Spring Design taking Alex e-reader pre-orders

Spring Design’s Alex e-reader is a little more expensive and arriving later than expected, but it’s finally available for pre-order.

The e-reader is now priced at $399 for either a black or a white model, compared to $349 a month ago, when Spring Design announced that the Alex was almost ready to roll. And instead of a March arrival, the Alex will be delivered on April 14. At least its a firm ship date.

The Alex is unique in that it runs a robust version of Google’s Android operating system in the bottom color screen. This can be used to play music, watch videos, view photos, download apps or books and, most importantly, browse the Web. A button situated between the bottom screen and the top 6-inch E-Ink display converts whatever’s in the Web browser to an E-ink version, handy for reading text on newspaper or magazine Web sites.

Other specs include a MicroSD card slot with a 2 GB card included, Wi-Fi, USB 2.0 and e-books from Google’s book store. Earlier reports said Alex will also support an e-book store from Borders, but a spokesman told Slashgear that the Borders store won’t be ready until May or June. However, the companies are also working to bring Alex into Borders brick-and-mortar stores, so you may eventually be able to try before buying.

My enthusiasm for the Alex is tempered somewhat by the price hike. Something about breaking the $100 price gap with Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook — both priced at $259 — creates a psychological barrier, which isn’t helped by the arrival of the iPad and other tablets. However, with Amazon charging $14 per month for access to the New York Times’ Kindle version, an avid Times reader would only need a year to recoup the costs by reading the Web version on the Alex instead.