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BY NICO VREELAND

From ubergizmo, here’s the official announcement of the BeBook 2 at Endless Ideas BV’s website. If everything promised comes true, it could be leaps and bounds better than BeBook 1, and it’s even got a shot of being the best ereader out there. It’s slated to have “Wireless 3G and/or WIFI,” a touchscreen, ePub DRM, and to be ready before the summer.

The original BeBook had decent advantages (robust support, open platform, customer commitment) and significant disadvantages (cheap feel, clunky interface, no onboard clock). However, the original BeBook was just a rebranded HanLin V3, and a lot of those disadvantages could be attributed to the HanLin.

Endless Ideas (EI) has all the hallmarks of a company that thinks of its customers first. They don’t try to suck you dry with extended warranties like Sony, or by charging extra for a cover like Amazon. They answer questions promptly, they have an uncensored support forum, and they listen to customers and provide regular firmware updates with new features. Plus, BeBook 2 is touted as “a complete redesign.” Seeing as we haven’t seen anything that EI’s actually designed, this could be, well, anything.

Basically, the new BeBook has a whole lot of potential. Here are some things I’ll be watching out for:

  • Interface/design: That first video will be huge. It’ll show us whether BeBook Classic’s interface problems were the fault of the HanLin hardware or the EI firmware. As far as design, we have no idea what EI’s aesthetic looks like, so BeBook 2’s physicality is a complete x-factor. The good news is that that first look should only be a few weeks away.
  • Free 3G?: I’m guessing not, given that “and/or” in the wireless description. If it is free, this feature will be the real Kindle-killer. Even if it’s not, I’ll be fine with regular wi-fi, and I’d guess that the “and/or” also means regular wi-fi will be standard.
  • Price: Hopefully, EI learned their lesson when the original BeBook got slammed for debuting north of $500. With a good interface, I would happily pay up to $400. If it’s above $500, look for BeBook to remain a third-tier ereader retailer (at least in the U.S.).
  • Mobipocket, too, or just ePub?: EI claims to be working on secure ePub support. Mobipocket insists on DRM exclusivity. If they bump secure Mobi for secure ePub, I’m out: there aren’t any ePub library books. If, however, they manage to do them both, strike another blow for open ereading.

Finally, I must say, I do feel a bit stung that I just got a BeBook 1, but we’ll see what Endless Ideas has to say about a trade-in.

[via Ubergizmo]

UPDATE: Looks like I’m SOL. Endless Ideas will not accept any returns because you don’t like the BeBook, even if (as in my case), you’ve had it less than a week.

That makes it really hard to recommend buying any BeBook, since it’s difficult to get a true feel for the device from a video.

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