Tag: non-book review

Ereader Review: Onyx Boox Poke2

Posted June 13, 2020 by Nicky in General / 28 Comments

The Onyx Boox Poke2

When it comes to ereaders, everybody knows about the Kindles and Kobos — there’s brand-name recognition there, even if you’ve never owned them. But they’re not the only ereaders out there, and I’ve been thinking for a while about getting hold of an ereader that’s a bit less tied to a specific ebook store. I haven’t loved the user interface on the most recent Kobos, and Kindle’s software has all the same flaws I found annoying when I owned a Kindle Keyboard.

I knew about the Onyx Boox ereaders, but I’d never even handled one, and there was no way to get to play with one in advance, so I was hesitant. The Poke2 is one of their newer models, and it didn’t really take me long to take the plunge when I read up on the specs. The selling point for me is that the Poke2 is built on Android, meaning that it can download any app on the Google Play Store: Amazon and Kobo, of course, but also various apps tied to libraries like Libby and BorrowBox, or subscription services like Scribd.

There are other neat features, like the screen light: you can adjust both the strength and the temperature of the light, to create a comfortable reading experience and to cut down on blue light. It’s one of the lightest and smallest readers out there, touted as the closest thing to the Kobo Mini that I adored (and would still use, had it only a built-in light). It’s also supposed to be better for PDFs than Kobo or Kindle. It can handle pretty much all the popular file types.

So, how was my experience?

Well, it wasn’t a joy to order it: they had very few units available due to delays in manufacturing during the pandemic, and then there were delays in dispatching and of course also delays with Fedex (although this is not their fault at all, and not really the fault of Fedex either; it’s just the way things are). Once it arrived, though… it’s a joy. I have both a Kindle Paperwhite and a Kobo Aura 2, which are pretty comparable with each other in terms of weight, shape and feel. I took some comparison pics with the Kindle:

Kindle Paperwhite on the left, compared with an Onyx Boox Poke2 on the left. Screen up.
Kindle Paperwhite on the left, Onyx Boox Poke2 on the right.

Kindle Paperwhite on the left, compared with an Onyx Boox Poke2 on the left. On their sides.I have to say that I’m a convert: the Poke2 feels slimmer and sharper, and the Kindle isn’t curved enough that it makes it significantly nicer to hold. From using it, I do have a slight problem that how I hold the Poke2 tends to cause me to very lightly touch the screen, because that margin really isn’t very wide. The more I read and get used to holding it, the less it happens.

I also got a free cover with the Poke2, and it’s pretty nice: it looks like fabric, but it’s waterproof and easy to clean. It’s super lightweight, and basically my only issue is that it’s fixed onto the ereader with sticky pads. I’ve never loved sticking my ereaders into covers, even if it does keep them very light. That said, I’ve found this cover the least obtrusive of any I’ve had, it has the sleep/wake function, it folds back on itself easily without creating an ugly crease, and it was free.

In terms of the software, it takes some setting up. It doesn’t come registered for Google Play immediately, and I couldn’t find out how to until I turned on the browser by chance. They do have instructions, once you do that, but it doesn’t necessarily leap to mind as the first thing to try! I also would not recommend the built-in reader: I find the sidebar annoying, and though there’s a large choice of fonts (and it’s easy to download and install more), I couldn’t get them as small as I wanted.

Once I did get myself set up, I was all good though. I ended up paying for Calibre Companion for easy sorting of my side-loaded books, and that has been worth the price already — I don’t have to connect my ereader via USB, just set up the link over wireless. You can actually drop books to it via wifi anyway, without Calibre Companion, but I already used Calibre and having that as the interface helps keep things organised.

I also have Libby and Borrowbox installed for library books, and I’ve rarely made so much use of the library; it’s just as easy as downloading them to my phone (which I always found to be too full of distractions for good reading time, though great while on the go). With the Kindle and Kobo apps as well, I can access both my collections. When I want to read the side-loaded books, so far I’ve been using Moon+ Reader, but anything where you can disable animations, set a plain white background and use black text will work just fine.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for something that just works out of the box, you’re still looking at a Kindle, Kobo or another of the established players. The Onyx Boox Poke2 is much more what you make of it, and you can customise a lot of things. That means setting it up can be a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve got the Play Store authorised, you’re home free if you’re used to using Android. It runs on Android 9, so it’ll be around for a while, and it adds a lot of convenience to accessing a diverse ebook collection. I love the feel and weight of it, and for me the customizability is a plus.


