In the meantime, she said that she heard QVC was selling the kindle in December for a couple hundred dollars with a bunch of free books. I knew _that_ hadn't happened, so I went off to try to find out what did happen. Apparently, QVC sold some of Interead's Cool-er reader, which was shipping with some public domain texts on it and you got to pick a selection from a short list of not-very-interesting titles for free (list included Dicken's A Christmas Carol and Wolfe's Bonefire of the Vanities). I went off to see what the Cool-er was offering, other than being available in several different colors (no, just a 8 level gray scale e-ink screen. The plastic case is available in several different colors).
No wifi, no 3G. Their bookstore claims a flat 20% discount on all their titles, but that's not entirely true -- their Harlequin pricing looks like a slightly bigger discount, the standard one, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that was true elsewhere as well. For reference purposes, a recent Krentz (Fired Up) is available at the store, altho even more expensive than the kindle version, which is more than $9.99; the latest Carrie Vaughn, however, is not. Small sample size, but it looks like there's slightly more delay on getting a book via Cool-er's website than getting it via the kindle store.
As near as I can tell, there's no DRM on books you buy for the Cool-er. _That_ is interesting. The implication is that publishing houses are so desperate to recover some pricing power that they're willing to risk resale/sharing to get the extra coins up front. I would say that Bezos is really sticking it to them with that $9.99 price point, but I paid for than that for _Fired Up_.
I'm going to have to think about this for a while. The device is not appreciably cheaper than the kindle, less convenient, and doesn't in any obvious way give access to more content than the kindle (if you think you can show that it does, I'd be interested in hearing the argument, but as near as I can tell, you can read anything you can get for the Cool-er on the kindle, but the reverse is not the case). If you buy content through their store, or want to buy new-ish books to read on it, you'll be paying somewhat higher prices than you would for kindle books. How that would compare to buying paper would turn into a very complex calculation, given the deep discounting available on some paper books some of the time. In a lot of ways, this looks like a what-the-hell-are-they-thinking. But that DRM-free aspect is _really_ fascinating. I'm a little shocked that that many publishing houses went for it.