EB-1150 Ebook Reader

- by Dale DePriest

Tips for the EB-1150 and tools

Proposed changes to this reader

eb1150 ebookThis page describes the EB-1150, provides reviews and tips, and has a few links for items to get the best out of this reader. This reader is a follow-on replacement for a similar reader from GEB. It is considered a legacy reader by some people but it is still being sold. It is the least expensive dedicated ebook reader you can buy. Owners of the earlier GEB version may be able to perform a firmware upgrade to convert to this version.

The image at the left shows the unit when it is off. It has a backlight so the screen is actually white when the unit is on. The screen is Gray scale with 16 levels of gray from black to white. It is a touch screen so that you can tap on items directly on the screen. This makes its use very intuitive. As a dedicated device it is very simple to use. There are only 3 buttons. The power button is on the right edge near the bottom so it is out of the way. The two buttons on the left in the picture are used to page forward or backward through the book with your thumb. If you prefer to hold the reader in your right hand you can invert the screen.

There are 5 icons around the edge of the screen. The upper left is the main menu, the upper right icon can be used to invert the screen or set the backlight brightness and contrast. The lower left selects the book and can switch between two books you are reading. The lower right selects the library list of books you have loaded. The center bottom icon is programmable. I usually have mine set to jump to the table of contents for the book (or page one if there is no table of contents). Tap and hold on the icon to select the shortcut you want.

The top edge has a rubber seal that can be lifted to reveal a USB port (mini USB type B 4 pin), An external power connector for the supplied 12 V charger, and a Telephone style RJ11 connector that is hooked to a built-in Modem (33k Baud). The internal Modem can be used to access a special online bookshelf Internet site directly from an analog phone line while the USB port can use your computer to access the same site. The site has been set up to hold books that you purchase from Fictionwise sites or your own personal content. This server site is designed to allow you to access books while on the road or even purchase books without needing a computer.

The bottom edge contains a seal that covers a headphone jack but headphones are not supported on this product. (The case hardware is the same as an earlier GEB product.) The back of the unit has a flap that covers an expansion slot and a reset button (paperclip required). The expansion slot will hold one Smart Media Card up to 128M. That is not much memory by todays standards but will support hundreds of books. Note that the card replaces the internal 8 Meg of book memory. If the card is removed the internal memory will become visible. Be sure to turn power off before removing the card as it can become corrupted if you are not careful. You will likely want at least a 64Meg memory card to avoid having to reload memory every time you want to read a different book, particularly if you use the dictionary feature. The top right corner has a large stylus tucked away that can be used as needed on the screen. This is particularly useful when drawing on the screen.

eb1150 screen imageWhen the unit is turned on a display similar to the one on the left will appear if you are already reading a book. This page is from the book 'Alice in Wonderland.' The image shows the ability to display a 16 shade gray scale picture. The upper left corner contains an additional menu for touch screen use. As shown, tapping a word will allow a that word to be searched for and, if it is in the supplied dictionary, the definition will be given. (The main menu supports searching a document when you need to enter the word yourself.) The on-screen Menu can be switched between 4 functions, search, highlight, erase, and draw. Highlight permits a function similar to using a yellow marker on a regular book except that it can be erased. Erase and draw permit adding free hand marks to the page drawing on top of the text like using a pencil on a regular book, except that they can also be erased and you can also add pages to contain more markup data.

The bottom of the screen shows the reading progress. The bar starts with page 1 and shows the last page on the right. The document is pre-divided into pages when it is compiled. You read it by changing pages like a real book, not by scrolling like a computer would do. You can drag the slider and move it to any page you wish. The bar shows the highest page read so far as indicated by a line extending above the bar. Bookmarks are also shown as indicated by the line that extends above and below the bar. Note that if you are on a page that is bookmarked the a dog eared corner will appear as shown. You can bookmark any page by tapping the upper right corner. Tapping it again will remove the bookmark. You can drag the slider to any bookmark. When you move the slider you will see the current page marker turn into a 'back' button. You can tap the 'back' button to return to the page but if you change pages any other way the back button will disappear.

