Amazon, Barnes & Noble slash e-reader prices

Jeffry Bartash
MarketWatch (MCT)

WASHINGTON — on Monday slashed the price of the Kindle to $189 from $259 just hours after Barnes & Noble cut the cost of its competing electronic book reader.

The latest round of price cuts reflects growing competition in the e-reader category, a trend that's putting more pressure on market leader Amazon. The introduction of Apple Inc.'s small iPad tablet computer has also given consumers another option.

Earlier Monday, Barnes & Noble reduced the price of its e-reader, the Nook, by 23 percent. The new price is $199, down from $259. B&N also introduced a new Wi-Fi-only version for $149.

Hours later Amazon responded with an even deeper price cut of 27 percent.

Although Amazon is the leading seller of e-book readers, a handful of companies including B&N and Sony Corp. now offer similar devices. The resulting competition has spurred Amazon to cut prices several times since the original Kindle first went on sale in late 2007 at $399.

Despite falling e-reader prices, the cost of electronic books has remained flat or actually risen slightly as publishers seek a bigger piece of the pie. Amazon has said its main focus is on selling electronic books. The company even gives away software that allows customers to read e-books on personal computers, iPhones and BlackBerrys.

As prices of e-readers fall, moreover sales of both the devices themselves as well as electronic books are sure to accelerate. The research firm Yankee Group estimates more than 6 million e-readers will be sold in 2010, with consumers becoming more interested as prices fall below $150.

Later this year, Amazon reportedly will issue the next major update to the Kindle. The third version of the device is expected to be lighter than the current 10.2-ounce model and feature faster page turning, among other things.

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