Since Apple's iPad virtually busted open the e-Reader market door with a device that could multi-task - Kindle, Nook and other "one trick ponies" have been trying to find ways to remain competitive, without resorting to price cuts. This month, desperation might be seeping in.
While Amazon has worked on making Kindles sleeker with thinner screens, and both Kindle and Nook have gone retail by spreading out their salable inventory to Target and Best Buy stores, the latest move appears to be a price war.
The national online and retail bookseller Barnes and Noble announced on June 21, that it was slashing the price of their six-month-old Nook e-Reader by 'sixty bucks' from $199 to $259, while introducing a new iteration of the device that connects to the Internet over WiFi networks for $149.
Without hesitation, Amazon.com slashed the price of its popular Kindle e-Reader below the Nook, to $189 from $259.
The bottom line is that the now-somewhat-antiquated e-Reader is just not versatile enough to match up against the horsepower of an iPad. With Steve Jobs' is holding firm at his $500 price tag, the device is breaking all sales records having reached their two million milestone in just two months.
As noted in one of my previous blogs titled "Kindles Might Be Getting Thinner, But No Color, Nor Touch-Screen?" - it's tremendously difficult for a static, monochromatic screen to compete with a colorful display with touch-screen functionality. One marked case in point, is the preference today's reader has in selecting an iPad to read graphic novels versus a Kindle. The graphic novel "Crude Behavior" sells through both distribution channels, but iPad vs Kindle is the preferred because "color outweighs Kindle's 16-shades of grey," according to the author.
“It was obvious that the price of stand-alone e-readers had to come down,” said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, citing the threat by Apple and other tablet makers. “We just never thought it was going to happen this rapidly.”
And if anyone was to doubt that this price war was getting heated, even Stephen Colbert has something to say on the topic.
According to a NY Times report, "Sony may be particularly affected by the price cuts. It was the first to the market with an e-reader in 2006, but it has fallen behind its rivals because it lacks Amazon’s online sales prowess and Barnes & Noble’s physical retail presence."
William J. LynchBarnes & Noble chief executive William J. Lynch sees the stand-alone e-Reader market shaking down to the three majors, with Sony coming in third (in my estimation). He also predicts that within 12 months, these readers could be available for less than $100.
I will go one step further and wager that Amazon ups the ante and invests in transforming the Kindle into a hybrid-iPad. I think without a move in that direction - e-Readers might go the way of the printed book, where the only place you'll eventually be able to find them is in museums.