eReader Price Wars, First Round


The long anticipated ereader price wars began this week. Apple has cornered the market for the multi-purpose device and can demand a premium for the iPad, but how the dedicated-ereader market plays out will come down in no small part to price.

Barnes & Noble started things off by dropping the price of the Nook to $199, and introducing a Wi-Fi only version (the regular version also has 3G) for $149. It’s a big plus that the Nook supports the non-proprietary ePub and Adobe DRM (plus the old standby PDF) formats. It’s also the only of these three ereaders with a color screen. Barnes & Noble needed to get cheaper than Amazon to remain in this game. Selling a device for $110 less than their previous cheapest offering is a steep move in the right direction.

Amazon responded the next day by dropping the price of the Kindle to $189. I’m surprised it took them this long following the iPad release, and even at the new price I’m still not a fan because of the proprietary Amazon ebook format. Any books bought from the Kindle Store can only ever be read on an Amazon device. Of course, there are ways you can get around this restriction, but they’re of questionable legality, and more importantly far too much of a hassle just to take your books with you when you move.

Borders also entered the fray by offering a $20 Borders gift card with the purchase of the Kobo ereader which is still priced at $149. This device also supports ePub, Adobe DRM, and PDF formats, though it can’t connect via Wi Fi or 3G. You need to plug it into a computer or sync it with a smartphone to load more books on it. I like that this device isn’t so married to a particular store, and in theory it should work seamlessly with both the Kobo and Borders ebook stores. Kobo also does the best job of offering a side-by-side comparison, though they haven’t yet updated the prices on this page or added the new Wi-Fi only Nook.

The mountain of unread paper books by my bed means that I have no fear in delaying this decision, yet again. My hunch is that by this year’s holiday one of these devices will come with enough gift cards to essentially make it free. All three will undoubtedly soon follow the Kobo and Borders model of not dropping the price, but piling on the perks. Why buy one when I can wait and hope someone else gets one for me?

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