Borders continues e-reader price war

Retailer announces that the price of the Libre eBook Pro device will drop below $100 mark on Wednesday

The price tag for e-readers will drop below the $100 threshold on Wednesday when Borders starts selling the Aluratek Libre eBook Pro device for $99.99.

The book retailer also announced today that it will start selling the Kobo e-Reader tomorrow for $129.99, which is $20 less than its previous price. The Borders Web site today is offering buyers a $149.99 Kobo device with a free $20 gift card, essentially lowering the price to $129.99 already.

Borders CEO Mike Edwards described the moves as a way for "even more Borders customers to purchase e-readers at a great value."

Experts have been predicting for some time that prices for e-readers would fall below $100, primarily for those with so-called e-ink displays.

The Libre has an LCD monitor that Borders described as an "easy-to-read" display, though most analysts believe such screens can prove difficult to view when used for hours at a time. The Libre appears to be primarily designed for multimedia use -- it includes a built-in MP3 player.

The Kobo device, in contrast, uses e-ink technology, which is said to be easier to read in bright sunlight and offers many shades of gray.

Borders has said its strategy involves offering a range of devices. It noted that it also sells the Android-based Velocity Micro Cruz Reader R101 and Cruz Tablet T103 devices on its Web site for $199.99 and $299.99, respectively. Both devices include 7-inch color touchscreens and offer Web browsing capabilities.

Borders may have started the e-reader price wars last spring when it unveiled the $149.99 Kobo.

Amazon.com last week started selling a third-generation e-ink Kindle with Wi-Fi technology for $139, and Barnes & Noble now prices its Nook e-reader at $149 with Wi-Fi.

Yankee Group analyst Dmitriy Molchanov recently predicted that the prices of some e-readers with black-and-white e-ink displays would be dropping to $50, probably next year, while some manufacturers will focus on devices with multifunction color screens that will sell for higher prices. Devices with color e-paper displays are expected to appear this fall.

Many analysts believe customers will compare various e-readers to the iPad, its 9.7-inch backlit LED display. The iPad, which starts at $499, offers a range of multimedia functions.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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