Monday, December 28, 2009

CES starts in 10 days

CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, starts in Las Vegas on January 7 and ends on Jnaury 10. Since CES is like a small CITY you cannot imagine the extra time and effort to plan, prepare, set up, and tear down. Moving 20 people to Las Vegas for 6 days is quite a bit of logistics. Cramming ten people into a 2-bedroom house for CES is little short of a miracle.

Anyway, CES is THE premier event in Consumer Electronics. Last year it was largely Astak pleading to get a simple sub-category (rejected) for eBook Readers. We were over-run with attendees. This year CES has seen the light and has an entire eBook Pavilion!

As every Consumer Electronics company plans all year to debut products at CES... Astak is planning major new introductions there. Expect some major news from Astak!! We have two factories that build our eBook Readers and they both will be unveiling new models for us to sell. Such models are rumored to be featuring: Wi-Fi, 3G, and TouchScreen in seperate models. Our partner, Books On Board will be there handing out special CES coupons that will save end users a ton on eBooks. There is incredible news already that I cannot even hint about!

So... while this blog may be quiet for a while in early January... expect it to bust loose right after CES ends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trying to get eReader on Pocket PRO

Dear All:

Right now we do display non-DRM Fictionwise eReader eBooks on all three of our Astak models: EZ Reader Basic, Pocket PRO, Mentor Lite. We have been actively working with Fictionwise for about a year to get a Linux SDK (which our models need) and they say it is almost ready!

We are still trying to get a decent contract. Fictionwise was purchased by Barnes and Noble and they are one immense bureaucracy. Their idea of a simple contract is 40 pages of legaleeze.

Right now they want "exclusivity" (from how we interpret the contract). That would mean our devices can ONLY have their format and none other. We cannot do that and are asking them to strike that paragraph.

I realize ALL are weary of this entire negotiation. Just please be aware that we keep trying, and a breakthrough could happen quickly. We still want eReader. But we cannot do anything without the Linux SDK (so we can port it into the device) and a fair and decent contract.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Christmas Carol Gift Pack

Official full press release on Gift Basket!!
Jacob Marley’s spirit says “Astak Helps the HUNGRY While Making Gift-Giving EZ” 2009 is “The Year of The Ebook”. Astak is offering the 5-inch EZ Reader Pocket PRO special edition: “A Christmas Carol Gift Pack” on! In addition, they are donating $15 from every Gift Pack sold to Second Harvest Food Bank to buy food at the most critical time of year for those less fortunate! Astak received so many requests to make the Pocket PRO easy to gift. At the same time, we were planning to raise funds for Second Harvest Food Bank. We pulled everything together in the spirit of giving and came up with quite a great way to help others. San Jose, California (PRWEB) November 24, 2009 -- Astak announced that this holiday season, the company is offering the 5-inch Pocket PRO special edition “A Christmas Carol” Gift Basket on Astak will donate $15 of the proceeds from each gift basket to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Consumers have the opportunity to give something to help those less fortunate while also giving a basket of joy that will help the receiving person “Keep Christmas in Their Hearts All Year Round”! Astak 5-inch EZ Reader Pocket PRO Gift PackThe Pocket PRO is lighter (under 6 ounces), faster (Epson controller with 400MHz processor), more convenient (5 inch), and more full-featured (20 formats, user-replaceable rechargeable battery, Text-To-Speech, leather case, memory expansion to hold 8,000 eBooks and MP3 music) eBook Reader and packaged it in a keepsake basket with: Mighty Bright eBook Reader light, 2GB card pre-loaded with 230 Holiday Classics (everything from the immortal “A Christmas Carol, thru 150 Christmas stories for the entire family, to old time holiday recipes). Astak added a full TIN of Starbucks Mints, a three-pack of Starbucks VIA coffee, a coupon for 50% rewards dollars on the first ten eBooks purchased from Books On Board (our partner), all the holiday wrappings and packaging, and a personalized Holiday Card that holds the buyer’s 50 word personal message! What a way to give something that will be treasured all year by the recipient!! But, Astak has remembered the real message of A Christmas Carol. They are donating $15 from every Gift Pack sold to Second Harvest Food Bank to buy food at the most critical time of year for those less fortunate!! Jacob Marley’s spirit said: “Kindness, mercy, benevolence… THAT was my business” There has never been a more dire time for feeding those in need!! Astak welcomes other eBook Reader manufacturers to please join us!! Astak hope to contribute $4,500!! Robert Barry, Astak’s Director of Business Development said: “Astak received so many requests to make the Pocket PRO easy to gift and include eBooks and a light and much more. At the same time, we were planning to raise funds for Second Harvest Food Bank. We talked with our partners (Books On Board and Mighty Bright) and they had some great ideas too. Then the local Starbucks Coffee wanted to help. Our staff pulled everything together in the spirit of giving and came up with quite a great way to help others.” This special and festive gift pack will end December 11 (to allow time to ship). Everyone can do good for those less fortunate and “Keep Christmas in your Heart all Year Around” by visiting and purchasing “A Christmas Carol Pack” for $239.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Consumer Electronics Show is January 7-10

The annual Consumer Electronics Show will take place in Las Vegas from January 7-10!! About 500,000 attendees and press and media people will all swarm to there like bees to honey!

Why is this important to the end-user?

Here is why> every major eBook Reader manufacturer will be there. There is a special "eBook Pavilion" which Robertb asked for last year and CES agreed this year! My prodding, pressing, and providing names and emails to CES made this happen and I am really proud of that. I feel this pavilion symbalizes what we all now think: the "Year of the eBook" has finally come!!

Exhibitors start working towards this show in July!! That is how big this is. It takes a good six months of painstaking work to get ready. There is booth design, space selection changes, finding audio and video and pretty models. There is also the obvious and largest consideration: transporting displays and 20-40 people to Las Vegas and housing and feeding them so they can man the booth.

Yet... every major newspaper and magazine and TV station and retail store will have representatives there. Present models can be triied out and all new and planned models for the next year will at least be seen in prototype.

CES is really WHY you hear very little about new models form July thru December each year!! Everyone is planning the grand introduction at CES.

So... what will Astak be showing? I cannot tell you. Yes, we will have some major new models with incredible features. Some of the rumored products are really amazing and earth-shaking. BUT, you will have to either attend the show or count on reviewers to let you know. I will be posting here and on MobileRead Forum when I get back after the show.

So, this is why news is limited right now by everyone. They are waiting! The excitement is growing and everybody knows that CES will shake the entire eBook World!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

WHO CARES about User-Replaceable Batteries?

Well, you should and I do.

You will note that both of our lines (EZReader and Mentor) have a battery door. There is one sturdy little screw that opens with a standard phillips screwdriver. You can purchase replacement batteries atour website:

Almost all the major eBook Reader sellers have gone to sealed-in batteries.

"So what?", you might say!

First of all, batteries do not last forever. Maybe you do 200 recharges in a year. That battery might be ready to go out. It depends on how long it sat discharged and weather and temperature and other factors... but Diamonds may be forever and batteries aren't!

With a sealed -in battery you first hunt down the maker of the device and try to contact customer service. You then pay $80 or so to them to replace the battery. But wait, what about freight? Add that in. Then you sit for 4-6 weeks waiting to get the device back. Getting the idea now?

With the Astak line... you can already be up and running for about $16 or so.

Also, what about the concept of a "spare battery"? With Astak you can buy a spare, charge it, and pop in the spare on a long trip! It weighs next to nothing and takes up little room. So, instead of the "8,000 pages to a single charge"... you now have 16,000 pages capability.

Frankly, I would never buy a device that is sealed in! That, to me, is a form of lunacy.

Most reviewers never seem to get this. They comment on font sizes available and Text-To-Speech quality instead... all items that are readily improved by firmware upgrades... free and taking maybe 2 minutes. In the last month or so, Astak has offered firmware upgrades to improve: battery charge, Search Function, Bookmarking, Font Size selection, more languages supported, amd more. Dictionary Support and a visual clock are the next upgrade and already in the works. We listen and we react.

