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.


  1. Hi, Robert,

    I am so proud of you, cause you really start your blog and become a blogger. You are a good friend and I will visit here sometimes. Please keep posting and I am ready to learn something from you.


  2. Hi, Robert. It's Shel from Mobileread. I marked this, and will add it to my links on my own blog.


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