After the frustrations of Amazon’s proprietary format on the Kindle (must we go through this every time a new segment emerges?), it’s good to see a device that falls into line with others in the market. Most importantly this means support for ePub files, the most common eBook format, as well as formats like PDF, DOC, TXT and even (unusually) PPT files from PowerPoint and XLS files from Excel.
This wide file support is great, but the usual caveats apply in their production. Like most eBook readers, the Story struggles to display PDF files in a readable, practical way unless they’re formatted specifically for the resolution of the display. PPT and XLS files, meanwhile, can’t be zoomed into and TXT files are justified with words wrapping across lines. All of which means, while useful for occasional use, you’ll want to stick to ePub files where possible and convert compatible files into this format. iRiver has also added a comic book/graphic novel reader, supporting JPEG and BMP files contained within ZIP files – a niche feature, no doubt, but some are bound to approve.
When using the ePub format, reading books is a very good experience. Text is sharp and readable and though refresh rates aren’t instant, they’re no worse than on any other eBook reader – no one has eliminated this problem as yet. One slight problem, however, is that very strong elements on the page (e.g. bold text, dark shaded images and menus) can sometimes linger even after they’re no longer present on the page. It’s not a serious problem and doesn’t really distract from the overall experience, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.
Of greater concern are some of the navigational shortcomings. Basics are covered perfectly well: all of the page turning buttons are responsive and fall neatly under your thumb. A helpfully highlighted ‘options’ button, meanwhile, pops up a menu in the right corner to allow you to bookmark a page or ‘move to page’.
It’s the latter element where the problems begin. Despite having a QWERTY keyboard with numbers available as alternate actions, you can’t enter a specific page number! Instead you must use the arrow buttons to scroll through them, which strikes us as alarmingly inefficient. Another annoyance is the said options menu doesn’t rotate when you’re in landscape mode, a fact that’s true of the zoom dialog box as well.
There are all sorts of similar small niggles. Titles in the ‘Books’ menu are simply listed, rather than being sorted by author or title. Fine if you’ve only got a small selection of books, but hardly ideal as your collection grows. If you do want to view your books in this fashion you must organise them yourself in the folder structure and then navigate to them via the ‘My Folders’ menu. iRiver does at least make use of the of the keyboard here, allowing you to search your collection to find the book you want, but it’s one of the few times when said keyboard comes in useful.