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E-reader news: Post readies Kindle deal, Barnes & Noble debuts an Nook tablet

The newspaper-plus-Kindle deals that Amazon heralded when it unveiled its Kindle DX electronic book reader in May--and then failed to deliver on schedule--are finally about to arrive.

Later this week, the plan is for Amazon to start e-mailing select customers outside the Washington area, inviting them to buy a discounted Kindle DX--priced at $449 instead of the usual $489--bundled with one year of the Post's Kindle edition.

Washington Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti explained in an e-mail that the newspaper had spent "the past several months" reworking the original concept of having customers pay for a Post subscription to get a discounted Kindle.

The concept has evolved to enable Amazon to offer customers in select areas an opportunity to purchase a discounted Kindle and receive a free Kindle subscription to The Washington Post. We have been working with Amazon to identify Amazon subscribers outside of the D.C. area who are not already subscribed to The Washington Post--those individuals will receive an offer via e-mail.

In doing this, The Post aims to gather some real-world intelligence about customer demand for an electronic edition of the paper, especially when bundled with a reader device. Presumably, some of these subscribers will also choose to renew their Post Kindle subscriptions after the first year at the usual $9.99 rate.

When I reviewed the DX, I expressed some skepticism about the idea of limiting this deal to people who can't get a print subscription. I'm still not sold on that, and I'm also not sure that a $40 discount on an over-$400 device will persuade that many people to liberate their credit cards. But with an actual offer on the table, you won't have to take my word for it; shoppers can cast their own votes.

Back in May, Seattle-based Amazon had also said it would sell the DX at a discount when paired with a Kindle subscription to the New York Times or the Boston Globe. Neither paper has announced its own deal, although earlier this month the Columbia Journalism Review picked up an e-mail sent by the Times offering a free subscription to its Kindle edition bundled with a DX. A spokesman for the New York Times Co., which owns both papers, did not return an e-mail asking for an update on the situation.

Today's other e-book news comes from Barnes & Noble, which is introducing a $259 tablet called the Nook to complement the somewhat disappointing e-book store and software it launched in July.

The Nook, expected to ship by the end of November, combines a grayscale e-ink display with a smaller, touch-sensitive color LCD used for navigation. It can download titles over either AT&T Wireless's 3G network or a WiFi signal, runs on a version of Google's Android software and--most intriguing of all--allows for 14-day loans of e-books.

A device that allowed the same loaning option paper books have always provided would take a step towards addressing one of my oldest complaints about electronic books.

Note that the Nook is the not the reader B&N talked about when it announced its e-book shop. That model is still in the works, but yesterday its developer--Mountain View, Calif.-based Plastic Logic--revealed some significant details of this upcoming Que tablet. Its press release (PDF) explains that this device, less than a third of an inch thick, will include a "shatterproof plastic display" and a battery that "can last days, instead of hours." The company says it will announce its price and a shipping date when it unveils the Que at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The Wall Street Journal's Venture Capital Dispatch blog has a good summary of Plastic Logic's news. Between all these developments--along with upcoming ventures from iRex, Google and others--this market is starting to look awfully crowded.

Will any of these developments spark more interest than before? What would it take for you to invest in an e-book device--or will nothing persuade you to make such a purchase when physical books and newspapers don't need separate hardware?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 20, 2009; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  E-books , Gadgets , The business we have chosen  
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Comments

I would love to have an e-book device. I do not like receiving print versions of magazines and newspapers, I prefer to read them online. I also travel quite a bit, so to have a device such as the Kindle would be great.

My biggest gripe is that I do not live in an area where AT&T is available, which eliminates the Kindle. Ideally for me, such a device also needs to support WiFi so that I can download to my device when at home.

Posted by: homeyjim | October 20, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

If (when) readers get to $200 I will probably buy one. I use the Kindle iPhone app now. I have read about 10 books on it so far.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | October 20, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

hhomeyjim I think you have your details mixed up.

The Kindle uses a proprietary technology called Whispernet that piggybacks on Sprint cell towers, not AT&T. I've never been in an area of the country that I could not get Whispernet, although there are some areas that only get a slower version of Whispernet.

Secondly, while the Kindle does not use WiFi, you can download to your device while at home. When an e-book is purchased from Amazon.com it goes into the digital purchases folder for that customer, and stays there. You can download the e-book to your PC from that folder. Then you use the included USB cord to transfer the e-book from your PC to the Kindle. No, it's not as elegant of a solution as WiFi support would be, but it's doable.

I've had a Kindle for several years and love it. Not only are the book prices cheaper than paper versions, but it's a huge space saver as well.

Hopefully this crowded market will bring down e-book prices from the traditional $9.99 to something even cheaper. I'd love a price war between B&N and Amazon.

