Oh, JetBook. The little e-reader that could. Available in a very limited rainbow of colors (red, white, blue-ish, gray, black), the JetBook boasts a lower-than-market price ($90-$99 dollars) and an array of supported file types, including the popular epub (Sony Reader, Nook) and mobi (Kindle). It is manufactured by ECTACO, a company based in the United States whose claims to fame include selling electronic translation software to NATO and the CIA.
So why oh why didn’t this device, poised to be an industry juggernaut, take off?
A few theories:
1) Insufficiently informed marketing. The Kindle and Nook both have powerhouse book retailers behind them — Amazon, which originally sold books exclusively, and Barnes and Noble respectively — that employed teams with insider scoop on publishing and readership. ECTACO, which has more of a cornerstone on the governmental market, likely lagged way behind in the dreaming and scheming of campaigns that would actively target their market.
2) Bad Amazon user reviews. The JetBook has more tepid-to-lousy four through one star ones than stellar five star ones, and this can make or break a product. These often anonymous accolades and condemnations are taken seriously both by consumers and companies, as they have the potential to increase or decrease sales.
3) It runs on batteries, which is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty old school (remember GameBoy?). As everyone from Gen X on up knows, electronics consume battery power like stoners do Doritos (or Pringles, depending), and this is both cost prohibitive and incredibly annoying. There is also the ‘oh my god, what is this radioactively colored goop on the inside of my device casing’ factor here as well; exploding and corroding batteries are no joke, people.
4) It stores everything on removable SD cards. Why? I don’t know.
5) As one Amazon reader put it, it “looks cheap.” It actually kind of does, or maybe that’s just because I’ve only seen it in the crappy, knock-off ipod-peddling electronics stores in my neighborhood — definitely “cheap” environs.*
So what will my e-reader choice be? Kindle, likely. The Nook Color is tempting, but I do like the simplicity of the Kindle interface. I don’t need the thing to make me toast. Just give me some books and maybe the latest version of Triple Town (the Kindle game my sister-in-law is currently hooked on) and I’m happy.
*I love my neighborhood to death but these stores really do suck. I’ve gotten two dead routers from one in particular and will never go back!