back to the bookshelf (which fortunately sends me back to page 50 in the bookshelf, or wherever I last was), and then I select the next chapter to read.

That's annoying! It would be great if I could just go Options > Go to next book listed in book shelf. That would also solve my problem with the comic book files (which I mentioned earlier).

So in summary, my wish list for Jinke's next firmware update would be:
1. Ability to jump directly to a page number in the bookshelf
2. Ability to jump directly to the next "book" in the bookshelf while inside a book (the next book it jumps to should depend on what sort order you chose for the bookshelf).
3. Ability to also sort books on the bookshelf by physical file name.

Overall: This is a great, easy to use reader that just needs some minor features added to its software. I don't need wireless. I love the replaceable phone battery it uses. The accessories it comes with are great, although some enterprising merchant should start selling other covers to come with it!

BTW, I am using the firmware version that came with the reader: V2.00ASTAK.081024


Ok, I have been using the EZ Reader for a couple of weeks now, and these are my new experiences.

Solution to the file directory sorting problem: I mentioned my frustration with trying to get ongoing serialized books in a folder to display in order; well, I found a good solution to the problem -- I downloaded a free program that does nothing but change the "file modified" date all the files in a directory. If I change the file modified date for all the HTML files in the folder ("book"), and then tell the reader to sort by date modified, it usually works! Although you may get it in ascending or descending order, not sure.

Screen refresh rate: The screen refresh rate slowed down as the battery life went down. It is still not bad, but yes, you do see the black flashes when the page redraws itself.

Battery life, chargers, and more:
For 1.5 weeks, I was happily reading and occasionally copying over files to the EZ Reader via the USB cable. The battery meter still indicated it was at full strength ... alas, it turned out to be a fantasy. I have read somewhere, though, that you should not trust the battery meter on the reader if you are using a brand new battery; you have to let the battery drain a couple of times before the meter will provide accurate readings.

The battery was actually pretty completely drained after 1.5 weeks, or about 20-25 hours of reading. I'm not sure how many page turns that is; while it's not 8000 pages, that's an still excellent life.

So anyway, I was happily reading, and then...the screen stopped responding, and the buttons stopped beeping. So I was stuck on page 10 of my current book. The little light at the top corner of the reader was a bright red. And the battery meter at the bottom right corner of the screen was still saying it was at full strength.

I tried pressing the power button, doing a soft reset, then a hard reset. No response.

So then I tried plugging in the EZ Reader to the AC charger it comes with (and it's a really weird charger), and left it plugged in overnight. There was no response from the reader (no changing to an orange flashing light, no beeping, etc) when I plugged in, but I was crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

Come the morning (say 8-10 hours later), nothing had happened. The battery charge was still at zero. So I can say pretty conclusively, the AC charger that comes with the reader sucks -- CORRECTION: The AC Charger works - see my latest post --. You should go out and get a AC charger retail (say a Motorola phone charger, which is what I used to charge up the reader the first time).

I'm speculating here, but everytime I plug in the EZ Reader to my computer, it would ask me if I wanted to charge the battery or copy files over, and I'd have to click enter to confirm yes. Since the AC adapter is this weird looking thing you have to attach the USB cable to, maybe the EZ Reader needed me to confirm yes. However, since the OS had either gone to sleep or shut down or was frozen, my hitting the enter button was not registering with the reader. That's my guess (although I did not get asked whether I wanted to charge or copy when I plugged in teh reader to my phone's USB charger.

Other options:
I reviewed my options after the bundled adapter did not work:
- Wait another 3 hours to charge the reader with my Motorola phone's USB charger
- Try charging the reader by attaching it to my computer
- Swapping out the battery with another Nokia battery.

Confirmed that Nokia phone batteries can be swapped in

I'm lucky I happen to have a Nokia phone and a retail USB phone charger. Three cheers for the EZ Reader using standard phone batteries! That's one thing none of the other readers out there have, and a major reason why I got this reader in the first place.

