Amazon.com, which has dominated the young but fast-growing electronic book market for the past few years with the Kindle, could get its biggest threat Saturday, when Apple releases its iPad multimedia tablet.
The Kindle starts at $259 and is designed mainly for reading text on a gray-and-black screen. The iPad starts at $499, but with the higher price comes more functions: a color touch screen for downloading books from Apple’s new iBookstore, surfing the Web, playing videos and games and more.
It will take time to determine whether the iPad causes a tremor in the e-reader market, a high-magnitude quake or something in between. But in the meantime people who read electronic books or are considering buying a reading device will find their choices getting more complicated.
If the Kindle e-reader falls out of favor with people drawn to Apple’s offering, there could be a very thick silver lining for Amazon: It sells e-books that can be read on many kinds of devices, including the iPad and other Apple gadgets. That means the Kindle could fade and Amazon could still occupy a profitable perch in e-books.