Kindle's E-Reader Price War: Who'll Blink First?

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When, oh when, will the price-cutting end? Now that Amazon has stunned the e-book world by dropping the price of its Kindle e-reader (well, the new Wi-Fi-only model) to $139, will competitors Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Sony do the same?

If recent history is any indication, this wicked limbo dance is far from over. How low can they go? If you're in the market for an e-reader, it's probably smart to postpone your purchase for a while, because more price cuts may soon be on the horizon.

How it Began

Barnes & Noble instigated the ruckus in June when it slashed its 3G/Wi-Fi Nook e-reader to $199 from $259. The brick-and-mortar book chain, eager to grab a piece of the expanding e-book market, also introduced a Wi-Fi-only Nook at a very aggressive $149.

B&N's shot across the bow spurred Amazon into action. The online retailer, the dominant player in the e-book market, quickly cut the price of the Kindle to $189 from $259. And this week Amazon launched a slimmer and faster Kindle (Wi-Fi/3G) for $189, as well as the $139 Kindle Wi-Fi.

What's Barnes & Noble's next move? The bookseller declined PCWorld's request for comment, although it did announce plans on Friday to create 1000-square foot boutiques in its bookstores to showcase the Nook.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren't the only contestants here, of course. Borders sells the Kobo device for $150. And earlier this month Sony lowered the price of its bargain e-reader, the Reader Pocket Edition, to $150 from $170. Neither the Kobo nor the Sony Reader Pocket Edition has wireless connectivity, however. Both need a wired connection to a PC to download content.

So Young, So Cheap

Early Kindles
It seems like only yesterday (November 2007, to be exact) when Amazon's Kindle e-reader debuted at $399. Pricey though it was, the portable device it was unique--essentially an iPod for books--and proved popular with tech-savvy book lovers and other early adopters.

Less than three years later, the entry-level Kindle is roughly a third of the original version's price.

At $139, the Kindle is quickly becoming an impulse buy, an inexpensive gadget that consumers purchase without a lot of forethought--or buyer's remorse. I suspect it won't be long before a $99 e-reader arrives on the scene, most likely from one of Amazon's competitors.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at

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