I was too impatient to try the Motorola charger after waiting a whole night for the Astak's charger to charge the battery, so I swapped out the EZ Reader battery with my (fully charged) Nokia phone's battery, and voila! The EZ Reader restarted, and it worked again! The battery meter was even responsive and started to show the battery going down as the days went by.

(And for the curious, my phone charged and is also working fine with the EZ Reader's battery; When I swapped the EZ Reader battery in, the phone indicated the battery charge level was VERY low and needed to be charged right away, despite being plugged in to the EZ Reader charger overnight).

Final notes: I am very very very happy with the EZ Reader. I was not happy about the part where the battery ran down (while lying to me and saying it was still full), and the bundled AC charger didn't seem to charge. However, I think it is a case of it being a virgin battery; after it's been drained a couple of times, I think the battery meter will be more accurate (the battery meter certainly seems to be more accurate with my well used Nokia phone battery).

What to do when your battery is completely drained, and the AC adapter doesn't seem to be charging

This is just a quick update. The battery draining and screen freezing I mentioned in post #5 happened again; the reader wouldn't respond when I plugged in the EZ Reader's AC adapter. So I removed the battery and then put it back in again, and it was then able to charge. The screen restarted to show the welcome screen, and the reader started charging.

I was also able to read to my hearts content while the battery was charging, so I can confirm that you can use the reader while plugged in to the AC adapter. Note that I wasn't able to do this when I first got the reader; My best guess is because the first time around, it was a brand new unused battery, while this time, it was a well used phone battery.

One final thing of note: the battery meter is somewhat unreliable. The last time the battery was drained, the meter on the EZ reader said it was still at 100%. I blamed that on the battery being new. This time, the battery was definitely well used, had been drained and recharged several times (I used my old phone battery), and yet it was still not reporting the correct charge level on the battery. So, don't know what's going on with that, but I'd recommend you charge every few days, if you're a heavy reader.

Again, another option is to use a dedicated USB charger such as a Motorola phone charger.
 
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BeBook Review - a really great device...



Bottom Line (even though it's at the top)...

I thought I would put my summary here, to save you reading the whole blurb. But if you are seriously considering this device, or if you just want to know more because you can't decide what's right for you, then read on.

This is a great device! It's not perfect (none of them are) but it does the job as advertised and handles a bunch of formats well (and the ones that are not so good are at least handled, which means they have scope for improvement, and the company seems willing at the moment to try). I have tried PDF, FB2, MOBI/PRC, LIT, TXT, MS Word, RTF, PPT. With the exception of PPT being a bit hit and miss at the moment, the BeBook handled them all. I have given the following ratings (5 stars = the best) for the various formats tried, from my perspective:

PDF ****
FB2 *****
MOBI/PRC ****
LIT ***
MS Word ***1/2
TXT ****
RTF ****
PPT **

These are completely subjective, and open to dispute, but suffice it to say that I will be happily using this device for all these formats (except only rarely for LIT and PPT - I prefer to convert them for eReader use). Overall, if you want a reasonably priced device, good support, ease of use, multiple formats, and like me are not happy with the limitations in format of the Sony / Kindle / iLiad axis of evil, then consider an alternative like the BeBook.

I went for the BeBook because of price (not low, but OK, especially with their €25 discount offer - see the end of this review for details), the wide variety in formats, the excellent battery life, and the apparent ease of use. All of these have been confirmed since using the device, and in fact it looks and feels much better than I was expecting, the interface is dead easy to use (I was expecting a clunky complicated scheme, but they've really done well to keep the BeBook simple yet cover all needs).

My recommendation: Buy it if your uses match some/many of mine (see below) and you won't be disappointed...

Introduction - Unpacking...

So, my BeBook arrived 2 days after notification of shipment (as expected, since I'm in Netherlands), and shipment took place within 2-3 days of ordering, so overall this was a pleasant process (compared with ordering, say, an iRex DR1000!). I was busy when it arrived and had to wait (patiently) for a few days before I could actually crack the box open and check it out - hence the delay in this review.