Unfortunately, you cannot change a sealed in battery with a firmware upgrade.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Differences between the EZ Reader and the Mentor Lite

The Mentor Line is made by a separate factory. They are two different lines. We do this to offer the latest in best in multiple lines.

The Mentor line now has the "Mentor Lite"... that is presently the only Mentor that we carry. More models are planned.

The Mentor Lite Version 2 has added the new Epson high-speed controller and MP3 for music while you read.

The EZ Reader Basic does not have the Epson Controller for faster page turns, although it is pretty fast anyway. What sets the Mentor Lite Version 2 (the only version that we sell) apart is the fact that it has the Epson Controller, has one-touch buttons to take you to the main menu or top go to Landscape Mode at any time you wish, and it adds one touch buttons to take you to the first real game on eBook Readers: a full version of Sudoku! So, you can read a bit, listen to music a bit, and then play some exciting Sudoku on a long trip.

Both devices (Mentor Lite 2 and EZ Reader Basic) have E-Ink technology for long battery charge life (8,000 pages to a single charge), a USER-REPLACEABLE rechargeable battery (we think this is a HUGE plus, have SD card slots to at least 4GB, and play music while you read. BOTH come with the case included!!

You can buy the Mentor Lite ONLY on at present.

Regarding Canada, we are working on adding more retail stores that will carry the Astak brand. FutureShop has it now. Others will be added as they accept the device.

This week we added 49 stores of retail stores carrying our device!! Those stores are in Washington State, Oregon, and Texas and they are expanding.

Two websites, one is Domestic and one International

Dear All:

You can buy the EZ Reader Basic or the Pocket PRO at one of two sites!

The Domestic website is:

The International Shipping website is:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just a note on where to purchase the Mentor Lite

The Mentor Lite is an entirely different line made for Astak by a different factory. As such, we do not put it up on :

You can purchase the Mentor Lite Version 2 at: It may not say "Version 2" as we never sold Version 1. ALL Mentor Lite sold on the Astak website are indeed Version 2 with the new Epson Controller and MP3 and a crush-resistant case included in the box!

Thank you!! We have had a lot of email asking where the Mentor Lite can be purchased and now you know!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why would I buy an eBook Reader?

At a Trade Show, about a year ago, someone asked the question: "If I can buy a paperback book for $10, why would I want to buy an eBook Reader for $300". This told me that a major part of selling eBook Readers is education!

First off, there are the obvious benefits. Try lugging around 20 or thirty paperback books on your next trip to the beach. The Astak Pocket PRO can hold up to 8,000 eBooks in the palm of your hand. Secondly, how many of us get weary and watering eyes while reading? There is no eye strain with an eBook Reader because of E-Ink technology. It is easy on the eyes. How many boxes are stored in your attic or basement or garage filled with old paperbacks, hard cover books, magazines, and such? So, you reduce all that clutter in your life. Ever tried to find a book you read a year ago? Books are like socks in a washer... they disappear. Not so with an eBook Reader. Ever carried a boom box around for listening to music while you read? Well, the Pocket PRO gives you far better sound with its MP3 stereo and a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones and weighs less than 6 ounces. Reduce the clutter and hassle in your life with an eBook Reader.

BUT... the obvious is a small part of the benefit. The non-obvious is largely environmental and its impact on your wallet, folks.

You may note that all printed books are on white paper. Isn't it wonderful how trees produce white paper for your pleasure? The truth is... they do not. Paper mill pulp comes from cutting down living trees. About 16% is grown on "tree farms". The rest is "old growth forest"! You may note that old growth forests are fast disappearing and Paul Bunyon and Babe (the blue ox) are not finding any more. Further... you may note that trees are NOT WHITE inside. What makes pulp white is BLEACHING!! Why is this important? Because Paper Mill Sludge comes from the bleaching of paper to white. Like nuclear fuel... you cannot mitigate the harm to the environment. Paper Mill Sludge contains 32 known carcinogens. In Canada, they actually tried using it as a mulch on farmland with epic disastrous results. It runs into our streams and lakes and rivers. It enters the food chain. It poisons everything it comes in contact with.

Then they make the books. $10 paperback? Think again. Old paperbacks and hard covers and magazines and newspapers end up (sadly) in our landfill!! Seen many new "dumps" opening in your area lately?? We are fast running out of landfill, folks.

So... how does this impact your wallet? Publishers buy paper, they do not materialize it. If we have a Paper Mill Sludge problem, limited trees, and lack of landfill space... we ARE talking that paper products are going way up in cost! eBooks are coming way down in cost. When a paperback books costs three times what an eBook costs... you will see the benefit to eBook Readers or stop reading!

In 1855, Chief Seattle of the Dwamish Tribe in Washington State put it exactly right: "All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Continue to deficate in your own bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste."

We are about to suffocate in the bed we are making. Look closely into eBook Readers. The Pocket PRO is $199 and is lighter, and faster, and more full-featured than almost any other eBook Reader. It is a fine start in making your bed (the earth) last a little longer while giving you far more convenience and less clutter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bruce Pechman reviews 5 inch Pocket PRO

I have a friend (Bruce Pechman) who is reknowned as one of the finest male physical speciments around. Entering his 50's... he looks in his low 30's. Don't we all wish we could say that?

Anyway, Bruce, who I met years ago. Bruce does a number of TV shows and two of them are: "Good Morning San Diego" and "Good Morning Los Angeles". IF you ever are in those areas look for Bruce's show.

Bruce started as a celebrity showing off his fabulous arm strength and muscles. However, over the years he has gobe heavily into being "The Muscleman of Technology"! I refreshed the friendship at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January! Bruce recently called me and asked if he could do a live review of the Astak 5 inch Pocket PRO. He was doing a show on eBook Readers anyway... and the Pocket PRO was new and novel!

Clearly Bruce loved the Pocket PRO and still has it. We know he is trying to get other appearances where he might show it. Bruce will also be at this year's CES show in Las Vegas (January 7-10) and will be stopping by the Astak booth (#12640). If you see a guy walking around with arms like the old Blacksmiths used to have... say hello to Bruce and tell him that "Bob sent me"!! Nicest guy you would ever want to meet!!

You should be able to see the TV review on our website:!! We will also be showing it at CES! Anyway, reviewers are loving the Pocket PRO and watching Bruce do the review is incredible!! Thank you so much, Bruce!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

WoW!! Pocket PRO with great reviews!!

Well, the Astak Pocket PRO has been out now about a month or so! I thin it is time to check back in and see what the reviewers have been like and WHY the reviews were positive.

You can see many of the reviews and comments posted on our website:

But WHY did they like it and why is it an overwhelming success. More than that, has it been a "Landmark Device" like I thought it would be.

Overwhelmingly, the single main reason people like the Pocket PRO is the wealth of formats! The Pocket PRO displays 20 formats and 20 languages. This means that you are free to buy eBooks from over 300 different websites. It means that English may be the main language of the USA... but people still prefer to read in their native tongue: Spanish, French, Potugese. Romanian, Chinese, Korean and so on.

The Pocket PRO has Adobe DRM and 8 level grey scale. The grey scale shows up illustarations much more clearly. The Adobe allows reflow of pdf pictrues and illustrations to fit the screen. Reviewers liked that!

Reviewers liked the idea of having MP3 stereo on the device and praised the 3.5mm headphone jack. They liked the Text-To-Speech features and said while it may sound still a bit robotic it was pleasant enough and it turned the pages automatically!

The colors were successful!! The Pocket PRO comes in six different colors. We knew the Black and the White and the Slate Blue were fine... but we took a risk with the Fuscia Pink and the Metallic Purple and the Maroon! Feddback and buying have shown that women LOVE having the "cute" Pink and Metallic Purple and they are not afraid to say it! Women-Only Websites have praised it as perfect to sell to their patrons. It appears that Astak's colors have captured the hearts of all sexes!

