Amazon Burning up eReader Market with Fire, 3 New Kindles

COMMENTARY | The revolution is here, so settle into your reading corners. In addition to Amazon’s expected unveiling of its new tablet, the Amazon Fire, the company has announced a line of three Kindle E-Ink readers, the most basic of which will be priced at just $79. The next model, the Kindle Touch, is $99, while the Kindle Touch 3G will cost $149.

While the basic model Kindle has no keyboard and is ad-supported, the price brings the expanding universe of eBooks to a broad, broad audience. For the price of three new hardcovers or about five paperbacks, anyone can have an eReader. With an eBook cost generally lower than print counterparts, what this price change really means is more reading for everyone.

And the intelligence of Amazon’s move is all in the pricing. With the ever-decreasing cost of tablets – which support the eReading software for both Nook and Kindle – the question is why anyone would still need an eReader, especially with the cost of a multifunctional gadget and a single-function gadget quickly becoming comparable. The lower-priced Kindle keeps an eReader within its own class, where it is not competing with more functionality while focusing on what it does have: E-Ink, which offers an experience very much like a printed page.

For many readers who haven’t taken the ePlunge, there is an experience with a real book that an eReader cannot replicate. EReaders don’t have the smell of paper; they don’t have the weight of a book; they don’t have the tactile aspect which, for many who read extensively, is as much an aspect of reading as the words on the page.

But the real siren call for traditional bookworms is how easy eReaders make it to read. There will be, for each one, that first glimpse of a book online that they want. Without moving anything but a mouse, that book goes from the screen to the reader like science-fiction magic. Not sure if you’ll like it? You can sample it.

It converted me. It converted my mother, who was a far more established bookist. And at $79, the Kindle may well draw in the eReading resistant but eCurious.

We have not yet seen the death of the paper book, though eBooks outsold paper for the first time this year. But Amazon, throwing down the eReader pricing gauntlet, may have sped the timer ahead considerably.

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