Battleground Christmas 2012: The E-Reader Edition

Sep 20, 2012

It's September, which in the marketing world means it's almost Christmas, so it's been a big month for announcements. First, Amazon unveiled its new Kindle line-up: two tablets, the updated 7" and a new 8.9" Kindle Fires, HD (from $199 to $499) and the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader ($119/3G model $179). The new Kindle Fires are high definition with dual Dolby speakers and some with 4G wireless capability. My personal pet peeve with many tablets is the glare (I'm looking at you, iPad) but Amazon claims the new Fires have "anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle." The high-end Paperwhite features free 3G wireless along with longer battery life and better resolution.

The Paperwhite e-readers will begin shipping October 1 and the Fires are expected to ship around November 20, arriving just in time for, you guessed it, Christmas.

Amazon itself received an early Christmas present this week with the court's acceptance of the ebook settlement between some publishers and the Department of Justice. Within days HarperCollins ebooks were already repriced on Amazon and HarperCollins is writing new contracts with retailers. paidContent has a great chart that shows the various retailers' pricing of some HarperCollins titles.

This week also brought an announcement from Apple releasing the new iPhone 5. Before the iPhone 5 reveal, however, Apple talked about its recent sales numbers for the iPad. There were 17 million iPads sold in the period between April and June, to bring Apple's total iPads sold to an impressive 84 million. Apple also estimates that its April through June share of the tablet market was 68%.

Rumours still persist about an iPad mini and with a press conference scheduled for October 5, the anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs, many think it will be announced then. If it is, I'd wager it will ship before Christmas even if Apple has to hand-deliver every last one. An iPad mini would be a definite competitor to the Kindle Fire, both in size and price, but would have the added benefit of the Apple Store's apps.

Barnes & Noble's Nook is finally coming to the UK in October and there are (even more) rumors that B&N will announce a new Nook, one possibly utilizing a Windows platform, in late September.

Both the Fire and the iPad have so many uses and applications beyond e-reading. Of course they run apps but more importantly they've become a TV and movie viewing platform, and it almost seems as though the marketing focuses the consumer away from reading. I suppose that for the average non-book reading buyer either might serve as a gateway drug to ebooks. But I have to wonder just how many ebooks these new tablet owners are going to buy, let alone read. Then again, a device that can do everything would be a nice consolidation for someone like me who has an iPhone, a laptop, and a regular ol' Kindle.

If all these e-readers and tablets are still out of your price range, or if you just prefer a more personal reading experience, there's always Conan O'Brien's $5 suggestion. Maybe this model will even make dinner for you and free up your time for a little e-reading.