Customer Reviews: WikiReader Pocket Wikipedia
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on October 21, 2009
Got mine 5 days ago [...] and have had some fun with it. However the fun was dampened by a defective touch screen. The bottom 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the screen doesn't respond to touch, meaning I can't access the bottom row of letters or the space bar. I contacted customer support and the were prompt in replying. They had me load a different kernel file, hoping that would fix it, but it didn't. they said they will be shipping out a replacement soon, so hopefully this one will work as designed.

Aside from the touch screen, the co-workers I showed it to thought it was pretty slick.
My co-workers all carry Blackberrys, but due to corporate policy can't install wikipedia software. I don't have a smart phone, due to no Verizon service where I live, so this works great for me. I like the fact that it uses standard AAA batteries and will run for 90 hours of powered on time.

It also has a couple of hidden features when you hold down a button while powering up. Search throws you a list of forth programs that are mostly diagnostics. There is a little line drawing program that is fun to scribble with, and also a calculator. The calculator can also be accessed by holding down the history button while powering up. Finally, the random button on power up is some sort of serial communication screen. One other thing, one of the diagnostics displays a reading from a thermistor, so I suppose someone could create a tiny app using that as well.

In the short time that I have had it, I noticed a couple of small issues with the data on it. It looks like it is missing some numeric info. The example I noticed was the wikipedia article on prairie dogs as to their size and quantities. Also some special characters, like foreign letters, are not displayed correctly. I am pretty sure they will correct that down the road though, as it should not be too tough to do.

An 8gb microSD card holds the data and system. It looks like buying the updates might not be a bad idea as 8gb SD cards go for around $20 each anyway, and the $[...] update charge will get you two of those. Not bad to have a spare and you can always clear an extra and use it in another device.

Update. Got the replacement Wikireader, and it works as it is supposed to now. It can't help but make me better informed.

I would love to see them add some e-reader functionality. There would be plenty of room to add a pile of Project Gutenberg reading material.

I may end up getting a couple more of the for Christmas presents.
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on December 16, 2011
...Ok, so I feel like a scumbag complaining about having the entire globes information in my hands, accessible at any time in an instant, but nevertheless, I do!

Its a great item. And I got it on a deal-a-day site brand new for $15 which I think is all its worth paying for. The main reason is that it comes very limited and restricted. Here are a few issues why:

1) Why would you need this? I do, because a large part of my commute is in a subway with no internet connection. Can't think of any other reason as to why anyone would need this (traveling abroad with no wireless data plan I presume?). But if you do have a connection, even the most basic of phones these days will get you on to wikipedia.

2) The first few times I did look something up, the entire article wasn't even there! It literally states "Article Truncated Due to Size". Well, that doesn't sit right with me. I wouldn't mind it so much if I could personally buy a larger SD micro card and update it with a non-truncated wikipedia. But the Support Team never got back to me and I can't see how else to do it. I understand that adding images would greatly increase the size of the file but to cut off the articles seems like its missing the point.

3) They cheap out and send you the 4 GB SD Micro card which fits only a non-image truncated wikipedia on it. I added wikiquotes, dictionary, and the chinese wikipedia on to it after getting a larger card. Its pretty simple to do but should be easier. Since none of this stuff is restricted why not have the wikireader update software just ask "Do you want to add the dictionary?" Why hold back? doesn't make any sense.

4) You guys know that for $9 bucks you can get the very same thing on your phone and you won't have to spend 60 bucks and carry around a separate device, right? Ok. Just checking. Its called wikipock - google it. Why didn't I do this you ask? Because the cost of buying the wikireader device, was actually cheaper then buying the app and the increased SD storage card I would need to hold all the data on my phone. But if you already have a 16GB sd card in your phone, you should be good to go.

Ultimately, I do enjoy this device and for 15 bucks its great. But its not a very fun experience and is unnecessarily restrictive and it completely doesn't have to be. I would have given it 2 stars, but 2 stars say "I dont like it" and I do, I honestly do. But for $60 youre better off upgrading your SD card for $15 on amazon and spending $9 to get the wikipock. It'll save you $35 bucks, give you the exact same thing but better, faster and more sensitive to touch (since its your phone's touch screen) and now you're phone will have more room due to the larger card which will always come in handy AND you'll have one less thing to carry.

