While the general public still waffles on the future of e-readers, it seems that manufacturers and book sellers are still convinced the market is going to take off in a huge way at some point and keep pumping money into it. New ebook stores, cut prices, e-reader model updates, July has been a busy month thus far in the e-reader wars. Lets take a look by company at what’s been happening thus far.
Amazon updated its biggest e-reader, the Kindle DX with a new screen, lower price and a new color shell.
While the price drop to $379 is nice, it still seems high when you consider the lowest priced iPad is $499 and does so much more than the Kindle. That aside, the new screen is the first to use the E-Ink Pearl display which gives a 50 percent better contrast ratio that the previous iteration of the Kindle DX. This is said to be a major step in the road to a color E-Ink display making an appearance by the end of the year.
The new graphite colored body isn’t that big of a step forward, but at least it’s an option other than white. If you still want a white one, they are available for $359.
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble has received a lot of criticism over its Nook e-reader because it has been accused of stealing the idea from Spring Design. The largest book store chain in the United States saw the Alex e-reader from Spring Design, talked with the company about buying it, passed on it and then less than a year later released their own e-reader with a very similar physical design.
That might be the least of the worries for Barnes & Noble as both they and Spring Design may be facing problems over the fact Amazon was issued a patent for e-readers that feature a black & white display with a smaller color display. Here is how their patent (PDF link) described it:
A handheld electronic device comprising: a housing; an electronic paper display disposed in the housing and having a first surface area; and a liquid crystal display (LCD) disposed in the housing proximate the electronic paper display, the LCD having a second surface area that is smaller than the first surface area of the electronic paper display.
The patent was filed for in 2006, and during the four year approval process Amazon was not forced to reveal it to anyone, so you can bet there was some scrambling this past week as Barnes & Noble and Spring Design tried to figure out how this impacts them.
Borders’ Kobo e-reader launched last month, but it appears that the second largest bookseller in the United States isn’t going to worry so much about the hardware as selling the content. Borders announces back in June that its stores would be selling up to ten different e-readers by the end of this year, making it clear that the company was that concerned with the hardware side of the digital book equation.
To that end, the company has finally announced its own e-book store, and the launch of new applications for multiple mobile platforms so that they can sell the books to as many customers as possible. The retailer also decided to sell books in multiple formats such as ePub and PDF so that just about anyone should be able to shop at their virtual store without worrying about compatibility.
While some have suggested that this may lead to a price war between the sellers, considering the choke hold the publishers have put on pricing, that somehow seems unlikely.
Sony had the least amount of news, just cutting the price of its entire e-reader line.
- Reader Pocket Edition cut from $170 to $150 (following a $30 drop in April)
- Touch Edition Reader cut from $200 to $170
- 3G Daily Edition Reader cut from $350 to $300
With the holiday shopping season looming in front of us, I would expect even more price cuts, some possible incentives and who knows what else. Looking forward to 2011, my suspicion is we’ll see some of the smaller e-readers heading to the gadget graveyard as the market just can’t handle this many models.