It seems you can't turn on your computer these days without reading about a new entrant to the burgeoning e-reader market. Today's newest contender: a cheaper, snazzier version of Amazon's Kindle DX. The new version retails for $379, compared with $489 for last year's version. The retooled Kindle DX boasts a new graphite enclosure, an all new electronic ink display with 50 percent better contrast, and global 3G service for downloading e-books.
Amazon is taking orders now and the device is scheduled to ship on July 7.
Will it matter? In the crowded e-reader market will much notice be given to yet another option?
The new, improved Kindle DX is certainly not going to attract the bargain shoppers. They already are choosing among Amazon's smaller Kindle (price down to $189 from $259), the Barnes & Noble original Nook (price dropped to $199), a new scaled-back version of the Nook that will sell for $149, Borders' Kobo ($149), and – at the very bottom of the price ladder – Borders' Libre ($119.99).
While there may be segments of the market (older, affluent, serious about book- and periodical-reading) who will be attracted to a deluxe, easy-reading option like the new DX ("Hey, this would be great for my mom..." spoofed PC World. "Oh no. The stench of uncool"), most market observers predict that lower pricing will work best for dedicated e-readers.
But what about the iPad? Does its versatility threaten the future of the dedicated e-reader? Oh no, writes Jeffrey Bartash for MarketWatch. "[S]tand-alone e-readers offer other advantages such as simplicity, ease of reading and a much lighter weight," he notes.
He quotes Allen Weiner of Gartner Inc., who says of the difference between reading on an iPad and a dedicated device: "The actual reading part on an iPad is not bad. The problem is holding the device. It's not comfortable and it's hard to find a good position. A Kindle or Nook provides a better experience."
The experts say that prices for such devices will fall ($100 is a level some suggest will ultimately be competitive), but demand will not cool. Market research firm iSuppli's estimate: e-reader sales will triple to 15 million in 2011.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.