This review is from a technical perspective. I got my BeBook mostly for reading things like RFCs, rather then for reading novels. Most reviews seemed to cover what the device looks like, and where the buttons are, which wasn't very helpful when I looked into buying one, I wanted to know how it preformed.
Let me start by explaining that this review is done with a power user in mind, the problems I point out I imagine are specific to power users, and will not effect people buying this device to read 'proper' ebooks. For 'normal' people out there that just want to read the latest Harry Potter or whatever it is 'normal' people read, this review isn't for you! However, This review by the Gadget Show is probably more suited. When watching this review though, consider that the only reason Sony got more points then the BeBook was because the BeBook doesn't yet intergrate with a ebook distributer - hopefully by the time the Sony is out, it will.
Here is a short video I made.
as a sidenote, the BeBook does not make an annoying chime when you turn it off, that was the postman trying to deliver a package!
I took the reader with me on a 3 hour train trip yesterday, and used it to read the Java NIO book. The ebook was in PDF format, and it worked as expected. The BeBook was easy to use, and it's hard to find fault with it's performance yesterday. I left with a full battery (still showed full bars, even though I'd used it for a couple of hours already), I left it on during the day for several hours, read about 80 pages, and the battery is still showing as full! I expect this device could be used by heavy readers for a full week of commuting without needing to charge, and even then it charges via USB, so could easily be charged from your laptop, or a portable charger such as the freeloader. In the video I said that the image scaling in PDFs wasn't so great, but I've just loaded up that PDF, and it turns out that the PDF itself is pretty low quality for images. So despite what the video says, PDF scaling might be fine.
I've thrown emails back and forth with the Marketing Manager, who seems like a friendly guy. From my conversations with him, I feel assured the company is moving in the right direction, and is committed to providing the features required to make this device the winner out of the soon to be released Sony Reader. The problem is that the Sony is only supporting it's own DRM format, which means you'll have to pay whatever Sony want for books. The BeBook is open, and I believe that it will be adopting the mobi format. Whilst I haven't tried the Sony Reader, I believe that this fact is sufficient to justify the slightly higher cost of the BeBook. I also feel that you're more likely to get a useful response for any feature requests/bug reports that you might have with the BeBook - I can't imagine it's easy to communicate effectively with a company the size of Sony.
I think.... I hope.... we're about to see ebook readers take off in a big way. Ideally, every morning I'll unplug my reader from my PC, and it will have that days news papers on, my RSS feeds, and an periodicals. I hope publishers realise the power this technology will give them too - it doesn't only help save the planet (less trees, less CO2 transporting dead trees, making ink, etc) - but has real commercial value for them. It will be possible to customise their publications specifically for the individual downloading it, possibly targeting adverts to specific people. Some people might fear this kind of targeted advertising, but if it reduces the cost of the publication, I'm all for it. Personally I'd rather see adverts for beer, computers, cars etc, then I would for the latest line of makeup!
To summarise, for the UK market I think there's 3 main options for ebook readers. There's the Iliad, which is bigger (that's up to you to decide if it's a good thing or not), and has a touch screen. But for £450, it wasn't really an option for me. The Sony Reader will be retailing for £199, but has the downsides listed above. The BeBook is £229 (I can give you a discount on that, but I'm still awaiting to know exactly how much). There might be other options I've missed, but I did spend a while looking at the options. Overall, I'm really pleased I purchased the BeBook, traveling for so long yesterday I was pleased to trade in my book for the much lighter ebook reader.
Update: I didn't notice this on the BeBook site, but a reader fo my blog pointed it out to me, so I thought I'd make it clear here.
From november/december 2008 Bebook will also have RSS news feeds support and Wifi.