The books business is surging with innovation
It is exactly four years since Amazon shipped the first Kindle readers, priced at $399. Skepticism about the prospects for the digital devices was widespread. Those doubts have long since been replaced by fierce competition for preeminence among Apple (iPads), Barnes & Noble (the Nook), and now the Kindle Fire. With a seven-inch color touch screen and a retail price of $199, the Kindle Fire is $50 less than B&N's comparable high-resolution color touch screen Nook, and $300 less than Apple's iPad 2. The Nook and the Kindle Fire have many, but by no means all the the features of the iPad--neither has a camera, Bluetooth, or GPS, and both have fewer apps--but if you are primarily a reader or viewer and want Wi-Fi access to books (along with movies, music, and some games), these readers provide what you need and are only going to add capacity as each device is unveiled.
The unquestioned winners in the competition are consumers, because the prices of books have been driven down and the selection material now available is enormous. Edward Baig, a personal tech columnist for USA Today concluded that both the Nook and Kindle Fire are appealing, "especially if what you have in mind for a tablet is reading (traditional strengths for Amazon and Barnes & Noble); listening to music, watching movies and TV shows (including Adobe Flash sites); playing casual games and checking e-mail." Amazon's vast resources of content, which now include the $79 a year Amazon Prime service that enables streaming of movies and television, plus a controversial e-book rental program, give it an edge. B&N still has hundreds of brick and mortar stores and seems to be preparing to bundle e-books with printed copies as an additional incentive.In many respects, today's book buying process is still a familiar one: the fundamental choice now is whether to read in print or on a hand-held device. Based on reviews, publicity, and prior experience with the author, reading groups, and that trusty perennial--word of mouth--you select a book and then a means of delivery. The greatest challenge confronts traditional booksellers as they devise the means to supply e-books to customers who could download from Apple, Amazon, or B&N in less than a minute.