The screen resolution is 320 x480 pixels on a screen that measures 5.6 inches diagonally. The maximum vertical text area is 448 pixels due to the progress bar at the bottom and the menu at the top. The font shown is considered the small font. There are two sizes available to be selected by the user for most books. The actual size is determined by the author but generally they provide both a small and a large font size for the user where the larger font is two sizes bigger than the smaller font. When the book is compiled the page boundaries for both sizes are determined so the author will have to ensure that both sizes display meaningful data. In some cases the author may lock a certain piece of text or even the entire document to a particular size so that it will not change sizes when the user changes the font choice.

The OEB standard calls for 7 different font sizes identified as xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large, x-large, and xx-large. The eb1150 support is in the table below. At most there are 6 font sizes supported from the standard font. In addition to the 'serif' font shown in the image there are also 'sans-serif' and 'monospace' fonts available but not all sizes and weights are available in these fonts. The table below shows the available sizes and the 'point size, pixel size' that uses that size first. The attributes Italics, bold, underline, and line-though are supported as well, except that sans-serif is always bold. (It is intended for titles.) This can be mitigated somewhat using the color attribute which is mapped to gray scale. Specifying actual point sizes or pixel sizes as a property will not permit that text to be scaled by the user. However, most books offer the user a choice of 2 sizes, usually either x-small / medium or small / large. The choices are always 2 sizes different. The 'small' font size represents the traditional 6 lines per inch and each font size adds or removes a line per inch.

Attribute Serif Sans-Serif monospace
xx-small 7,8 7,8 7,8
x-small 10,11 13,15  
small 12,13 15,17  
medium 14,15 17,19 10,11
large 15,17 18,21  
x-large 17,20 21,24  
xx-large     12,14

In addition the the three main fonts there is also a font called 'smallfont' that is smaller than any of the others even at a size of xx-small. It is a sans-serif font with only one font size but does support italic and bold. Its use in mainly in supporting footnotes, headers / footers and copyright notices. This font will squeeze nine lines into 1 inch of space. Note that the font sizes can also be specified as a unitless number with xx-small=1 and xx-large=7.

The other screen that you will see on the display is the list of books you have loaded. This list shows the name and author of the books you have and can be sorted by name or by author. Optionally you can also divide the list by category. This screen can also be used to download books from your bookshelf using the tab at the top.

Books are stored internally in a single format where each book is a separate folder. However the way that books are downloaded is in a packed file (IMP) and then expanded by the reader program to the final form. Programs on the PC or mac can be used to convert files (ebooks) in other formats to IMP files that can be used by the reader or you can upload files in word, html, rtf, rocket ebook (rb), or text format to your online bookshelf and they will be converted automatically.

Tips for the EB-1150

  1. Soon after obtaining your unit you will want to visit Ebook Technologies' download page. Download all three programs.
  2. The ebook reader is designed to get book contents from the online bookshelf. However, there are several reasons you may not want to depend on this service. You may prefer to download .imp files directly because you will have a backup or because you went to a different web site to get your books. You can copy .imp files directly to a Smart Media card if you remove you card from the unit and put it in a a card reader connected to your computer. Once you place the card back in the reader the file will get automatically installed so that you can read it. If you would prefer to load the files directly to the device you can use a program called GEB ebook Librarian (also available from Ebookwise) to fake the online bookshelf connection using files on your local computer. This program is not free but there is a free 7 day trial after which it costs $15. This program will create content from several sources, manage your .imp files, view your files on a PC, change the category, title, and author data for .imp files, and view your favorite ebook sites.

  3. Check the location Yahoo group for REB1200 to get some utilities for manipulating files for your reader. In particular you might need the RES to IMP tool called sbtest.exe. Note that the readme file is really a word document, not text. You may need to join the group to download the file. This is a program that can convert imp files to the internal form needed by a 1150 reader but more importantly it can also convert it back. This is important if you want to backup your downloaded data and be able to read it on a PC. If you download a file from your online bookshelf directly to the reader it will be expanded to a folder with a .res extension containing several files. You can place the SM card from your ebook reader in a card reader on your PC and use this program to reconstruct the imp file.

