Kindle 3 under threat due to poor retail availability, rival eReader offers

The Kindle 3 might be in for a very interesting holiday season.

On paper the holiday season seems like it should be a cakewalk for the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi -

  1. B&N has gone with a color-screen Nook Color instead of releasing an eInk Pearl based Nook 2. 
  2. Sony has hidden behind its claim that its focusing on quality and not competing on price.
  3. There are hardly any worthy Android tablets.
  4. iPad hasn’t killed eReader sales.
  5. No strong, new eReader rivals have emerged and no eReaders with Pixel Qi or Mirasol or Color eInk screens have emerged.

Given these data points you have to wonder what could stop the Kindle 3 from taking an even more dominant market position.

Well, there are actually a few serious threats to the Kindle 3′s take-over of the eReader market this holiday season. Let’s take a look at a couple of the more worrying ones.

Kindle Retail Availability is still poor

Here’s a comment from a user who bought a Nook because he couldn’t find a Kindle -

… this made me decide to go with Kindle 3.  But they seem to treat this thing like tickets to a Hot Rock concert!  I would have to just about camp in front of the store to get one.

Well guess what.  I am not a teenager anymore and if you want me to buy your product, and you announce on the news that it is now sold at Target, Best Buy, Staples, etc. One of those stores better have it in All of Houston.

So I bought the Nook, even though I love to have the latest technology. 

The problem is actually much deeper than ‘being sold out’ in all of Houston -

  1. Firstly, Amazon is available at far less stores – Nook is now available at WalMart and lots of other places Kindle isn’t retailed.
  2. Secondly, Amazon doesn’t have its own physical stores – Both B&N and Sony have their own stores from which they can sell Nooks and Sony Readers directly to customers.
  3. Thirdly, Amazon doesn’t send out enough stock. There are numerous cases of people talking about not being able to find a Kindle 3 at their nearest Target.
  4. Fourthly, Amazon severely limits the demo units so you can’t test out wireless and a lot of the other Kindle 3 features.

So we’ve gone from ‘Kindle isn’t available in brick and mortar stores’ to ‘Kindle puts in a guest appearance at a few stores but is usually impossible to find’.   

Nook and Sony Reader continue to have a big advantage in retail availability - very few people are going to keep trying to find a Kindle in stores when they can test out a Nook or Sony Reader in person and get it instantly.

Rival eReader makers are cutting prices mercilessly

Thanks to Lucy S we know Best Buy will have Nook WiFi available for $100 for Black Friday. It’s just 10 units per store but it’ll still sell a lot of Nooks and give Nook a lot of free publicity.

Now, courtesy MobileRead, we find out about some very good deals on the latest Sony Readers.

Nov 15th Update: B&H Photo changed prices from $170 to $200 and $120 to $150 a day after this post first went out.

B&H Photo now has the Sony Reader PRS-650 for $200 and the Sony Reader PRS-350 for $150. It’s also offering free shipping. The offers last till the 27th of November and make the PRS-650 close to the price of a Kindle 3 and the PRS-350 close to the price of a Kindle WiFi.

Sony Readers are going to be on sale at the Sony Store from November 15th to November 27th - 

  1. Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 will be $30 cheaper at $150 – that’s within shooting distance of the $139 Kindle WiFi.
  2. Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650 will be $30 cheaper at $200 – which brings it very close to the $189 Kindle 3.
  3. Sony Reader Daily Edition PR-950 will be $50 cheaper at $250. That’s the same price as Nook Color and not bad for a 7″ eInk Pearl screen.

Like Nook 1 the Sony Readers support library books and ePub and unlike Nook 1 they sport eInk Pearl screens. They also have touch. The PRS-650 suddenly seems very tempting. For most of November Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi will no longer be the obvious eReader choice.

For the first time since Kindle 3 was released users will have to think twice about what eReader to get. At $170 and with library book support and touch support the Sony PRS-650 is suddenly a very dangerous Kindle 3 opponent.

What does Amazon need to do to make Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi the clear #1 choices again?

Well, it’s quite simple -

  1. Drop Kindle 3 to $170.
  2. Drop Kindle WiFi to $110.
  3. Expand retail availability. WalMart is probably not going to embrace Amazon but other stores might.
  4. Make sure there is enough retail availability.
  5. Let users try out Kindles properly – make sure demo units allow users to explore full Kindle functionality.

Nook and Sony Reader have gone from disinterested competitors that had little chance to threaten the Kindle 3 to surprise contenders that threaten to steal away eReader sales from the Kindle. Perhaps they have finally realized that if they let the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi run rampant this holiday season it might be the end of the eReader Wars.

11 Responses

  1. Free shipping, no sales tax….what am I missing? I must be in the minority of shoppers?

  2. Just FYI – I saw on another blog, that Amazon’s limit on how many Kindles you can buy, has changed from 5 to now only 3.
    I believe Kindle has ‘sold out’ inventory on prior years for Christmas holidays, so this year’s limit to 3 per customer might be a sign that they have limited inventory to sell.
    So, if you really want a Kindle, it might be better to buy sooner, rather than try at the last minute.

  3. I have four eReaders, Kindle (models 2 and 3), Nook, Sony Touch and the Kobo. There is no way the three will overtake Amazon’s Kindles because the three pale in comparison when a user actually starts using one. I would buy from Amazon because of Customer Service and all around excellent treatment of customers. I see no reason to start running around among the stores to test drive. I bought the Nook over the internet, the Sony from Sony/internet, and the Kobo from bookstore/ internet. Why would I switch from what I am doing to run around the stores? I will wait now to see what Amazon offers in a major update of its Kindles. The two I have satisfy 99% of my reading needs.

  4. It appears to me that Sony and Barnes & Noble are desperate to move stock due to poor demand and Amazon can’t keep up with demand. What threat are you talking about?

  5. It’s not only Houston but also Tucson. Besides finding empty shelves in some local Best Buy & Target, there is the unknowledgeable store personnel what makes impossible a kindle test drive.

  6. I was reading today the New York Times Book Reviews online, and NYT mentioned that they will be including a “Best Seller” list for Kindle books starting next year.

    Also, FYI – a really good book is “Life” by Keith Richards. As a Kindle book, this was originally $14.99,
    but has now a lower price of $12.99 There is a review of this memoir in NYT Book Review today, 11/14/10. (I have a Kindle copy of this book, and it is a very good read – but I will say the photos in it are a bit too small; these photos will look better being seen in the hardback book version.)

  7. Someone who loves to have the latest technology, but will not order over the internet, seems a bit odd to me.

  8. FYI, the B&H listings now reflect Sony’s own discount prices: 350 – $149, 650 – $199. Thanks for the tip, tho!

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