Encarta Reader – My (pretend) review

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NOTE: This is not a real review of a Microsoft product/service. It’s is just a pretend joke review to express my feelings of what a Microsoft product/service should be. So please, do not regard this as a real review or product. Thank you.

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For those of you who aren’t into reading, Encarta Reader is the latest eBook reader to hit the streets. Microsoft Reader died (no wonder) due to the fact that there was no reason to bother installing it, or anything good to read. So of course, it died.

But then Microsoft got back on its balls, and released a new eBook reader. A full scaled one. Not some lame version with absolutely no way to get content. Inspired from the latest awesome version of Encarta, Encarta Reader is like the best eBook/audiobook reader there is. It’s to further extend the Encarta (education) platform Microsoft had launched recently. To make Encarta the way of spreading knowledge, education, and whatnot.

Encarta Reader is a great mix of features and content. It’s where quality and design go hand-in-hand (yay! Microsoft finally did it right again!). It looks pretty much like a mix between WMP11 controls, and Office 2007 Ribbon UI. Kind of cool, kind of weird, depends on how it is to you, when you use it.

There’s like so many things on Encarta Reader. There’s book tools like annotate, highlight, bookmark, etc. You can even change the look of a book, to the one that you find pleasing, similar to styles in Office 2007.

The book controls at the bottom of the app. (similar to that as of WMP 11) work as you might guess them. The ‘play/pause’ is available if there’s an audiobook (which these days, most ebooks are). The ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons (on the side of the big round play/pause button) flip the pages. ‘Stop’, starts back at the start. ‘Shuffle’ shuffles up all the books in your library, as to what you will see next. ‘Repeat’ will repeat the book once it’s done (although I don’t know why anyone would want to reread it again so fast). Sound, does the audio sounds of the book of course.

There’s also a zoom slider, that does dynamic scrolling to increase/decrease magnification. And you probably already know what else is at the bottom.

The top of the app. has the Office 07′ Ribbon/fluent UI. Kind of looks neat, but weird in an ebook program. The tabs include: "Home", "Library", "Book Layout", "Marketplace", "eBook Creator", and "View".

A quick rundown of each tab:

  • Home – All your basic tools when reading an eBook. Spread out right on this tab for ease and convenience.
  • Library – Displays your library of eBooks/audiobooks. 6 Layout views including List, Album + List, Cover Flow, Carousel, Tile, and Shuffle Space
  • Book Layout – Displays quik buttons to access parts of the book. Like front cover, publication page, 1st page, table of contents, etc.
  • Marketplace – The store the sells all the eBooks. So far, only Microsoft does it (but real well), and it’s just called "eBook Marketplace". It’s the largest online eBook store in the world with almost 3.5 million books. All of them real good.
  • eBook Creator – a simplified eBook making app for yourself. You can make your own eBooks and send them to your friends and family. It does a pretty sweet job as far as styling and tools go. It’s just up to you to make the content. Microsoft is considering making a different marketplace for independents like that.
  • View – Different ways to view the eBook and whatnot.

So that’s the tabs. Across from the tabs is the forward and back buttons, for either navigating through the marketplace, an eBook, or pretty much anything that appears on the screen. There’s the layout button (all 6). There’s a search box that does your library, inline search, or the marketplace. And a help button.

The most major thing about it is the way eBooks/audiobooks have been done on ER. It’s done like no other.

We’re not talking about the old eBooks. The ones where selection was limited, no color, sometimes copied (badly) from copiers, and it pretty much gave you a reason to use regular physical books.

Nope. These are way better. Microsoft worked with publishers to get it done right. So now what do we have? Practically every book ever made (or wanted), books in full color, books that come with more extras than the ones from a bookstore, and practically every book has an audio option. An audio option that has realistic sounding characters and narrators, and sound effects and all. It’s just like being there and hearing everything. They also come at a cheaper price, since there’s no shipping and manufacturing involved. It’s pretty much a dream world for eBooks/audiobooks.  

Here’s the real reason why Encarta Reader is a major success story:

  • The only true eBook reader/store app. there is – I guess other companies have tried and failed, but Microsoft had the resources and people to get it in. Thanks to them, we have a true quality eBook reader that has many functions, and a online store that sells pretty much every book that you could want. More than the iTunes store even.
  • The way eBooks are done (very well) – Now eBooks have come to the state where they really can challenge the ease and convenience of regular physical books. Microsoft made a deal with many publishers to make true quality eBooks. Practically every book you want, can be found all on Marketplace. Like every one. The eBooks are clean and crisp – not copied off some copy machine. There’s also a wider offering of audiobooks, along with regular text. Now these two can actually combine. Audiobooks are essentially eBooks + audio. Practically every eBook comes with an audio option, and Microsoft made sure that there were realistic speaking actors to do the job real well. More offerings like tidbits attached to each book, and even ‘Author Page Info.’ where you can view the extension of each page, and maybe the author may have left a note or even paragraphs about what they wrote on each page. Like their own description/reasoning as to why it’s there. You can even change the fonts on them! And use tools like bookmarking, highlighting, notes, like you can with real books. Man is it so cool.
  • Lower cost – Since regular physical books have to be manufactured and shipped, that adds as part of the cost of your books. Since eBooks don’t have to be manufactured physically, and have to be shipped across the country, they cost less. Like a regular paperback book that cost $5.99, would be around $2.50 on Marketplace. Much better if you ask me.
  • Support for office file types – So you can also read documents in Encarta Reader. Support goes all out for .doc, .ods, .odp, .odt, PDF, and .xls
  • No DRM! – Yeah, no DRM at all. Pretty surprising since before, publishers never put much eBooks up in concern that there work would be pirated, and given for free to anyone. Although of course, since there’s no DRM, Microsoft put some other piracy preventions in.
  • The Reader is free – Yep, the reader is free. No cost at all. You have to at least have Windows (sorry OS X) to get it. A legal one of course.
  • Books work in WMP and devices – The books can also be viewable in the latest version of WMP, and can sync to any portable media player. You can view, or listen, or both on any PMP, since there’s no DRM.
  • Subscription feature – Many people just read a book once, and that’s it. So if you’ve bought a lot books, read them once, and they just sit there all day, what a waste. With the subscription feature on Marketplace, you can read as many or any books as you want and not have to worry about paying and keeping them forever. This is really a true convenience to people who don’t read often, or only want to read new things.

There’s also been some criticism, like you can’t print, and copy & pasting text is limited. Since no publishers wants their author’s work printed off on to a bunch of paper, and copied, and given to free to anyone, there’s no printing feature. At least not for the ones bought from Marketplace. You can however print your own eBooks. That’s the only option to do so.

There’s also the issue of copy & pasting text. Anybody could just copy & paste the text of all the pages in the books, and print them right out. Well not in Encarta Reader. There’s a limit to how much you can copy and paste, like if you need it for a quote or something. But not more than a paragraph’s worth.

Regardless of that, since I don’t do pirating or lame enough to spend time on getting free versions out, it’s great. Practically anyone who’s interested in reading books have tried it, and liked it. It’s a true contender against regular physical books.

So Microsoft really made a success with this one. I recommend that you get it. Just to give it a try.

 Here are some sketches of it in pre-beta (no color/hard to see – sorry):

                   

                       

 Here’s also some pics of the layout views (including the popular carousel view):

      

 

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