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One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the Indian tech industry is that it has been unable to really come out with a "killer product" -- the kind of product that catches the public's imagination at large. Well, with the Pi e-book reader, that criticism might just have been answered resoundingly.
On a level playing field, the device would not have the hardware or connectivity muscle to take on Amazon's mighty Kindle, but given the terms on which Amazon has brought its e-book reader to India, the Pi is more than capable of slaying it.
First things first, the Pi bears more than a passing resemblance to the Kindle. It has the same e-ink display surrounded by a white plastic front, although it does not have a QWERTY keypad, but just a navigational pad with metallic keys on the side for increasing font size, going back to the previous menu, adding bookmarks and so on.
Some might feel that its six-inch display is on the smaller side, but we found it just perfect for reading. And at 180 gms, it is light enough to slip into a coat pocket, like any decent bestseller.
Click NEXT to read about Pi's specs.
In terms of specs, the Pi does not seem a heavyweight. It has 512 MB onboard storage (expandable using SD cards) and has no wireless connectivity options -- the only way you can transfer books to it is through a USB cable connected to a computer, and you can forget about browsing bookstores or the Internet on it.
However, compare it with the Kindle in India, where you have to pay for even downloading free e-books and have to shell out close to ten dollars for every book purchase, and you will start seeing where the Pi scores.
The Pi simply lets you transfer any PDF book to it -- you could have bought it from any site or any location, and there is no premium pricing involved. The reader also supports PDF, EPUB, HTML, TXT, MOBI, DOC, formats, lets you play MP3 files, and view images in JPG, BMP, PNG formats. A huge bonus is support for Indic languages, including Hindi and Sanskrit and most official Indian languages.
And while the greyscale display might put iPad fan boys off, we cannot argue with a battery life that lasts for almost a week -- you can just take this along on your short trips and leave the charger behind.
Click NEXT to read about Pi's pricing.
Top that off with the fact that the Pi costs Rs 9,999, which is almost half of the Rs 18,000-odd that the Kindle commands in India, and you can see why we are so impressed with the device. Yes, it has its rough edges - we do wish lines would not break for no reason at all, and its penchant for rebooting can be a bit of a pain.
Availability also seems to be an issue: Although one can order it from http://www.infibeam.com/Pi, it is largely absent from most electronic stores, where Indian consumers tend to go to buy their gadgets.
We would have no qualms crowning the Pi as India's killer IT product, were it not for the availability issue. It may not offer as much as the Kindle, but it offers a great deal at a much lower price. And in a price conscious market, that counts for a lot.
Still, all said and done, if it is a simple e-book reader you are looking for in India, we think this is your best option. By far.
It is not too expensive (compared to the Kindle), is lightweight, looks sleek enough, has decent battery and storage life and supports most popular text formats.
Most e-book readers could not ask for more.