Overall, the packaging and box contents are as expected, and the device was nicely and securely packed compared with some other gadgets I've bought, and there are a bunch of optional bits 'n' pieces in the box as well (see later).

Some assembly required!

Just kidding, but the device does come without the battery installed, although clearly it was powered and tested at some stage because there was a faint remnant of the BeBook boot logo on the screen. Included in the box is a battery, screwdriver (to open the battery cover), some spare screws (they're small, so I guess easy to lose when you open the device?), a carry strap (I hate them, but they seem to be standard for most devices like MP3 players nowadays), earphones for the MP3/audio functions, and a USB cable. All in all, a complete kit!

I like the fact that the battery is easy to remove/replace by the user (1 screw only - reminds me of a thread on this forum discussing new EU battery regulations). Being an Acer n10 user (sealed PDA with crap battery life) I'm pleased that the battery can be replaced in the future if it is damaged, if you want a higher capacity, or if you just want to carry a spare battery or two (the stated lifetime of a normal charge seems to preclude any real need: ~7,000 page turns). The only caveat to all this battery changing being that you need the little screwdriver to open the battery cover (actually any little philips screwdriver will do).

Initial Reaction...

Some initial comments out of the box - the BeBook comes in a leather case/cover, which is cool since you don't have to spend extra to protect it (unlike many other devices). The case seems sturdy and it has a nice magnetic clasp (it's very "Belkin" in design, if you're familiar with their iPod cases and such). The device fits snugly and securely in the case by sliding under three metal clips. The clips are sturdy, and somewhat adjustable, in the sense that I felt one of them was not "gripping" the edge of the device properly, so I just bent it in a little and that did the trick. Don't get me wrong, the clips are tough and not easy to bend or break, but they can be tweaked a little to give an almost perfect fit. Unlike many other gadget cases, this one fits very well - the device sits square to the edges, correctly positioned, and is securely held in place.

The case is a little weird though, because it sort of opens backwards - hard to explain, but instinctively I attempt to open it by holding the case with the clasp oriented on the front right - normal for a book with left-to-right printing, yes? This cover should indeed have the opening on the right edge, but the clasp should actually be on the back (not the front) right to open the book with the correct orientation. Further confusion is added by the "Stylz" logo on the case being on the back side, which leads me to try to open it back-to-front. This is only a small point, and the reader can't fall out opening it the wrong way, it's just weird. But I like unusual things so it kind of appeals to my warped appreciation somehow!

One nice thing about the cover (as implied in the Pookey video review of the BeBook here pookey.co.uk/blog/archives/61-BeBook-review.html) is that allows for righties and lefties to orient the device however they want. The BeBook slides into the case either way up, so if you're left-handed and prefer to open the case the other way, you can do that. In fact, I think maybe the case was designed by a lefty since it seems to be more intuitive to open if you have the reader oriented for "left-handed" use - probably an accidental "undocumented feature" of the simple case design, but worth mentioning.

The device itself is really quite sleek - light, slim, easy to handle, especially when you slip it out of the cover. The surface has an almost sensual velvet feel to it, which is actually matte and kind of grippy - I'm probably just used to shiny slick electronic toys, and this semi-rough surface is different. Not sandpaper rough, but enough to feel very confident holding the device in one hand (two fingers) and not worrying you'll drop it. Again, not sure if this was intentional (no marketing blurb on this) but it's worth mentioning as the device is quite light and the matte finish means you can handle it and use it one-handed with ease.

The Interface...

All actions are taken via the menu/OK button (round concave button), return button (inset in the left quadrant of the return button - very nice), and the 10 number keys (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0). The number of the menu item or book you wish to choose is selected by pushing the corresponding number - a simple and intuitive interface, not as slick and glamorous as an Apple iPod or iPhone (let's face it, nobody does human-machine interfaces like Apple!), but it works well with minimal confusion! The number keys are in two rows of five, and the lower five also have a little icon for their secondary functions (6 = bookmark, 7 = Go To Index, 8 = Zoom, 9 = page back, 0 = page forward).