Every review praised how EASY it was to download the eBooks!! Most found this very simple, fast, and incredibly easy. One TV reviewer called to ask HOW to download a book and was amazed that within 35 seconds he had what he wanted and it read perfectly. There is NOTHING like making someone feel like an "expert" by simply doing what they wanted to do. This ease of downlaoding really impressed!

Many reviewers picked up on the USER-REPLACEABLE rechargeable battery arguing that sealed batteries are a hassle, and expense, and maybe 4-6 weeks without their eBook Reader! They argued WHO would buy a $199 device and then pay $100 plus freight to have the factroy change the battery for them. The Pocket PRO battery takes maybe a minute to change yourself!

There were some engatives that should be noted: the device did not have Hyperlinks or a Search Function and the Bookmarking was "clunky". Thus, Astak issued free Formware Uploads that eliminated every one of these problems at once and the End Users raved how great it worked!

OH, that SD card slot drew praise too! Just that it has a slot was great... but it supported up to a 16GB card (room for 8,000 ebooks and music)!!

Finally, what won them over entirely and had many reviewers BUY their eval unit was the price! $199-$229 seemed incredibly like a bargain!! This was one eBook Reader that was priced just right.

Is it better than the Kindle? Some brought that up and thought that it was. While the Kindle is a fine device, it has no expansion slot, a sealed-in battery, one format (that seems to be going out of style quickly as ADE becomes dominant), and it ties you forever to buying from one website. Only you can answer this question. We will not! We just know that the Pocket PRO is a hit and people love it. I think that is all any manufacturer could want!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mentor Lite Version 2

Astak made a wise decision and did not ship the Mentor Lite in its first version. The old unit was slow and did not have DRM and had no MP3. We liked the idea of one-touch buttons to the main menu and to Sudoku, and we liked the cursor-style of making selections. But, slow is not what we want the Mentor Line to be known for. SO, we simply very quietly pulled back on marketing it and went back to the factory to get it improved.

Well, the improvement is really apparent! The revised Mentor Lite Version 2 has MP3, has Adobe Digital Editions, and has the famous Epson controller! It now has 8 levels of grey scale where it used to have only four. It comes now in : black, white, and a Metallic Pink.

The case is also new. The new case looks and smells like leather and is cut-out for the screen and controls. In other words, it continues to protect the Mentor Lite front even while you are using it... a very nice design.

The first thing you notice is that the device is now far faster with its page turns. It is a major improvement. The DRM works very well on the device and of course you have ADE reflow. Pictures have a much better image in 8 levels of grey scale and now you can really enjoy them.

There were some major items we loved about the old "Mentor Lite Version 1" and we kept those! It has 8 levels of font increase! It still has the user-replaceable rechargeable battery. It still has an SD card slot to 4GB for easy memory enhancing. The Sudoku still works flawlessly and is a lot of fun on a long airplane flight or a guiet evening in the bedroom. While some may not like the small buttons on the left side... one-touch is a great way to navigate around your device without clicking a bunch of icons and the buttons on the right increase and decrease the music volume! I enjoy music while reading and you might also.

So... where does this leave the Mentor Lite 6 inch? Version 2 is stronger, faster, and just as light as ever. For those who want a good, honest, dependable, and speedy basic eBook Reader that has DRM and handles a dozen formats... the Mentor Lite is going to be pretty hard to beat! A lot of people had wished the Astak EZ Reader Basic had the Epson and had 8 level grey scale. I think this could be just what you are looking to find and it weighs less than 7 ounces.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A careful and detailed look at the Astak Pocket PRO

This is a round-up of the features on the EZ Reader Pocket PRO by Astak. A lot of new (to this Astak forum) people will come here and may not know much about the device!The Astak EZ Reader Pocket PRO is brand new... yet not so new too. There is an Astak 6 inch EZ Reader Basic that has been out about 10 months around the world... with a million sold. The Pocket PRO is essentially an EZ Reader Basic on Steroids! The inner workings and the tactile feel are the same and very well proven... but it becomes now smaller, lighter, more full featured, and exceedingly powerful on the 5 inch Pocket PRO! I call the Pocket PRO a landmark device because nothing else on the market really comes close.First off is the improvement to the electronic guts of the device! The heart and soul of any eBook Reader is centered around the controller and the processor. The speed of bringing up a book and speed of turning pages... all are a matter of the controller and processor. The Pocket PRO has the new Epson high-speed controller and a 400MHz processor (about double what the competition has in most cases).Second, we loaded Adobe Digital Editions on the Pocket PRO. Now, the Pocket PRO already displayed 12 formats and 20 languages. Those formats include: pdf, doc, jpg/bmp, txt, mp3, pdb, html, lit, and prc. What does this mean? It means the Pocket PRO is a true Open Format device!! You can go to hundreds of websites and download books and they should display just fine. It also means that you are NOT tied to one website or one format which limits where and what you can download... and allows you to shop for the best price! The Adobe Digital Editions gives you epub and pdf reflow in a secure format that allows you to download the very latest copyrighted (DRM) titles!The Pocket PRO uses E-Ink technology. That means that it should get about 8,000 page turns to a single charge when all you are doing is reading. It also means no eye strain!The Pocket PRO has MP3 stereo. Many others leave this off their device and that is a shame. Still others have MP3... but you can either read OR play... not both. The Pocket PRO allows you to play your music while reading!The Pocket PRO has Text-To-Speech... meaning it reads to you and advances the pages automatically when in that mode. It even has a tiny external speaker for this purpose... or you can use the 3.5mm headphone jack (the standard size)!You also get: 8 levels of grey scale for far better display of pictures or illustrations, a user-replaceable rechargeable battery, an SD card that supports up to 16GB (roughly more than 10,000 eBooks and a ton of music), bookmarking, and three levels of font size and different font choices! If you have poor eyesight... this will help a lot! Further, it displays both vertically or horizontally (wide sreen sideways). It also has both left and right page advance buttons and a Scroll Wheel!Lastly, the Pocket PRO comes in six beautiful colors! Express yourself! OH, here is a plus... in the box is a great crush-resistant case with magnetic clasp (a $39-$59 extra with other brands), ear buds, AC charger, USB cable, and a wrist leash!Now, you get all of this for roughly $199 (limited time) with a one year parts and labor warranty and Astak's now-famous USA customer support and techncial support!! This is a great bargain!Go to to find out more, choose your colors, and buy it!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Support for EZ Reader devices outside North America.

First off, let me say that the EZ Reader is built by a factory that makes more eBook Readers than Amazon and Sony combined. FRYs Electronics tells us that we have the lowest retrun rate of any eBook Reader device. So... chances are you will not need support.

However, IF YOU DO, you have the same parts and labor warranty as everybody else gets. The problem will be that like with everyone, freight to send it to our repair center in California is borne by you. That freight may rin around $40USD (a rough estimate).

You may always email our tech support at: Most problems can be solved this way without actual repair. Do not forget that the EZ Reader line has a user-replaceable rechargeable battery that is a cinch to change and the battery is readily available online. IF there is a problem, the battery is normally the source of most problems.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A certain bias in the minds of reviewers?

We all know that very often a bad review can kill a promising new gadget or device. Likewise, a fair and impartial review that comes out liking a device can boost it enormously.

So it is with eBook Readers! New devices are coming out and many of them have innovations and nuances that are important to the industry.

It is no secret that Kindle and Sony dominate the eBook Reader market. That, by itself, is a shame as it limits competition in the marketplace.

What I am railing about today is a well-intentioned but unjustfiable misconception by the press... specifically the reviewers of eBook Readers.

Maybe I can help! Most of you know that every day I am on MobileRead Forum. This week MobileRead Forum celebrated its 39,000 member. This is no small audience... and represents an incredible proving grounds for ideas and suggestions that I do not think you can find anywhere else amongst the most informed segment of the public on eBook Readers. In short, when these people talk they know what they are talking about. I utilize them for Astak for everything from color choices on our products to naming our devices. I also bounce ideas off them and gain valuable insight. NO other eBook Reader Manufacturer has a presence on MobileRead Forum that I have seen.

