Borders eReader: Slow but steady loses the ereader race

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re thinking to yourself, “[expletive may or may not be deleted or may not even be considered because you don’t use those words (until now)] not another [more expletives deleted] ereader. What could Borders have that the others don’t?” then this review will do little more than confirm your suspicions.

The only reason to buy books through the Borders ereader is out of brand loyalty. Loyalty which, in this case, isn’t really deserved.


Announcement:
For readers still wishing they could read all their eReader.com books on the IPad, there’s good news. Stanza which I reviewed last June, will accept your ereader.com account information and download all of the books on your bookshelf. If you have the iPhone version of eReader on your iPad, this might not work. But why would you want it anyway?


Borders ereader

  • Is really pretty.
  • Is really pretty.
  • Did I say it’s really pretty?

As beautiful as it is, it reminds me of those houses that you admire until you step inside and realize the owners can’t furnish them because they spent all their money on a beautiful house.

  • No notes
  • No word lookup
  • No syncing
  • Nothing you can’t find in another ereader you probably already use.

In addition, I discuss the manifestation of Freudian paradigms in rescue dogs, describe a hypothetical focus group, and poke fun at people who never quite grasped what it meant to be hip.

Doggie with a death wish

We recently rescued a Papillon from my own sister. Normally I would make snide remarks about people who put their pets up for adoption or rescue, but in this case it really was in the dog’s best interest. Papillon’s suffer a congenital tendency to retinal detachment and blindness, and by the time Aimee called us, Bandit was almost totally blind.

Most breeders breed this tendency out. But Bandit’s breeders didn’t. And Bandit was already a third-hand dog. Aimee’s best friend passed Bandit off on her because he was too hyper and her husband was allergic and he really needed a house with a better yard and all the usual excuses. And Bandit was just fine until Gary and Aimee moved into a house with a pool.

Bandit loved to jump into Aimee and Gary’s pool. Only he couldn’t swim and would sink straight to the bottom. Aimee or Gary would drag him out, dry him off and carry him back to the house. They couldn’t understand why he kept running into the pool.

My theory was that he was following the lead of my oldest nephew Stephen, who thought it would be hilarious to ride his bike into the pool. Even after parental panic and punishment, Stephen still thought it was a great ride because he is one of those boys who believes punishment is certain proof that he was on the right track. Bandit, who feeds off my nephews’ excitement, decided he should try it too.

When we learned he was almost blind, that seemed to explain his behavior even better. And there was no question of keeping him indoors because two boys in elementary school will never remember to close the door behind them.

So we adopted Bandit and discovered two things. First, he is extraordinarily bright. This surprises me because I believe the world’s smartest dog is still dumber than the world’s dumbest cat. Except for Teddy Bear who would manage to lose a thought if it ever stumbled into his head. But Bandit is smart. Smart in a very stupid way. We spent thousands of dollars to erect a fence to keep him in the yard whenever we let him out to run off his boundless Papillon hyperkinetic DADD (doggie attention deficit disorder) energy. Since we have no pool, this seemed to be perfectly safe.

One week after the fence went up, we got a call from a neighbor telling us they had Bandit. We checked the gates, tightened the gaps between the gate and the post so that even a mouse couldn’t get through and a week later someone found him a quarter mile away wandering across the most heavily trafficked road in the area.

We wrapped the gate chains at the bottom as well as the top. Carol checked on him every ten minutes. A week later, satisfied he couldn’t get out, Carol went into the laundry room. We received a call from a convenience store that he was chasing cars he couldn’t even see in the parking lot.

Finally Carol hid out of sight in the back yard and watched him. After an hour, he pried open a tiny gap in the corner of the fence, struggled to squeeze through it, almost like a creature morphing in a science fiction movie, and trotted out into the road to bark at a passing pickup truck.

Three thousand dollars later and after the installation of an inner fence with a narrower mesh designed to reinforce any possible gaps in the outer fence, Carol watched him for a week, and he never left.

Last week she left him by himself for half an hour. When she went outside he was in the driveway, lifting his leg and peeing on the fender of Carol’s brand new Honda that we bought after her Honda she’d with 200,000 miles finally gave up the ghost. Last night he was barking at the neighbor’s door, trying to figure out why we weren’t letting him in.

That’s when I knew the real problem. Bandit has a death wish. It explains everything: the near drownings, running down the highway and peeing on Carol’s brand new Honda. It explains why he always bites our Neanderthal dog Chutney’s tail and then throws himself into her snarling teeth.

Or why he always tries to get into the pen with the horses when Carol takes him to the rescue ranch. He can’t wait to collide with those hooves.

Bandit, just before playing dodge the hoof with rescue horse Gasra

I don’t know what to do. When a dog is determined to kill himself, it seems like he will succeed sooner or later. And our insurance doesn’t cover canine mental health.

If readers have any ideas, please post your suggestion in a comment, or email us at iPad Envy.

