Lost in Wednesday's Kindle Fire hoopla was the fact that Amazon also launched three new e-readers: the $79 Kindle; $99 Kindle Touch; and $149 Kindle Touch 3G. Unlike their predecessors, which Amazon will continue to sell (for now), none of the new models have a physical keyboard.
See also: Amazon Kindle Fire review
Of the three, the Touch is best dressed for success in a highly competitive e-reader market, which also includes devices from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony.
(I should point out that the Kindle prices quoted above are for the "Special Offers" versions of Amazon's e-readers. In other words, customers get a price cut in exchange for enduring screen ads when the Kindle is idle. The Kindle Touch without Special Offers is $40 more at $139.)
Success in the Middle
The Touch should sell well for several reasons. Its $99 price brings the Kindle into impulse-buy territory. It may become a popular stocking stuffer this holiday season, assuming shoppers can buy a unit in time. Amazon will start shipping the Touch on November 21.
The $79 Kindle may cost less, but I believe the Touch will sell better. The main reason is the latter's multi-touch display, which should prove more intuitive and appealing than the cheaper model's 5-way controller. The Touch is slightly heavier, but only by 1.5 ounces--not enough to matter.
Other advantages: the Touch promises 2 months of battery life--twice that of the $79 Kindle. It has 4GB of storage, enough for 3,000 books. The cheaper model has 2GB for 1,400 tomes.
Honestly, I can't imagine the average user storing hundreds (or thousands) of books on an e-reader, but the added storage is probably a strong selling point.
At the high end, the $149 Kindle 3G (or $189 without Special Offers), is priced too closely to the much-flashier Kindle Fire--videos, apps, games, color display, etc.--to appeal to folks who want a basic e-reader.
Related Slideshow: Meet Amazon's Four New Kindles
Don't Forget the Nook
Of course, my Amazon-centric comparisons don't take into account the upcoming moves by Amazon's e-reading competitors, a key consideration that Gartner analyst Allen Weiner discusses in a Sept. 28 blog post:
"As Gartner has predicted, the price point for e-ink readers would fall below $100 in time for the holiday shopping season. What remains to be seen is whether Amazon will be alone in that distinction or whether B&N, Kobo and Sony--whose new Pearl screen, WiFi device has yet to hit the market--will follow suit. The thinking is price cuts will be fairly dramatic market wide in Q4 along with perhaps some innovative campaigns which include product or service bundles."
It wouldn't be a shocker if Barnes & Noble, which is rumored to unveil a next-generation Nook Color device in the very near future, either lowers the price of its $139 Nook to $99, or introduces a new E-Ink model at a sub-$100 price point.
Let the cost-cutting begin.