Apple was the first company to exploit this fully. When the company launched the iPod in 2001 it faced stiff competition. Smaller, cheaper and more fully-featured MP3 players were already available from a range of manufacturers.
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Then in 2003 Apple paired the iPod with an integrated digital music store selling songs for 69p. In the first week Apple sold one million songs, and in the next two months it sold as many iPods as it had sold in the previous two years combined.
Almost overnight, the iPod became the de-facto standard in portable music, killing off hardware competitors, rival online music stores and, arguably, most high-street music retailers.
In 2007, Amazon attempted to repeat Apple's trick with the Kindle, an electronic book-reading gadget with an integrated bookstore. Other e-readers were already on sale from rivals such as Sony, but Amazon's integrated store with more than 80,000 books made it the obvious choice for most.
Now Amazon accounts for more than half of all e-readers sold, and with its keen pricing and high quality it's becoming increasingly difficult to recommend any of the alternatives.
US bookseller Barnes & Noble has a rival range called Nook. Normally priced identically to equivalent Kindle models, there's little to recommend them over Amazon counterparts. So Barnes & Noble has slashed the range's price in the UK, with models starting from £29 – less than half the price of the equivalent entry-level Kindle.
I tested the £29 Nook Simple Touch, a reader with a six-inch display using the same e-ink technology as the Kindle. In fact, the Nook Simple Touch matches the Kindle on almost every specification.
The only notable difference is it includes a touchscreen interface that is lacking on the standard Kindle, making book selection and text entry quicker.
The range in the Nook store is smaller than on Kindle, but every author and title I could think of was available and most prices were similar or identical. Nook also supports the ePub book format, so you can buy books from other outlets and load them directly on to the e-reader.
Bookworms with a love for reading in the dark should also consider the Nook GlowLight, reduced to £69. This version adds a light into the e-reader's frame. It works well and can be adjusted easily, making it a credible alternative to the Kindle Paperwhite, which sells for £40 more.
There's no word on how long the price cut will last, so if the thought of a bargain e-reader appeals I'd recommend acting quickly.
Positives A light, compact e-reader with a useful touchscreen.
Negatives Choice of books is not as good as on Amazon.