  4. pdfread is a good program to create files from PDF to use on the eb-1150. It will also convert DJVU documents. Note that the program really creates images so they may or may not be easy to read. The images are custom built to the screen size and are set sideways on the screen to get maximum resolution of the image (480 bits). Generally multiple images are used to represent a standard PDF page. The program is also capable of building a folder full of jpg pictures into an album for viewing on the eb-1150. This permits it to become a comic reader as well.

  5. The epub standard, as supported by Adobe Digital Edition, can be unzipped and used as are starting point for eb1150 books using ebook publisher. You will need to change the extension on any of the xhtml files if present and some editing will likely be needed due to the fact that it is version 2 of the OEB standard.

  6. Table of contents is supported in this reader. If you are building a book you need to specify <a name="toc" /> on the line above where the TOC starts. When the book is built the location of the toc will be computed. Then you can program the short cut key to jump to this location.

  7. Books for the GEB-1150 are compatible with this reader. You might also find books for the REB-1200, GEB-2150 but they are for a larger reader. If you accidentally load one of them into your reader they will only display 2/3 of the page with the rest disappearing on the right and bottom of the display. A nice improvement in this reader would be to detect those books and display them in landscape 1/2 a page at a time but that is currently not possible.

  8. The EB-1150 only supports reading books but it is possible to use it to display photos by converting them with pdfread which knows how to deal with a jpg images or by encapsulating them in html pages using the 'img' tag and building the result into an imp file. For best results the images should be no larger than 320x448.

  9. If you want to take notes on your unit you can create a dummy book and then add pages to it to create notes in the eb-1150. I am not aware of any way to get the notes out of the unit short of transcribing them from the screen display.

  10. One good source of free EB1150 books in Munsey's. They have direct eb1150 downloads but they used an older version of ebook publisher to create their editions. If the version uses x-small fonts and has a lot of ? and other formatting problems you can easily fix it. Just download the Rocket ebook version instead and then run it through the RB2Project program to convert it. The results will be better than the original and you will get an html file also that you can fix any more problems that bother you and recompile with ebook publisher. Spending about 5 minutes at this will really enhance the reading of the book. This trick will also work for other suppliers.

  11. Some of the best quality for free eBooks can be found at MobileRead. Look in their eBook upload section.

  12. Here is how to recalibrate the touch screen.

    1. Turn EB1150 off.
    2. Hold down the previous page (bottom) button while turning the 1150 on,
    3. hold button down until all is loaded, may be a second or two.
    4. tap little book guy at upper left (main menu button).
    5. tap info and then tap more
    6. If all went right you should have a (Align) selection.
    7. tap that and follow the instructions.
  13. Here is how to reformat an external SM card.

    1. Make sure the device is off and intersert the card.
    2. Follow steps 2-5 above.
    3. Tap the new more option
    4. Tap on "erase external"
    5. Tap on "yes"
    6. Tap on "no" (if this fails repeat and answer "yes"

More information on the EB-1150

This reader can be purchased at: Ebookwise or if you prefer to subscribe to a book club you can get it for free from Filament Books. You can also find them on ebay in the Consumer Electronics category(search for 1150 reader). EBookwise and Filament books are companies owned by Fictionwise. I tend to get my books from Fictionwise and download the .imp file for backup purposes. Because I have an EBookwise bookshelf I can pull the files to that bookshelf from the Fictionwise web site if I want to download them directly to the unit. (This is no longer necessary since I found sbtest.exe as described in tip 3 above.)

Other sources for ebooks include: EbooksLib.com and Munsey's Black Mask. This last site will sometimes download a 0 length file when you select the EB1150. If this happens get the Rocket Ebook file and then convert it.

Here is a sample book (Alice in Wonderland) to show off the features of the reader.

