starr-fundmeE-publishing isn’t necessarily the most stable business, and proof of that comes in the form of a GoFundMe campaign by author, entrepreneur, and occasional TeleRead commenter Richard Dean Starr. Starr and his fiancée Erin Bower founded Eread Technologies, Inc., which owns,,, and a number of other sites.

Starr and Bower have been having a number of business setbacks and financial difficulties, and most recently have reached the point where they could be in danger of losing their home. They are asking for $5,000 via their GoFundMe campaign, which they promise to pay back when they can.

Looking through their domains, I see a lot of big ideas with “coming soon” notices on them, and a blog that hasn’t been updated since November. For all that I’m happy with how Amazon treats its customers, it’s nonetheless worth remembering that it can be very hard for a smaller business to get off the ground in an e-book market so thoroughly dominated by one company—especially if that business has had bad luck in partners.

I wish Starr and Bower the best of luck in recovering from their setbacks, and hope they’re able to keep a roof over their heads and get their business off the ground. Take a look at their campaign and their websites and see if you want to kick something in.


  1. Chris, thank you for the mention on Teleread. Sadly, survival and illness have dominated our lives since the end of last year; it just kind of hit me how bad it’s been after I realized you were right, we haven’t updated the blog since November. It seems like the time just flew. As of today, Erin and I are BOTH sick with the flu, but the generosity of people who have already contributed to our campaign has really lifted our spirits.

    Again, thank you for caring. We appreciate it.

    One thing I would like to point out about our company is that, unlike most e-reading startups, will handle both new and used print books as well as ebooks, audio books, and reading-related merchandise. Our business plan reflects our hard-earned research that proves such variety is necessary in order to compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We have believed for a long while that the ebook-only market is essentially saturated–both by retailers and by content providers–and that staying competitive will require selling much more than just ebooks.

  2. Richard, if you’ve got a good retail location for local sales or a good scheme for online sales, you might take book donations and sell them at good prices. When I lived in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, someone started a bookstore that sold most paperbacks for 50 cents and most hardbacks for $1. At those prices, people were happy to donate books. He wasn’t getting rich. He told me that if he’d not been retired it wouldn’t be viable, but he was covering expenses and loving it.

    Unfortunately, health reasons forced him to close down, but I did conclude that, with book lovers donating, a donate and sell cheap business model might work. The key is to sell cheaply enough, people are happy to donate.

  3. Hi, Michael…unfortunately, what you run into with that model is space limitations, not to mention space COSTS. I suspect that most used bookstores I’ve encountered receive a fair number of donations without even trying. The Illiad here in the San Fernando Valley is a good example. On any given day, you can see boxes and boxes of books just left there on the front steps, because they don’t want to buy them…or can’t, one or the other. I’ve seen this happen at used bookstores literally from California to Washington to Iowa to Florida. One bookseller that has utilized the donation model is Better World Books, which receives donated books from across the U.S. Of coursed, there are also the so-called “penny” booksellers, who make their money on shipping and handling. There are actually not that many of them, because in their case volume is key–and once again, you run into the space costs issue. I read an article last year about one penny seller that has a massive warehouse to house his inventory. It was an illuminating article, but it also convinced me to stay away from a physical presence for that reason…and many others.

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