But it’s not all bad news for the Libre Air. There are also some good things about it. One of the cooler things is that it’s got auto rotate capability, which lets you orient your screen by turning it sideways or right-side-up. For the record, this only works if you turn the device horizontally to the left for landscape view, then back to the right for regular reading, but that’s not a big deal. You can also turn the option off if auto rotate’s not your thing.
There’s also a pretty nifty auto page turn option that you can set to take place every 5, 10, 20, 30 seconds (all the way up to a full minute) if you’d rather not bother physically manipulating the paging controls. I’m not sure what this would be used for except to maybe provide a more hassle free reading experience while driving – which is always a grand idea – but the option’s there.
The sensitivity and responsiveness of the aforementioned directional controller works impressively well, with one important exception: the Kobo bookstore itself. Here, words like cumbersome, cumbrous, and unwieldy just aren’t strong enough to describe the experience. And therein lies the real Achilles’ heel of the Libre Air. Browsing the online bookstore was, for me, a nightmare. Coupled with the fact that in order to type to search for a specific title or author you have to multi-tap the numeric keys like you would when sending a traditional text, you suddenly come to the realization that this may not be the coolest little eBook reader ever made. Sure, the book download speeds are decent – but considering the mini eternity it took me to type my user ID and password in on the Kobo bookstore, anything would have seemed quick in comparison. Once you’ve got a book loaded, it’s a downhill ride. Getting there, though, is a serious pain.
eBook manufacturers always like to throw monkey wrenches into the works to really confuse nitpicky people like myself and try to win us over with bonus features. In this regard, Aluratek’s actually done a decent job. For one, unlike its previous incarnation, the Libre Air is Wi-Fi enabled, .
The Libre Air tries to make up for some of its shortcomings by bringing with it 100 – that’s right, count ‘em up, 100 – pre-loaded eBooks that run the gamut from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Wuthering Heights. Of course all of the titles are classics in the public domain, so don’t go expecting to find World War Z – but there should be plenty there to strike your fancy and get you reading straight away.
The Libre Air also comes with a built-in audio player and picture viewer, both of which can be manually loaded without too much hassle by connecting the eReader to your computer via a provided USB cable and simply clicking and dragging. Thankfully, there’s none of that annoying “sync” talk and the process is simple and intuitive. The audio player supports MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and OGG formats – but the only drawback is there are no speakers on the Libre Air and so you have to wear ear buds (which are provided). The picture viewer supports JPG, BMP, an GIF formats. On the topic of formats, the Libre Air supports a wide variety of eBook formats including EPUB, PDF, and non-DRM TXT, FB2, MOBI, PRC, and RTF.
If you’re going to spend $129 on an eBook reader, unless you’ve got a particular axe to grind against Amazon it makes all the sense in the world to spend a few dollars more and spring for a Kindle instead. I might even go so far as to say that a NOOK would be a better alternative – it’s certainly far more competitively priced. All things considered, the price tag for the Libre Air is far too high for its functionality and its frustrating quirks. If knocked down to a far more affordable $75, I might have a different recommendation. But at current prices, it’s a skipper, not a keeper.