Custom screensavers on the Poke2

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Classics via daily serial

Posted September 26, 2016 by Nicky in General, Reviews / 0 Comments

Seeing Maximum Pop!‘s review of trying out the app Serial Reader gave me an idea for a discussion post, since it looks like that’s one of the things people are looking for around here! Serial Reader, if you hadn’t heard of it, is an app which breaks up various classic books into chunks of about 10-15 minutes reading time, and delivers them to your phone at a set time each day. I started using it a couple of weeks ago, and have already read Ayn Rand’s Anthem, and got almost halfway through Austen’s Emma.

Screencap of the Serial Reader app on Android

Do I like the experience? Yes, actually. My problem with some books has been that I don’t really want to sit down with them and spend any appreciable time with them. Like Anthem, for example. Whereas reading just an extract a day — which takes me rather less than 10-15 minutes, usually — is easy. The divisions usually come in reasonably sensible places, like the end of a chapter or poem, and because I get a notification every day, I find myself reading classics very coherently by installments. I don’t think it’d work for me if I just tried to read the book a chapter at a time or something: it’s the little nudge that makes it easier.

My best experience is perhaps with reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry; I’ve never particularly enjoyed it, but with a very short selection every day, there’s no harm in focusing on what you do get. And while I haven’t suddenly been converted, I’ve enjoyed it more than I expected.

There’s quite a good range of books available on the app, too. One of my next up is On the Origin of Species, because it’s really high time I read that. But there’s also Sherlock Holmes stories, Gothic novels, American classics, H.G. Wells…

I’m not so sure about paying the (admittedly small) onetime fee to get access to the ‘read later’ and ‘read ahead’ features — after all, most if not all of these books are public domain, and you can get them free and read ahead as much as you like — but they’re not really essential to the basic idea, which I plan to stick with. I just keep my list of books to try later in my BulletJournal!

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Review – Illumicrate Box #2

Posted February 17, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Illumicrate is a newish book box subscription service, mailing out four times a year, priced at £30 per box. The second box arrived Monday morning, a couple of days after shipping, and as with the first box, it looks great and is packaged really well. Before we go on, of course, I must warn that there are spoilers below for the contents of the box!

I’m really pleased with this box, as I’ve been doubtful about book subscription services, but both Illumicrate boxes have contained some stuff I love. It’s never going to be 100% for anyone, I think, but I do enjoy the stuff and I’d be quite happy to buy other things from the various suppliers. This quarter’s box contains:

  • Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard. I’ve heard so much about this book! Looking forward to reading it.
  • “Threadsisters” bookmark via Daydreaming Designs. What better than a matching bookmark? 
  • Bookcase pouch from Elena IllustrationCute! And just perfect for my markers.
  • Magnetic bookmarks from BeeDooThese are cute too, and bookmarks are always gonna go down great with bookworms.
  • “A Darker Scent of Magic” Grey London candle from Simple Candle CoI don’t know if everyone got the same A Darker Shade of Magic themed candles, but this is neat and I like the scent.
  • Bookish quote pencils from Pobble and PingOne of mine says “I’d rather be reading”. Yep!
  • Other small bits including The Dark Days Club badges, a tote bag, bookmarks…

Photo of the second Illumicrate box, including the book Truthwitch and some extra goodies

I’d say this one is definitely worth the subscription price, and I’m looking forward to the next box already!

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Review – Illumicrate Box #1

Posted November 26, 2015 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Illumicrate is a new book box subscription service, mailing out four times a year, priced at £30 per box. The plan is for it to contain new releases, mostly young adult, and the first box went out in early November. It’s always really exciting to get mail, to me anyway, and especially when it’s a surprise. I haven’t signed up to a book subscription service before, though I’ve been tempted; I’m always a little unsure about whether the book is actually going to be something I’m interested in.

Well, with this box, the contents were the following:

The box itself looks gorgeous: the design is great — simple but distinctive. Everything was well packed, too. I was glad to get Wolf by Wolf — it’s a book I’ve been thinking about getting anyway, and now, well, I have it! The matching bookmark is nice, too: the design fits perfectly with the cover art, but it’s also attractive on its own.

The necklace is quite unique, made of wood with an engraved quotation from the Hunger Games series: “If we burn, you burn with us.” It looks a little odd in shape — I wouldn’t have realised what it was without the description — but I kind of like it anyway. Definitely unique. Harry Potter is not my thing, so someone else is going to get the benefit of the poster, but it’s nice enough that a fan should enjoy it. And the little mirror is cute; I don’t have much use for one, but if I did, it’d be one that talks about books.

