Something interesting's afoot in the digital reading space. Quietly, companies are testing digital reading applications for portable gaming devices in select markets. Two developments of note:
EA "Flips" for Nintendo DS: A reader app for Nintendo's portable gaming system, offered for now only in the UK. Aimed at 8- to 11-year-olds (a good fit for the install base of the DS). Content partnerships announced with UK book publishers Penguin and Egmont. Revenue model will be bundled downloads of multiple (6-8) titles for an a la carte price of £24.99. Interactive elements include quizzes, operated with the DS's touch screen and stylus.
Marvel Comics and others on the Sony PSP: In August, Sony announced a digital reader app for the PSP that will launch in December in select countries (UK, US, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). It announced a content partnership with Marvel Comics and said there would be more content partners with comics, graphic novels, and manga publishers to come. Marvel digital comics are already available online via subscription ($10/month or $60/year). Details on the app don't say how much comics will be on the PSP.
Tomorrow, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is expected to announce its own B&N-branded eReader device--the Nook, as the Wall Street Journal reported this evening. The device is expected to be wireless and touch-operated, with dual screens--a 6" E Ink display for reading, and a smaller color LCD screen for navigation, video, and...ads?
In other words, the B&N eReader could be a Kindle and an iPhone put together.
I knew from conversations with my own sources that this would be a cool device, but I didn't expect that it would be priced, as the WSJ reports, at $259. This puts the Nook competing squarely with Amazon's Kindle 2--most likely with a razor thin margin, if any, for B&N. To steal market share from Amazon and make up for lost time, B&N is pricing the Nook as aggressively as possible.
Getting the price right is crucial to success in this emerging device market. As we published earlier this year, most consumers expect eReaders to be $99 or less. But we expected something in the range of $399, which would make the device competitive with the other touch + wireless eReaders on the market, the Sony Daily Edition and the iRex DR800SG, both of which will be sold at Best Buy among other retailers. Pricing the Nook a full $140 below these other devices sends a strong signal that B&N is focused on Amazon, not Sony, as competition.
Big promotion in the centre of the front page of Amazon sites in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.
Only for sale on Amazon.com and priced in USD at $279 (i.e. a $20 mark-up over existing Kindle2). Promotions above have links to Amazon's US site to buy.
Books are also for sale only via Amazon.com and are also priced in USD (at least for now).
This is the first Kindle that uses a GSM-standard mobile phone radio -- rather than CDMA -- for wireless downloading of books, sync of reading position with other Kindles and the iPhone Kindle app (i.e. to drive Amazon's Whispersync consumer cloud service).
Uses AT&T's mobile network and AT&T's global mobile roaming partners for Whispersync.
When outside the US, Kindle owners pay an additional charge for each book downloaded, currently USD1.99 per download. I imagine this also includes downloading PDFs via the email to Kindle conversion process and downloading small items like blogs or newspapers.
I'm frankly astonished that Amazon is marketing the above product internationally so strongly. Instead, it looks like a great fit for US residents who want to own a Kindle that works both in the US and when they travel abroad. Or, Amazon could have chosen a much softer and lower key international promotion on their various global sites.