In one corner is Amazon, the Internet's leading retailer and champion of traditional E-Ink type electronic readers. In the other is Barnes & Noble, which despite its own online presence and lineup of e-readers is best known for its physical bookstores.
Behind the scenes, though, lurks tablet titleholder Apple, which has to take notice of this week's activities. Amazon is unleashing a body blow against the pricing status quo by introducing Fire at $199, $50 less than the Nook Tablet and, perhaps more important, $300 less than the Apple iPad 2.STORY: Libraries ramp up ebook lending MORE: Ed Baig columns Let me state upfront that neither the Fire nor Nook are as fully featured as the iPad 2 with its near 10-inch display. You won't find a camera on either device, which is only a big deal if you have designs on doing video chat. There's no Bluetooth or GPS either. Both Fire and Nook have far fewer apps than the iPad. The software isn't as fluid. And without 3G or 4G cellular, your connectivity options are limited to Wi-Fi.