Astak EZ Reader eBook

A few weeks ago I ordered a Kindle 2 from Amazon- and I have been enjoying it and I have been getting back into enjoying reading. I started off with a book I read many years ago- Dragonlance - Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Tracy Hickman. Since this book is not yet available for the Kindle, I had to find an alternate source that provided in in .txt format.

Reading is very pleasant on the Kindle, but it is also very limited- particularly by the formats that the Kindle can support: TXT, PRC/MOBI and AZW (Amazon proprietary format). Especially troubling is the lack of PDF format support. Of course, I can email a PDF to '@free.kindle.com' and receive a AZW format back from Amazon, but this is not the easiest thing to do and it often is mis-formatted (particularly where images are involved). I assume Amazon is trying the Apple iTunes approach by locking their reader down to Amazon formats- or very generic (TXT) formats.

I decided to look around at alternatives before my return period expires with Amazon; $380 for an eBook reader is still fairly expensive.

At Fry's there is a small assortment of eBook readers; two Sony models (PRS-505 and PRS-700), an Ectaco JetBook (JB5BK-EN) and an Astak EZ Reader (EB-06EZ).

The Sony units are $300 and $400; the later having a touch-screen (and a lot of glare) and were again limited to a few formats; BBeB (LRF/LRX), PDF, EPUB, TXT, RTF. The addition of PDF and RTF were good, but the PRS-700 is way over priced for what it does.

The Ectaco JetBook has a 5" VGA (480x640) screen (compared to a 6" 600x800 screen on all the other unit)- which instantly turned me off to the product.

My final choice was the Aztak EZ Reader (on sale for $250):


The Aztak EZ Reader supported a quite few more formats: PDF, DOC, RTF, HTML, TXT, WOLF, CHM, FB2, EPUB, LIT, PRC/MOBI, RAR, ZIP. The screen is about the same as the Kindle 2 and it comes with an assortment of accessories- USB cable, wall charger, 2GB SD Card- and a protective sleeve (which is and additional $30+ for the Kindle 2)!

I immediatley deleted the 130+ free books that were on the included card and began to copy over a variety of eBook formats that are available via Usenet. All of them worked well- including CHM help files. Several of the PDFs and other formats include indexes which are accessible via the '7' key on the Aztak.

After I found where I left off in the DragonLance book, I was able to easily pickup and continue reading. The forward/back buttons aren't in the best locations but they do function.

A label on the back battery cover indicates that the 'EZ Reader is the North American name for the Jinke Hanlin V3'; a visit to the Chinese Jinke web site confirms they are physically identical. A little further delving into the support web site finds that Jinke has a much more refined firmware and additional applications such as synchronization software, a boot screen logo maker and a WOLF format printer.

I downloaded the latest V3 firmware and followed the update instructions; extract the firmware to the root of the SD card, power off the reader and power on while holding down the v+ (volume up) button. After a few minutes the firmware was done and the system rebooted.

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Default logo after firmware update Custom Logo

Things I didn't think I would like about the Aztak:

  • 4 color grayscale (vs. 16 on the Kindle 2)
  • a 200Mhz CPU (vs. a 532Mhz on the Kindle 2)
  • Only 3 zoom/font sizes (2 portrait, one in landscape)

In spite of my apprehensions the text is very readable and the page turns seem almost as fast as the Kindle 2.

A few things that I do like about the Aztak over the Kindle:

  • Ability to use any TTF font
  • SD card expansion (up to 4GB- no SHDC support)
  • Native PDF support

I was planning on loading my frequently used motherboard manuals (I rebuild systems on the weekend for fun) and the Aztak does a decent job of letting me view them:

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A Motherboard Manual PDF Zooming in rotates the document 90 degrees

For $130 less, I believe I am going to return the Kindle and keep the EZ Reader. The Kindle may have an integrated wireless card and web browser, but it is very doubtful I would order much from Amazon. The Kindle may look better than the Aztak (and have a better button layout) but I will take the native PDF format support over the other features any day- and still have $130 left over.

The question now is what will I buy with the $370 credit I am going to receive from Amazon?


  1. Thanks for the review and info! Just picked up the EZ Reader for $249 -$20 rebate at Fry's myself.

  2. Great review. I hope your still enjoying your EZreader. I've had mine for a little over a month now and I still love it.

    I haven't been able to upgrade my firmware yet, I don't think it likes my SD cards for some reason (they work fine for reading books from though).

    Also you might want to check out OpenInkpot which is a replacement OS. It's still under development but some of the reader programs available in it give you more options.

  3. This was a really helpful review on an interesting reader.

    Did you not use the free 24/7 wireless web browser on the Kindle because you already have web-data service on a cell phone? That is a main reason for the added cost but the lack of native PDF support is not good and I like the ePub support on this one.

    Could you expand a bit more on some features that are important to some of us on the Kindle 2 as to whether they're available on the Astak EZ and what their functioning is like, if they are?

    . Inline dictionary
    . Highlighting of passages
    . Note taking
    . Search of book (for name etc)
    . Search of the EZ Reader for the
    words in any of the books
    . Display of books only or
    personal docs only
    . Can people subscribe to any of
    the periodicals via some means?
    . How is navigation on this?
    . Do you notice much more black
    reverse display on page turns
    with a processor half the speed?
    . Do PDFs with images usually
    display ok? Even the DX can be
    slower with these.
    . Is there a virtual keyboard?

    The images of the PDF displays is impressive, especially when you can zoom on them and there appears to be rotation.

    ePub and doc support are another plus. I think if they marketed this for $200 I would just get one as the 6" that could do other material. But if it's missing too many of the above items, it wouldn't be as attractive to some of us who are used to those features, for $250.

    In the meantime, Amazon should get off its duff and provide native PDF support like a grown-up reader.

    One other thing. Does this reader
    have user-customizable folder support? The Kindle doesn't have it and needs it.


  4. Oh, it's $270 after a $20 rebate at Fry's. I went to their ad and they quote a $300 price there.

    Fairly expensive if there are that many possibly missing features but good for reading formats the Kindle doesn't have.

    4 shades of gray vs 16 is meaningful (I can't look at the Kindle 1's images easily anymore) and the 200MHz CPU you pointed out is a bit of a stopper too where illustrations are heavy.

    Anyway, I've looked since I last wrote and it seems the answers to most of the items would be no... I think it's a tough call for many, as it's not a big savings. And now Borders UK has its own model, which sounds similar actually, on first quick-read.

  5. Hey there-

    Thanks to your VERY useful screenshots, I went ahead and picked up an EZReader. many thanks to you for your photos and your rationale.

    RE: the kindle spokesperson (I would say "tool," but that's inappropriate, truly) below...a lot of what you speak of isn't really relevant. I could have paid the same amount for a Kindle 2, but I didn't.

    Regarding Amazon in general--they've got the right idea, no doubt...but I suspect the eventual "winner" of the e-reader bit, if there ever is one, will be someone who succeeds as Apple did. Both Kindle and Aztak give some good things with their respective e-readers, more than i expected on the EZ Reader front. Right now I'm enjoying it for what it is, a book-holder for classics, all in one place.

  6. Frys is advertising the reader for $199.00, if you put it in your cart it tells you this price. But, the sale ends soon!

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