A few weeks ago we wrote of a burgeoning price war among eBook readers in the face of the challenge issued by the Apple iPad. As we noted, some pundits even speculated that since the iPad could do so very much more than just read eBooks, stand-alone eReaders would soon find themselves in the dustbin of discarded technologies. But, as Mark Twain could have quipped if he were still among us, the death of the eReader might have been greatly exaggerated in light of Wednesday's news that Amazon has completely sold out of the second generation Kindle. Later that day, the company doubled down on the eReader by announcing two new third generation Kindles.
The price is right
According to Amazon, its move to drop the price of the Kindle from $259 to $189 ignited buyer interest. The result, the company said earlier this month, was a tripling of sales, though precise figures have not been released. In addition, the sale of Kindle books is now outpacing those of the traditional versions on the site -- though don't forget that those electronic books can also be read by devices running the Kindle app, including the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; Blackberrys; and PCs. Also on Wednesday, Amazon said that the late Stieg Larsson became the first author to sell a million copies of his works in Kindle eBook form.
While price might have been a driving source behind the Kindle's recent success, other factors could also be in play. For one thing, experts generally agree that the iPad display, while bold and colorful, isn't as effective for reading out of doors as the Kindle and other eReaders that use a less reflective e-paper screen. In addition reports have surfaced that the iPad has problems when used in the sun -- say on a beach during this long, hot summer -- prompting at least one lawsuit.
Two new Kindles to hit the streets next month
The new Kindles, set to debut on Aug. 27, differ mainly in how they connect to the Internet to download books. The more basic model cuts the price even further, to $139, and offers Wi-Fi connectivity. The step-up model, priced at $189, adds 3G capability.
According to Amazon, both models will have significant improvements over the second generation device. PC World notes that the new Kindles will have the same size display, but be smaller and lighter than their predecessor. Storage has been doubled, allowing the Kindles to store up to 3,500 worth of eBooks. Response times have been cut by around 20 percent. Screen contrast has been bumped by 50 percent, helping readability. 3G connecitivity comes without contracts or monthly charges.
Even the Kindle's leather case -- the most popular accessory for the eReader according to BetaNews.com -- has seen an upgrade. It now includes a LED reading lamp that draws its power from the Kindle itself. The new Kindles are already available for pre-order at Amazon.com.