Amazon, Barnes & Noble go tit for tat in tablet wars

In effort to increase their share of the tablet pie, Amazon and B&N are running frequent specials on their Kindle and Nook devices this holiday season.

While Apple doesn't offer discounts on iPads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been running specials on Kindles and Nooks. James Martin/CNET

Competition is good for consumers, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the tablet arena -- at least among key players Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

While Apple doesn't do discounts and Google recently added more memory to its entry-level $200 Nexus 7, taking it from 8GB to 16GB, where we're seeing the most deal action is on Kindles and Nooks, with some new "specials" cropping up every few days.

Here's a look at some of the past deals and announcements designed to bring attention to the new tablets:

1. Barnes & Noble drops prices on older Nook Tablets. In early November, Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its 2011 Tablets to $179 (16GB) and $159 (8GB), with the 2010 Nook Color going to $139. The company is no longer selling these models online at bn.com, but some units remain with retail partners.

2. Kindle Fire for $129. As part of its Cyber Monday sale, Amazon chopped $30 off its entry-level Kindle Fire, which was updated a few months ago with a faster processor. Amazon also ran this as a shorter "lightning" deal a few weeks earlier. Expect to see this one again at some point.

3. Amazon makes kid play with new Kindle subscription service. On December 4, Amazon unveiled Kindle FreeTime Unlimited , which is geared toward kids between 3 and 8 years old, allowing them to access a wide assortment of books, games, apps, and video content after parents ante up a monthly fee. It's been in the works for a while, but Barnes & Noble just happens to be marketing its Nook tablets as family devices.

If you bought a Nook tablet last weekend, you also got a pair of headphones. Barnes & Noble

4. Free headphones with Nook HD+ purchase. Last weekend (December 8), Barnes & Noble threw in a pair of Nook OE250 headphones when you bought a Nook HD+.

5. Nook Simple Touch e-reader drops to $79. It's not a tablet, but Barnes & Noble was promoting the Nook brand with a $20 price chop on the Nook Simple Touch, which is a nice bargain at $79. In late September, the company dropped the price of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight to $119 after Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite launched for $119.

Flamethrower: The Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch was briefly on sale for $249. Amazon.com

6. Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch for $249. On Monday (December 10), Amazon was offering the larger Kindle Fire HD for $249 in a one-day-only sale . That's $20 less than B&N's Nook HD+, which is a great value at $269. Hopefully, this deal returns.

7. Free $20 B&N gift card. If you use a MasterCard to purchase a Nook HD or HD+, you get a $20 gift card gratis. This deal's happening now. Expires at midnight on 12/11. But I wouldn't be surprised to see this one again soon.

8. Buy a Nook, B&N gives a book to charity. On December 11, Barnes & Noble announces it will give a book to a "child in need" for each Nook purchased as part of its holiday book drive. Not a deal per se, but hey, it's a good thing.

Expect to see more deals on Kindle and Nooks in the coming days. There's a rumor we might see $30 off the Kindle HD, and I think Barnes & Noble will continue to be aggressive, adding various extras to sweeten the Nook pot.

I'd personally like to see some sort of case thrown into the mix, especially for the bigger tablets. That said, with margins so low on the hardware, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are counting on shoppers to buy high-margin accessories -- and a bunch of content, of course, down the road.

 

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