One thing I have relentlessly asked about is the subject of wireless versus drag-and-drop. Amazon, of course, uses wireless exclusively. WHY? Really because Amazon wants to ensure that anybody that buys a Kindle MUST buy eBooks from them. They will be the first to say that they make their money off of the sale of the eBooks. Surprisingly, I am not writing today over this way of doing business by Kindle. I am writing based instead on the feedback I have received on MobileRead Forum over the last year.

Reviewers seem to feel that there must be an inherent desire in all Americans to want wireless.
This does not hurt too badly until they grade down non-wireless devices as somehow lacking. Let us set the record straight. About HALF of the people on MobileRead Forum like wireless and about half do not. THAT is my point, friends. WHY is a device deficient for NOT having wireless?

Non-wireless has some great advantages! There are no carrier fees to pay or "plans" to sign up for. You have a record of every book you purchased on your desktop or notebook. You can drag and drop your work files, pictures, word documents, and your MUSIC easily and efficiently into your eBook Reader, AND IT COSTS LESS TO THE CONSUMER TO BUY A NON-WIRELESS DEVICE.

Now, recently I have seen some reviews that seem to dismiss non-wireless devices as inferior or difficult or sadly lacking. Astak has come out with numerous new models that do not use wireless. They have been easier to use, less expensive, and have worked flawlessly. Somehow many reviewers take their own bias for the height of high-tech into their reviews and that is not at all fair.

There are some outstanding examples of eBook Readers where the manufacturer has chosen to go non-wireless and put the savings into other features! Witness the Astak EZ Reader Pocket PRO. This has made a huge technological JUMP. It is a 5 inch device, but it has an Epson Controller and 400MHz processor for blazing page turns. It is quicker than the Kindle 1, 2, or DX. It has Adobe Digital Editions... which can reflow .pdf. It displays 14 formats and 20 languages. You can buy eBooks from hundreds of websites... MEANING you can find books and materials that Amazon does not offer. It comes in a choice of six colors. It has Text-To-Speech! It has 8 levels of grey scale. And it costs around $200!!

I am NOT saying let us compare the Pocket PRO to a Kindle 2. I am saying that its lack of wireless is irrelevant... neither a plus or a minus. It IS what it is.

So, please Mister of MRs. Reviewer... open your mind to the fact that half of the public, maybe more, does NOT want wireless. Astak is coming out with wireless devices too. WHY? To serve the other 50%. I see this as a real PLUS and not a minus. Just as Atak devices are made for both left and right-handed people... we are trying to serve the entire public and not half. That is a good thing!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adobe Digital Editions for EZ Reader

Astak will have Adobe Digital Editions as an upload available on its new website ( which is now under construction. We will have it for both lines: EZ Reader and Mentor.

We also are close to being able to offer Fictionwise eReader as well. We are waiting for the final SDK and the porting to take place and then that will also be an upload on the new website.

You ARE allowed to have BOTH formats on the same device. Only Mobipocket is exclusive of other formats.

We think that this will be exactly what EZ Reader end users will want and it should do all you want a format to do. NEW EZ Readers arriving the end of this month WILL have Adobe Digital Editions already on them.

IF you have one of the few EZ Reader 6 inch with Mobipocket you have a choice. You may stay with Mobi OR do the upload when they are available. You cannot have Mobi and any other format as Mobi is exclusive. Amazon wanted it this way. On the website we will give ample instructions on how to do all of this. The money has been paid and it is coming very soon.

Astak is overjoyed to have this good news for you and rteally appreciates your patience!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why no blogs lately??

Dear All:

Thank you for reading my blogs. Right now is a waiting game on just about everything.

The new website looks great and is really coming along... but getting the agreements from the people doing the work is maddening. It has to go throufgh so much bureaucracy. I am hoping that we can do the free walk-through of the site (no buying... just look and make comments) on Tuesday, June 23.

FRY's Electronics is having their best price ever on the EZ Reader, coming up. That will be July 4 or July 5 or both days. We gave in on a huge rebate so this will be the time to buy!! You already know the EZ Reader Basic is a Freedom Machine... Open Format and displays 14 formats!! You can buy books from hundreds of sites!! It is strong, reliable, E-Ink, and has brilliant features. AND... it is backed by Astak with USA support!

We are at battle over exclusivity!! We have spent about 9 months promoting the EZ Reader line (made by Jinke of China) all over North America. Now, we have to battle with Jinke over getting the rights to be exclusive for their product. At stake is the wonderful EZ Reader Pocket PRO. WHY? Because they did not just shrink it into 5 inch size... they improved everything on it. It has the Epson Controller, they upgraded the processor to 400MHz, it has Text-to-Speech, and it supports 16GB SD cards!! And, we want to offer it in 6 colors. WOW!! This thing is SO good that Kindle may just buy one!!

So what does a great device do? It starts conflicts. It is all about numbers. We know we can sell a lot of the Pocket Pro... but Jinke dreams of 100,000 units for one order. They aren't looking for growth... they want the pot of gold now. I mean absolutely NO disrespect for Jinke. They build fabulous devices. We love them. We just need to get them to ride with us just a bit longer. We are on the verge of greatness for Astak and Jinke. Long range... it will be Astak that makes Jinke happy. Long range... we can build a dynamo for them.

Anyhow, it is very hard to speak nothing but praise for a device and then wonder if you will have it to sell. The frustration is unbearable.

So, that is why I am not blogging much. We are waiting for decisions!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Two samples of Pocket PRO arrived

Today customs released the first two samples of the EZ Reader Pocket PRO. I promised a first analysis so here it is:

The factory has upgraded both the processor (to Samsung ARM9 400MHz processor) and the controller to the Epson High-Speed. So... the first question I had is if it helped.

I am happy to say that page turns are a matter of 1-2 tenths of a second. You do see, if you look hard, a trace of a balck screen but just barely. Page turns are lightning quick and so is bringing up a new book selection.

Lightness: I picked up an EZ Reader 6 inch and then a Pocket PRO. YES, the difference in lightness (weight) is noticeable. The Pocket PRO is the lightest eBook Reader I have ever held and it feels great in the hand.

Scroll Wheel: the Pocket PRO comes with THREE page advance/ regress buttons. There are two buttons on the left, two buttons onthe bottom (#9 and #0) serve for this purpose, and you have a scroll wheel about 2/3 of the way up the right side. The wheel has a stud on it so you do not have to actually rub your finger over the wheel... just move the stud up or down. It works well and I am pleased. Between the three buttons a left hander, right hander, or ANYBODY will find the page turn exactly where they want it.

The USB/charging port has been moved to the TOP on the Pocket PRO. This is because it was a tiny bit cumbersome to charge the 6 inch when it was in the case. Now, charging is a breeze. The headphone jack (3.5mm) is at the bottom right.

There are two large and somewhat deep slots on the upper left and right. Some people think these are extra SD card slots. They are not. They are indentations to allow the crush-resistant leather case to hold the Pocket PRO securely. They do their job. In event of a nuclear detonation the case will still be holding the Pocket PRO like life depended upon it. Great design but watch your finger nails.

Just like the EZ Reader 6 inch, the clarity and resolution of the screen is at least as good, maybe better, than any screen in the business.

There is more but please wait for me to read the user manual and translate it into English fully. We are still discovering the more subtle changes and improvements.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Additional Info on Pocket PRO

I finally got full specs from Jinke last night. Here is some additional info:

The processor is 400MHz. This gives 600 by 800 pixel in 8 grey scale.

It has a USB 2.0 port and supports up to a 16GB SD card.

The working temperature extremes are: 0 degrees C to 40 degrees C.

We should have two samples by Friday of this week and I will be able to provide more info then.

You already know this has the Epson High-Speed Controller.

This product will NOT be sold thru Retail Stores as they always mark it up. We want this to the end user as cheaply as possible so we will sell it only thru our new website:

Monday, June 1, 2009

First specs on Astak EZ Reader Pocket PRO

Dear all:

Here is what I have been able to find out about our new 5 inch Pocket PRO.

