Why did Sony Reader Touch outsell Pocket Edition?

Sony, earlier in the year, revealed that they saw a quadrupling of sales during the 2009 holiday period, when compared with the 2008 holiday season. They also mentioned they were surprised to see the $299 Sony Reader Touch Edition sell more than the $199 Sony Pocket Edition.

The latter insight has been bothering me for a long, long time.

How could a $299 eReader outsell a $199 eReader?

The holy grail for people who think eReaders can’t take off is that eReaders are priced too high. They want eReaders for $150 and $100 and some even want $50 eReaders.

Yet, here we have a $299 eReader outselling a $199 eReader.

Take a look at videos of the two eReaders at my Kindle vs Sony Touch review post and Kindle vs Sony Pocket Edition post.

Each reader has its own strengths -

  • The Touch Edition has touch, freehand drawing, a larger screen (6″ compared to the pocket edition’s 5″ screen), a SD card slot (and a Memory Stick PRO Duo slot), a built-in dictionary, and it supports audio.
  • The Pocket Edition has better screen contrast (the pocket edition has best contrast of all ereaders, touch edition suffers a bit from glare due to the touch layer), it’s $100 cheaper, it’s lighter and more compact.

The reason why the Touch Edition outsold the Pocket Edition eludes me – all the experts and analysts say price is critical and the Pocket Edition is $100 cheaper.

How could it possibly sell less?    

Should eReader companies ignore the $100 price targets analysts are setting?

If eReader companies listen to the people claiming that the secret is a $100 eReader with no frills they might end up like the Pocket Edition i.e. getting outsold by a more expensive eReader that offers better value for money.

  1. Is the demand for $100 eReaders fuelled primarily by people who won’t ever really buy an eReader?
  2. Is it fuelled by people who might buy an eReader but will never buy enough eBooks to help Books and Publishing?

People certainly don’t seem to be buying cheaper eReaders – Why then are analysts claiming lower prices are the secret?

What possible explanation is there for a $199 eReader being outsold by a $299 eReader that is only somewhat better?

Is there a big, huge gulf – We either pay $299 or we pay $99.

Perhaps there are millions of people just waiting for eReaders to drop below $100 and won’t buy an eReader before that – even at $101.

Or is it that we are approaching things from the completely wrong angle – Perhaps people who read a lot are willing to spend $250 or $300 for an exceptional eReader. Perhaps what they really want is an exceptionally good eReader at a price that’s good value for their money.

What is the real eReader target market and what is their ideal price?

Should we be looking at only people who read more than a book a month.

We have a lot of people buying $259 and $299 eReaders. We have many people with multiple eReaders. We have lots of people upgrading their eReader every year.

Perhaps it’s time to focus on the best eReader for these people – these people are the real customers and they are the future of books and publishing.

Perhaps the aim should be to create a perfect product for the core target audience of readers and not to create a sub-standard $100 toy eReader for the entire population of the world – the majority of whom don’t even read.

The $100 eReader and the magical tens of millions of people who would buy it might just be figments of our imagination. They might just be people who don’t value books and reading – We create a $99 eReader and they either won’t buy it or not use it often enough to be valuable customers.

When people say they want $100 eReaders are they saying ‘That’s what I’d pay and I’ll definitely buy one’ or are they saying ‘An eReader is only worth $100 and I’d never buy one’.

Perhaps a $250 price is the best test of customers having good intent.


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