With the latest firmware version installed (1.7), the Libre powers up in about 5 seconds. With previous versions, it took much longer – so long in fact, I thought the device was broken. Kudos to Aluratek for fixing the issue. When powered on, the Libre will automatically take you to the last page displayed before it shut down.
Page turns are also speedy. It’s faster than eInk, in fact. After pressing the page turn button or tapping the slider, the page refreshes almost instantaneously – another minor LCD advantage.
Unfortunately, the Libre is sluggish when it comes to other tasks, like zooming in and out of the page and changing the screen orientation. The same applies to accessing and changing many device settings. I’m guessing the Libre just doesn’t have the same processing power as the other, more expensive eReaders.
Another drawback is battery life. One advantage the Kindle, Nook, and other eInk-based eReaders have over the iPad is that the eReaders can go for weeks between charges. Even though the Libre’s monochrome LCD consumes less power than a side or backlit LCD, it’s relatively power hungry compared to the Kindle and Nook. Aluratek claims a full battery is good for 24 hours of continuous use, which blows the iPad away, but isn’t nearly as impressive as other devices in its class. I personally had to recharge the device once while breezing through Stephen King’s Blockade Billy, although I spent a few hours also navigating through the Libre menus and testing out the functions.
In addition to eBooks, the Libre also plays back MP3 files. Interestingly, Aluratek did not outfit the Libre with speakers, so music must be enjoyed via headphones.
I have no problem with that. My standard line with eReaders is that I want to read on them, not listen to music. That you can play music at all is a bonus.
I can imagine a crafty youth taking advantage of the function by listening to a Jane Austen novel on MP3 (freely available with a quick Google search) instead of reading it for school. The Libre also has a “Background Music” feature, which allows you to play music while reading. It’s a nice touch, but the Libre has trouble with multitasking and becomes sluggish when playing music and displaying an eBook.
There is a reason eReaders did not take off as a product class before they started supporting WiFi. Getting content on them was simply a pain. The same can be said for the WiFi-less Libre. It ships with a foldout “Guide to Purchase & Download Ebooks from www.ebooks.com,” and it outlines the procedure of loading content onto the Libre in 26 steps. Twenty-six steps! The entire process involves purchasing and downloading the books to your desktop, downloading and installing Adobe Digital Editions, registering an Adobe ID, then using Adobe Digital Editions to extract the eBook and install it onto the Libre via USB.
The process for the Borders eBookstore is approximately the same. Once you go through the 26-step process, and have Adobe Digital Editions installed and your Adobe ID set up, downloading and installing books is much simpler. But the fact that Aluratek had to enclose a foldout instruction sheet with the Libre speaks to the comic awkwardness of the endeavor.
Power readers will be disappointed in the Libre’s lack of reading features. You can set bookmarks, jump to specific pages, and auto turn the pages at various intervals. There is a “Find” feature that lets you search through text for certain keywords, but I could only get it to work with the TXT files that shipped on the SD card, not the EPUB books I ordered from Borders. You can also adjust the font from Vera Sans to Vera Serif and change the menu language to French from English, but the eBooks remain unaffected.