How cheap e-readers can go?

The Wall Street Journal asks the question – “How low will e-readers prices go?

The $99 e-reader announcement comes after Amazon’s announcement of a $139 Kindle, and after Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sony all lowered prices on their gadgets in the wake of Apple’s iPad release. As Amazon prepares to release a $139 Kindle e-reader next month, could even cheaper e-readers be close behind?

I think they are. ¬†They should eventually get much cheaper. ¬† One thing that makes e-readers different from the rest of the computer technology is that they are often produced and sold not by hardware companies, but by book selling companies. ¬†While it’s nice to get some extra cash from the hardware, the main goal of the book selling business is to sell books. ¬†The more books they sell, the better they are. ¬†E-reader is the device that helps them sell more books. ¬† So if that is going to drive their business up, book selling companies can cover the big chunk of e-reader costs by extra profits.

Also, unlike the rest of the computing world, I think e-readers will remain rather simplistic.  They are domain-specific devices, with very specific needs Рreadable display, long lasting battery and simplicity. The more bells and whistles you put in, the complicated it becomes and the more battery it drains.  Plus, I think by now everyone already has either a laptop or a mobile device that has all the bells and whistles.  E-reader is good for disconnecting, even if shortly, from the rest of the world.

Looking back, we’ve seen a number of simple domain-specific electronics. ¬†Such as calculators and electronic translators. ¬†While they are mostly replaced by modern mobile phones, you can still buy them. ¬†And the prices are very low, not anywhere near to how they used to be. Electronic translators come as cheap as $16 and calculators are from $4, via a quick Google search. ¬†I’m sure if you look deeper, you’ll find them cheaper.

If e-readers will get any more complicated or expensive, one of the things that might happen with them is subscription business.  Similar to how it is now with mobile phones and telecom companies.  You pay subscription fees or membership or something, and you get a device with your contract.  And then you pay for some books (new editions or bestsellers) like for international calls and you get some free (public domain works, blogs, news via RSS, etc).

That’s all, of course, assuming reading books won’t just die over. ¬†Like so many other beautiful things.

Mesmerizing iPad

Today iTouched the iPad.¬† I mean I spent a few minutes holding it, touching its screen with my dirty fingers, rotating it, shaking it, browsing to a few sites that people said won’t work, checking out my own blog on it, and doing a few more trivial and usual things.¬† What can I say?¬† It’s mesmerizing. Hypnotic.

I am not a big fan of Apple products.¬† I never had one and I am not planning to have one.¬† I appreciate the slickness and everything, but it’s just not my cup of tea.¬† Especially at those prices.¬† And I wasn’t ever much interested in their products either.

But the iPad seemed different.¬† Nobody could quite figure out what it was, and even reviews from those people who had the device seemed confusing.¬† It’s seemed like a cool toy that nobody knew how to play with.¬† Which usually means you either have something revolutionary or something really stupid.¬†¬† And Apple and Steve Jobs aren’t stupid, so circumstances were suggesting revolutionary.

After seeing it with my own eyes and touching it with my own fingers, I have to agree.  It is revolutionary.  Not necessarily in a way that everybody should run to the shop and buy one, but in a sense that Apple and Steve Jobs are experimenting with something that more people should be experimenting with.

Now, enough with all that non-sense.  How was it, really?  I liked it.  A lot.  It was pretty intuitive and easy to use.  It was pretty much the size and weight that I was expecting after seeing a billion reviews.  And it works well.  My own blog looked nice in it.  Even embedded YouTube videos were working fine (using the HTML5, not Flash, but I had nothing to do with it on either publishing or consuming end).  YouTube itself worked fine.  Flickr was fine, except for the slideshows which require Flash.  I tried a few applications that were installed on the iPad РKindle, LinkedIn, solitaire and more.  Checked Google Maps.  Everything was working nice.

I particularly enjoyed the YouTube experience.¬† An embedded video from a blog post, expanded full screen and rotated horizontally was something.¬† Somehow it just felt natural to do so.¬† And I never felt I should do this in the browser.¬† Plus I was pretty impressed by the sound quality coming out of the device.¬†¬† It wasn’t like your average mobile phone.¬† It was way better.

After using the device for just a few minutes I started thinking of buying one.  I was discussing with other people in the room if should batch order together and if we should wait for the 3G version or get the WiFi one, etc.  It was only when I came home and spoke to my wife I got the hypnotic effect dissolved.  That often happens when I speak to someone smart.  And it had nothing to do with her being my wife.  Her arguments were solid.  After all, I recently bought a laptop for roughly the same price.  And the laptop does way more things than the iPad, and most of them it does better than the iPad too.  I have the full-blown QWERTY keyboard, not a touch screen.  I have bigger screen.  I have a hard disk with a whole lot of files.  I have a better choice of software Рanything from games to personal finance tools, not simple apps to access websites. And so on and so forth.

Resume?¬† It’s a slick device, it’s pleasant to use, and it will get quite popular.¬† There are certain people and certain scenarios which would benefit from using iPad instead of a mobile phone or a laptop.¬† But I am not one of those people and I none of those scenarios happen in my life often enough to throw away that much money.

How about you? Have you touched one already?  Do you want one?  Do you see yourself using one?  What for and how?