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Dedicated E-Readers: They’re History


Barnes & Noble just launched a new Wi-Fi only version of the Nook for $149 and cut the price of the original, with both Wi-Fi and 3G from $259 to $199. Whoops! And, what’s this? I no sooner finish this blog and Amazon drops the bottom-line Kindle’s price to $189. That’s great, right? Wrong. It’s actually just postponing the end of all dedicated e-readers.

As it happens, I like e-readers in general. And, I like the Nook and Amazon’s Kindle. So why am I unimpressed by this price-cut? I’m unmoved because I don’t think there’s a chance in heck that dedicated e-reader devices will still be around, except as vastly discounted electronic toys by 2011’s holiday season.

My reasoning is quite simple. Everything a Nook or a Kindle can do an Apple iPad can do better. And, what’s far more important, an iPad can do far, far more.

Why should I buy a Nook or Kindle to read a book, when I can read the same books, from the same vendors, on an iPad? Or, for that matter, an iPod Touch? As Jason Perlow pointed out in his great overview of iPad e-reader applications, anything you can read on one of those devices, you can read on an iPad.

Besides, with an iPad, I can also listen to music, watch videos, play games, etc. etc. Of course, an iPad is expensive. In fact, it’s a lot more expensive. The cheapest iPad is $499 compared to the new Nook’s bottom line of $149 and the Kindle’s lowest priced model is now $189. But, it’s not going to stay that way. Historically, Apple drops the price of its earlier models when it introduces a new one. While you may lust in your heart for a new iPhone 4, your brain and your wallet might be very happy with the last generation iPhone 3GS, which Wal-Mart will be happy to sell you for $97.

Besides, in the next few months you’re going to see a flood of Linux-powered iPad clones and other tablet devices. I expect these tablets to have prices ranging from $150 to $250 and, thanks to most of them running Google Android, they’ll be able to run many of the same applications that now live on Apple iPads. Besides, when it comes to e-readers, the Nook is an Android Linux device and there’s already a Kindle for Android application.

The one hope that I see for the dedicated e-readers, and Nook already has the foundation to pull it off, is to give up being single-purpose devices and join the general purpose tablet revolution. But, dedicated e-readers, or GPSs, mobile-phones, and the like? They’re history.

A version of this story first appeared in ITWorld.

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