Borders Banks on Cheap E-Readers

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Borders is making its long overdue entry into the world of e-books with a bang. For the past few weeks, the popular bookseller has been taking orders for its first e-book reader, the Kobo, which is scheduled to be released in time for Father’s Day. And yesterday, the company announced that it would begin selling another e-reader called the Libre in stores at the beginning of July.

Borders (Stock Quote: BGP) hopes to make a dent in the market by lowering the price point, as these two devices will now be the cheapest e-readers available. The Libre will sell for just $120, while the Kobo costs $149. By comparison, Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) and Barnes and Nobles (Stock Quote: BKS) both sell their e-readers for $260, and the cheapest iPad is twice that amount.

The question now is whether making their products cheaper will be enough to beat out the competition from companies like Amazon, which continues to dominate the e-book market.

According to early reviews, both of Borders’ devices pale in comparison to the Kindle and the Nook. One reviewer at Gizmodo claimed that the Libre was the worst e-book reader he’d used due to poor battery life and processing power and bad design. Similarly, there have been complaints that the buttons on the Kobo make it hard to use and the desktop application that comes with it is “rudimentary” at best.

Still, consumers do have a tendency to be price conscious, and Borders has already announced another perk to try to lure them in. Customers who buy a Kobo e-reader will also get 100 classic e-books for free. That includes big-name titles like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s basically a complete summer reading list and all for free. This could be a smart way to get apprehensive shoppers to invest in e-books, but if the product itself is frustrating to use, as the reviews indicate, Borders may run the risk of turning readers off to e-books all together.

Ultimately, Borders seems to be looking to flood the market by releasing as many cheap e-book readers as they can. According to PaidContent.org, Borders has said it may release as many as 10 different e-readers this year alone. However, if the company wants to win the e-book wars, they might do better to focus on quality rather than quantity.

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