It was only a matter of time until we saw e-readers other than the iPad react to Apple’s blockbuster and here’s the first shot: Barnes & Noble announcing today it is debuting a cheaper model than its current 3G version that only connects through Wi-Fi.

The idea is to capture the many of us who have considered purchasing the “Wi-Fi only” version of the iPad because of the confusing AT&T data plans and knowing that, in today’s world, Wi-Fi is relatively easy to access. (Just sit in a Starbucks.)

barnes-noble-nookThe new Nook undercuts the market by selling for just $149, while the 3G model has been cut to $199. That’s $100 less than Amazon’s Kindle and more than $300 less than the cheapest version of the iPad.

There was a time when I thought Barnes & Noble might come out of this suddenly competitive market in relatively good shape because, unlike Amazon, it had focus.

But Barnes & Noble, while trying to become more viable in the market by cutting its prices, has actually done the opposite. Apple’s power lies in many things: It has an emotional brand (“Think Different” versus the Nook’s “Your Story”), the iPad is more than just an e-reader and, most of all, Apple understands the power of scarcity. When iPads are running out and it’s harder to get one, even because of a larger price tag, the more we want one.

By cutting the price of the Nook, B&N has basically thrown in the towel and is now looking to notch itself in second place against Amazon, which has now responded.

Eventually, the Nook and Kindle will cease to exist. The iPad has already won.

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