Just the other day I was commenting on how I didn’t see the Kindle heading to Best Buy for a head to head against the nook, but clearly, I was wrong. According to MobileRead, Amazon and Best Buy have announced that the big yellow tag will be stocking Kindles for the holidays, so whether you’re shopping for a B&N fan or an Amazon acolyte you’re all set. Unless, of course, you’re Sony.
Why is this such bad news for Sony? There are a few reasons. One, look at Sony’s prices compared to the nook and the Kindle. You can buy a nook WiFi for $149, or a Kindle WiFi for $139. Sony doesn’t stock anything in the ebook space below $150, so the low-end market (at Best Buy) is basically being handed to B&N and Amazon. Then move up the scale. Sony’s cheapest device is the “Pocket Edition” which comes in at $179. Or for $189 you can buy a Kindle, or for $199 you can buy a nook. Both the Kindle and the nook have bigger screens and offer wireless connectivity, which the Sony does not have.
In fact, if you want a Sony device with a screen as big as a Kindle or nook, you need to spring $229 for the updated “Touch Edition”. This gets you a 6-inch screen BUT still no wireless connectivity. If you need 3G along with your reader, be prepared to pay $299 for a new Sony, or $100-$110 more than the better known and better-marketed competitors. Now, these new Sonys do have the new eInk “Pearl” screen, but so does the Kindle, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see B&N refresh the nook with it before Christmas as well.
So what does Sony bring to the table that’s so special? Granted, they do offer touchscreens across the board, which means you can easily annotate. If you need to interact with a book taking lots of notes and highlights, a touchscreen is going to be far more expedient than anything the nook or Kindle has to offer. It’s a niche, but it’s definitely where Sony can shine.
Alternately, Sony should come out swinging advertising their compatibility with library books and Kobo/Borders. The truth is, Sony’s store hasn’t really made much of a dent in the ebook world. They aren’t compatible with the far more popular B&N store despite using the same underlying ePUB format (the digital rights management wrappers are different), and Sony needs a major content partner. Kindle isn’t successful because of the hardware, it’s successful because the books are everywhere. Kobo may not have the reach of an Amazon or a B&N, but they’re popping up in a LOT more places than Sony, and there’s a good chance smartphone users may already be familiar with the name. Selling book content is a side business for Sony, and they really should shift that portion of the business to another provider and spend more time sharpening and promoting their hardware.
So if Sony is a dicey prospect for ebook domination, that means Best Buy may be the best battleground for B&N’s nook to face off against Amazon’s Kindle. Based on previous generations, these two devices were fairly evenly matched; the new Kindle “pearl” screen and other small refinements have been universally praised, while the nook is still essentially last year’s hardware. Since we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the original nook, there’s a good chance we’ll see an updated one for the holidays. There have been unconfirmed reports in the past regarding nook versus Kindle sales, and this is the first chance to gain some objective feedback. Best Buy is neutral ground, so any sales numbers (or leaked sales numbers) are hopefully a decent microcosm of the overall marketplace.
In any case, more locations to buy ebook readers is a good thing! Will you be doing any holiday shopping, or steering any family or friends, to Best Buy with their expanded ebook reader program? Let us know below!