Posing as the chief digital officer of a Big Six publisher, iFilch's ever-resourceful tech blogger managed to examine Floppatronic's forthcoming reading device and spent enough time with it to smuggle out a set of specs.
Our verdict? "Kindle Killer" is an overused term, but if anything deserves it more, we'll eat our laptop.
Let's get the negative out of the way—the name: Pfleeber. We've never understood why manufacturers of reading devices shoot themselves in the foot with stupid names. It's hard enough to break into the crowded field with a good name, but why handicap yourself with a laughingstock? Pfleeber? Give us a break!
But that's where our reservations end. Now for the good stuff, and the Pfleeber has it in spades.
Its 8.5"×5.5" dimensions are almost Grecian in their perfection. It weighs 15 ounces, placing it between the flimsy-feeling Kindle and the pinkie-breaking iPad, yet it's more flexible than the Plastic Logic Que. In fact, we were able to roll it up like a mini window shade at no damage to the device. Its operating system is 50-pound paper stock bound on the left-hand seam. The power source is a mystery: there was no battery that our reporter could find, nor was he able to locate anything resembling a wireless antenna. Yet the bright ivory-white surface enabled our reader to make out 10-point text clearly in ambient light even at an astounding 20-degree reading angle.
He performed the test on a cloudy day, and when the sun came out briefly he expected to be blinded by the reflection. Yet surface reflectivity was negligible. As for smudges, try as he might, our tester was unable to leave so much as a single fingerprint on the surface. As the Pfleeber is not backlit, it requires supplemental lighting in a dim room, but a 75-watt lamp restored the text perfectly and we do not consider this a serious disadvantage.
A smallish glitch: unlike competitive devices, the Pfleeber must be operated by two hands, one to support it and one to activate the page-turning function. The pages make a satisfying pffftt with each activation, simulating the sound made by the iPad. There is no lag whatsoever in page-turning function: one sweep of the hand and you're on the next page in a microsecond.
Pagination is totally radical. Instead of a progress bar calculating the percentage of the book you have completed, the Pfleeber reckons progress in consecutive numbers. After five minutes our tester was completely used to it. Bookmarking is a cinch—he simply inserted a small card to mark his place, and upon resuming reading he picked up where he left off without a moment's delay. Dictionary and thesaurus lookup is a little clunky, requiring offsite reference texts. But this was a petty annoyance and should not be a factor in a consumer's decision to buy the Pfleeber.
Transporting and storing the Pfleeber is not an issue, as it conveniently fits into a standard-sized tote bag. Travel with the Pleeber is also worry-free since the device is clearly built to last, not easily damaged even when our tester accidentally sat on it.
Environmentalists will rejoice to hear that the device is almost completely green, containing no rare metals, toxic chemicals, sharp edges, or breakable components. If disposed of in a landfill it will decay naturally without releasing harmful substances. However, its graphic display is so handsome that owners may prefer retaining it and integrating it as a decorating element in their homes.
And now for the best part. For a fully loaded Pfleeber you would expect to pay... how much? $300? $500? But Floppatronics has brought the gadget in at a brain-bending $14.95! Watch it walk—yea, gallop!—out of the stores on launch day.
So there you are. A close to perfect reading device, one meriting our seldom-awarded 4½ stars. The only reason it fell short of a full 5 is the name. Pfleeber. Sheesh! But we invite readers to submit names. Just about anything would be better. We look forward to your suggestions. We'll print the most promising ones in our next issue.