Another ebook reader set to fail

Teleread | Astak E Ink readers: Five- and six-inchers due in July; 9.7 inch flexi screen and Walmart and Costco e-stores in ‘08?

Models with five- and six-inch screens are tentatively scheduled to be offered for sale at the Astak Web site around July 28. That’s next month, yes, not this one as Astak originally wanted, but it is still an acceptable delay, given all the technical and business variables. Astak hoped to sell the five incher for less than $200 but now plans to start out at $229-$249 in order to allow pricing flexibility for the big chains, which Bob hopes will start selling Astak products around October.

The word on this ebook reader just a month ago was that there were three sizes, with the smallest starting at about $150. That was awesome. The $300+ ebook readers out there now are just too expensive to change the market. Sony and Amazon, as well as some lesser known players, already have expensive e-paper devices. To beat them, you have to either change the experience of reading a book, or blow the doors off them on price. This latest news suggests that Astak is doing neither. I see wifi and bluetooth and touchscreen and I cringe. I can get a cell phone with all these things. None of these are going to change the market for reading books. Having Walmart and Costco on board is good for mass adoption, but convincing shoppers to pay $250 to be allowed to read a small subset (for now) of all available books that aren’t even cheaper than their much-more-expensive-to-produce paper brethren is something that even the gifted marketers at Apple would have a hard time accomplishing. So it looks like I’m back to waiting for something that may not come for a while. I thought I could hold out until the end of July, but I thought I was getting change back from $200. As priced (Assuming the linked info is accurate), this one is a pass just like Amazon’s Kindle.

Getting rid of some books

Last night I joined BookMooch to get rid of some of the extra books I have lying around that no one will ever read again. They range from old paperbacks I bought for plane trips to pretty new hardbacks that I read but didn’t love. I mean, I’m not giving away my tattered paperback Catch-22 that I’ve read a dozen times, or my signed copy of Halting State. But I have plenty of books that I don’t need. BookMooch works by giving you points for giving away books. 1/10 of a point for listing a book you’re willing to give. One point for actually sending it, and 3 for sending it overseas. For each point, you can request a book from someone else. The sender always pays shipping. So I listed eleven books last night that I’m willing to part with. Within an hour, I already had four requests, and by this morning it was up to six. So it looks like I’m making a trip to the post office tomorrow. And I have some space on our bookshelves for some new (Or new to me) books. I think the wife is a little skeptical about the whole thing – we’re trying to get rid of stuff to make room for the incoming baby, not get random people to send us books. But I think she’ll be fine as long as I keep a good ratio of sent-to-received books.

New science fiction site coming soon

Making Light | Phase one: collect underpants via Whatever Tor Books, a big (the biggest?) name in science fiction publishing, is opening a new website. It is supposed to be “a place and a context for the lively, ongoing, wide-ranging, and profoundly self-organizing discussions that have characterized the science fiction subculture since its earliest days”. That sounds pretty cool to me. I signed up for their advanced membership or whatever it is to get some free ebook downloads. I haven’t read any of them, because I don’t have an ebook reader (Please, won’t someone make a good, affordable ebook reader?). But I have them, and I plan to read some or all of them, and I suspect that I will end up buying something from some or all of the authors that I read. I hate announcements of far away website launches – I don’t really care until your site is live. Actually, I don’t really care until it’s live and finished being Dugg and Slashdotted, which I’m sure it will be. But I am looking forward to this. I was really disappointed with Gawker’s crappy science fiction blog, and I have high hopes for this one.