Here is an EB-1150 review done by another person. The review is pretty old but still applicable. There are some errors based on the current implementation. You can sort the book lists in different ways and you can use GEB Librarian to change the category. Also MobiPocket's ebook creation program is now free.

The power supply that comes with the unit will only work on 110V. There is a universal power supply available from Coby that works on both 110V and 220V. Use the 12V ouput with center positive. You will still need an adapter for whatever plug the country uses.

Forums with info on the EB-1150

View my ebook article to find general information on ebooks and ebook readers. (Search for 1150 for information on this reader.)

Changes I would like to see

While the eb1150 is a great reader there are always things that could be better. This section will focus on changes to the hardware and the firmware as well as changes to the creation program supplied by ebook technologies the creator of this unit. As time progresses I am hopeful of gathering ideas from other people as well. Ebook Technologies calls this reader the ETI-2.

Hardware changes

I would like to see a new back for the unit that incorporated the following changes. These changes are numbered so that they can be referenced.

  1. A different format memory extender card, such as CF or SD would be nice to extend the memory capacity up to 2 Gig or so and take advantage of the less expensive products available today. A less desirable option might be XD cards since they can be mechanically adapted to the current SMC format but are quickly fading from the field and will suffer the same fate as SMC cards themselves but for now they are available. Upto 1 Gig should be supported at least.
  2. A battery that is user replaceable necessitating a door in the back and likely a holder molded into the back. The target should still be 20 hours of use with the new battery. The weight goal should remain at about a pound for the unit or even less if possible.
  3. If it is part of the back the USB connector could be changed to a more modern version of the mini USB. This is less important since there cable is shipped with the unit.
  4. Upgradeable for existing units.
  5. A 12 Volt car charger should be approved or available. This should be relatively easy, perhaps a straight through wire or a simple noise filter in a lighter plug with a compatible connector on the other end.

Firmware changes

These are primarily for the unit itself but might need changes in the creation program but they should be transparent to any existing books. These change requests are not in any particular order but are numbered so that they can be referenced.