I’m not 100% sure that Illumicrate is going to be my thing, since I’m not always a fan of popular YA, but I’m going to stay subscribed for now and see what the next box is like. I think it’s always going to be the problem with a subscription box that sometimes it just isn’t going to fit your interests. Illumicrate is beautiful and the first box was near-enough the target that I’m happy to see what’s next.

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Review – LookHuman.com

Posted August 3, 2015 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

For some odd reason, I have no book review scheduled for today. I imagine I moved them around at some point and missed one. To avoid doing that again, today’s post is a review of a website instead. Ever felt like you really need some gear that displays your one true fandom — books? HUMAN have gotcha covered. Here’s just one of the shirts I got from them…

Photo of me, wearing a grey sweatshirt with the text "If I can't take my book, I'm not going"

There’s a lot of other awesome designs available. Like books and puns? How about “I’ve been inside all day and I can only blame my shelf“?

The quality of the shirts is good. The raglan is a large, because it’s a junior fit; on me it’s long enough, but if you have a long torso, it might not be long enough. It’s worth taking some measurements to check. The raglan is really really cosy, and I’m more than a bit in love with it. The unisex athletic t-shirts are also pretty good: the fabric feels nice, and the print doesn’t seem prone to flaking off or degrading like some custom t-shirts I’ve had.

Not a big enough fan of books to wear it (heh) on your sleeve? How about a Pokemon exercise joke? There’s a lot of really cool designs.

Shipping-wise, I ordered my first shirt on the 17th July. It was shipped by the 20th, and with me by the 28th. Can’t say fairer than that considering it had to be printed and then come from the US!

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Review – Blloon

Posted March 30, 2015 by in Reviews / 4 Comments

I don’t normally review services on my blog, but since this one is an ebook subscription service, it seems pretty relevant! I came across Blloon a little while ago through another blogger. I can’t figure out who that was, but I think it was a regular visitor here, so please do let me know and I’ll give you the credit.

I’ve been looking for an ebook subscription service for a while, but it looked like the best ones were in the US or really limited when it comes to serving other countries. I do have a Scribd subscription too, because of the access to so many comics on there — finally read Lumberjanes, last week, and my recent attempt on Daredevil was through them as well. But they don’t have a lot of more recent books.Screenshot of the Blloon app

Enter Blloon! I was surprised to note as soon as I opened the app that they have some very recent and high profile releases on offer — The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, for example — and I found a fair number of books I’m interested in. To give you just an idea of my list so far, it’s got some Mercedes Lackey, Robin McKinley, Kelly Link, various non-fiction books… And I’m sure there’s plenty more to discover. There are several ways to discover new books too, with a section of highlights, some reading lists (including one to help you diversify your reading called “Not Reading White Men”!), and of course you can also browse by genre.

As for their subscription model, it’s a very flexible one. You can pay monthly for a certain number of pages (500 or 1,000 are the options at present), or you can buy packs of top-up pages. These pages roll over each month, so you don’t have to use them all up to feel like you’re getting the best of your subscription. You can also earn them by giving feedback, sharing the link, and even net 50 pages by following them on Twitter. The first 10% of every book is free, too, so you can test drive it before you ‘spend’ your pages.

So far, I haven’t spent much time actually reading on Blloon. For one thing, for a reader like me reading a 400 page book every day or two, even 1,000 pages a month could be exhausted in less than a week. For me, it’s probably going to be a supplement to my usual sources, for when I really want a book right away or it’s not available on Kobo or whatever. Still, the interface is nice: clean and simple, and you can adjust font size and the background, depending on what’s comfortable for you. My only quibble really is that it doesn’t flip orientation with my iPad, so if it’s on its stand I’m tilting my head while I’m checking for stuff on Blloon, and I couldn’t read like that (though Sarah from Blloon assures me that there’s an update this very week to fix that). More customisation options might be nice if you need to change the font, but the basic features are all there.

All in all, I definitely recommend Blloon. They’re friendly, helpful, and they have an interesting selection available including most Open Road Media reprints. It is limited to iOS in the UK, at least for the moment, but within the UK it’s easily the best option.

And, pssst. If you want to net me 200 extra pages in my ‘wallet’, sign up to Blloon using this link! Mum, that means you.

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