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | October 20, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Never say never...As a 55-year-old bookworm who reads (and re-reads) voraciously, I had no interest in ebooks until I got my first Ipod Touch last month. After loading my music, it suddenly occurred to me that I could also have my favorite books loaded onto the Ipod. Many of the books, like Jane Austen's and Mark Twain's, are available for free on Project Gutenberg.

So, 60+ downloads later, I'm hooked. I love having the feeling that I'll never be without something to read. I'm primarily using Stanza which is a decent reading app although I've also tried B & N's reader as well.

Apart from a bigger screen, my big interest in having a true ereader would be compatibility with as wide a range of software as possible, including PDFs. Ease of downloading is a big plus although it would be good to have the flexibility of transferring files from computer to device. Price is a secondary issue; I'd pay more for something without proprietary software or access, decent built-in capacity, good software, and durability.

I look forward to your review of the Nook in comparison with the other devices out there.

Posted by: SC54HI | October 21, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Let's not forget the elephant in the room: Apple's rumored iTablet, set to debut in February. Apple's products are game-changers and I anticipate it will eclipse Kindle, Nook, and anything else that comes along.

The one thing that guaranteed I would never buy a Kindle was when Amazon electronically deleted copies of people's 1984 and reimbursed them. Just like iTunes lets me keep and own my music, I want to keep and own my books.

Posted by: mchoya | October 21, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

We live in east-central Illinois and subscribe to the Sunday (only) edition of the NY Times. It arrives in the mail -- most often mid-week, but infrequently on Monday, or as late as Friday. We pay just over $400 a year for this service.
We have been following the "promised" Amazon/Kindle/NYTimes offer since it was first reported. We figure that in less than two years of such service we would pay for the Kindle with the savings from our present mail subscription -- plus get the NYTimes _every_ day.
Are we still interested? Of course we are.
Is the discount on the Kindle important? Of course it is.
Is $40 enough to make a difference? We will have to think about that.
Would we add the Washington Post to our Kindle bundle? That I do not know either.
Hal Cheney

Posted by: zickezacke | October 21, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The forthcoming Pixel Qi 3qi LCD screen will eclipse e-Ink. Wattzon.com says daily delivery of a print newspaper inherently consumes 567 watts of energy. The Kindle DX screen is not large enough to display a full page without zooming. The newspapers on DX would not have display ads, and even if they did they would not be in color. The main reason newspapers are losing money is that advertising revenue is down. It makes no sense to try to make that up by producing a newspaper without ads at a higher subscription price.

Posted by: joeshuren1 | October 21, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

While I agree with those who said never say never... Consider that my netbook does go everywhere with me and reads Project Gutenberg's books just fine...

Posted by: Dale_R | October 21, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

You're right: the market for eBooks is getting crowded and confusing, but I think it's great. I love my Sony Reader; Sony will release a very Kindle-like model in December (Daily Edition) that is wireless, among other features. Meanwhile, though, I just set up my Sony 505 to "borrow" ePub files from the public library and it's a huge pain. But still, I would consider upgrading to a device that would make reading the paper (WaPo, etc.) easy.

Posted by: JakesFriend | October 21, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I think I'm weakening on the e-readers, but my chief complaint is the price of e-books. I can generally get used actual books online for less than $5 (including shipping) whereas most e-books seems to cost $10. The intellectual property is the same - why does it cost more for an electronic version? You'd think it'd be cheaper. I'd basically be paying more for factors tangental to the main purchase. Is the cost of convenience and less clutter worth the extra $5/book and the upfront cost of the reader? It hasnt' been to date.

Posted by: wwc4g | October 21, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I have a dedicated reader that is rather old (it still works) with at least 80 to 100 books on it. A few years back I switched to a Palm Zire and the eReader software. Unfortunately, there was, and still isn't, any way to transfer my ebooks which I bought for the dedicated reader to a format that will work with the eReader software. I then purchased an iPhone and in all those available apps was eReader and joyfully I discovered that all the books I had purchased for the Zire were fully available to my iPhone; but, still no way to read my books that I purchased while using the dedicated reader. Now here comes a conundrum. Barnes & Noble purchases Fictionwise, the company that created the eReader software and also runs, arguably, the "world's largest" ebook store. Then Barnes & Noble takes the Fictionwiise eReader software and makes a small tweak in it, relabeles it the Barnes & Nobel eReader and produces versions of the same books they sell from their Fictionwise store that will display only on their B&N eReader software and none of the ebooks purchased from B&N will display on the eReader software from Fictionwise. The NOOK, as far as I can tell, will only display the B&N eReader books. So will I ever buy another dedicated eReader? Hell, no!
Now with the prospect of the much anticipated tablet from Apple, since it is rumored to be based on the iPhone OS X, I assume that the apps that work on the iPhone will work, perhaps with a little modification, on the tablet. If so, and the (Fictionwise) eReader app works with it, then that will be the large format ebook reader I will purchase. No more unique systems. Transportability is the key to selling me a hardware device and software - one device, ALL books!

