Will We See Lower Prices for eBook Readers?

As each day turns on the calendar we march one day closer to the day when the iPad will ship. Ever since Apple announced the iPad it has been affecting the eBook market. The deal that Apple made with book publishers lead to a fight between Amazon and Macmillan over the $9.99 price of eBooks. After a public spat that included Amazon pulling Macmillan’s books from their shelves, Amazon gave in to Macmillan’s demand for a change in the pricing to be the same as their deal with Apple.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both announced they will provide their eBook reader apps for the iPad, just as they do today for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Currently there is some skepticism of whether Apple will actually allow these apps, which will compete with Apple’s new eBook reader and store, to be in the iPad App Store. What has not been discussed is what affect those apps on the iPad will have on the Kindle and nook.

Today the Kindle and nook cost $259, considerably cheaper than the $499 price of the cheapest iPad. If the iPad was only an eBook reader, like the Kindle and nook, it’s price would not be competitive. However, the iPad is much more than an eBook reader. When one is considering buying an eBook reader, do you choose the iPad at $499 that works with multiple eBook stores (potentially) and does much more, or pay $259 for a single purpose and single store device?

If Kindle and nook sales stall after the iPad starts shipping, Amazon and Barnes & Noble will most likely have to lower the price of the Kindle and nook. One might not buy a Kindle for $259 over a $400 iPad, but that decision might change if they could buy the Kindle for $100. We have already seen the affect that the iPad is having with Sony announcing a price cut on their lower end Reader Pocket Edition.

In my opinion, the scenario I describe above hinges on whether Apple allows the Kindle and Barnes & Noble apps on the iPad. If the apps are not on the iPad then the Kindle and nook will remain the primary means for reading eBooks bought from the two stores, and the prices of the devices will not need to be lowered. If the apps appear on the iPad, the only advantage the Kinde and nook will have is the eInk display, which I expect will not be enough for many people to justify what will be a relatively high price for the device in comparison to the features of the iPad.