Amazon has slashed the price of the Kindle again, bringing the retail price down to a more affordable, but still arguably pricey, $259. At the same time, Amazon is also unveiling a new international Kindle for $279 to expand the market beyond the United States.
The $40 price drop brings the Kindle down 35 percent from the initial $400 price it was introduced at. That is still rather costly for a device that reads books. Even considering that the Kindle edition of books are typically available for $9.99.
However, compared to the similarly equipped device from Sony, the Amazon Kindle is quite a bargain. When Sony first rolled out its new line of e-readers it appeared that the devices were significantly cheaper than the Amazon Kindle. However, after Sony added wireless connectivity and made the screen a little larger the price jumped up to $399.
The price drop makes the Kindle even more compelling, but the proprietary Kindle book format still remains as a handicap for Amazon. Sony devices support ePub, which is an open standard that still supports DRM (digital rights management) features. Users are reluctant to choose any device until the dust settles on the format battle to prevent investing in obsolete technology.
While the price cut for the Kindle makes the Amazon device a compelling purchase for those in the e-reader market in the United States, releasing an international version is an even more strategic move by Amazon. Adding a GSM-capable Kindle opens up more than 100 additional countries as potential Kindle outlets.
The $279 price is only slightly higher than the U.S. Kindle, but you need to factor in currency conversions and regional cost of living as well as any import duties and taxes that might be tacked on to determine just how much of a value the device is. As a function of average income, the true cost of the Kindle will vary from country to country.
Amazon's initial foray into internationalizing the Kindle is a little hodge-podge as well. The international Kindle must still be purchased from the United States and comes with documentation in English and a standard United States plug with an adapter for the country in question.
The Kindle will still have an advantage though in some countries. For example, in the United Kingdom the Kindle will be the only e-reader device available that is capable of wireless networking-- even if the network it relies on is a little spotty in terms of availability.
While the battle this year has seemed to focus on Amazon vs. Sony, the moves by Amazon appear to be part of a broader strategy to strike preemptively with a number of competing products hitting the streets. Sony has captured the headlines, but soon the Asus Eee Reader and the IREX will enter the fray, and who knows what kind of e-reader competition vaporware devices like the Apple tablet and Microsoft ‘Courier' might pose.
The price cut and expansion around the globe for the Kindle may be an attempt by Amazon to proactively capture as much market share as possible before more competitors appear on the scene. Perhaps Amazon hopes to reach a critical mass where the Kindle format becomes the de facto standard and forces ePub to join Betamax and 8-track tapes in the standards graveyard.
The Kindle DX remains at a decadent $489, a price that only those with excessive discretionary income could find reasonable.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.