The page back/forward functions are also selectable from the dedicated page keys on the left side of the device near the display (another intrinsic "left-handed" design feature?) - but it's handy having two different page back/forward key positions. In addition, pushing page back/forward normally goes one page in the desired direction, whilst holding the page back/forward key for a second or so jumps 10 pages in the desired direction - also a very nice feature! Returning to the main menu/book list page is done via the return key (inset in the menu/OK key) - each push takes you back up one level.

Initial Operation...

The main way of charging the device is via USB, although you can purchase an AC power adapter (I see no point in this, as you can also just use an AC USB power adapter, easy to find in most computer accessory shops, cheap, and simple to use (any USB cable will connect, just like a PC). Once the battery was installed (about 60 seconds work) I connected the device to my computer - I'm a Mac user, so I was interested to see how things would go!

Basically the BeBook came to life once connected - it took less than 5 seconds to boot up (the progress bar at the bottom of the splash screen is kind of overkill, as this is no iLiad and goes from 1 bar to 2 bars then all the way to 10 in a flash because the boot up is so quick!).

And then we get to the first of many surprisingly nice little features this eReader has - a little info screen pops open at the bottom of the display saying: "To connect press OK", or "To charge battery press any other key." I have to admit I was a little surprised - for about 2 seconds - then I realized it was a cool idea! Especially as a Mac user, where external drives are mounted and must be ejected before disconnecting, I liked the idea of just connecting the USB to charge, without doing any transfers with the computer. So I pushed some other button, and sure enough the device sat there and began to charge.

I took a few minutes to browse the user manual (a paper copy is included, and this seems a little ironic given this is an eReader, but I guess it's nice to have the first time around) - the user manual is also pre-loaded on the device in English and French, as well as a bunch of eBooks (freebies, available from their web-site also, not the latest best-sellers). Once satisfied there was nothing dangerous involved in pushing buttons, I began to play. The user manual is in PDF so you can immediately check out the biggest question many people have - how does this thing handles PDFs?

Well, obviously the user manual is formatted pretty nicely for the device, but still it's a good first test of PDF readability. The BeBook has 3 pre-set zoom settings for PDFs - the first gives you the whole page, the second expands to the margins (and consequently cuts a few lines off at the bottom that you have to then flip the page to see), and the third basically does half a page at a time in landscape mode. In other modes such as reading an eBook, the zoom settings either give you 3 presets like for PDFs, or you get various text sizing options (usually 5 choices - (1) smallest, (2) small, (3) medium, (4) big and (5) biggest - logical!) so you can really vary the text size to whatever is comfy for you.

You can also push the power button once and the keypad is locked, avoiding "accidental" button pushes when you're done reading - just flip the cover closed and off you go, no need to power down. When in this mode the screen is blank with a little info bar at the bottom telling you the keypad is locked and pushing the power button again toggles it back to unlocked - simple! Holding the power button down for 3 seconds switches the BeBook off completely. When connected to a USB for charging and switched off, the device displays a cool little battery charging symbol (standard battery with a lightning bolt). The little indicator on the top left flashes orange while charging, flashes green while "doing" something (e.g. turning a page, opening a book). Once fully charged you get a little beep (once) then the indicator stays steady green (until you do something).

Reading - After All, That's Why I Bought It...

Slipping an SD card into the slot makes the device immediately switch the the SD-card "bookshelf." A menu item allows you to choose either SD-card or internal memory to browse (built-in memory is 512 MB - not bad, but I left all the original stuff that came on the device there for now, and use the SD-card exclusively for my books - I may change later).

Stored data basically follows a file hierarchy, so you can modify your data via a standard file manager / explorer (Finder in Mac OS X). This is a simple and effective way to manage your data, maybe without some advanced features you get using database tools like iTunes, but this method ensures compatibility with any computer (PC, Mac or Linux) and is easy to create/organize you books.