  1. The backlight adjusting routine does not provide enough time to study the proposed change before resetting. It needs to provide considerable time for the timeout say 10 seconds or so.
  2. The backlight adjusting screen should show the projected battery time. This would permit seeing the consequences of the proposed change. The projected battery time is a great feature, by the way.
  3. There should be a gray scale chart somewhere that the user could see to adjust the contrast. It should show all 16 values. Perhaps this could be in the setup book or even on the contrast menu.
  4. The jump to TOC should be on the main menu so the shortcut could be used for other things as well.
  5. The upper case Q and the lower case l should be fixed in the serif font. The Q breaks the rule of no descenders for upper case letters and the lower case l looks like a 1. (A throw back to old typewriters?) The lower case g decender is a little dark calling attention to the g's on a page.
  6. There needs to be normal weight sans-serif fonts since the current fonts seem to be bold only. If they won't fit in ROM then a mechanism to use them from user memory should be devised.
  7. There are only 3 sizes for monospace fonts which is probably OK but they are currently defined as: xx-small, medium, and xx-large. These sizes are not indicative of the true sizes and do not allow the internal small/large choices to work properly and is inconsistent with picking sizes in the other fonts. They should be defined as xx-small, small, and large (every other size) which would make them much more useful.
  8. Allowing the addition of fonts would be an important feature. The fonts would be located in the user memory and available separately but not required. The user should be able to pick their favorite for viewing.
  9. If there is room in ROM a standout font would be nice to catch the eye of the reader. It could be as simple as small-caps using existing fonts by using a smaller one for lower case. (if you use sans-serif then the xx-small could use "smallfont" to achieve this). If only one font supports this then it could be a font name otherwise it must be a font-variant.
  10. If is a real shame to give up 20 pixels at the top of the document. Perhaps a setup option could display something, like the document title, in this space. I know this area is not totally wasted since the menu button is on the left, bookmarks are shown on the right and the pulldown handle for existing pulldown screens can appear in the middle but it would still be nice to show more. Another good choice would be the current battery status and perhaps the current time. These are likely better choices than the book title.
  11. Landscape mode is very useful for some documents. It might be impossible give the ROM size constraints. I understand that the document pagination would have to be redone to support this. There are two approaches that could be done. ETI-1 (REB1200) files could be recognized and rotated automatically and the firmware could provide 1/2 page display support where it would page from the top half the bottom half before moving on. For new documents the publisher program could be coded to supply the data for landscape mode as well. The landscape button should only appear if landscape mode is available. (There are even cases where the author may want a page rotated because of a table that needs the extra width. There could be a way to encode the data field to permit this or perhaps Width property could be used to determine it).
  12. Multiple User capability - I envision a couple of new tabs at the top of the bookshelf page, A and B or perhaps his and hers. A setting could be used to name them with short names. The contents of those bookshelves would be taken from the main bookshelf and would generally be a subset of the main one. The users place in each of the books on this bookshelf would be maintained separately from the other user so that if they are reading the same book the location for each of them would be different. Bookmarks would also be maintained independently.
  13. It should be possbile to extend the built in dictionary somehow.
  14. It should accept images greater than the screen size and allow tap and drag to scroll the image. This could have wide use in opening up different kinds of books that need good graphic display. Of course there would need to be a code to tell the unit whether to shrink the drawing or not.
  15. There needs to be a way to retrieve the user memos and annotations from the unit and get them back to the host computer.
  16. There needs to be a way to view metadata. When you tap the circle on the library screen the metadata should appear in the menu. This data should include, in additon to the book name and author, the publish/copyright date, description from one of the ones in the ebook publisher set, category
  17. There settings should allow specifying a minimum or preferred font size. This should override the default font size that the book was compiled with. The first time the book is accessed it should rebuild the pagination with this font if it does not conform. It should remember this so it only needs to be done once. This is primarily for folks with poor vision but if preferred is chosen by the user then it could even be smaller than the default. This will permit the user to control the reading experience.
  18. The lower case f gets clipped if there is no right margin and the f happens to be the last letter on the line of a full length line. (Fully justified text shows this problem the best.)
  19. Woudn't it be wonderful is the full justified text actually spread the letters apart (Kerning) to achieve justification.

ebook Publisher

Changes here could require ROM changes as well.