Posted by: john_in_dallas | October 21, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Even though I have the music to put on one, I don’t want to buy an 80-gig iPod. And since I don’t currently have a lot of books, I know I don’t want to spend $489 on the Kindle. I just don’t see myself reading an equivalent amount of books. Unlike others, I would primarily want the Kindle to read books since it probably won’t come close to the performance of the iPod and iPhone. I can’t see paying that much for it to read, and then pay for a subscription on top of it. Here at the Beach, I was in one of the local BigBoxes and it had re-arranged the store to prepare for the new Sony readers. I guess they are banking on the cheaper cost. It may not be a Kindle, but after I play around with it, and if I give it a “nay,” I can always opt to continue reading the physical book.

Posted by: ummhuh1 | October 21, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The number one thing I want in a reader is openness, I have over 250 books and magazines on my computer that I would want to access. Openness should force some competition and bring down the high price of e-books (they should cost less than a paperback).
A six or seven inch screen is a good size. I like the 'Plastic Logic' design but in a smaller version.
The price should be under $250 (preferably > $200).
3G is not a necessity since WiFi is so readily available.
I'm very encouraged by the number of different models that will be available in the near future. I'll probably be buying one next year.

Posted by: danielr | October 21, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

What I see little to no commentary on is that e-book reader newspaper subscriptions are limited to one device. I can share my paper Post with my household, one member reading Style while another reads the A-section. As I understand the terms and existing DRM, even if we had two Kindles in the house, we'd need two newspaper subscriptions to share the daily paper. I can't imagine buying a devise until that restriction is overcome.

Posted by: goodlistening | October 21, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I realize that Amazon has a very good business model with the Kindle however, my view is that the basic, bottom line reader should be something in the range of $100 for the hardware and give reason for people to upgrade (color, text/font changes, whatever) and the price of books should be such that people are encouraged to read more and buy more. For the sake of discussion, the price of books shouldn't be more than, say, $10 on-line for the first month (two months? three months?) after release, perhaps six months after for best sellers. The money to be divided, perhaps equally, between author, publisher, distributor (Amazon-Kindle, Sony, etc.), and for development purposes (development of the reader that displays the book).
There's no reason why newspapers, magazines, etc., couldn't be, again for the sake of discussion, $20 per year (or half that, under the psychological $10). And, there should be a way that readers are provided advertisements on a periodic basis to supplement the newspapers, magazines.

To me, the reader should be like razors; an inexpensive device to get you to keep buying (or, in the case of e-books, wanting to) more of the primary product.

There's no reason that readers shouldn't flood the market. I'm sorry; there currently is; it's called price. Price of the reader and price of the reading material. Lower prices would induce more people to buy readers instead of print publications; and lower priced reading material would encourage more people to buy more material, generating it's own sales growth (that is, sell in quanity rather than higher profit on less sales).

Just my thinking.

dungarees@gmail.com

Posted by: Dungarees | October 21, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Please cut deals with as many manufacturers as you can. I eventually want one of these things, but without some of the evil they have right now. I'm half interested in the Nook cause of the 'loaning' capacity. I don't like the Kindle because I apparently would not really "own" the books I buy. So it has to be another reader that treats a book like a book.

Also, what about the idea of being able to purchase an 'ad reduced' version of the Post website? I'd buy as subscription for that. Right now I try to keep adblock turned off as much as I can stand it.

Posted by: timscanlon | October 21, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

If only the comics were in the kindle/e-reader edition of the Post...

Posted by: wiredog | October 22, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I want an ebook reader with the following features:

It looks and acts like a book - i.e., it folds over like a book, can display a cover like a book, can be "thumbed through" like a book, you can stick a virtual "bookmark" in it like a book, and - most important - YOU CAN TAKE IT INTO THE BATHROOM!

You should be able to fill it with anything - PDFs, Word documents, even sound files. It should be multitasking - you can read on it and listen to it simultaneously.

You should be able to load it up from your PC or wirelessly or at an actual bookstore.

It should accept multiple formats from different stores and sources. It should not be tied to any particular manufacturer or retailer's offerings.

It should be readable in any light conditions - daylight, nighttime, etc.

It should have an easily rechargeable battery that lasts at least 24 hours on a single full charge.

It should be upgradeable as new technologies arise.

It should cost no more than $199.

Otherwise, if it doesn't have all these features, what's the point? There's a reason books are still here centuries after their invention - the format works. It's perfect. Why try to come up with something new when the book is the best delivery device ever made? Just figure out how to emulate it in an e-reader package.

I'm not buying until someone does all this.

Posted by: tomfodw | October 23, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

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