imageHere’s my experience after two hours with the ECTACO jetBook-Lite, an AA-battery-operated dedicated e-book reader with a very nice black-and-white non-backlit LCD screen instead of an E Ink display.

I bought this specifically to read eReader-formatted books from Fictionwise is promoting the jetBook-Lite on its site.

Despite Fictionwise’s ad here, which shows "Dictionary" as the first menu choice (click on photo for detailed view), dictionary lookup is not supported with eReader files. It works only with plain text files—or maybe with some other formats—but not with eReader, whether DRM’d or not.

Really, Fictionwise-folk, you must take down that picture; it is misleading advertising.

Now, here is the un-effing-believable part. You have to enter your eReader unlock code (the credit-card number used to purchase the book] for each book. It’s a pain in the ASCII to do so, since the device has no keyboard, virtual or otherwise. It remembers the code for books you’ve already opened, but you have to enter it for each new book.

It took me about 90 seconds to enter my name, after I figured out how to do it. The credit-card number wasn’t nearly as hard, but still the whole process takes about two minutes in total, and is very frustrating. I have never seen a device that supports eReader format that requires you to re-enter the exact same name and credit card information for each commercial book you open.

Features found in eReader software on other platforms that are not supported by the ECTACO jetBook-Lite:

  • dictionary lookup
  • highlighting
  • annotating
  • word search
  • hyperlinked table of contents
  • seeing how many pages/screens are in the current chapter
  • setting margin widths (and they’re way too narrow by default)
  • toggling justification on/off (it is stuck ON for eReader files; it can be toggled for plain text files, though)

Font choices: Arial (sans-serif) or Verdana (also sans-serif) in various sizes. No serif face available.

Features the device does have:

  • Portrait and landscape: supported.
  • Auto-page turn: supported.

Actual formatting of books seems fine (well, ellipsis points that are coded as three periods with spaces between them sometimes split over two lines, which is wrong); none of the unbelievably bad formatting errors found with eReader books on the Foxit eSlick are in evidence on the jetBook. Forcing justification on is wrong, though; it should be a user-choice (justified lines look particularly bad on small screens, such as this device has).

The physical device is actually quite nice with decent enough ergonomics, and it’s comfortable in the hand.

The screen is very good, and one forgets how annoying the slow screen change on an E Ink device is until one sees something with a similar-looking screen that does it instantly.

One also forgets how irritating the ghosting onE Ink devices is until using one that doesn’t exhibit that behavior.

The poor eReader support—no dictionaries, no way to turn off justification, making you enter your credit-card number every time you open a new book—makes this pretty irritating as a device for reading premium content from Fictionwise.

As a plain ASCII text viewer (Project Gutenberg, anyone?), it’s actually rather nice: justification on/off as you please, and dictionary support. But for eReader DRM’d books? Ugh — I can live with the other deficiencies for the time being, but the need to enter my credit card number for every new book is a show-stopper.

For those in Canada, like me, ECTACO ships from a Canadian warehouse, by the way, so you avoid customs hassles (Americans get the device from the US warehouse). That’s nice; and shipping was cheap.

Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Rob’s blog and is reproduced with his permission. Big thanks, Rob. For a different, more upbeat perspective, see Engadget, source of the video. Also check out Rob’s review of the eSlick, also advertised on Fictionwise. Rob tells me: “I bought both devices because I was curious about them, and in my line of work, they’re tax-deductible (and the Micropay rebates were huge, especially if you’re a Buywise Club member at Fictionwise, where you get an extra 15% in rebates on purchases over $100).” Given Rob’s less-than-stellar experiences, I’ll contact Fictionwise to see if upgrades are on the way for the FW versions of the eSlick and jetBook-Lite, and if the company wants to respond in any more ways. TeleRead welcomes e-book-related reviews from other community members.  – D.R.


  1. Lots of e-ink devices — the Foxit eSlick and the iRex iLiad — exhibit ghosting (a faint image of the content previously displayed on the screen, even after a screen refresh). It’s not permanent, and it goes away after a few page changes. Google “e-ink ghosting” (without the quotes) and you’ll find 67,000 hits on this topic.

  2. My jetBook (no Lite) experience matches Mr. Sawyer’s non-eReader comments pretty well. The eReader firmware upgrade for the regular jetBook hasn’t made it out of ECTACO (yet?). Since I don’t use DRMed content on general principle, the lack-of/poor eReader support hasn’t bothered me. In general, for non-DRM text in a wide variety of formats, it’s a very pleasant reader.

    OTOH, I’m not retiring my PDA, since night-time reading is much more convenient on a backlit LCD.

    Jack Tingle

  3. DRM sucks! Search for to solve your problems! I got my wife the same e-book reader for Christmas and I have successfully downloaded a few books for her (protected mobipocket, again the ads that I saw were somewhat misleading and I assumed that it could read this format but it is fairly easy to remove the mobipocket drm as well).

    I also recommend a program called Calibre to do conversions for any ebook reader as it allows you to convert unprotected content to a number of formats (and set your own margins).

    For a little over $100 I think it is a pretty solid e-reader.

    It’s not an e-ink display either, I believe it is LCD (?).

  4. David Lomax, thank you! 🙂

    Adam Gott, yes, you’re right the ECTACO jetBook – Lite does NOT use an e-ink display; it uses a non-backlit LCD. I’m frankly astonished at how nice the display is: crisp resolution, very good contrast, nice matte finish to the screen (so no significant glare). I wouldn’t go so far personally as to say it’s as good as an e-ink display, but my wife likes the look of it better than the eSlick (which DOES have an e-ink display).

  5. Robert – I haven’t experienced any ghosting like you describe on my Sony PRS-505, nor do any of my friends who also have one. It’s possible that the way Sony refreshes the page prevents this, or just that it’s more modern technology than what you’ve used. Presumably the 16-grayscale screens and/or newer display controllers are just as good, if not better. It’s definitely avoidable and not what I’d call a consistent issue with eInk screens.

  6. I have had a JetBook Lite a week now but I found I only had to enter my credit card number once. When I went to the second e-book it just opened.

    I have firmware v0.14n patch hv15 as delivered.

    Dictionary and Find are indeed missing from both eReader and PDF drivers which is annoying.

    They are present in all the others, (plain) txt, fb2, HTML, rtf, mobi/prc

    The PDF claims to have hyperlink and Table of Contents support but the examples I tried didn’t do anything. There is no support for the mobi TOC either, a manual Find is needed.


  7. Thank you for your review. A few months ago, I began transitioning to ebook reading and a few weeks ago I began selling my entire paper book library collection. I’ve found that the JBL is pretty much everything I need.

    And to update a few things, firmware update .15d allows you to use the dictionary on ereader and pdf as well as making it necessary to enter the unlocking name and credit card number once. You can download their latest firmware and read their instructions on how to install the firmware at their website.

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