  1. Sometimes the PC viewer will crash viewing documents using the large font. This is very document specific and requires changing font after the start of reading the document and then paging. It never happens if large font is chosen from page 1.
  2. The editor inside ebook Publisher is smart enough to change colors of the font when it recognizes an extended character. However, there are some characters that are OK but not recognized by the editor. An example is &quot;
  3. When the font family entry includes a list of font choices and the correct generic font is in the list then it should not error out but should pick the generic font.
  4. Padding around images should be supported so that the text doesn't touch the edge of the image. Padding under other conditions would be nice but not as important.
  5. The line number in the editor is off by one when selecting an error.
  6. The biggest problem editing a file is trying to determine which of the css entries are causing the file to display how it does. This is often a font problem. It would be very very useful to be able to select some text in the editor and find out how it became what it is. The display software clearly knows how it happened.
  7. Supporting OEB 1.2 would be great. EPUB should be the goal. Working with a EPUB source out of the box. EPUB should also be a build target so you can build EPUB files.
  8. xhtml should be a supported extension as should xml.
  9. <a name="" /> has been destandardized. The program error messages should also accept id in addition to name. The program seems to work ok (needs to be verified for all cases) but a bogus error message is generated. The work around is to use the <div> tag.
  10. It also generates a bogus message in the following <p> <span> </span> </p> about a /p without a p. span without text should be supported without p tags as it is used in the standard to force page changes.
  11. opf files might start with 0xefbbbf unicode identifier. The program should accept this and move on.
  12. ISO8859-1 and Windows 1252 bit standards exist to allow 8 bits of data. This program forces 7 bit data and then uses extension codes (numbers or acronyms) to extend the character set. It should convert the codes in a user specified 8 bit system to create the character set as needed. Many source files use 8 bit codes for the extra characters. The table shown by ebook technologies documents the codes from 160 to 255 but in actually they support the printable codes from 128 to 159 as well (Windows 1252) and should also convert them since it already converts them if they are defined as extensions by number. (Note that the entries from 128 to 159 cover many, but not all, of the unicode needs for such things as dashes, quotes, symbols, etc.)
  13. This software should also support and option for a hyphen dictionary (which could also serve as a spelling dictionary if designed right). A hyphen dictionary should be customizable by the user but is needed due to the short lines and long words presenting a fractured appearance to the text, particularly with larger fonts. Note that the ­ soft hypen already works well in the firmware.
  14. A few additonal special symbols should be supported and some should be fixed. The sup1, sup2, & sup3 should be raised and a small font like they are supposed to be. A few more greek letters would be nice. The four direction arrows and the double grave should be added. The double grave is particularly useful with the already supported double acute to provide quotes in the monospaced font so they should match that font in width. The fractions 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 would be nice. The thin, en, & em spaces should be supported for cases needed precise alignment.
  15. A set of shortcuts for the editor to allow the defining of some special characters to be typed more easily. The editor should expand them on the page.
  16. The user paradigm could use some work. If you open a new project and import some files and then save the book all of the pages will have to be re-imported. The work around is to save the project first but this is counter intuitive.
  17. The built in editor should allow you to create new documents. Today if you add a link to a css file it will show up in the list of css files. If you try and open it, it will say it does not exist but it will not offer to create it.
  18. If the css file has a tag with no information the program gives you an error but then doesn't even parse the rest of the file. This problem caused me lots of grief. This should be a simple warning. The log file should note the differences between what it calls an error and a warning.
  19. There needs to be a automatic toc generator that uses something like a user specifiable tag or tag/class combo to generate the toc.
  20. The internal editor needs to work with cr/lf, lf only, and cr only files or even a mix of endings in one file. cr is used by macs with lf is used on unix.
  21. The built in editor should behave better on search/replace. When finding it should scroll sidewise if necessary so the whole selected text is highlighted adn visible. (currently it only scrolls to make the cursor visible but the cursor is not displayed when the the replace dialog is present). The replace dialog should not be model. You should be able to return to the text and then change focus back to the form.
  22. A spelling checker in the editor is useful to catch typos and to to detect many scanning errors found in incoming text (Project Gutenberg text). It should be smart enough to ignore text within xml < > sequences. The dictionary could be shared as a hyphen dictionary if the code is designed that way.
  23. OPF parsing is way to picky. It should recognize known data types such OPF files from Microsoft and MobiPocket. As mentioned earlier it needs to support the standard as imlemented by others.
  24. A customized list of categories should appear in a drop down list when you want to assign a category to an eBook.
  25. Sometimes a line is tool long to display. this is particularly true when emdashes are used to separate lists or other items. What happens is that the line is just trimmed at the edge of the screen and all the rest of the line is lost. If that line is in a table then the entire column to the right of the column the line is in is lost. The compiler should detect this and split the line to fit. Generally this can be done at an emdash.

Other ideas for improvements

This is a collection of random thoughts that have no good home or recommended solution.

  1. These might need an additional program on the pc side such as GED Librarian, (This is a good program, by the way to manage personal libraries) or perhaps new hardware.
  2. There should be a way to redirect the old buy books menu to be able to use the unit to browse simple html pages on the internet. This would allow reading eBooks online and could even resurrect the idea of buying from the unit since there would not need to be a dedicated server. Future devices might have wifi (must be able to turn off) built in for this purpose while existing devices can use the modem or USB connection.
  3. A new higher resolution screen should be made available. Perhaps OLED or PLED based or even use the OLPC screen. But it should be able to display existing books so firmware would have to map it. Font sizes equivalent to the current sizes (but using more pixels) can be used to do the mapping. Images might need scaling.
  4. Support for Mobipocket books due to the wide availability of this format and the Amazon backing. This could be supported by the reader of by converting it on a pc/mac to the reader format. DRM should be preserved if present.