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Wink fires a blank
The Wink XTS e-reader supports 15 Indian languages - at least that's what EC Media boasted when they announced its release. But the piece I received for review actually has 25 languages (besides English), but none of those are Indian. Well, so much for its primary USP for this market. Now while indigenous scripts are not supported in its menu system, the device does allow you to read local text.
Language support aside, I have never been a big fan of e-books, and I fought the lure of e-ink until two recent incidents forced me to consider a digital reader as an option. Incident One saw me packing for a one-week holiday and I was torn between choosing the heavy Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy hardbound or the equally humongous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Given the economy my haversack offered, I meekly settled for a third "non-option" : a smaller and lighter Dan Brown paperback. I had six days to regret that decision.
Incident Two involves my mum, who has always borrowed books from me. When she stopped suddenly, I just had to ask why. Apparently, the arthritis in her hands made it tough for her to hold the heavy hardbounds for extended periods of time - and the paperbacks were in "uncomfortable small print". That did it. If I owned an e-book reader, I could have carried the Hitchhiker's Guide and the Lord of the Rings on my holiday. And given the font flexibility - both size and type - my mum could also borrow the light-weight device. So with these thoughts in mind, I jumped at the idea of reviewing the Wink. And if it worked for me, I was going to be one of its early adopters.
Sadly, it didn't.
First, I hated how long the Linuxbased device took to boot up. My netbook running Windows XP beat it most of the time. Secondly, the advertised Wi-Fi could not detect my home network. Any search for wireless connectivity at my dwelling detects at least three to four different networks, including those belonging to my neighbours. The XTS proudly refused to acknowledge any of them. Of course, the Wink offers you the option to buy and download books via a computer and USB, but still...
(Subsequently, when contacted about the Wi-Fi issue, EC Media sent a replacement piece - and this second gadget worked. )
Coming to ergonomics: The two buttons for 'turning' pages on the Wink are situated on the left side, which means the majority of right-handed users will have to handle the device with both hands. And while the build quality of the gadget seems robust, the responsiveness of its QWERTY keys leaves a lot to be desired: Typing a memo - yes it has a memo option - or annotating a book passage is a tedious task.
Keys are unresponsive - and when they do respond, it is with utter disdain for what you intended to type. Try a 'Constantinople', and you'll probably end up with 'ontaniple'. Those with little patience better not attempt a 'deoxyribonucleic acid'.
And yes, I barely got through 73 pages of a Mark Twain novel before I had to recharge the device again. (Again, the replacement piece demonstrated better battery life, but nowhere near the promised 8, 000 page turns).
On the positive side, the e-ink display is easy on the eye, and the XTS supports formats such as ePUB, TXT, RTF, PDF, DOC, HTML, WOLF, CHM, FB2 and DJVU. Fonts are easily resized and that's quite a plus, especially when it comes to the elderly. The Wink also plays MP3s and AAC audio files, and does it decently. The packaged headphones are no Sennheisers, but they aren't bad either. And then there's the online Winkstore that currently has over 2 lakh titles.
So what's my final take? At Rs 11, 500, I think the Wink is expensive, especially when it doesn't deliver on so many levels. But seeing that the XTS is EC Media's maiden launch, things can only get better. Also, I think the Wink is sitting on a huge demographic that it needs to look at: School kids that lug around huge bags full of text books. Catering to this untapped audience would enable EC Media leverage on economies of scale to get the prices of their forthcoming devices down.
In my idealistic world, all e-book readers would be available at ultra-nominal costs - or practically free - with people only having to pay for the copyrighted content they purchase. Till then, my sights are set on something that at least delivers what it promises.
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