E-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader are gaining in popularity. This is a business that’s right at the start of its life and likely to grow massively. But the high prices for these devices mean e-book readers are currently not appealing to mainstream consumers. Would a $50 to $100 price range make them indispensable?
I’d love a Sony Kindle or e-book reader. While there’s something undeniably magic about holding a hardback book with paper pages in your hands, an e-book reader is practical and very handy. Think of it as the device for books that the iPod is to music. You lose that tactile feeling of a product you can hold in your hand (a CD or book) but gain a device able to hold masses of content.
The Amazon Kindle 2 currently costs $299, which is a fair price but not a sum of money that most of us can afford to pay for something that is as yet not indispensable. However, if an e-book reader were to cost between $50 and $100 then it would probably become an indispensable product, particularly if this move was coupled with a reduction in price of the content needed to make owning an e-book reader worthwhile.
I haven’t plucked this figure out of the air. Instead, it is the sum of money that new Forrester research tells us would be the sweet spot in persuading consumers they need an e-book reader. Forrester surveyed 4,706 U.S. online consumers and over 60 percent said they would buy one at that low price. Far less than 10 percent are willing to buy one at the current prices.
The prices of e-book readers will inevitably come down as they do with every piece of hardware. But the question is whether they will drop fast enough to mean dedicated e-book readers gain a foothold in the market before other devices replace the need for them.
In the same way that mp3 players are becoming less necessary as smartphones with sizable memories offer an alternative, so there are other ways of reading e-books. Netbooks and iPhones are the most obvious but there is also the Apple tablet computer reportedly on its way to upset the party.
As much as I love the idea of a dedicated e-book reader I just can’t see them having a future, unless that mainstream price point is reached much sooner than predicted.