Thursday, July 2

The Booksense makes sense

Greetings. I have yet to place my order for this new and exciting device, and I'm already posting about it here on my blog. The Booksense is one of the newest book reading/MP3 playing devices out there. Rather than me ramble through lots of features, let me point you to two resources. The first is a Comparison chart between the Booksense, VR Stream, and Plextalk Pocket and the Booksense Unvailing (MP3 file direct download link). Both of these will give you more than enough information on this new product.

I initially read over the comparison chart out of curiosity, to see how the Booksense would stack up against the Victor Reader Stream. However, I found myself going over sections of the chart several times to make sure I was reading it right. Shortly after I had finished, I was on the phone with a local dealer of GW Micro products asking about pricing and other features. The price for the Booksense XT might seem a little high at $499, but given that all you get, and add on the discount they're running till September 30 where they're taking off $50 of the XT price and $35 from the Booksense Standard's price, it more than makes up for it. So, below is a summary of some of the key features or distinguishing characteristics of the Booksense, at least compared to the Sttream, and other notes. This is not an exaustive list, but these are some of the things that jumped out at me. Check out the two links above for more details.

* Wording: the dealer told me that the Booksense is still under development to a degree and the manufacturer's are working on some of the wording in certain parts of it. Nothing big, but coming from the perspective of a computer teacher, there are some terms used that are usually used with Windows, and the way you interact with said item differs from how you might do it in Windows. The Booksense is not a computer, but I couldn't help but notice this conflict.
* Battery life: the Booksense runs for 12 hours, verses the Stream which runs for 15 hours. I haven't timed my Stream from start to finish, so I don't know if I actually play it for the full 15 hours. However, given that this is really the only major problem I have with the Booksense, and that the pros listed below more than make up for the battery life, I can deal with it.

Now, here's some of the pros that I found interesting:

* Folder names: the names of the folders where you put your reading material or audio files make more sense than the Stream. For instance, instead of calling the music folder VrMusic, on the Booksense, it's simply called Music. What a concept?
* Battery charge time, especially since it takes half the time of the Stream, at 2 hours verses 4 for the Stream.
* Recording formats: You can record in some more standard formats on the Booksense, rather than an obscure one where you need special software in order to convert them into a standard format.
* Built in FM radio: not a big thing and not a deal breaker for me. I'd be just as happy without a radio on my device, but in this day and age of combining multiple tasks into one device, I'm all for it. This way I can just take one device with me on trips, rather than carrying my reading device and a Walkman or other portable radio.
* Built in storage on the Booksense XT model: try 4 GB of storage! Since I have a 32 GB SDHC card, built in storage isn't a big deal, except for perhaps important documents or files that I don't want to accidentally delete on the sD card, like perhaps the user manual.
* Smaller size: according to the unvailing event linked above, the Booksense is 30 percent smaller than the Stream. Meaning, it's about the size of a candy bar cell phone. That sounds pretty good to me!
*Every Booksense comes with an SD card. The size of the card will depend on which model you buy: the standard has a 2 GB and the XT has an 8 GB. I can't tell you how many people I talked with, that when I told them of the stream, I also had to endure the disappointment from them upon hearing that the Stream didn't come with a card included. It's definitely a downer to find that you have to buy something else when you've already spent a certain amount on a product. Not a big deal, but definitely notable that each Booksense comes with its own card. And no, there's no way to not get a card. Consider it another option for storing lots of tunes or books.
* Ability to charge the Booksense via USB: yes, if you have the unit connected to your computer via the USB cable, then along with transferring files, you can also charge the battery. There's forward thinking.
* Ability to read Audible, Book Share, NLS digital talking books, and coming in the next release in another month or so, RFB&D files.
* Ability to read Word documents, including Word 2007 files.
* And more.

I'll probably read over this list later and think of things to add, but this list is a start. Considering that I was looking at netbooks and seriously considering which one to buy, and now this netbook purchase has been moved back for several months, that tells you where my buying priorities have shifted to.

Will the BookSsense overtake the stream? Who knows; only time will tell on that. As the dealer said earlier, there are people that will like one over the other, and there will be those people that like both. Also, both of these devices are great devices. In a sense, the Booksense is an extension of the Stream, just as in the next year or two, there may be newer devices that build on what the Booksense is doing. Will I get rid of my Stream after I get a Booksense? No way; the Stream is special. Personally, I think the Stream was the right device at the right time in the right place when it came out. I sat down one day not long ago and calculated approximately how much money the Stream has made HumanWare in 18 months, given a certain number of units that were sold in that timeframe. The first 18 months saw around 15,000 Streams sold, which assuming they all cost the same price and that everyone paid for them (yes, assumptions here, but I had to go off of something), I came up with over $5,000,000! I wonder how many other devices for the blind have made that much money in their first 18 months? I'm not sure that the Booksense will capture that following that the Stream had it its history, but then again, who's to say it won't? It will be interesting to watch how things go for GW Micro over the next few months and year.

One other question I want to toss out: with GW Micro and HumanWare diversifying their product lines in recent years, having screen readers, screen magnifyers, portable magnifyers in some cases, note takers, and now book/Daisy reading and mP3 playing devices, when is Freedom Scientific going to join in with their contribution? And, how will that contribution compare with what's already out there? Time will tell on that front as well.

AS for me, I'll be reading up on the Booksense over the next 2 days, and anxiously awaiting my own unit. If the attendance at the unvailing of the Booksense or some of the comments I've read from other people on the web is any indication, this looks to be a device that many people will want to get their hands on. A colleague of mine wrote that he's already preordered his and will have it when he returns from the NFB convention next week. At the time I read that, I thought, "How can you preorder a device that you haven't even seen yet? Crazy." However, now I think I know.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the great info. I will be looking over the comparison chart. What is the voice on the book sense? Is it better or as good as the stream?