The Bookeen Cybook Odyssey favours our French friends. They get the inbuilt dictionary, and they also get access to the Bookeen store. This is the ereader’s default book store, accessible from the home screen.
After having registered to get our Bookeen on, we were disappointed to find the store entirely geared towards the French. The interface and book selection were not optimised for those who don’t know a piscine from a poisson.
The good news is that the Cybook Odyssey is fully ready to use Adobe Digital Editions, letting you snag books from popular online ebook vendors including WH Smiths and Waterstones. Adobe Digital Editions is a piece of desktop software for Mac and Windows that will sync purchased ebooks to your ereader.
However, if you are going to read ebooks without DRM (digital rights management), transferring files is even simpler. They can be dumped directly onto a microSD card and inserted, or dragged onto the internal memory, which shows up as a drive once the Odyssey is connected to a computer over microUSB. Over 100 books come pre-loaded, but only 20 or so are in English, and are classics that are generally freely available rather than the stars of today’s literary hit parade.
Format support is fairly pedestrian. It can handle ePub, TXT, HTML, PDF and FB2 book formats – missing out on niche formats, but enough to satisfy the vast majority of buyers. Most notably, ePub is used for ebook library loans, and is missing from the Kindle format line-up.
Once a book has been transferred to the Odyssey’s memory, it’s automatically added to the library. This library can be viewed either as a gallery of book covers, or covers along with book info in one or two columns. Not one to cram in as many titles per page as possible, these latter layouts fit either five or 10 books per page. Also, if you like to break up your library into separate parts, a folder-based view is available on top of the centralised library view.
However, for day-to-day use, the home screen is more useful than this library view. It’s split up into three parts. The top third of the screen links to the book you last read, the central third a dinky, scrollable library view and the bottom third a largely-redundant link to the net – redundant because buying books directly on the device is not as pleasant as on a Kindle or Kobo reader here.
The Odyssey is also not a good web browser, even by the low standards of ereaders. Pages are slow to load with a good Wi-Fi connection, making the compromised experience of E-ink browsing all the more frustrating.
Unlike the Sony PRS-T1, the Cybook Odyssey does not implement multi-touch, making web pages slow to navigate as well as slow to load. The accelerometer lets you view pages in landscape easily enough, but with no way to zoom in and out of pages the experience is severely limited. The Odyssey doesn have a multi-touch screen but we’re yet to discover where it’s used effectively. You can use it to switch font size during reading, but it’s crying out for full implementation in the web browser.
This has a similar knock-on effect for PDF viewing. You have to delve into the menu system to change zoom level, which feels clumsy and slow next to the highly intuitive multi-touch zoom system built into the Sony PRS-T1. The touchscreen isn’t used properly to navigate zoomed-in pages, lurching in large increments rather than the subtler page nav of websites. As such, the touchscreen here offers only a marginal improvement. The level of zoom on offer ranges from 50 to 100 per cent, and the Odyssey will also scale the page to fit either its width or length.
It’s more evidence that the Bookeen Cybook Odyssey needs better software optimisation to excel at anything other than simple book-reading. However, unlike so many of the products we review here, this is not a convergence device. It can do things other than read books, but to expect it to perform them with tablet-like efficiency is to miss the point.
If you you’re going to spend a lot of time reading PDFs or online resources, the Sony PRS-T1 is a better buy – but for simple book reading the Cybook Odyssey is among the very best. Its part-metal, part-plastic body looks and feels great, and for once Bookeen hasn’t priced itself out of being competitive with its better-known rivals.
With a smooth and simple black body, the Bookeen Cybook Odyssey is one of the best-looking ebook readers ever produced. Using a thoughtful mix of brushed aluminium and plastic, its body is comfortable and strong without gaining too much weight in the process. Its screen is up there with the best too, using the same type of display as the Amazon Kindle. However, it dulls the impact of its best parts by missing out a UK dictionary, a English language-centric inbuilt book store and solid implementation of its multi-touch screen.
Score in detail
Build Quality 8