So what does this have to do with Borders new ereader, you might be wondering.

In case you haven’t learned any of the lessons I’ve been writing about foreshadowing and the ability to see how writers set you up, here’s the answer: I think Borders has a death wish too. They want Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the newest player iBooks to put them out of business. That’s the only explanation for releasing a clone of the crippled Kobe ereader to deliver their books.

The Borders ereader is poised only to move them ahead of the Kobe reader. It is as beautiful and featureless as its prototype.

Business plan with a death wish

I thought business people were supposed to conduct focus tests before they went into development. If Borders did any focus groups they went like this:

Facilitator: “What are the features you really want to see in a revolutionary new ereader?”

Group responses: “Note taking, highlighting, word search, dictionaries, and auto syncing.”

Facilitator: “How about tables of contents, bookmarks, a library and it’s really really pretty?”

Business exec: “You said revolutionary new ereader. I thought every ereader had those features. Kind of like wheels and a standard transmission.”

Facilitator: “How about the ability to read the book overview from inside the book?”

Working mom: “Wouldn’t we read the overview before we download it?”

Facilitator: “But now you can read it again.”

Retired grandmother: “If I’m already reading the book, why do I need to go back to the overview?”

Facilitator: “It’s settled then. What I’m hearing is that you want tables of contents, bookmarks, a library and a really really pretty interface. And the ability to read the overview from inside the book.”

Group response: “No, that’s not it. That’s not it at all.”

Facilitator: “Thank you for your time, we value your input.”

Borders’ brick and mortar stores never felt quite right to me either. Their books had a little more shelf life, the selection seemed slightly thinner, the mid-list publishers slightly more B list, and their espresso always tasted like strong coffee. It felt like I was walking into the JV locker room.

I’m sure they’re nice, and the employees would turn out to be perfectly decent people. But they remind me too much of the hippies in the seventies who wore socks with their sandals and still believed Peter, Paul and Mary were the vanguard of protest music. You might visit them at their homes, and they would lean forward and ask, in a whisper, “would you like some mary jane?”

So why would you want to download Borders ereader?

It’s free

The app is free anyway. Then again, every ereader app is free. You just have to pay for books, which are no cheaper than any other online bookstore.

It’s pretty

The Borders ereader used the Kobo ereader for its chassis and moving parts. The Kobo reader is pretty. This is prettier. The color palette is striking and exciting. Part of this is because Borders claims to use Retina Display icons and extra sharp text.

Now this sounds really impressive, except that Retina Display icons really means bigger icons that will look really crisp when scaled down for the iPhone 4. The book icons do look a little crisper than other bookstore icons, but that could simply be because their colors pop against the Borders crimson and white background.

As for extra sharp text, just about every ereader offers extra sharp text because of the iPad screen resolution.

Did I say pretty? The book icons pop against the background.

That being said, I just don’t see retina display icons as the cutting edge of ereader features. Especially when so many features that are now standard have been left out of the package.

Imagine the Borders reader were a Blu-Ray player. This might be the conversation around the sales pitch.

Sales clerk: “You can see how those retina display images pop on the screen.”

Customer: “Why won’t the movie fast forward?”

Sales clerk: “Don’t worry about fast forward. This is retina display technology.”

Customer: “I can’t rewind either.”

Sales clerk: “I guarantee that within two years, Retina Display technology will be a standard feature on Blu Ray players.”

Customer: “I can’t even pause the movie to go to the bathroom or grab another brewsky.”

Sales clerk: “But with an image this sharp, why would you want to pause the movie?”

So those are the two selling points.

Here’s the downside:

Last generation’s feature set

The Kobo chassis, which I reviewed last month, offers only the most basic ereader features. Think of standard transmission and an electric starter. There is nothing the reader offers that you would expect in any reader. It lacks note taking, highlighting, word search and device syncing. These are all features that the big three players have already implemented or announced in their next release.

When the major players all adopt features, those features become standard. Any app without them is doomed to be an also-ran. It would only get a ribbon in events like the Special Olympics where everyone is rewarded for trying.

I don’t see any need to continue. Failure to implement features that have become standard is tantamount to a deal breaker. Especially when the prices are no better than those offered by any other online reader service.

The only reason to use the Borders reader is because you insist on staying loyal to the Borders brand. When the brand becomes tired and sagging, this loyalty becomes a disservice to the customer. You will be much happier with any one of the other three. The reader isn’t terrible; it’s just an exercise in nostalgia for the days when apps could do far less than they do now.

It’s kind of like pulling your old Mac 128k out of the attic and booting it up. Assuming the floppy system disk still boots, you would click the mouse a few times and then say, “That really wasn’t as fun as I remembered.”

Jenny Manytoes rates the Borders reader

Jenny Manytoes would raise her tail when she passes the Borders reader. Bandit would probably pee on it, then try to choke to death on the iPad.


The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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