Mattel’s megacheap e-book reader

Mattel, known mostly for the Barbie doll, and for the aggresive way in which it tries to “protect” its “trademark”, brought out an MP3/video player called the Juicebox.

Perhaps it did not catch on, because several US chain stores slashed its price from upwards of 60 dollar to just over 10 dollar.

Which made me wonder: could this machine perhaps be used as an ebook reader? The screen is 50% larger (in pixels) than that of my Palm Pilot and the price is a tenth of that same Palm Pilot. I have always felt that ebook readers should be around the 25 euro mark, because otherwise even prolific readers would be paying more for the medium than for the message.

(I can imagine a subscription scheme in which one would pay 50 euro for the first year, but get, say, a bunch of good, new books thrown in for free. A bit like the initial Ebookwise model, where you would pay 100 US$ for the reader device, and get 20 US$ worth of books free.)

Brian Pipa used JPEGbook to convert a text to sequentially numbered JPEGs, which then can be read on the Juicebox. More on the Teleread blog and at Brian’s.

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Photo: Brian Pipa

The only pity so far seems to be that JPEGbook will not anti-alias the letters; the JPEG compression seems to produce pretty hefty artifacts, and of course one is limited in the font size that is usable.

It seems the Juicebox uses lots of standard components, which would imply it could be hacked to run a real reader program. The makers of the Juicebox, Hongkong based Emsoft, also produce ebook reader software, which may or may not be compatible.

10 responses to “Mattel’s megacheap e-book reader”

  1. […] ting ebooks. Some devices that can be used as ebook readers will only display images (PSP, Juice Box). Although theoretically it is possible to write real […]

  2. Zach says:

    I saw the slashdot, literally fled out of my house and sped to Walmart to find they didn’t have them, and then lucked out with Target. So I have two. It’s a pity the picture frame person’s “hack” really just consisted of using the media card. However:

    http://www.linux-hacker.net/cgi-bin/UltraBoard/UltraBoard.pl?Action=ShowPost&Board=MJB&Post=13&Idle=0&Sort=0&Order=Descend&Page=0&Session=

    Forget JPEG; it loads it’s own custom bitmaps, which you can throw on the card directly. Which means, no artifacts, no image loss. I personally plan on using mine so I don’t have to boot up a computer and load acrobat everytime I need a pinout…

  3. Branko Collin says:

    Zach, sounds cool! How do you convert a text file to an image file though?

  4. mys says:

    Do you know how to get these things in Europe/Germany

  5. Branko Collin says:

    I was going to call Mattel to find out, but haven’t found the time yet.

  6. David Mortensen says:

    Does anyone have the original juicebox installation CD? My daughter lost hers, and she’s now dead in the water. I can’t imagine that the file is too large; maybe it could be condensed. I’ve tried to find it on the net, but no luck. Mattel, by the way, won’t replace them or sell them seperately.

  7. brankl says:

    David, I am not sure this is the right place to ask your question. I doubt many Juice Box users hang out here. (Of course, I’d love to be proved wrong.)

  8. Bob says:

    David, I was reading the pdf file about the juice box from mattel’s website and they said it could be downloaded from them, if that doesn’t work, write back to me here and I’ll get you a copy of one. I just bought two of them from Toy R Us, not as cheaply as I’ve seen posted here, but not too pricey.

  9. Alvin Sison says:

    Hello Bob, I see that you have the Juicebox software available, I tried looking for information from the mattel website and it seems that the Juicebox site is no longer available. Would it be possible to obtain the software from you? Thanks.

  10. Asia says:

    hi Bob, Alvin Sison,

    does anyone of you think you can send me the juicebox software? I just bought the juice box but it didn’t come with the cd and I really need it if I want to get anywhere near being able to read ebooks…I would really really appreciate it if you could please send it to me!!! my email is: filamasia [at] gmail.com thanks!! :)))

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