The dimensions are: 151mm by 105mm by 10mm in thickness. It weighs 160 grams including the battery. The screen is, of course, E-Ink.

The display has 8 levels of grey scale and it will have the super-fast Epson Controller (which makes almost instantaneous page turns with no "black page" in between). 800 by 600 pixels. Displays both vertically and horizontally!

It has a easy-replace rechargeable battery that the end user can easily change if ever needed. The battery is Li-ion 1000mAh.

The SD card slot supports all the way up to 16GB (with 512MB SD RAM embedded).

It stores and plays MP3. But... like the EZ Reader... this is great MP3 as the device has an equalizer that really works. I own an iPod and this is superior. This has a 3.5mm headphone jack for even the best headphones. I use top-of-the-line noise-cancelling headphones and it is every bit worthy of these!

It comes ported with Adobe Digital Editions!! You will be able to add Fictionwise eReader when the SDK is done.

It supports: txt, pdf, doc, chm,wol, rar, zip, jpg, bmp, tiff, fb2, djvu, gif, epub,html, ppt, prc, pdb, MP3.

It will come offered in 6 colors: black, tanish white, lime green, slate blue, brown maroon, and a violet (pink and purple).

It will be first sold on our new website: and that website will sell books and should also have a search engine for the 500,000 free eBook Google library of classics.

It takes a while to do 6 color samples, get them approved, and then go into plastic production. Release is estimated in two months. Pre-order waiting list in about 6 weeks.

Price will be between $199 and $209 (sometimes on sale and sometimes not).

It comes with that great Astak technical support, a quality FAQ sheet, the full Astak warranty.

The box includes a quality Crush-resistant LEATHER case, ear buds, AC charger, wrist leash, and USB cable. THINK about this when comparing to other devices. You get a great magnetic clasp leather case included! Obviously, this is a hell of a good deal!!

SO... I have been listening to you and I know this unit will never stop pleasing you!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Astak EZ Reader "Pocket PRO"

Astak is announcing the new 5 inch EZ Reader "Pocket PRO" that will release in about two months. Many people have asked for a lighter and smaller eBook Reader that is easy to slip in a purse or sport coat pocket... BUT it has to have excellent battery life, outstanding reliability, and be retail priced around the magic $200 mark. It has to have North American technical support, have great software, be able to download both Open Format and DRM books, and maybe even do something with a bit of Pizazz-z-z!!

About four months ago Astak released the EZ Reader Basic in 6 inch. That device has E-ink for 8,000 pages to a single charge, three font size increases, displays horizontally and vertically, and has been backed by the San Jose, California based Astak. It also gave an incredibly crisp display with reliability that has been almost legendary. Even FRY's Electronics has remarked how there are almost no returns and no problems!

Now the "Pocket PRO" will take this exact same software and reliability and great technical support to a smaller and lighter 5 inch. All the things people have loved about the EZ Reader Basic are in this device: three font increases, great MP3, replaceable and rechargeable battery, a Grade "A" screen, SD Card Slot, and the ability to display in numerous languages and formats... are on the Pocket PRO. It will display Open Format eBooks purchased from hundreds of stores... YET it will also allow easy downloads from Astaks own website: (now under construction). On that website you will be able to download eReader and Adobe Digital Edition for your DRM.

What about PIZAZZ-Z-Z?? Try the fact that the Leather Crush Resistant case is included, as are earbuds and free pre-loaded CLASSICS for the entire family. TRY the fact it will be offered in: black, white, violet, slate blue, gunmetal brown, and lime green!

And the price will vary up and down between $209 and $199 (projected retail)!

Upon release, this device can be purchased at the new website... where you can also read the FAQ sheet and find all the tips and tricks to change fonts and operate the Pocket PRO right out of the box (charge first please). Did I mention fine technical support from Californians who love their product? Yes, we are different in California... but we're your type of people (we listen and solve)!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New color eBook perhaps

Today Astak is beginning a trial of a complete color eBook Reader. The device just arrived for our trials.

The device weighs about 14 ounces and is about 1 inch in depth. The screen is measured diagonally at 7 inches.

We do not yet know what the battery life will be or many other facts. I am posting simply to let people know that we are indeed startingthe trials and we hope all will work out.

Color eBooks are definitely coming and there is a lot of discussion going on about whether they will go over successfully. Printed books, on the whole, are black ink on white paper. Yes, people do want to do a lot more than just read books. Some want to read comics, some want to show color pictures, some need color for medical purposes, and some just like a color interface. Also, color allows good cover artwork and other parts or features of a book.

We do not know yet if this will be released by Astak. The device is Touchscreen and has an onboard stylis. The device has Wi-Fi.

Let us code name this device as "Lectra". As soon as I know more I will do a new blog entry on it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No DRM, Readers for women, more at IDPF

The IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) annual show was May 11 & 12 in New York. The show and conference has a major impact on eBook Readers and eBooks. The IDPF represents the people who build, publish, and/or sell eBooks and eBook Readers.

This years show was very interesting as panels discussed trying to end DRM, what women want in the way of eBook Readers, and much more.

Three panelists showed examples of how they have done away with DRM and seen sales actually climb for eBooks without piracy climbing. True, these were smaller publishers with their own eBooks... but the point was made that just MAYBE doing away with DRM (Digital Rights Management) does NOT hurtsales or lead to increases in piracy (the supposed biggest roadblock to removing DRM).

What was really intersting is that IDPF devoted a busy day of presentations and panel discussions to this topic. It will spur more scrutinyand tests of possibly removing all DRM down the digital road.

Also discussed was how eBooks are becoming an important part of publishers profits. It was the ONLY bright spot for the publishing industry during 2008.

In 2008, eBook sales climbed by 171% while audio books and print fell sharply. The eBook industry on the whole will be a $500 Million business by 2010.

Also discussed was where people do their reading. Only 5% read digitally during travel. 50% read at HOME and 35% read at work. 60% of those polled say they use their eBook Readers principally in bed! The need for decent lighting to allow such reading is pretty clear.

There was a great women's panel at IDPF. Women have grown to be 50% of all eBook business! This is up 10% in one year. Yet, Sarah Wendell of "Smart Bitches Trashy Novels" and Malle Vallik of "Harlequin" both clearly stated that eBook Reader manufacturers like Amazon and Sony have heard from them for three years (at IDPF) that there are clearly things women want and these two have paid no attention. Sarah stated that North America spends $96 Billion a year on Electronics and $55 Billion of that is spent by WOMEN! Yet, such things as good reading lights and numerous font sizes and large screen sizes, lightness, simple set-up and loading, and durability have been largely overlooked by the Big 2. They also want an end to DRM! There are NO eBook Readers specifically designed for women. They like the idea of color bodies on eBook Readers; but see color bodies as only a start in designing for women.

S0... in short... many of the issues that people want on eBook Readers are largely NOT IN PLACE NOW! The IDPF is finally allowing these voices against DRM and supporting women's needs to be heard by the entire organization. Things ARE starting to change!!

Also at IDPF were representatives from the CES (Consumer Electronics Show). They were stating that the 2010 (early January) CES show has a special area named "eBook Pavillion". This will be the first time that the largest Trade Show on earth will spotlight eBooks, eBook Readers, publishers, and more.

In all, the show was fabulous. Adam Smith of Google spoke and we found out what Google is trying to do for eBooks. Adam is YOUNG. He is also charasmatic,passionate, smart, has a warm personality, and a good sense of humor!! Anybody that had the opinion that all powerful people seem stuffy and stand-offish is wrong. I was able to walk right up and talk plainly with Adam about the Agreement for Astak that will bring their eBooks to the masses. That agreement is coming within days and should help Astak spread the miracle of classic books to everyone without DRM.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A dark cloud on the 3G horizon

Most of you have heard the news that AT&T and Verizon, not making much money in the phone game, have decided that they should jump into the eBook Reader battles. Many of you may also like hearing this as more competition might mean lower prices, right? Wrong!!

