The Ebook Reader War

Barnes & Noble NOOK ebook reader (WiFi + 3G)

Last month, I decided that I wanted an ebook reader and started browsing online stores to find a suitable one. And I found quite a few –  Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Amazon’s very own Kindle, Sony’s Digital Reader were among the top contenders in my search. At the time of my search, the Sony Pocket edition had a price tag of $169, while the Digital Reader edition was priced @ $199. With a touch screen and extensible memory, I thought I was getting a pretty good deal. The Nook, though, had better features (such as a colour touch screen), and in consequence, a larger price tag as well – $ 249 – which was well beyond what I was willing to pay for. As for the Kindle, it simply didn’t make much sense to buy something which was proprietary to Amazon, had no extensible memory and could not be used in India. So, finally I decided to go with Sony.

Sony Digital Reader Touch Edition – Black (PRS600BC)

Now, when I finally came around to actually buying the gizmo, I found something very odd – Sony had slashed their prices to $149 and $169 for the Pocket and Digital editions respectively. The very next day, Barnes & Noble announced the Nook’s availability at two flavours and prices – WiFi Nook at $149 and 3G Nook @ $199. How can Amazon possibly be left behind in the Ebook Reader rat-race? The next day, Amazon came up with a counter offer – again in 2 flavours – Kindle 3G at $189 and the WiFi at $139 (note the $10 difference in pricing).

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6

I can understand that the price of electronic gadgets are generally steep when first introduced in the market, and then slowly taper down as their production costs decrease. What I do not understand is this – Why does it require a price-slash by a competitor to get all others on the very same bandwagon? Do all the other companies suddenly open their eyes and see that they don’t need to sell it at such a high price, or is it that they acquire a – ‘If you are selling it at that rate, then I will sell mine at this rate or lower.’ – mentality, even if it results in a loss?

And think of the poor consumer who went out and bought the gizmo when it was announced with all the fanfare? What kind of a deal do they get when they buy the stuff at the highest price and don’t even know whether it will live up to all the raves? Aren’t they supposed to have some sort of a privilege (like a free or almost free upgrade to the next version) since they actually believe in a company’s product and go buy it? But here they are, looking like fools, when they buy the product at launch, and find that their neighbour gets the same thing at half price 6 months later (and that too with all the bugs fixed!).



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