By now you've heard that Apple has come out with this little device called the iPad, and one of its magical features is to serve double-duty as an eBook reader. Surely this will mark the end of the dedicated eReader market, right?
Back the boat, Gilligan, because Amazon has something to say on the matter. In a new ad promoting Amazon's refreshed Kindle, the e-tailer points out the benefits of an E-ink display over that of an LCD screen when trying to read in sunlit areas.
The ad shows an iPad user trying, in vain, to read content on his iPad while chillaxing by the pool. He then asks a Kindle user laying a few feet away how she's able to read her device sitting out in sun, to which she simply replies, "It's a Kindle. A hundred and thirty nine dollars. I actually paid more for these sunglasses."
There are a few things to take away from this ad. First, she paid too much for her sunglasses. Second, unlike the many Mac vs PC commercials we were force fed the past couple of years, Amazon makes a valid point here. And third, speaking of all those commercials, Apples comeuppance just keeps coming.
We received word today that Best Buy is expanding its in-store eReader selection to include Amazon's Kindle. This will make Best Buy the only brick and mortar retailer to sell all three major eBook readers, which also includes B&N's Nook and Sony's Reader family.
"There's no question that eReaders have found their rightful place in today's digital lifestyle," said Chris Homeister, senior vice president and general manager of Home Entertainment for Best Buy. "Our goal is to help people choose the device that's right for them by providing the broadest selection of popular eReaders of any retailer, in one convenient place that enables people to easily see, touch, try, and buy."
The Kindles will show up in stores sometime this fall with pricing the same as through Amazon: the new Kindle with built-in Wi-Fi will sell for $140 and the Kindle 3G will go for $190. Later in the season, the Kindle DX will join the fray.
Give credit to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for sparking an eBook reader price war, or give a shout out to the emerging tablet market, which undoubtedly has played a role in the recent market adjustment. Either way, it's you, Joe Consumer, who is benefiting from price cuts across the board.
The latest to join the lower-cost eReader fray is Borders. Starting today, both the Kobo eReader and Aluratek Libre eBook Pro are available for $130 and $100, respectively. That's not bad considering neither one was priced particularly high to begin with -- the Kobo previously sold for $150, while the Aluratek device was going for $120.
"This is a significant inflection point in terms of market penetration of the Kobo and Aluratek eReaders," said Mike Edwards, CEO of Borders. "We envision this price reduction, enabling the purchase of these devices a a second eReader in a household, as a more affordable option -- the list goes on."
Borders is hitting the eReader market pretty hard. In addition to the newly priced Kobo and Aluratek, the bookstore will also carry Velocity Micro's upcoming Android-based Cruz Reader for $200, as well as the Cruz Tablet ($300), both of which are currently available for preorder.
The decision to refresh its line of Reader devices was probably an easy one for Sony. After all, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble recently stacked the decks in their favor by launching new, lower cost eBook readers, so sitting on the sidelines just wasn't an option, or at least not a very good one.
Sony gave its entire three-member Reader family a makeover, which includes the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions. Each one has been retooled with an improved optical touchscreen, peppier page turns, and higher-contrast E-Ink Pearl displays, the same that is used in the new Kindle and Kindle DX.
Model numbers have changed, and so has some of the pricing. The Pocket Edition jumps from PRS-300 to PRS-350 and sells for $180, while the Touch Edition goes from PRS-600 to PRS-650 and comes priced at $230. Both are available now. The larger Daily Edition will ship sometime this fall for around $300.
Despite the tablet hype, the ebook reader market is very much alive and well, at least in Amazon's camp. The online retailer today announced that more next-gen Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than any previous Kindle launch in the same time frame.
"Kindle is the best selling product on Amazon.com for two years running and our new generation Kindles are continuing that momentum," said Steven Kessel, senior vice president, Amazon Kindle. "Readers are excited about all that the new Kindle has to offer -- 50 percent better contrast, 20 percent faster page turns, 15 percent lighter, up to one month of battery life -- and a new price of only $139."
It's that last bit that's probably most responsible for the Kindle's wildly successful launch. Prior to the recent price war among ebook readers, a Kindle would run nearly twice as much. At $140, it's far easier to justify a dedicated ebook reader, even without all the purported improvements to the underlying design.
Anyone order, or plan to order, one of the new Kindles? Or are you holding out for a low-cost tablet?
Boutique system builder Velocity Micro has begun taking pre-orders for its upcoming Cruz Reader ($200) and Cruz Tablet ($300) products on Borders.com, Newegg.com, and CruzReader.com.
"We've spent nearly one year designing and refining the Cruz Reader to make it both remarkable and affordable," said Randy Copeland, President and CEO of Velocity Micro. "We're excited to see that hard work coming to fruition. We know the marketplace will be as well, due to the tremendous interest and support we have received from our customers and numerous retail partners. We've combined the color screen and functionality of a tablet with the affordability and portability of an e-reader, which is exactly what the market is craving."
