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Just last month, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) rolled out its Kindle Fire, the first Kindle designed as a full media device — not an e-reader with some frills. That announcement was followed by Kobo’s announcement of the Vox. And, as expected, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) — which already had a touchscreen color e-reader that some hackers were converting into an inexpensive Android tablet — announced its Nook Tablet.
Each wants to offer its current e-reader users an option that keeps them from shifting to the iPad when they go tablet and to appeal to new users who will spend money on books, magazines, apps and more after the hardware investment. In Amazon’s case, it literally is unlocking the video experience it has been building for computers and connected TVs but that has been unreachable from anywhere else. These aren’t just e-readers on steroids — they are playing in a new category now.
So why are we including them in our e-reader chart? We want to show how the e-reader category has grown and where these tablets fit in as extensions of brands known until now for e-readers and e-reading platforms. We also recognize that many consumers are making choices between dedicated e-readers, e-readers on steroids, and tablets; showing them in one chart makes it easier to see the differences, particularly with regards to what consumers need to know about each device. But this is the last time we’ll fold the tablets in with e-readers. We’re adding a chart here that compares these three tablets with the iPad, the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet that owns that category now. We’re also working on a new chart that compares those tablets with other notable players in the media tablet category.
We have come a long way in a very short time. For perspective, consider that the Kindle launched four years ago at $399 — one-and a-half times more expensive than the Kindle Fire and five times the cost of the cheapest Kindle now being sold. The Nook is two years younger as a brand. E-reading is no longer a niche for early adopters. It is mainstream with hardware options to match.