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Barnes & Noble, Amazon slash e-reader prices

Hours apart, first Barnes & Noble and then Amazon cut the prices of their electronic-book reader tablets. Could it be that these companies are feeling nervous about the prospects of their e-readers as a new round of smart phones and tablet computers arrives?

kindle_amazon_pr_image.jpg

Try and draw another conclusion from their behavior today.

Barnes & Noble struck first, announcing that it was dropping the price of its less-than-impressive Nook device from $259 to $199 while introducing a WiFi-only model selling for $149.

I hadn't thought of Amazon's Kindle as being particularly threatened by the Nook, but somebody at its Seattle headquarters must think differently. Only about six hours later, Amazon announced its response: a drop in the Kindle's price from $259 to $189. (That device, known as the Kindle 2 when it arrived in February 2009, first sold for $359 but dropped to $299 last July and then again to $259 in October.

The most obvious threat to the Nook, the Kindle and other upcoming e-readers -- all essentially single-function devices -- is Apple's iPad. That device not only presents e-books on a responsive, sharp color screen (whether you use Apple's iBooks or install Amazon's Kindle software) but also can serve as an effective laptop replacement.

Price cuts are one way to remedy the gap that's opened up between e-readers and general-purpose tablets. Another logical option would be an upgraded version of the Nook and the Kindle's display technology, capable of displaying colors and turning pages without a distracting flashing effect, that would retain such e-reader advantages as long battery life and readability in direct sunlight. There's some interesting work being done there, but I don't know if it will arrive soon enough to make a difference.

(Me, I just want to see an e-book retailer adopt a file format that was not locked down with "digital rights management" restrictions and which allowed me to read a title using the software and hardware of my choice. But I've been saying that since 2007 without effect; why would the booksellers heed my advice now?)

What are your thoughts on the e-reader-vs.-tablet debate? What would it take for you to buy one and not the other?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 21, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
Categories:  E-books , Gadgets , Mobile  
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Comments

My wife has a kindle and a coworker has an ipad, the tactile/video of the kindle blows away the ipad, the ipad is not in the same league. All the reviews I've seen comparing the performance of kindles, kindle software on phones, and kindle software on ipads neglect the all-important screen/graphic thing. For text, the kindle is 100% perfect.

But I hate the proprietary format so yes I won't get into e-books until they become available in a more user-friendly manner.

My wife is thrilled with her kindle on the other hand.

Posted by: HardyW | June 21, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I have not tried the iPad but the heavier weight and much shorter battery life would make me hesitate to get one primarily for e-books. I have the Kindle 2 and it works fine for me. There is the occasional book with graphics that don't quite translate well to the Kindle 2 that would be better on the iPad -- that is, if the publishers translate full color and graphics for that format.

Before I bought a Kindle 2 I read four books on my iPhone 3G using the Kindle app. Not as bad as I thought it would be on the small screen. Page navigation -- swiping the finger -- was easier than the Kindle 2, in my view. Also backlighting meant I could read in dim light. So, there remain some advantages for even the iPhone.

I'd like to try the Kindle app on the iPhone 4G given what I read about how high the resolution is on that phone's display. Maybe Amazon and Barnes & Noble see the iPhone 4G as a new threat.

I still use the Kindle app on the iPhone 3G sometimes. Theoretically, it is all supposed to keep in sync going back and forth between readers, but that doesn't usually work for me for some reason, and I end up manually turning to the page I was on if I go to a different reader -- I think I don't have something set up right.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | June 21, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

The eInk readers have a huge advantage over tablets like the iPad because of their light weight, readability and long battery life. Those claiming they are threatened by the iPad are just buying into Steve Jobs' marketing bluster. They're totally different tools that serve totally different needs.

Try holding an iPad for a long period of time or try reading it at the beach and you'll see how superior an eReader is for actually reading. Not to mention that recent study that showed staring at a backlit display before bed disturbs human sleep.

If the price drops were a fearful response to Apple then wouldn't they have dropped them ages ago when the iPad was released? Of course not. They're beginning to become mature products that have been on the market for a while and with increased competition prices fall.

When Apple eventually lowers the price of the iPad will Rob say that it's because Apple is "feeling nervous"? Of course not. Like most tech journalists he doesn't apply the same level of critical analysis to Apple that he does to everyone else.