On the device, files can be sorted by name, date or type - just select the option from the menu. There is also a "Recently Read" list - handy for some who read multiple books/docs concurrently. Opening a previously opened books takes you back to where you left off - I have read in other reviews that some devices don't remember where you were, but this one seems to.

Books and Docs in the file list also get a simple icon depending on format (nice touch). Let me say that one question I had concerned the FB2 format - BeBook said they supported it, but no other devices explicitly say this, so the proof is in the reading. I have a lot of eBooks converted from various sources with Book Designer 4 into FB2 (a good open standard suitable for use on computer (e.g. Stanza will read them on the Mac, Haali Reader on PC) as well as on my Acer n10 Pocket PC using Haali Reader CE). I browsed my SD card, saw PDFs and FB2s all over the place, opened an eBook in FB2 format, held my breath and then... et voilà, the device handled it with ease! I know FB2 is a simple format, but everything was just right - now I can read my books with ease!

I've already mentioned the reading of the user manual in PDF format. I also loaded some work docs in PDF onto my SD card to see what happens. I have to say the PDF reader is impressive for a small screen device. Contrary to other comments (or perhaps because of other negative comments my expectations were lower?), I loaded a PDF (a Minutes of Meeting document, so mostly formatted text, with some tables) and was very pleasantly surprised at how it appeared.

PDF - The Bane Of Every eReader, But Not BeBook?

PDF Zoom 1: The default zoom is to view the whole page (minimum zoom) and although the text was a little smaller than I would set for an eBook, it was nonetheless perfectly clear and readable! In addition, the formatting was nicely displayed (tables) and there were also a few little graphics in the headers which appeared clearly (albeit in grey-scale as opposed to colour). All-in-all, very nice for a basic PDF on a small-ish screen.

PDF Zoom 2: I then hit the zoom button and the page zoomed in a little - basically the left/right margins were cropped, and the last few lines of the page disappeared (i.e. you have to page over to read them). This made the text size nice and readable, and would work well for mostly-text PDFs if you wanted to see most of the page at once. In this mode, the last two lines are grey, which means when you get to them you an hit the page key and by the time you finish, the page flips and you can continue reading the last few lines before flipping again to the next page - a nice convenience feature that shows they have put some thought into making an imperfect solution as friendly as possible.

PDF Zoom 3: Hitting zoom again goes to maximum zoom and basically gives half a page in landscape. Again, the text is very clear, well-sized, and everything is comfortably readable. If you don't mind flipping twice as many pages, this is probably the easiest to read PDF setting, and whilst it will cuts any figures in the middle of the page in two, I don't see this is a huge issue. Basically, unless you can afford the iRex DR1000 series, this little unit does a decent job on PDF (actually, more than decent IMHO - my expectations may have been slightly low due to so many gripes about PDFs and eReaders, but I like PDFs on this). PDF formatted eBooks also look pretty good, and usually don't need full zoom (Zoom 2 usually big enough for easy reading).

Other Formats...

BeBook also claims that they can handle PPT files (i.e. slideshows), so I dropped a couple on the SD-card. Surprisingly the file list identified not only PPT but also MS Word docs (not listed in the official format list!). So I took the plunge and opened one, expecting to experience my first device crash. On the contrary, the document paused a few seconds, gave me the "opening" icon, then... et voilà, I was reading a native Word document (i.e. not just RTF)! Very surprising, although it was a Word doc with text, no heavy duty graphics, tables, etc. - this I will try next! The default text was a little small, but this is easily remedied by choosing a larger text size - how easy is that? Well done!

PPT was not so happy - perhaps not surprisingly, as a slideshow can vary so much ion content. I tried to open one (albeit a large-ish file with quite a few graphics), but it didn't open. The device didn't crash, but the doc didn't open - more experimentation needed, especially since BeBook list this as a format they support. I opened another one, smaller but still with graphics, and this one worked. The slides initially appear in portrait display like PDFs, which means they're pretty much unreadable. Hitting Zoom gets them into landscape which works well for pictures and simple text, but heavy text slides can be too small to read easily.