Amazon is their business model. Amazon sells the eBook Reader (Kindle) at or near their cost. WHY? Because they use 3G to tie the end user to having to buy eBooks from them for all eternity. In short, you pay less on the hardware and then pay thru the nose on eBooks. Choice?? Once you buy their device it is all over. You MUST buy at whatever price they set.

So, why have AT&T and Verizon jumped in? They have the 3G plans. They can sell the eBook Readers at an even lower price and then more than make it up on 24 month plans AND selling their own eBooks. Think of heavily subsidized eBook Readers to lock you into what they wanted in the first place!

Now,where does this leave the independent eBook Reader manufacturers who dislike roping people to a "plan" and are trying to allow competition to determine the price of the eBooks by allowing you to go almost anywhere to buy an eBook (in short: CHOICES mean lower prices)?

How would you like it if you were ordered to only buy from Safeway for groceries? In make-believe, let us say that California went only Safeway. How long do you think it would be before Safeway raised their prices 20-50%?? But... that would be MONOPOLY, right?

So we are going to see lack of competition on eBooks eventually. With the three-headed monster controlling the buying of books ONLY from them... there is a problem. And what about the Astaks and other independent eBook Reader firms giving you full choice? They have to climb in bed with the three-headed monster to get 3G at all... at absurd plan rates.

From my perspective, 3G so far looks more like a curse than a blessing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What is the IDPF and what goes on.

For all who have never been to an IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum), let me give a little summary of how it works.

The event in held every year in New York City. The venue does not really change as New York is the home of The Publishers. It has always been one day only but this year there is a workshop the day prior.

Who goes? This is where the publishers, content providers, eBook Reader manufacturers, format providers, and more all get together. It is not like CES (which is kind of like a joyful party). This is more serious and toned down. It is a day of speeches from the people that are shaping our industry. Here you will find Adam Smith from Google speaking on their 500,000 free eBooks library, Nick Bogaty speaking about Adobe Digital Editions, and the high ups from Kindle and Sony talking about new innovations we may or may not see. There are small 6 by 3 tables in the break room where some manufacturers show their wares. Pastries and coffees and juices overflow and a lot of business gets done in casual conversation. Stats and figures about the industry will be coming forth and DRM will always be discussed. Michael Smith will again talk about the need to discuss epub and how all should adopt it as a format.

A lot of decisions will be made as a result of the conference and meetings will abound both in the IDPF and around it. For the first time ever, Fictionwise will be there and I imagine will speak about Barnes & Noble buying them and about eReader as a format.

Astak will be there showing their latest devices and gaining feedback and making alliances. Some will possibly find the proceedings perhaps "stuffy" and controlled. But, this is where a lot of plans and views are made public. Old enemies and new friends will meet and discuss how they may work together. It is kind of like the State of the Industry and what can be done better to promote it.

It isn't exactly FUN... it is business. I thought that perhaps many might wonder what this conference is all about and how it impacts what we love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sudoku on Mentor Lite

While it is not a biggie (nobody will buy an eBook Reader just to play Sudoku) I think that the Sudoku on the Mentor Lite is a great version and I like to see quiet little innovations on my devices that are often overlooked.

There are always times when you have already read numerous pages of books while on a flight and yearn for something different. So, seeing this game on the Mentor Lite is refreshing.

First off, you will like the simplicity of bringing up the game. The top button on the left side brings up Sudoku without delay. I am a big fan of this "one touch" approach. That is the big advantage with the Mentor Lite and it can be a great time saver.

Sudoku is a game of guessing where numbers go based on what else is on the horizontal and verticle line and what other numbers appear within your 3 by 3 box. There is some guessing involved. That is why doing Sudoku in a magazine or newspaper can be frustrating. It can be hard to mark tentative possibilities and then (thru elimination) find the definite choice.

Also, people at various skill levels still need to be able to play and find it easy enough while staying challenging. Mentor Lite gives you that "easy-normal-hard" selection right off. It will also solve the "puzzel" for you when you get stuck. It gives you choices for pen, pencil, and erase. You can pencil in the possibilities for each square, 3-4 choices if needed for any one square, and yet let you erase and pen in your selection when you are ready. Using a cursor you pick the number and then decide to use a pencil or pen. You can always bring up "restart" and exiting is easy too.

The user manual has good game directions and, because Astak ALWAYS does a great FAQ sheet to help who buys our devices... we will put directions on there as well.

So... that is a brief rundown on the Sudoku feature on the Mentor Lite. I enjoyed playing it and I know you will also!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More in-depth look at the new Mentor Lite

The new Astak Mentor Lite will be released in about 5 weeks. So, it is time to give a better rundown on what makes the Mentor Lite and excellent basic eBook Reader!

For those who are new to eBook Readers there are essentially two types on the market:

1. Backlit with LCD screen. Has a lot of shortcomings. While it is better in the dark and reading in horribly low light, the LCD type eats up power like it is going out of style. Optimal time between charges is 8-12 hours depending on the brightness level. Can cause eye fatique quickly and watering of the eyes.

2. E-ink/E-Paper. This is what the Mentor-Lite has. You get about 8,000 pages to a single charge and there is no eye strain. Perfect on a plane or on the beach. Want to read several books on just one charge... this is the way to go.

WHY buy an eBook Reader anyway? Aren't paperbacks just dandy? First, reading paperbacks causes eye strain too. Second, how often do you go on a trip and carry 200 books along with you? You cannot pack 200 books along in a suitcase but with an eBook Reader you can pack THOUSANDS of books along with you. There is no paper involved so it saves our forests for the beavers. It uses almost zero energy. There is greatly reduced landfill and did you know that paper bi-products are toxic? So, you are saving our environment with eBook Readers! IF you do not care... go tour a paper manufacturing plant and you will!

Now... lets talk specifics. The user interface utilizes a cursor just like on your desktop computer. You are use to that... so the Mentor Lite is fast and easy to learn. It weighs 6 ounces with the battery installed. It is as thin as a pencil. It feels great in the hand.

The Mentor Lite DOES reflow pdf documents!! That means that instead of taking an oversized picture and half of the picture will not fit on the screen... it "reflows" to fit the screen size. The result is a sharper and better picture.

Do you like to display your books by title, or author, or date added, or what? You have a sort function that lets you choose on the Mentor Lite.

You have one button to change from vertical to horizontal display!

You have one button to get you back to the main menu from anywhere else you might be. Want to switch books in the middle of one book? Push one button and find another!!

This Mentor Lite comes preloaded with the game: SODOKU. It is fabulous fun and really engrossing. All the rules are on the menu and it is easy to learn. Yes, you can choose to "pencil in" several choices or "ink in" the right number. ONE button takes you to SODOKU any time!!

It has an auto-shutoff feature that you can choose on time allowed.

It uses a straight-forward circular-type keypad.

This has 8 font sizes!! You have two buttons on the right side to set the font sizes. The menu for selection not only lists eight size selections but shows you, ahead of time, what size you are picking.

It has a removable and rechargeable battery!

There will be firmwarde upgrades that will give you both a search function and dictionary support! Download them from our website.

Supports open-format. Download DRM from our website. Planned formats are eReader and Adobe Digital Editions coming withinmonths via simple download. Supports the BIG TEN file formats!!

Languages supported. If you can speak at all... you most likely will find your language on the Mentor Lite.

This is a neat little package in 6 inch size.

Pricing and more detail forthcoming soon!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Enter the dragons!!

So, AT&T and Verizon will release their own eBook Readers and sell eBooks. What does this mean for the end user.

Almost undoubtedly, they will adapt the Amazon role model... meaning give you a wireless connection that can ONLY lead to their eBook store. Despite the animosity thatAmazon has drawn over their totally restricted purchase of books ("Buy our device so we can hold you hostage and overcharge to our heart's content for eBooks) these two giants see phone revenue falling and want to bury Open Format.

What ever happened to competition and capitalism? To me, this Amazon model smells of monopoly... or maybe it just smells. Astak has prided itself on providing the largest variety of eBook sites where you can purchase books. Yes, we have a new website coming that will sell eBooks with a great selection ( but we WANT you to go there to buy because the selection is good and the price the lowest. We are into some 12 formats on every device... so you can purchase almost anywhere. We list some 30,000 FREE eBooks, thru links, on our site. We are following the older model: create a better site that is fair and includes support for the end user (FAQ sheets and such) and let the end user make their own choice of where they want to be.