Posted by: scarper86 | June 21, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I just wish I hadn't bought a Kindle on THURSDAY for my Dad! In a perhaps humorous twist, I bought one for my Mom a day or two before the price drop last October as well.

So, basically, if anybody's thinking about buying a Kindle, let me know & I'll buy one a few days beforehand thus guaranteeing a price drop for you.

Posted by: blighter1 | June 22, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I borrowed a Kindle from a friend to read Dan Brown's book. I did not use many of the features available since it wasn't mine and I didn't wanna mess with it. It was strange, while it worked fine I became aware of how the tactile feel of a book was something I missed. I also missed the physical reference of the thickness of a book to see how much I had left to read. If the price dropped to $99 I might buy one but, for now, I am sticking with the dead tress.

Posted by: tbva | June 22, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

My preference is for a device that uses e-ink, as opposed to one that uses a backlit LCD screen. E-ink is easy on my eyes, while a backlit screen is like looking into a flashlight. So for serious (i.e. lengthy) reading the Kindle works well. Backlit screens are fine for casual use, but they just don't meet my needs for e-books.

Posted by: rhagstr | June 22, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

@blighter1: Keep in mind that Amazon gives recent purchasers of the Kindle a credit or refund for the difference in price if the Kindle purchase was made within 30 days of the new, lower price. U.S. Kindle owners should contact Customer Support about this at 1-866-321-8851.

Posted by: rhagstr | June 22, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

@rhagstr: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_navbox_center_pricing?nodeId=468502#postorder says Amazon does not offer Post-Order Price Match. I investigated because I got a Kindle2 for Father's Day.

Posted by: jfehribach | June 22, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Been taking my Nook to the beach. On the plus side, I hear the iPad simply won't work on a beach. On the minus side, the LCD screen on the nook is unreadable on the beach.

But it does read epub formatted books.

Posted by: wiredog | June 22, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

@jfehribach

Regarding a credit on a recently-purchased Kindle: I'm wondering if you've called customer support on a credit? If not, it may be worth the time.

The statement you referenced above is Amazon's general website-wide policy on Post-Order Price Match, in effect for quite a while. But Amazon, in the past, has still offered credits or refunds of the price difference for Kindles if you call or email customer service. Folks on various blogs are reporting that they are successfully obtaining these credits.

Posted by: rhagstr | June 22, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I just received a Kobo (Borders) cost was $150. I have to say, I'm impressed. it doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but I just want to read a book! I've checked out the iPad - too big and bulky to carry on the Metro or bus. In fact, I've seen only one person with an iPad on my commute. The ereader won't replace my books but it does offer a nice change of pace.

Posted by: winston11 | June 23, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

It's nice to see that they're lowering the price on a device that nobody needs and that can sell only because of the hypnotic capability of the advertising for it.

I have always found actual books to be quite adequate for my needs.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | June 23, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

If you want a device mainly for reading, then eBook readers beats the pants off of tablets hands down. There is absolutely no comparison when it comes to e-ink for reading on an electronic device. Now, if you want to do other things and maybe read once in a while, I can see someone picking the iPad.

Posted by: nuzuw | June 23, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Rob, when you're reading books, COLOR DOESN'T MATTER. What matters is resolution, contrast, the ability to adjust fonts, weight and ergonomics.

How long will it take the technology columnists to understand that the Ipad, while gorgeous at first blush, is NOT a compelling book reader. It's too heavy to hold with one hand and it is a COMPUTER SCREEN -- hard on the eyes. If you spend a few minutes reading, the Ipad is fine. If you spend an afternoon reading, Kindle (and I presume Sony and Nook) are far superior.

If you want to read from a computer screen, the Ipad offers no advantages over just running e-reader software on a laptop. In some ways the laptop is better because you don't have to wear out your arm holding it at the right angle.


Posted by: tboyer33 | June 23, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I'd use an iPad as a reader only if it gave me the option of checking out books from my local public library. That is what my Sony e-reader does, and it's why I have it. Of course I have purchased books on it also. The Nook may have this capability, but I haven't used one.

No column ever seems to mention the use of library books on an e-reader, but I think it's an important feature.

Posted by: 5232news | June 23, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I've been a fan-man of ebook readers for several years; I'm on my third Sony Reader (the PRS-900) and can't say enough good things about these devices. Not just the brand -- I like the Kindle too -- but the idea.
Many have commented the $99 will be the magic price to make these devices really sell, but I'm okay with having mine now.