I see the PPT format as a bonus for this kind of device, and whilst it can open some presentations, the readability is probably not great. However, I had exported the PPT into a PDF file for distribution, and this looked surprisingly good on the screen. Again, going to max zoom means you can read the slides pretty well (not as good as a PDF from a Word doc or ebook, but not bad at all). Again, the PDF handling of this little device is very good - not perfect, but extremely usable.

TXT and RTF documents can be viewed, but their formatting influences how well they appear - lines wider than the screen with hard returns will lead to alternating long and short lines as they are wrapped (not much you can do about this except remove the hard returns before loading it onto the device). RTF works well, although again the forced formatting can change the way different docs appear on the reader. Some formatting is not retained (like underlining, although rather bizarrely italicizing remains).

E-Books, of course...

After all, this is one of the main reasons for most of us to buy it. Basically, this device handles lost of formats. PDF and FB2 have already been mentioned. I especially liked the way both formats were handled - the PDFs for docs were easily readable, and PDF eBooks work just fine. FB2 was excellent, and looked great on screen, with lots of options for text sizing, etc. I also tried various other formats that the device recognized, the most important being MOBI. This is the big question for all users, since this is probably the largest DRM format around. reading the BeBook forum shows me that users are having minimal problems with DRM Mobipocket books, which is good news.

I have some non-DRM books to try now, and they work just fine. I'm not all that familiar with Mobi and the features of other readers, although no doubt some users will be unhappy with the dictionary support (or lack of). Not a big issue for me, and for many others, but I do hope this support improves in the future (at the moment, BeBook seem very committed to improving this device based on user wishes, so I at least will be asking for this feature to be improved, and I suggest others do to - in the current climate of user focus by BeBook we stand a good chance of getting results! - after some success they may lose focus, like other bigger companies (no names)).

Reading Mobipocket books is easy and comfortable. There is a choice of 3 text sizings, and you can also choose between 3 font types (Arial, Times Roman and IBOOKN). I believe you can also add fonts to the root directory of the SD card in a "fonts" folder and they can be substituted for the system fonts via the settings menu (I have not played around with this yet - the fonts are fine for me).

Not being familiar with Mobi readers on Palm or PPC I can't compare directly, but this device works for me. The Mobi books are easy to read easy to navigate, there are some settings which can be changed to suit your preferences, although it does have a "basic" feel to me. I think this can (and probably will) be expanded in the near future.

The BeBook also reads LIT format books, although the formatting is not great, but workable. I haven't tried other formats (yet) but am keen to see what this little toy can handle. It certainly seems to handle a lot formats pretty well.

My Personal Format Preference: I probably shouldn't say this, but I plan to use the device mainly for FB2 books - I will use Book Designer 4 to create my eBooks from other sources (it can handle most, including LIT, LRF, MOBI/PRC and sometimes even PDF) and turn them into lovely FB2 books. That's just my choice, and it's not essential as this device handle these formats anyway, but I just prefer to do it this way (I can do a quick how-to guide for people who are interested).

The Last Word...

As for my usage of the BeBook, I'm still getting used to it. I have been using an Acer n10 PPC for the past 4-5 years, small back-lit screen, PC interface, etc. The contrast is a little disconcerting at times. For starters, I keep worrying that the backlight will dim if I don't read the page fast enough and then flip to the next (power saving "feature" on the Acer) - of course, there's no backlight and I can probably leave the device on with the book open on a page for a week and still hardly impact the battery! My little Acer n10 would maybe get 4-5 hours full-on reading time before "lights out!"

The ~1 second delay in paging and sometimes 2-3 second delay in opening a new book is also distracting. For all its faults the PPC would "page" (i.e. scroll) instantaneously, which eInk devices, no matter who makes them, just don't do. The size of the device is also a plus and a minus - in some ways it's too small (A4 would be nice for PDFs, although not essential from my experience so far), and in others it feels kind of large (compared to a handheld PDA size). It is extremely light and easy to hold, and the buttons are nice to use, good positive response (you can feel when it has been pushed!). The cover works well, and protects it nicely.