Next May 11 and 12, 2009, in New York City will be the annual IDPF show. It is really more of a speaking forum than a show... but anybody who is anybody in eBooks and eBook Readers will be there. This is where people like Googles eBook Project Manager, Adam Smith, will speak about the free eBook library they are offering. It is also where Adobe will speak about their expensive format: Digital Editions. This may not be the ideal venue for the end user but it is THE meeting place for the movers and shakers in the industry and striking up alliances. Michael Smith of the IDPF will speak about epub and what that means now and could mean if more would adopt it.

Also, the decision has been made: the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (January 7-10, 2010) WILL have an eBook Pavillion for the first time. CES has finally noticed eBooks and the devices and is going all out to make it a mainstay.

Friday, April 3, 2009

More info on Mentor Lite

A few days ago I gave some preliminary info on the new Mentor Lite and mentioned what I saw on the prototype I am using to rewrite the User Manual.

I also mentioned (very honestly) that it was slow in bringing up the books but then turned the pages quite fast. It turns out my prototype does NOT have the Epson Controller in it; but production models will have this.

This will make an enormous difference in the speed of bringing up books and I wanted to clarify that my mention on this supposed speed problem is only due to the factory not getting it into the prototype.

This will be GREAT on the production models we will sell.

I also wanted to remind everyone that this is the first model of Mentor and about four Mentor models should be released in 2009. Most of these future models will be cutting edge with such innovations as 16,000 pages to a single charge, 8-16 levels of grey scale, 9.7 inch with flexi screen, and COLOR using a new technology that will still allow great charge length times (times between charges). There is also renewed talk of an 8.1 inch device.

So, there is a lot of promise showing in the new Mentor line.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Info on Pending Release of Mentor Lite

Many of you are already aware that Astak is blessed with two lines: EZ Reader and Mentor. This is because we work with two distinct factories. They come out with different designs and features.

The Mentor line was delayed as we did not think the first device was suitable for the North American market. The new Mentor Lite is, again, a great basic eBook Reader and has differences and distinctions from the EZ Reader.

The major difference upon seeing them is there are far fewer buttons on the Mentor Lite. The Mentor Lite weighs even less (about 6 ounces compared to 7 ounces for the EZ Reader). It is not earth-shaking but people notice it immediately. The EZ Reader uses a by-the -numbers approach... corresponding numbered buttons to choices on the display. The Mentor Lite uses a curser (like on a PC) so you highlite what you want and hit the "enter button". Both are effective and there are no"misfires".

The Mentor is slower on loading a book by a little but blazingly fast on turning pages. It changes pages without any black screen in between at all. So, for reading, this is a nice improvement due to an improved controller. The Mentor appears rock-solid and very reliable. I have been pounding away on it back and forth for three days to rewrite the User Manual without even a hint of a problem. The Mentor is also a 6 inch like almost all other devices now on the market.

One thing I really like about the Mentor (there is a lot to like) is that one button switches from Verticle to Horizontal Display and back again. That is a nice feature. It also has dictionary support and has a "search" function that utilizes a "soft keyboard" (keyboard on screen). Some will like the fact that it has eight (8) font sizes. It also comes pre-loaded with Sodoku, a puzzel game, that is quite captivating and comes up anytime by pushing one botton. Of course it plays stereo MP3 thru a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The screen is very high resolution and I do not understand why exactly... but it seems extroidanarily sharp in contrast. The Mentor also has an auto-off feature and supports about 20 major languages.

There is a lot more to write; and I will be more thorough once I am done playing around with it fully. Right now I am still exploring and then adding what I find into the User Manual.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As a public service: prepare for Confickure

April first is the day that the hidden and dormant confickure worm wakes up and sends your valuable financial data to the buttheads who created this stupid malware (may the buttheads be publicly castrated and paraded, while being beaten, through the streets of New York).

Anyway, you CAN prepare!! You can find out if your computer has the dormant confickure worm. Just try to go to!! IF you have the worm it will prevent you from going there. This was featured advice on the Early Show this morning.

IF you have it, turn your infected computer OFF or turn the clock back on it for about thirty days... fooling your computer into thinking April 1 is not approaching. Then go online on a different computer and look for a way to remove the worm.

MOST good and well-known anti-virus with anti-worm capabilities will protect you!! If you have an older version of an anti-virus, update to one that DOES stop worms!

If you do not yet have the virus, go to and download the latest patches including Service Pack 3.

Prepare now!!!

I am providing this update in my blog as the EZ Reader uploads from the computer and we want your computer healthy and strong. Our new website, that sells books and much more, will be opening soon ( about 8 working days.

Thank you and good securing!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Working in an Amazon World

Astak finds the perfect manufacturer in China. The Hanlin V3 was a very respected machine; but there were no companies distributing in North America. Astak had the knowledge of the market but it looked like the Mentor line was going to need work before we could release it. We contacted the makers of the Hanlin and visited them in China. We got an agreement done and promptly placed the first order... detailing the packaging, re-writing the user manual, creating a website to support the unit, and setting up techncial support.

We also decided that the 2009 CES would be the official release point. We had a 1,000 square foot booth at the front of The Sands Expo and hoped we would draw some traffic there.

CES may be fun for attendees but it is a grind for exhibitors. Imagine flying 20 people to Las Vegas, shoehorning 18 of them into a 2 bedroom house down there, ordering the booth design, arranging for cars and vans, and getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to start the drive to the Sands. Then you stand all day and answer questions. An exhibitor does not have fun at CES... they only take pride in surviving it. The hours are horrible and every person is needed all day long. We got very fortunate that I had an old friend in Las vegas that was a great salesperson named Phillip Walsh. He was kind enough to help and we could not have succeeded without him. Many thanks to Mr. Walsh from a grateful Astak.

Some people arrived 5 days before the show to start the booth set-up and to start readying the house. The internet at the house was OUT and that took days to get working again. Dust is everywhere in the house and the landscaping needs immediate attention. The people arriving earlt stock the house with food, oversee clean-up, pull maintenance, and then get to the show to oversee booth set-up.

CES would NOT cooperate as they had NO category for eBooks or eBook Readers and would not create one. They failed to see that the public would have any interest and just sidestepped the issue. Without a category, we would be solely responsible for bringing people to our booth. It was really hard on Astak but we wanted to excel anyway.

Every day additional employees are arriving. Management is the last to arrive and frequently misses what the advance crew is accomplishing. It is no picnic. Problems pop up everywhere and no matter what... the advance crew has to solve the problems and make ready. The landscaspe trees at the house are falling over from wind, there are not enough towels, we are short on tools and electric extensions, and where do 18 people sleep in a 2 bedroom house? This is what it is like to do a CES. You learn to relish just finding time to sit and eat. Somehow, it all gets done each year and people start laying out the displays.

Talking of the displays, work starts on next year's booth ten months in advance. Everything from give-aways to electrical panels has to be figured out and ordered to arrive on time. Astak is not only showing eBook Readers but their Security Camera line and many new products like the first plug and play IP camera!! There is only so much room and every division wants plenty of space. New Team shirts have to be ordered and brochures and signage. Having 25 years of CES experience... I train the new employees on what to expect and all year ride herd on getting everybody to start EARLY to prepare.

Finally, the start of the booth is ready the night before the show opens. There is time for a dinner and then getting to bed early. The obvious question is if anybody will show any interest in what we are showing. CES did not seem to think so and we were wondering ourselves.

