100 Classic Book Collection DS
Published by: Nintendo.
Developed by: Genius Sonority
After the flurry of game releases we see in the final few months of a year it can be a jarring experience to suddenly hit the brakes and see pretty much nothing appearing until February. We currently have only a few games in for review so January is certainly destined to be a very quiet time at Deaf Gamers. Rather than see the website gather virtual dust however, I thought I would review the few games I got my mitts on over the Christmas break. The first of these isn't exactly a game however.
Nintendo decided a long time ago that we can use their current handheld for much more than just playing games and their latest title, 100 Classic Book Collection, is an attempt to turn the Nintendo DS into an e-book reader. The asking price is £19.99 (I bought mine for £14.99 from Amazon) which on the face of it doesn't seem bad value at all for 100 classic e-books. Of course cynics are going to argue that all of the 100 books are now copyright free and can be downloaded for nothing from websites such as Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) and if you have a device on which you can read the files, it's probably not worth considering this offering from Nintendo. The 100 Classic Book Collection does have its merits however and the DS doesn't make a bad e-book reader.
The quality of the books on offer here are without question some of the best books of all time. Included authors are Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen, Brontë (Charlotte and Emily), Doyle, Dumas, Poe, Elliot, Hardy, Hugo, Verne and many more besides. Shakespeare and Dickens are particularly well presented with over twenty of Shakespeare's works and thirteen from Dickens being included. Personally I would have liked to have seen more from the likes of Jules Verne and Conan Doyle. Whilst both authors are enormously popular (and Dickens is certainly one of my favourite authors) it doesn't make the overall package feel that balanced when between the two of them, they claim almost a third of the books in the package. There's also space on your virtual bookshelf for ten more e-books that you can download using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service.
Should you ever be unsure of which book you want to read, you can always check out the rankings for each of the books using the Wi-Fi Connection service (on completing a book you'll get to grade it out of ten) or you can choose to take a quiz and have three books recommended to you. It's all a bit of fun of course but I was impressed how one of the three suggested books always seemed to be one of my preferred books.
I don't know a lot about e-book readers (although I seriously thought about purchasing the Sony PRS 505 last year) but the DS certainly does a decent job of serving as one. Sure there are some limitations but none are serious. Unlike the latest e-readers there is no e-ink technology here and the screen can be a little bright when reading for prolonged periods. I set the light on my DS to its lowest level and this made reading for more than an hour a much more comfortable experience. Of course the DS only has two small screens and this means that the stories are spread over a massive amount of virtual pages (even on the smallest of the two available font sizes, which will be fine for all but those with serious eyesight problems). For reference my hardback version of Treasure Island has 189 pages where as Treasure Island in this collection, using the smallest font size, has 1330 pages. Occasionally some words are split over two lines which is a little unfortunate but it's certainly not problematic.
Generally, I'm happy with how this book collection has been presented but I think the developers could have gone the extra mile and increased its usefulness. Whilst you can jump to a particular chapter you can't search the books for a word or phrase which is rather disappointing. For the general reader this won't be a problem but it would have made 100 Classic Book Collection a handy study aid for literature students. The pages turn in a realistic fashion (there's no awkward refreshing of the screen when moving from one page to the next that you have on some e-readers). You can use either the stylus or the directional pad (or the A, B, and X buttons if you're left-handed) to turn the pages. All of the control variations work well. You'll find, when selecting a book, that you can either read the book or take a look at some additional information about the author or the book itself. Some of the books even have footnotes that can be accessed which is rather useful. You can place three virtual bookmarks in each of the books meaning that you can happily share the 100 Classic Book Collection with other members of the family without losing your place in a book.
Those who own a DS, like their classic literature and who do not already own some form of an e-reader will certainly find a lot to like with the 100 Classic Book Collection. There is an impressive collection of some truly phenomenal books and it certainly offers good value for money for just under £20. Cynics will say that you can download all of these for nothing and it's a fair point but unless you have an e-reader to put the downloaded files on, or some other such device, you're forced to read them on your PC screen and that's far from being comfortable on the eyes. Personally I'd still rather have a real book when all is said and done but this is a fine package and the DS certainly does a decent job as an e-reader.