Mac OS X: The only issue I've had is ejecting the device from my Mac (I have contacted BeBook about this). It's not a big problem, but when I connect the device to my Mac I can transfer files, etc. Then I should unmount/eject the drive before disconnecting. With the BeBook, two drives appear - one for the internal memory and one for the SD-card (if inserted). I eject one of these drives, and before I can eject the other the first one reconnects - a classic infinite loop! In the end, I just pull the (USB) plug - not great, because you always get an error warning saying the device was not ejected properly and data may be lost. Not an issue, because I always check that all files have copied onto the card before doing this, and I always try once (in vain) to eject it anyway. But it is annoying, and should not happen - I am awaiting BeBook's response.

The Bottom Line: The BeBook is a damn good device - period. It can handle heaps of formats, is easy to use, works as advertised, and has scope (and the company's willingness at the moment) to improve. If you want a reasonably priced device that doesn't lock you into a proprietary format (à la Sony and LRF or Amazon and Kindle), then this could be for you. Especially if you're in Euro-land and want a good device with good support.** And if you want some decent PDF capability, this device will work for many situations (I will be using it for work documents as well, and I will test some PDF text books shortly).

** Let's face it: iRex is just expensive and their support sucks - read their forums! Sony and Amazon are focussed on US business, and frankly I'm willing to look elsewhere in protest of their xenophobic attitudes. They can defend it as business reality, they can explain that wireless frequencies limit sale of their devices in other countries, but what it amounts to is a big f**k you to anyone outside Yankee-land. So I choose to send them a small f**k you in response, within the limits of my meagre consumer power, by choosing an alternative device - so the BeBook's not only a good user choice, but a fine political statement as well!

This is a great device - I'm very happy with it, and I'm an avid reader, so it'll definitely get a big workout from me.

Just as a test I saved this thread page as a complete HTML (i.e. html file plus a folder for graphics, etc.) and dumped it on the SD card of my BeBook. It does display, including the graphics (so my little BeBook avatar shows up). The formatting is not great, as some of the header stuff gets screwed up, and the tables of the thread page mean the text display gets put into a column and does not always use the full width of the page. Zooming allows you to improve it a little. Basically you can read the HTML and see graphics, but it may not look exactly like it doesin your browser in terms of hard formatting.

The format of the HTML page has a great impact on how it displays. As another example I went to a Wikipedia page and saved it as HTML, then selected the printable version and saved that as HTML as well as PDF, and put all those on the SD-card. Much better, as the pages are formatted nicely. There was little difference between the normal HTML and printable HTML pages (both with all graphics), except that the navigation pane from the main page had been dumped to the end of the document - convenient, as it serves no purpose on the BeBook (we're not browsing), but I think it was just lucky - it could have dumped it at the top, which is much messier. Actually the PDF in this case was not great in full page, but zooming to max (i.e. half page per view in landscape) made it very nice, with graphics and text formatted correctly, etc.

RTF files with graphics lose the graphics. However, I re-saved it in Word as a doc file and dumped that on, and amazingly that displayed fantastically! So you could save RTFs with graphics as Word files then read them.

Just out of interest, I also tried a CHM file (Microsoft Help Compiler) - I used the uTorrent help CHM, downloadable from their page. This worked surprisingly well - there was a little header formatting problem on each page (easy to ignore), but the body of the text was perfectly formatted. And best of all by going to the BeBook menu and choosing the "Go to index..." option, it effectively went to the table of contents you usually see in the left pane when you open a Microsoft CHM help file. This allows you to dig down into the lower sections and find exactly what you want, then jump to that page/section directly! I was surprised it worked so well, as I have seen threads here complaining about CHM support on other readers.

As for future BeBook support for HTML, anything is possible. I will post a query on their support forum to see if they will reveal some plans. As I said in my review, they're in the "honeymoon" phase at the moment, so very receptive and willing to listen. We'll see how things progress.
 
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回复:The March of the Kindle - The Economist 1 年, 2 月 之前 评分: 0  
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