If WikiReader wants to get away with charging $60 bucks, it needs to have its support team respond to emails, and it needs to make the device far more "open" to other wikis and far less restrictive. Imagine if Slacker Radio only allowed it to be used on the Slacker G2 4 GB 25-Station Personal Radio Player devices? It would be out of business by now. And so will wikireader I'm sure. So to recap, for 15 bucks, worth it. A penny more? I'll pass and so should you.
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on October 19, 2009
I suffer from sensory overload: too many things impinging on my consciousness too much of the time. When I look something up on Wikipedia, I don't like to be distracted with things like email notifications, cell phone rings, etc. and then lose my focus. Along comes the WikiReader, enabling me to do just that, and access Wikipedia whenever I want to. It's reasonably priced and best of all, there's no monthly fee, no Internet connection needed. I am so sick of gadgets that I really don't need. This is something I do need, and enjoy using, too. It's easy for me to rationalize spending $99 for it.

Yes, Wikipedia is available on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, but my phone rings, I get distracted, and the somewhat stressful pace continues. With the WikiReader I can tune out the distractions and relax while indulging my curiosity, satisfying my appetite for knowledge and wikifacts. For me it's a form of focused attention, meditation. And it's a fun learning experience, too. It's portable, unlike my desktop computer. Unlike a laptop, it fits in my purse or pocket, I can take it where ever I go. I can even sit and soak in knowledge as I soak in the bathtub. It's great on an airplane when I'm sitting next to someone I'd rather not converse with.

It's straightforward enough that I can use it right away, and it bridges the tech gap between my kids and me. What a gift!
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on December 4, 2009
I purchased the WikiReader a few weeks ago, and I can't put it down. It's a great little gadget for anyone who is naturally curious or just likes learning about new things.

Two points that I've seen in reviews that I'd like to address:

1 - Some people think the WikiReader is unnecessary and redundant because of other devices on the market (such as smartphones) which can search Wikipedia and do many other things -- since the WikiReader does only one thing (Wikipedia) it must be pointless. Well, there are *many* people out there who don't have a smart phone or aren't even very computer savvy. The WikiReader is easy enough for anyone to use, and even though it does only one thing, it does it very well. But the clincher for me is the fact that it's all completely offline. Since all 3 million Wikipedia articles are stored on a Micro SD card inside the WikiReader, you can literally use it anywhere, with no need for a wi-fi or cellular connection to do it. There's no other device out there which can make that claim when it comes to Wikipedia access.

2 - I've also read the complaint that since the WikiReader will only receive updates a few times a year, that it's a silly product -- because the Wikipedia site is always being updated, the version on your WikiReader will always be outdated. I find this line of thinking a little laughable. It's like saying that it's pointless to publish any sort of reference book because newer information is available on the internet. While it's true that some pop cultural articles may be outdated because of the constant antics of celebrities, I assure you that there's millions of other articles on Wikipedia on a myriad of subjects that won't be affected by the fact that the version of Wikipedia on your WikiReader is a few months older than what's on Wikipedia at this very moment.

That's just my two cents on the WikiReader. It's a solid little device with great battery life that succeeds at what it was built for -- access to Wikipedia anywhere. 3 million fascinating articles in your pocket, anytime or anyplace you want. And it's getting better all the time: When I first unboxed my WikiReader, I found that scrolling down the page in longer articles was a little sluggish. I went to the WikiReader website and found that a fix had already been released. I downloaded the file (it was quite small), dragged and dropped it onto my Micro SD card, and noticed an instant improvement on page scrolling. It was nice to find that the WikiReader team is in touch with their consumers and constantly working on improvements for the device, and also that the update process is so painless.
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on November 2, 2009
When new electronic devices are released I eagerly await the articles covering them with both joy and a certain amount of sadness. Joy because someone is about to open up a device and expose it's inner workings to the world, and sad because some innocent electronic had to give it's life up for science.

When my WikiReader arrived I was quite happy to see it, I was especially impressed by the fact that they not only shipped a set of AAA batteries for it, but good name brand ones. So with much excitement I put the batteries in, turned it on and started using it. The random button worked as advertised, as did the history and search button. However when I did my first search (on "recursion", I wanted to compare the WikiReader to Wikipedia) I got as far as "re" and the c "key" didn't work. Ok I thought, this is a problem, but probably due to the fact that the unit is cold (it was in the mailbox for a few hours at almost freezing temperatures), so hey, let it warm up and it should all be good. Sadly this was not the case, after 24 hours to stabilize at room temperature the bottom 2 rows of keys still did not function reliably or at all.

So after a brief email exchange the WikiReader guys said they'd send me a new one out, I offered to send the broken one back so they could autopsy it and figure out what flaw/defect is but they said I could crack it open if I wanted.

Be still my geeky heart.

As I feared the unit is not designed to be opened, it basically has two plastic halves that snap together, a third plastic piece

covers the battery hold and slot for the micro-SD card. The two pin holes at the top were my clue that the "hinge" was on that side,I briefly debated putting my 80 tooth metal blade on my table saw backwards and grinding the edges of the case off but decided not to since it's near freezing outside (cold hands and table saws are a bad combination) and I felt pretty confident I could open it without destroying it. So I cracked it open starting at the opposite end (the thin end). After popping a number of the small plastic catches I had it open.

