The Alex Reader was announced for pre-order this week, and I reached out to their public relations representative for an explanation of their pricing. If you recall, back in January at CES the following announcement was made (it is also worth noting this is the most recent press release on their site, where you can read the). An excerpt:
“Our agreement with Spring Design represents another step in our digital strategy, which continues to focus on offering book lovers—including our more than 35 million Borders Rewards loyalty program members—high quality content on the device of their choosing,” said Borders Group Chief Executive Officer Ron Marshall. “We look forward to bringing a world class eBook experience to Alex users.” The Alex eReader will initially be available February 22, 2010 for $359 in the online store at www.springdesign.com.
I’m including this excerpt of the press release because I want to emphasize two things. The price is listed at $359, and it seems pretty clear that Borders will be the bookseller for the Alex Reader.
Fast forward to this week’s press release, which made no mention of Borders and listed the price at $399. Obviously, I was a bit confused, and after communicating back and forth with Spring Design, I was even more confused. The message they sent me was this:
Re the $359 vs. $399, Spring Design realized after meeting with bookstores and consumer electronics companies around the world after CES in January that $399 was a more appropriate price. The last thing they want to do is to go into competition with the channel that is selling the Alex, so the $399 still provides a fair price for selling direct.
This reads to me like they were saying “Buy from us now, or wait until Borders stocks this for 10% less.”
It didn’t make any sense to me, and I had a very brief conversation with their VP of Marketing, who shut down the whole conversation by explaining the $359 price was incorrect, should never have been part of the conversation, and he had no comment on how Borders might choose to package or price the Alex Reader.
So, again, this still looks and smells like if you buy directly from Spring Design you pay a 10% “early adopter tax”. This is a big difference from what they were saying in January and feels very off-putting after months of silence. There are many, many new and exciting tablets and ebook readers coming out this year, even without considering the shadow of the iPad. I don’t appreciate Orwell-style rewrites of the facts; it’s just not the right way to treat your customers. Judie and Dan both decided not to put down their hard-earned cash towards the JooJoo after the horror stories of late, and while this isn’t that bad it certainly is not an auspicious start. It takes the Alex from my “hmm…extra tax refund” list to a “wait and see, and wait some more” list.
On the upside, since we seem to know exactly what the early adopter tax will be, should we thank Spring Design for quantifying EXACTLY how they’re going to burn us?