Monday, August 13, 2007

My Irex Illiad eBook: The End of the Road

My long odyssey with the Irex Illiad had come to an end. It is surprising how much I mind!

This device and I have had a love/hate relationship since the day I got it. I love the crisp display and the form factor (5x8) and the fact that it can read protected Mobipocket files. I hate the slow screen refresh rate, the lame excuse for built in wireless connectivity, and the awkward power cord arrangement.

And then there is the annoying problem of page skipping with the Illiad/Mobipocket implementation. Every now and then you flip the page and instead of turning one page it turns some random number of them. You may be reading page 84, turn the page expecting to see page 85 and there you are on page 97. Annoying! But the real annoyance is not the page skipping but having to page back to where you were. Did I mention that the screen refresh rate is painfully slow?

Since I am an old Beta tester I just lived with the inconvenience and kept checking the Irex site for software updates that would presumably address and fix the problem.

Well, It’s all over now.

Tuesday night I started reading Paul Schmidtberger’s Design Flaws of the Human Condition. The first 100 pages were really enjoyable. But I finally forced myself to switch the thing off and go to bed.

Wednesday after work, I grabbed the device and turned it on as I headed to kitchen to get something to drink. It takes a long time to actually power up. I came back, picked up the ebook, took a look at the screen and promptly swore (I couldn’t help it!).

The screen had a great collection of horizontal lines down the left side and more vertical lines across the middle. These lines totally interfered with any ability I might have to actually see anything else. Being the eternal optimist, I figured it was just a screen refresh problem, so turned the machine off and back on: the magic electronic bullet – if it doesn’t work repower.

Great idea except that it didn’t work. The lines didn’t disappear. In fact, they stayed exactly the same even when the machine was turned off: permanent white lines everywhere.

This device is less than a year old and theoretically under warranty so I went to the Irex site and fired off an email to customer support asking for help. This is Sunday evening (4 days later and counting) and still no response from Irex!

In the meantime I started researching. Well, come to find out, this is a common problem with the e-ink screen. Evidently this $900! device, sold for portability has a screen so fragile that it breaks down on a regular basis. Great!

And if that isn’t bad enough, it seems that Irex will gladly replace the screen if you pick up the shipping costs to and from the Netherlands, part with 300 Euros (about 400 US dollars) and are willing to wait 4-6 weeks.

Of course to accomplish even this, you need to get someone from Customer Support to actually answer your email.

At this point I am not sure which part I mind the most: the lack of communication, the money or the fact that I still don’t know what happened to Iris and Ken.

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