Unfortunately the suggestion that perhaps the cables connecting the display were loose was not to be the case, everything is in snug, so unfortunately no quick fix there.

All in all the unit reminds me very much of those hand held video games from the 80's (yeah, I'm old). Basically you have a single board with one or two chips, a whole pile of little voltage related bits and in this case instead of an EEPROM you have a micro-SD card slot (so this little guy can easily hold 8 or more gigs of data in theory although the copy of Wikipedia they ship is around 4 gigs). Virtually indestructible unless you hit it with a hammer, the only improvement I could see would be to encase the entire sucker in epoxy goop which would make it water proof (WikiReader, now in a bathtub model!).

One thing that interests me is we now have a cheap widely available device that not only allows you to browse text but search it (I'm not sure how well the Kindle or the Barnes and Noble e reader handle search), it's to bad you can get electronic copies of the DSM-IV or other heavy reference books in a form factor such as the WikiReader.

All in all I like it, the form factor and instant on ability, as well as working offline is great. I also assume that the battery life (based on the minimal amount of stuff in there and memories of my Nintendo Gameboy) should be great.
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on October 22, 2009
Overall: Simple to use, intuitive interface. Screen is easily viewable in full sunlight and normal room lighting. Durable, light-weight, solid-state device, very nice touch screen for scrolling and other functions. Keyboard is pretty easy to fat-finger (think Blackberry-sized keys) yet with a little practice works really well. Touch sensitivity is perfect.

Room for improvement: A backlight would have been a nice addition, but not a big deal. Scrolling requires that you cover part of the screen with a finger which interrupts your flow a bit. The scrolling itself is not smooth enough to follow text while it's moving. I would have preferred a page up/dn function. My unit was having problems out of the box with the random function, articles failing to load, and locking up at times. Wikireader email support was very responsive in providing an updated system file and even offered to replace the unit. The system file fixed the problem.
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on October 15, 2009
It's so simple to use and I like the retro design. The perfect device for Wikipedia reading, it's a comfortable read unlike trying to read it on my iPhone. I think it's a great gift for kids too. Forget Encyclopedia Britanica, we're in a Wikipedia/Wikireader generation.
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on April 17, 2013
Device shipped with corrupted 4GB microSD card and was unusable. Booted to logo, then did nothing. Tried to load latest Wikipedia export on existing microSD card but it is greater than 4GB by itself. Bought 16GB microSD card to replace shipped card (~$11), loaded Wikipedia, Wikitionary, WikiQuote, WikiTravel, WikiHow, Wookiepedia, Appropedia, and Project Gutenburg content on 16GB card (~9GB used) and everything worked fine. Great product, except it shipped in an unusable state and required an additional purchase to enable it.

Functionally it works well. Provides rudimentary search (title only) of current library (you have to switch to the library you want to search and can only search one at a time...) As some have said, a bit tedious for long articles (navigation via links through the article's table of contents would be useful here...
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on January 25, 2013
I could barely read the print, even under a strong light. I couldn't enter a command from the keyboard.I continually got the wrong key even though I carefully pressed the correct key. Maybe a young person with small hands and good eyes could use it. A 76 year old man has problems with it.
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on October 27, 2009
I am a frequent editor and contributor to the Wikipedia and the WikiReader is a clever offline reader. I find myself using the "Random" button more than any other feature, something I never did on the online Wikipedia. I use it to learn new things and to see which articles need editing help.

The good bits:
Despite the low-power processor it is very fast.
AAA batteries for a year? Yes, really! My battery tester shows negligible battery drain in about a month of daily use.
The History keeps track of where you scrolled to in the article.
Mine crashed 1 out of 10 times while scrolling and the support group sent me a software update within 24 hours that fixed the problem completely.
The Random button makes Wikipedia fun!!

A few oddities are worth mentioning:
The touch screen gives me a hard time when clicking links. I usually end up scrolling up or down a pixel instead of selecting the link.
Any articles with two-column tables cannot be read because WikiReader does not scroll horizontally.
The screen is about as readable as the last black-and-green Palm Pilot, which is to say, it isn't that great.
External links are not just disabled but are removed, so you'll see empty References sections for most articles.

Some suggestions:
Let's put an anti-glare matte finish on the screen.
Horizontal scrolling has to be implemented.

This is a great item and you'll have fun with it. Anyone you give it to will also like it. Updates are $25 to buy a new SD card or FREE to download.
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