Kogan Model KGNEBK6VAA eBook Reader

I bought on price, format support and display technology. Basically, I wanted to play around with an e-ink display, to pay as little as possible and not to be too limited in the files I could access. The Kogan seemed to fit. Perfect, it certainly isn't, but I reckon it's good value.

The hardware seems identical to the Telefunken TEBR-700 and Rank Arena EB-601. According to a cnet forum, the Kogan is a rebranded version of the EGriver IDEO by Condor Technologies. The image of the IDEO on the manufactrer's site looks similar to the Kogan, but shows what appear to be page turn buttons on both left and right sides. The cnet review gives a good overview of the design, build and performance of the Kogan. A Delimiter review gives another perspective.

The first unit, which I received on 20 August 2010, was probably an early version. It had problems with most of the files I tried. HTML proved particularly difficult: only parts of the files displayed.

In response to my query, Kogan support wrote:

If you do not have the updated firmware for the ebook reader, you can get it by doing the following:

1> Download the zip file from the following link:-

2> Unzip the file and copy all the files in the folder to the SD card.
3> Make sure that there is no other content on the SD card.
4> Turn on the e-book reader.
5> Insert the SD card
6> Once the e-book has finished loading the SD card, press the page right button on
the left hand side of the unit and press the reset button at the same time.
7> Keep the page right button pressed and release the reset button. Keep the
page right button pressed until it displays U-disk boot
8> Once the upgrade has finished, remove the SD card and press the reset button.

The zip file holds a folder named IE1006068, containing:
   Name       Bytes         Date      Time
ebook.img    56,060,928  20/03/2008 6:04 PM
logo.img        240,120
  20/03/2008 6:04 PM
qte.img      19,147,392  28/08/2010 3:36 PM
u-boot.bin      245,760
  20/03/2008 6:04 PM
uImage        1,721,848  20/03/2008 6:04 PM

One of the files is dated after I received the reader, confirming that the device had old software or firmware.

Not knowing the filesystem, I've been unable to mount the images to check their contents. Loading qte.img into a text editor reveals the string "gcc-3.4.1-glibc-2.3.3". GCC 3.4.1 was released on 1 July 2004. Glibc 2.3.3 was released on 3 August 2004. The string "crosstool-0.42" also appears. That software was superseded by crosstool-0.43, apparently on 18 March 2008.

I never applied that upgrade. The issue was resolved on 27 November, when the reader malfunctioned:
Malfunctioning reader

The replacement, which I received on 13 December, is somewhat updated:

Hardware Version: S16.601.2.0
Firmware Version: V1.
Software Version: V2.0

This unit feels slower than the first one. The buttons second and third from the bottom on the right-hand side have been programmed to act as page-turn buttons.

The replacement has no problems with HTML files that the first reader failed to correctly display. The same could not be said of other formats.

The most basic format is plain text:

Comparison of display of text from the Gutenberg file 132.txt (Sun Tzu's "The Art of War").
Text from "The Art of War" as rendered by Kogan reader Text from "The Art of War" as rendered by Notepad
Kogan reader Microsoft Notepad

A defacto standard for eBooks is the ePub Open Source format:

Comparison of display of text from the eBook of Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study In Scarlet" at Adelaide University.
Text of "A Study In Scarlet", as rendered by Kogan reader Text of "A Study In Scarlet" as rendered by Calibre ebook reader software
Kogan reader calibre eBook reader software

 My experience with the hardware may be atypical but, as others have said, the feel of the buttons gives cause to doubt its durability.

Differences between the two units and ongoing shortcomings in file format support demonstrate that the reader is still a work-in-progress. Firmware and/or software updates are needed. I've found no indication, on either the Kogan site or that of the manufacturer, of how to do so. There isn't even an indication of current version numbers.

I still have no easy way of finding out about updates. Evidently, if I want to know about them, I'll need to repeatedly contact Kogan.

On 24 January 2011, in response to my enquiry, Kogan Support wrote:

Please follow the instructions to do the firmware upgrade. It should
resolve the issue you are facing:

To perform the firmware update you will need a blank SD card and a pin.
You will need to make sure that you have closed all Adobe Digital
Editions windows that you have open before you start.
1. Backup all the ebooks onto your computer. Performing the update
will delete all of these from the ebook reader.
2. Download the V2.4 firmware files onto your computer from the following link:

3. Extract the 2 files qte.img/ebook.img to the root directory of your
SD card. Make sure there are no other files or folders on the SD card.
4. Insert the SD card into the ebook reader.
5. While the ebook reader is turned off, hold the page-right button,
and then hold the power button. Keep holding these two
buttons until it starts updating. This may take up to 10 seconds. It
will say 'Update qte' when it starts updating. Once this is done, it
will reset automatically.
6. On the ebook reader, go to Settings -> Format Diskette Settings ->
Internal Memory -> Confirm
7. Copy your ebooks back onto the ebook reader

If you have Adobe Digital Editions, you will need to reauthorise the
ebook reader as below. If you do not have this, you can ignore the
next steps.
8. Open up Adobe Digital Editions.
9. Connect your ebook reader to your computer and select 'Data
transfer mode' on the eReader. You will need to authorise it with ADE
as per the prompts.

Your firmware update is now complete.

The zip file contains two files:
   Name       Kilobytes     Date      Time
ebook.img       30,534   03/01/2011 9:01 AM
qte.img         22,838   24/12/2010 1:53 PM
Examination of qte.img indicates that software versions remain unchanged.

Repeated efforts to follow those instructions failed. On 27 January 2011, at the request of Kogan support, I mailed the reader back to them.

On 4 February, the reader arrived by Express Post. Settings/About Product now shows Firmware Version: V2. and Issue Date: 2010-12-24. The previous version had no line for the Issue Date. I see no other changes.

The only difference in performance I've noticed is that multi-file ebooks display from the beginning, as continua. Previously it seemed only the main file displayed, often missing out preliminaries such as copyright notice and index. Unfortunately, the issues illustrated above have not improved.

That same day, I wrote Kogan Support saying (among other things):
Unfortunately, the text flow issues illustrated [here] remain.

Presumably, future updates will address these shortcomings. How can I ensure that I'm kept informed of updates?

Three days later, they responded:
Generally, we will send out email to let you know when a new firmware update is available and where you can download it from.

24 November 2011: that hasn't happened yet. Though the IDEO is still shown on the ctaindia site, Kogan no longer sells this model.

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