Ideally, someone will build a device that can use E-ink and other display technology (somehow); when that's the case, I'll definitely go for that combination machine. Meanwhile, I'm saving "treeBooks" with my Reader.

Posted by: JakesFriend | June 23, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

tboyer33 wrote: when you're reading books, COLOR DOESN'T MATTER ... It's too heavy to hold with one hand
---------------
tboyer33 - YOU DON'T NEED TO CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING. IT DOESN'T ENHANCE YOUR ARGUMENT!!!!!

Maybe color doesn't matter to you, but there are many of us that it does matter to. In addition to books, we also read magazines, newspapers and reports on our iPad.

If the iPad is too heavy for you, maybe you should consider a gym membership to beef up those boney little arms.

Posted by: xconservative | June 23, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse


Of course this is in response to the iPad. I haven't used a Kindle or other ereader yet and I agree with everyone's comments about their advantages, but compare the sales of the iPad (over 3 million in 3 months) versus all brands of ereaders combined (around 2 million in 3 years).

Posted by: patrickgama7 | June 23, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The marketplace is big enough to support a variety of devices, and they all have their pros and cons. In the end, the best device is the one that works best for you. I personally like the Kindle, as it best meets my particular needs for an e-book reader. But I couldn't care less about persuading anyone else to use it.

Posted by: rhagstr | June 23, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I thought I wanted an eBook reader...checked out Kindle, Nook and the Sony. They're all somewhat lacking but my real problem is that the books are lacking. Four out of four of the books I bought in the past month are NOT available in eBook form. Until all books, magazines and journals are available, why buy an eBook reader at all? It seems as if mainly current best sellers and classics are available.

Posted by: billp1 | June 23, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Bought a Kindle on 6/14, price went down 6/22, but called Amazon today (1-866-216-1072) and asked about their price protection policy and without any hassle, they immediatley refunded the extra $70 on my credit card - so give it a try if you paid $259 for it within the last 30 days.

Posted by: ldf1 | June 23, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

To all those who said they prefer dead trees or printed books... wake up!!! The death knell of bleached paper is closer than you think. Maybe a little trip to your nearest landfill will tell you the trouble we are in. Read up on Paper Mill Sludge and its 32 known carcinogens. Also, are you aware that you can get more than a MILLION free classic eBooks. Try walking into Borders and finding the "free section"! Take a fast peak at: www.EZread.com to see the million FREE books you can get!! Then buy a good eBook Reader and enjoy!!

Posted by: EZReader1 | June 23, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't need some eco-nut telling me that there's a need for these devices.
In addition, I reject the idea that someone needs an electronic (hear, hear, eco-nut - it uses electricity) gizmo just to read a book.

For all your good intent, it appears that's all you bring. intent. weak intent.

What powers all of these e-readers ? it's fossil fuels, it's wind, it's solar, cutting into the very grid you'ld like to probably see go away, don't they?

In my opinion, it's a waste of money for any gizmo that contains ascii characters in a certain order some call a "book".

welcome to the short-attention-span theatre. There are modern, shallow-thinking people here.

I'll take my paper product - lord knows there are plenty still around - any day over this added *junk* just to read a book.

but you go ahead with that good intent, burning fossil fuels with all the rest of us - but you use it to read a book. Hmmm.

It turns out, people read books long before electricity was harnessed and placed at your disposal.

lots of books.

in the future, you may have to burn a kindle, ipad, et cetera just to keep warm.

But you'll still be able to read a book.

Unless you need paper to start the fire.

Another advantage paper has over plastic, eco nut job.

Posted by: pgibson1 | June 23, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

The Kindle does not even have video, not to mention better video than the iPad, as a previous commenter claims. Just sayin.' It amazes me the kind of scuttlebutt some folks will trot out to try to discredit an Apple product.

I have been reading books on my iPad, in both the iBooks and Kindle apps. The iBooks app displays books better, with pages and in sharper print. However, the Kindle app allows sample chapter downloads and sells short stories and collections. I also bought some ebooks from the Barnes & Nobel store, but haven't read them yet. I would accept a Kindle or Nook as a gift. But, I am largely satisfied with my iPad.

Posted by: query0 | June 26, 2010 4:09 AM | Report abuse

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