The Google Android-based Alex e-reader from Spring Design is finally available for pre-orders, but its release next month could be overshadowed by Apple's expected iPad release.
Spring Design on Tuesday opened a Web store for the Alex e-reader where the device can be pre-ordered for $399.
Unfortunately for the company, release is slated for mid-April, days after the Apple iPad's expected release date of April 3.
The Alex, first unveiled last Fall, was originally expected to start shipping by the end of 2009.
The iPad's price also hangs over the success of the Alex. It remains to be seen whether consumers will be interested in spending $399 for an e-reader when they can get the entry-level iPads for $499 for the WiFi versions, or $629 for the 3G versions.
In addition to the Apple iPad, the Alex also has to compete with the market-leading Amazon Kindle e-reader as well as the Barnes & Noble Nook.
However, for customers looking for a solid e-reader, the Alex does offer some unique features. It has two screens, including a 6-inch Electronic Paper Display (EPD) screen for reading and a color 3.5-inch Android-based touch screen LCD for Internet browsing. Users can move content from the color screen to the larger grayscale EPD screen for easier reading, and vice versa.
The Alex takes advantage of Spring Design LinkNotes, which lets content authors insert hyperlinks in their books that allow users to click on for Web-based content.
Content, including eBooks in EPUB, PDF, HTML, and TXT formats, can be downloaded over WiFi networks or the built-in USB and microSD connectors.
The Alex includes headphones, an AC/USB power connector, and a padded cover.