It’s a David and Go­liath bat­tle of the tablets as Ama­zon takes on Ap­ple with the ul­tra- af­ford­able Kin­dle Fire, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

A tablet with ex­tra grunt fires up ebook ri­val­ries.

NEXT month Ama­zon will face off against Ap­ple for lead­er­ship of the multi- bil­lion­dol­lar tablet mar­ket.

Armed with the $ US199 ($ A191) Kin­dle Fire, the lead­ing online book­seller will test how im­por­tant price is to con­sumers and whether read­ers want to see books on back­lit, colour screens.

But Ama­zon is also re­vamp­ing its mar­ket- lead­ing e- read­ers to win over con­sumers, dras­ti­cally cut­ting the weight and price of its other Kin­dle of­fer­ings and adding a new touch­screen model. The re­vi­sion is likely to spark an­other wave of in­ter­est in elec­tronic read­ing, a trend that had a boost in Aus­tralia fol­low­ing the Kin­dle’s re­tail launch in Au­gust.

Ama­zon kicked off the e- book trend in 2007, when it launched the orig­i­nal Kin­dle, a de­vice the com­pany made avail­able via mail or­der in Aus­tralia in late 2009.

While the tech­nol­ogy took off slowly, re­search firm Gart­ner says the trend has now come into its own.

It fore­casts e- book reader sales to al­most dou­ble this year to 21.9 mil­lion world­wide, ris­ing to 26.8 mil­lion in 2013.

Tel­syte re­search di­rec­tor Foad Fadaghi says a new sur­vey re­veals Aus­tralian con­sumers are us­ing al­most 1.5 mil­lion e- book read­ers now, mak­ing the coun­try an elec­tronic book pioneer.

Fadaghi says there are many rea­sons be­hind the tech­nol­ogy’s pop­u­lar­ity, in­clud­ing a low price and a clear pur­pose.

‘‘ They are quite in­ex­pen­sive and it’s a well- de­fined de­vice,’’ Fadaghi says.

‘‘ A lot of con­sumers look at tablets and ask, ‘ What am I go­ing to use it for? Will it re­place my com­puter?’ while e- book read­ers are used for just one pur­pose, so it’s eas­ier to make the de­ci­sion to buy.’’

Fadaghi says e- book read­ers, most of which use eye- friendly E Ink tech­nol­ogy to repli­cate the look of pa­per, are also easy to use, lighter than a real book and, in many cases, of­fer in- de­vice book down­loads.

Gart­ner re­search di­rec­tor Nick In­gel­brecht says it’s this built- in abil­ity to sell nov­els, text­books and even magazines that will let man­u­fac­tur­ers bring down the price of the de­vices.

‘‘ It’s the con­tent that you sell that’s im­por­tant and not the de­vices them­selves,’’ he says. ‘‘ That’s why we’re see­ing en­try- level Kin­dles sell very cheaply and there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of giv­ing them away.’’

It’s a model Ama­zon is test­ing with its lat­est Kin­dle re­fresh, hav­ing launched a $ 79 en­try- level e- book reader sub­sidised not only by its link to Ama­zon’s book­store but by spe­cial of­fers and spon­sored screen­savers. An ad­ver­tis­ingfree ver­sion costs $ 109 and is only avail­able in the US.

A spon­sored ver­sion of the Kin­dle Touch, which of­fers a touch- sen­si­tive E Ink screen, is also avail­able at a $ 40 dis­count in the US.

Ama­zon will grab more at­ten­tion with its 7- inch ( 17.8cm) Kin­dle Fire tablet, how­ever, when it be­gins ship­ping in the US on Novem­ber 19. The touch­screen tablet will fea­ture Google Android soft­ware, a new Ama­zon Silk web browser, 8GB stor­age, wi- fi con­nec­tiv­ity and ac­cess to mag­a­zine down­loads and TV, movie and mu­sic stream­ing.

In­gel­brecht says it will ap­peal to a lot of peo­ple purely for its $ US199 en­try price.

‘‘ There is a seg­ment of the mar­ket who want to read books, but also want just a lit­tle bit ex­tra, like to read their email, and they will wait for a prod­uct like this,’’ he says.

‘‘ In the mid- term e- book read­ers will con­tinue to grow . . . but there will be a con­ver­gence of tablets and e- read­ers even­tu­ally.’’

Fadaghi pre­dicts the Kin­dle Fire is un­likely to se­ri­ously chal­lenge Ap­ple’s ipad im­me­di­ately, but says it will put pres­sure on tablet prices.

‘‘ The price of tablets is likely to come down af­ter this launch,’’ he says.

‘‘ There will be room for both de­vices in the fu­ture, how­ever, even though there will be some can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion.’’

{ There will be room for both de­vices in the fu­ture, how­ever, even though there will be some can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion }

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