The eReader wars are just getting interesting.
For two years Amazon.com owned the only viable eReader on the market with its Kindle, but that changed in a matter of months with Barnes & Nobles’ Nook hitting last Christmas, and the iPad from Apple debuting in April.
And now consumers are seeing the benefits today with significant reductions in pricing from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
B&N struck first this morning, announcing a $149 Wi-Fi only Nook, and dropping the 3G enabled version to $199 (down from $259). But Amazon was not to outdone. Within hours the 3G-enabled Kindle 2 was dropped down to $189 (also from $259).
Both the Nook and the Kindle are feeling the heat from Apple’s iPad, but the lower prices should help lure consumers who want a smaller, reader-only product. Other considerations include recent announcements of lower cost eReaders coming in the near future. The price cuts could effectively keep some of these new contenders from gaining significant market share since their primary allure would have been lower price.
The eReader future is far from certain. The Nook has benefited immensely from its presence in Barnes & Noble – giving many consumers their first chance to actually hold and interact with an eReader. Apple’s iPad followed in April, and the iBooks application has been well-received. Amazon.com has since struck a deal with Target to bring its Kindle to a retail location. In retrospect, the delay may end up costing Amazon tremendously. They had a two year advantage on its competition. Yet Amazon failed to capitalize on this exclusive-in-the-market time frame and make the Kindle the de facto eReader in the industry. By not having the Kindle at a retail location, Amazon never really gave consumers the chance to touch and feel the Kindle. Many people simply did not want to spend $250-500 on something they had never held before. And unlike Apple, Amazon.com didn’t have the history and reputation with hardware that would make people comfortable with such a purchase.
Alas for Amazon and the Kindle, as B&N used their extensive retail locations to show off to the world their eReader and Apple has used it’s hot selling iPad to dive successfully into the book selling business.
The price cuts should keep the Nook and the Kindle in a neck and neck race in the eReader market – along with the iPad. Newcomers should beware trying to get into the game at this point.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.