In a previous post, I wrote a lot about e-readers and failed to realize that I was talking about having the e-reader implement features of tablets like iPad. Well, no more! e-readers and tablets are in direct competition with each other. But it is an asymmetrical competition. Tablets can run potentially any application, including e-book readers. e-readers are cheaper, but are less powerful than tablets. So the improvements are going to come from the e-reader space with e-readers getting more powerful, but retaining their price point.
One indication of this is the new NOOK, which is now completely touch. After being previously out of touch. (Sorry :-)) I am not sure I like the design much, but it is definitely a milestone. Expect the Kindle to follow. We already have an experimental (and pretty much useless) browser on the Kindle. Expect that to become better. $139 price point is extremely good. The Kindle’s $114 with ads is even better for price-conscious customers. From what I have heard, it is selling extremely well. Once the price points drop below $100, e-book readers will become ubiquitous.
Barnes & Noble’s play with the NOOK Color has been under-appreciated. It is a master move to position a tablet as an e-reader. Many people don’t understand the e-ink versus standard screen debate. They are looking for some device on which to read. They (unlike some kinds of serious readers) also perhaps don’t mind being distracted by having browser and email apps on the same device.
I think the way to think about it is this: With a good marketing push, you can get many early adopters to buy a device. But beyond a point, your product is another commodity and price becomes an important factor. That is why Apple has iPods at every possible price point ($49 to $249). If quality and features were the only thing, you would only see iPod Touch, which is not the case.
What could entice people attracted to tablets to look at an enhanced e-reader? Well, give them the apps. For example, take a look a these iPhone screens. Look at the most common apps across them. If you can get 90% of them on an e-reader, you are making good progress.