The first morning dawns cold but clear. We arrive by 6:30 a.m. and stand around waiting to be let into our booth area. By 8:00 the show opens. Within minutes we are overrun by frenzied attendees wondering WHAT an eBook Reader is and why they should buy ours. The pace continues for 4 days. People flood the booth all day and every day. We all lose our voices and our energy. The eBook Readers came in colors and that is drawing rave reviews. Our factory has a kiosk at our booth. There are no breaks as we are flooded continuously. We have to find time to meet with the big and powerful chain store buyers and distributors. A few press come to the booth and do stories on us (thanks to Jim Barry of CEA who was the only one connected with CES to really take an interest). People are loving the novelty of reading books on electronic digital readers and they have thousands of questions. Astak is educating the public on the benefits: energy saving and great on the eyes, no waste of paper and no landfill waste of old books, you can play music while reading books, you can save previously read books for ages, and there are no toxic paper waste byproducts. For all four days the pace just heightens and people are coming back a second and third time. The huge Fluorescent Orange Astak bags are a massive hit in canvas and Astak becomes THE PLACE to see at The Sands. By the third day everyone is exhausted. Legs and voices are giving out. Phillip Walsh has learned well and is doing an incredible job but feels less than fully appreciated; and yet everyone is so tired they cannot express their gratitude properly. Phillip continues to greet attendees like a man possessed.

Finally the great show ends and the break-down begins. The house looks like a tornado hit and people need to fly back and start follow-up.

As a result of the show, CES saw the light! CES is working with me this year to build a special area for eBook Readers and eBooks and this next CES looks like it will be the Year of the eBook at CES. IF you love eBooks, plan on being there!! It will be January 7 thru 10, 2010 in Las Vegas. eBook Reader Manufacturers, publishers, content providers, and accessory makers will be there. Now YOU can try to survive CES too!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Exercise with the Kindle 2

I am interupting the main story of this blog to review an exercise that happened at Astak yesterday. One person went out and purchased a Kindle 2 and pre-loaded books and music onto it. They also fully-charged it. It was then given to me and others in the office to try to figure out how to operate the Kindle 2 without reading the user manual. Astak does this so all of its employees find out the good and bad about their competion and to design better eBook Readers in the future. NOW... if only they would expand the exercise to include a one week trip to Hawaii to judge units in the sand. Ah, well, you cannot have everything.

I need to preface that I am male, 42 years old, with a 138 IQ. I am also working for Astak... a competitor to the Kindle 2. However, that means I know my way around eBook Readers and how they work and are used. It also means I am biased; but used to judging eBook Readers. I also compare based on our own EZ Reader device. It allows me to have a good knowledge of what the end users seem to want based on what they have expressed to me.

SO... onto the exercise.

First off, let me say I was a bit surprised that for this much money I got not somuch as a cheap vinyl pouch, nothing to listen to the music on, and nothing that I would want preloaded... if I bought a Kindle 2 the first step is downloading something I can read and listen to. I see this as a flaw with eBook Readers in general... many of these are GIFTS and people expect to at least be able to use the thing for its main purpose (reading a book) right out of the box. Amazon has a huge eBook library! Would it kill them to preload one classic book onto the device?? My EZ Reader comes with a minimum of 8 preloaded classic books for this purpose.

My analysis is my own and in no way expresses or implies the views of my companythruout this review.

I have to say that before turning the device on I could see the quality of workmanship. I give it a 9 (out 0f ten) for precise lines around the buttons and a great finish. I was impressed with the appearance and fit.

The Kindle 2 is LONG! I mean it is very long. That "qwerty" keyboard means a device that is heavy and unweildy to hold in the hand for long periods of time. It just seemed a bit too long for me. It is thin and that is a great improvement.

The Kindle 2 has a search function on it... but it is one of the least "logical" search engines I have seen. Looking for the pre-loaded music I typed in every word I could think up that had to do with music and came up empty. I was able to type in "book" and get the pre-loaded book to come up along with endless device info WHICH IS NOT A BOOK! I never did find ANY music on the device and I knew it was there.

Anyway, I did find a book and found the page advance. regress was great and smooth. The resolution was very good and reading was a breeze. I tried using the note-taking function (what appears to be the main use for the "qwerty" keyboard) and found it easy to use and essentially flawless once you scrolled up or down with the cursor to where you wanted the notewhich can be a chore. However, unless I am a student reading a textbook, I kind of wonder if I would ever use this type of note-taking. SO... high marks for the reading of the book but mediocre for the actual use of the note-taking.

What was really maddening was that once I was in the book I could not get out. There is no button for "return to main menu" or "stop application" or "end book". Frankly, I never did find the Main Menu at all and found that very strange. I am use to turning on an EZ Reader and having it greet me with a main menu that neatly lays out my main categories: "My Music" , My eBooks", "My Applications" and more. THIS, to me, is like "My Documents" on Windows on my PC. I organize THIS way!! Where is this on the Kindle 2? After trying everything I could think of I finally DID get out of the book but I have a suggestion for Amazon: MAKE IT SIMPLE!! Can you imagine a 65 or older person using a Kindle 2?? Yet, they adapt perfectly to the EZ Reader!

NOW, this exercise may prove useless to most people. That is what they have User Manuals for. BUT... if the goal of the eBook Reader is to be easy to understand (MEANING LOGICAL) this is the least LOGICAL device I have ever seen. I mean someone had to TRY to design something so inane as this interface. Whatever happened to "intuitive"?

Now, this is only an exercise and not a real review of the Kindle 2. You might love it if you are a PHD and a Rhodes Scholar. Me... after 90 minutes I wanted my sledge hammer. Amazon: buy an EZ Reader and do the same exercise. I will sell it to you at cost! Talk to HONDA and learn... "Make it SIMPLE".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The start of my Adventures In EBook Reader Land

You think YOU have problems?? Try designing the best eBook Readers on the market only to find that few even know you are alive. This blog is going to talk about the decisions and difficulties in getting even the top eBook Readers to where they are selling well and the daily difficulties along the way.

I work for Astak, a company that makes and sells eBook Readers in North America. My points of view are my own and not necessarily those of Astak. Here we will discuss everything from technical issues to what it is like competing against the likes of Amazon and Sony. We will discuss the good and the bad and everything in between. You will likely learn a lot about the latest technologies used in eBook Readers, the latest features, and the trade offs that must be made.

Astak came into this with all the best intentions: build a great eBook Reader that is low priced and is solid and dependable. We were blessed with a factory in Taiwan that had been manufacturing Consumer Electronics all along but had zero idea of the North American market. That line was named "Mentor" and it was planned that we would release all three sizes: 5, 6, and 9.7 inch. Astak had tons of experience with Consumer Electronics and had sold already thru almost all of the major chain stores. It all seemed so simple at the start: the factory would build them and we would sell them. Boy, were we uninformed.

The first thing we learned was that eBook Readers need a format: the way that the device can reveal text or pictures. We had heard of Mobipocket and the factory was hot on using that format. We talked with Mobipocket and they seemed happy to license their format on our EZ Readers. That seemed a natural solution and we figured that was done. Amazon purchased Mobipocket and the rules suddenly changed.

In the meantime the first prototypes from our factory came and they were totally "un-Americanized"... not ready for the North American market in our opinion. There were little buttons everywhere and none of them were labeled and none made much sense. We thought we could design better. The probkem was the factory was selling already in Europe and Asia and was not too open to a redesign without huge quantities behind it. HOW do you place a huge order quantity with no solid business decision.

We looked at other eBook Readers around the world. Jinke in China made a great unit and it needed very few changes... just an American touch on service, warranty, support, and marketing. This was the birth of what became known as the EZ Reader Basic. It is a good and very honest rock-solid device that (without fanfare) excels in providing a great read because it used E-Ink and E-Paper technology giving 8,000 pages to a single charge. It was GREEN because of the power saving... and we saw it as a way to help keep the American public from supporting paper waste in our landfill and limiting toxic paper by-products in our streams and lakes. PLUS... people could carry around all of their old purchased eBooks and have it with them wherever it went.

Being less than 7 ounces, and the thickness of a pencil, it was easy to love and lug around. PLUS, all the things that the competition charged for or left out (crush-resistant leather case, ear buds, BOTH AC Adapter and USB cable, replaceable and rechargeable battery, wrist leash, and even a screw driver for the battery door) were right in the box.