Both the Cruz Reader and Tablet sport a 7-inch color touchscreen display. The Reader also includes adjustable font sizes; music, video, and Web browsing capabilities; a docking station; Android interface; 4GB bundled SD card (265MB onboard RAM); and up to 10 hours of battery life.
The Tablet ups the ante with a capacitive touchscreen; 8GB bundled SD card (4GB internal storage and 512MB RAM); and the ability to download apps. Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours, or 36+ in standby.
Look for the Cruz Reader to ship in "early September" (Borders has the date listed as September 30) and the Cruz Tablet in mid-October.
Following the launch of Apple's iPad, there was some question as to the future of dedicated eBook readers. After all, the iPad does a serviceable job of flipping through eBooks, and with a spate of competing tablets en route to a retail store near you by the end of 2010, where does that leave standalone readers?
In a very good position, according to Scott Liu, chairman of EPD (electrophoretic display) maker E-Ink Holding. As Liu sees it, eBook reader shipments are in position to be two to three times higher in the second half of 2010 thanks to recent price cuts by the industry's heavy hitting trio.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Sony all recently slashed eBook reader pricing, and with some of the newer models checking in at just $140, dedicated readers are suddenly a lot more compelling. This isn't just a theory, either. As Liu points out, shipments for Amazon's 9.7-inch Kindle DX increased threefold when Amazon cut the price from $489 to $379.
According to Liu, demand for Amazon's newest Kindle models has been strong, forcing E-Ink to ramp up its production efforts to keep up with client's orders. And if the market continues this way, Liu sees reader pricing dropping to sub-$100 levels in the not-too-distant future.
In the wake of rising competition and a recent price war sparked by Barnes and Noble, Plastic Logic announced it is abandoning plans to release an eBook reader of its own.
"We recognize the market has dramatically changed, and with the product delays we have experienced, it no longer makes sense for us to move forward with our first-generation electronic reading product," Rich Archuleta, chief executive officer, said in a statement. "This was a hard decision, but is the best one for our company, our investors, and our customers."
Archuleta added that his company would shift its focus away from the Que and begin building a second generation ProReader product, taking whatever time is necessary to "re-enter the market as we refocus, redesign, and retool" the Que's successor.
It's unclear exactly why Plastic Logic chose to dump it's first-gen reader, but it likely had to do with the sudden price cuts from the industry's two major players, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Coupled with the fact that Plastic Logic initially intended to sell its black-and-white Que for $650 when it was first shown off at CES earlier this year (before the iPad debuted), this cancellation was probably inevitable.
Everybody by now has heard of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, and if a nonprofit organization called Worldleader is successful in its latest efforts, the One Kindle Per Child initiative will become equally well known.
A series of trials have already begun in Ghana, which involves giving students Amazon.com Kindles to read in school and at home. Worldreader, which is spearheading the project, was co-founded by David Risher, Amazon's former Senior VP who played a huge role in growing Amazon's operations beyond just books. Risher left Amazon before the Kindle came out, but sees huge potential in the device's ability to bring eBooks to students in parts of the world where getting them regular books can take months and months.
"There's a huge difference between able to read from a selection of the 10 books that you happen to have -- or that somebody donated -- versus being able to get your hands on a book that you are really interested in," says Risher. "When you combine that with very, very low distribution costs for additional books and falling technology prices, these are ingredients for doing something really special."
According to Risher, eReaders are particularly well suited to developing nations because of their low power consumption and use of the GSM network.
"Computers play a great role, but eReaders really sole the reading problem in a much more direct and simple way," Risher added.
For the bargain basement price of $30, Best Buy's Geek Squad division will "save you time and help you get the most out of your [eBook reader] device by updating its firmware and performing the initial setup for you." And by bargain basement, we really mean <facepalm>.
Don't get us wrong, we don't mean to diss on Geek Squad -- they do a pretty job of that themselves on a fairly regular basis -- but $30 to setup your Nook? Really? In return, here's what Best Buy advertises for its Device Setup service:
Perform the initial configuration of yoru device.
Download the latest firmware and update your device, giving you access to the latest features.
Provide a functionality check to ensure the device is working properly and can connect to a wireless network.
An Agent will provide you with tips and tricks on what to expect when you take the device home.
It's like buying three bullet points for 10 bucks a pop, and getting a fourth thrown in free! But joking aside, are we the only ones taking issue with a service package where 25 percent of what you're paying for includes verifying the device you just bought "is working properly?"
Hit the jump and tell us what you think of this -- is it brilliant marketing, another overpriced service, or both?