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The Skinny

November 02, 2000

REB1100

* What it does: Stores digital books

* Price: $299

* Distributor: RCA

* Availability: Late November at major electronics and office-supply stores, online at http://www.rca.com

* Screen: Backlighted black-and-white

* Display size: 5.5 inches (diagonal)

* Weight: 18 ounces

* Memory: 8mb

* Connection: 33.6K modem

* The good: Lightweight and easy to hold in one hand. Type is highly readable.

* The bad: The screen is fairly small. No color graphics. The number of books available in this format is limited. And although it's not expensive when compared with its bigger brother, you could buy a lot of real books for that price.

* Bottom line: If you must buy a digital reader now, this is the one for you unless you need color. Keep in mind this technology is still fairly young and probably will improve and get cheaper.

*

eBookMan

* What it does: Stores digital books

* Price: $129.95/$179.95/$229.95

* Distributor: Franklin Electronic Publishers

* Availability: Major electronics and office-supply stores, online at http://www.amazon.com

* Screen: Black-and-white (backlighted on $179.95 and $229.95 models)

* Display size: 4.4 inches (diagonal)

* Weight: 7 ounces

* Memory: 8mb (16mb in the $229.95 model)

* Connection: USB to PC (No Mac version available)

* The good: It's very lightweight and easy to carry. Lots of books are available in this format, including some that are in the public domain and offered for free. Plays audio books.

* The bad: The screen is too small. And the cheapest model does not have backlighting, which makes reading even more difficult.

* Bottom line: It's highly portable but not without a sacrifice in usefulness.

*

REB1200

* What it does: Stores digital books

* Price: $699

* Distributor: RCA

* Availability: Late November at major electronics and office-supply stores, online at http://www.rca.com

* Screen: Backlighted color

* Display size: 8.2 inches (diagonal)

* Weight: 33 ounces

* Memory: 8mb

* Connection: 56K modem

* The good: Color graphics look great. Nice-size screen.

* The bad: It's just a bit too heavy and big to hold comfortably for long. Text is not as sharp as on the black-and-white reader. The number of books available in this format is limited. Very expensive.

* Bottom line: Only if you absolutely have to have color and price is no object.

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