Rocket eBook Pro

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - With newspapers, magazines, and even greeting cards springing up online, print on paper seems to be headed the way of the dodo. NuvoMedia Inc. hopes its Rocket eBook Pro will do the same thing for books. This paperback-size handheld device stores electronic versions of books, offering avid readers an innovative way to haul around a modest library. But don't shed any tears for the printed word just yet-NuvoMedia needs to fix a weighty design flaw if the eBook is to gain wide acceptance.

The setup process is easy enough: you just insert the RocketLibrarian CD-ROM, click on the icon, and follow the instructions. The eBook's cradle hooks up easily to a serial port; iMac, G3, and G4 users will need a USB adapter.

Our unit came with two preloaded titles-Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and an electronic dictionary-along with an electronic user's guide. To store additional books on your eBook, you have to download them from NuvoMedia's Web site or from a retailer's site. Downloading is a snap: we were able to order an electronic copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from http://www.barnesandnoble.com, download it, and store it on the eBook in about 10 minutes. You can store roughly 40 paperbacks on the eBook Pro. (The less expensive standard model, the $199 Rocket eBook, can store about 10 books.) You can delete titles from the eBook, though they remain stored on your Mac's hard drive.

The eBook includes some handy features, most notably a long battery life.

NuvoMedia claims the battery will last up to 40 hours with the backlight feature turned off. We kept our eBook on for more than 2 hours and barely made a dent in the battery's power supply. Other nice features include the ability to add bookmarks, underline text, and write notes to yourself using a stylus and an interface reminiscent of a Palm Pilot's. The eBook even looks like an oversize PDA. But at 22 ounces, it's heavier than most handheld devices-certainly heftier than your typical paperback. Another design flaw is that the eBook is bottom-heavy, making it awkward to hold.

Other issues to keep in mind are cost and selection. Some electronic books sell for less than their print counterparts-as much as 60 percent less for older titles. Other electronic books cost more than their print counterparts. In any case, the $269 you'd spend on the eBook Pro could buy an armload of books. And at this point there are simply more books available in print than in electronic form; Barnes and Noble's Web site lists about 2,400 electronic titles.

Macworld's Buying Advice

With its large storage capacity and long battery life, the Rocket eBook Pro is ideal for bibliophiles on the go. But casual consumers may find the steep price off-putting, and the eBook's heft may leave readers pining for old-fashioned paperbacks.

RATING: 3.5 mice

PROS: Easy setup; downloading electronic books is a snap.

CONS: Bulky and awkward; expensive.

COMPANY: NuvoMedia (877/776-2538, http://www.rocket-ebook.com).

LIST PRICE: $269.

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