The 2009 holiday season was a great one for Jeff Bezos. Santa brought him continued dominance in the world of e-readers, with Amazon selling hundreds of thousands of Kindles and millions of e-books. Little did he know, while he was counting his millions, Scrooge McJobs was toiling away at the iPad -- a proverbial lump of coal that's going to land in Bezos' stocking this year.
Earlier this week a price war started between Barnes & Noble and Amazon, signaling the beginning of the end of the e-reader. It started on Monday when the Barnes & Noble Nook went from $259 to $199. Amazon followed suit the same day, dropping the price of the Kindle from $259 to $189. Price wars are never a good sign for a market, especially one so young as this. Since neither company signaled price reductions were the result of a reduction in manufacturing costs, and since it's doubtful that they're trying to bolster dwindling sales (e-readers sold well in the first quarter) there's only one possible motive -- the iPad has scared the bejesus out of them.
As well it should. The iPad has sold three million units in just three months, a number likely comparable to the number of Kindles sold in two years. And while it makes sense that people would rather spend money on a tablet that allows you to download apps, surf the web, play games and watch movies over one that allows you to just read books, blogs and magazines, I can't help but be a little sad for the Kindle and its impending extinction. You see, I love my Kindle. I love that the battery last for weeks. I love that I don't get any eye strain when I use it. I love that I can read it comfortably in full sunlight, and most of all, I love that it allows me the simplicity of doing just one thing. When I'm reading I don't want to be tempted to check my email or look at a celebrity gossip site, I want to be lost in the book.
In truth, the iPad's success is due in part to the Kindle, whose emergence and acceptance over the past three years has paved the way for tablet computing.
So, is it too soon to be writing an obituary for a device that's still selling briskly? Maybe. But I don't have high hopes for Kindle's survival on the hardware side. Luckily for fans of e-books, however, Jeff Bezos is no dope. Kindle, the software, will soon be more ubiquitous than the hardware, with Kindle apps already available on the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and a version coming soon to the Android. Proving that when it comes to digital, there really is life after death.
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