22 June 2010

The E-Reader War has begun

Er...well it began yesterday really. But the groundwork was laid months ago when Apple announced its iPad. And 2 million iPads later, and on the week that the Kobo, an upstart e-reader backed by Borders, shipped to its customers, Barnes & Noble dropped the price of their $259 Nook e-reader to $199. Not to be outdone, Amazon, who was first with an e-reader device, dropped the price of their Kindle from $259 to $189, giving them the cheapest 3G device on the market. Of course, one would be remiss not to note that this is also the week that Apple releases its IOS4, which will bring the iBook format and the IBookstore to the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Also, B&N introduced a $149 Wi-Fi-only version of their Nook.

As noted, Borders got into the fray with Kobo, a $149 e-book reader, and will introduce the Libre e-book Reader Pro for $119 in July. These price ranges, according to consumer research company Boston Consulting, are what the mass audience would be willing to pay for an e-reader. As of now, blocking point for more sales of these devices was that most people thought the price was way out their range -that only well-off and tech savvy people could afford the product. Now with the price dropping to what they call the “sweet spot,” the devices now become accessible to everyday people.

Meanwhile, Borders announced today that people who buy the Kobo will get a $20 gift card and double points on their Reward Card that can be used for future purchases. Also, they announced the availability of an Apple app for the iPhone and iPad and customers who download it will get a free cup of coffee just by showing the app.

So, what we got here is a good old battle between retailers for the cheapest e-reader on the market. And who wins? Well, it looks like the customer, but will that be good in the long run, or is technology developing so fast that the e-reader is already doomed?

One man, Allen Weiner of Gartner, believes the because of the “new tablet technology, reading-only devices have been forced into a race to the bottom. We've only begun to see the price cuts."

E-reader manufacturers were banking on the easy reading ability of the E-Ink technology, which boasts a backlight-free display and reflects light like regular paper does, to make their devices must-have gadgets. But Weiner believes that the iPad will push the e-readers toward obsolescence.

But with tablets, the iPad imitators, eventually hitting the market (just as MP3 players did after the iPod), what will be the long-term fate of reading-only devices, or even the ones that have 3G or Wi-Fi access ability? How many people want multiple devices that can do the same thing?

Weiner also sees that this type of competition, the price of the Nook, Kindle, Kobo and other reading-only devices could to less than $100 by the end of 2010. He feels the “devices just didn't evolve quickly enough. It's possible that this E-Ink tech has had a very short life.”

1 comment:

Sean said...

I love my knidle. One of it's advantages over the iPad is it's ability to be read in full/direct sunlight. I love reading outside and at the beach during the summer and could never do that with the iPad.

That being said, I still want an iPad.