Holiday Price Wars: Hot Market for e-Readers Under $100, Tablets Under $200

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If there’s one thing that the mad rush on $99 HP TouchPad tablets proved in late summer, it’s that there are plenty of price-sensitive consumers in the marketplace. They’ll bite on tablets and e-readers, but only if the price is right—i.e., less than half the price of an iPad.

This holiday season is shaping up as a terrific one for shoppers keen on snatching up low-priced tablets and e-readers. Starting at $199, Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet is expected to be in the hands of 5 million consumers by the end of 2011, potentially outselling the iPad 2. Beyond the iPad, Kindle Fire is competing for consumers’ interests with the new $249 Nook Tablet.

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While this trio of devices gets most of the attention, they’re hardly the only options. Prices of many tablets and e-readers have shrunk in recent months, and sales are expected to come with bonuses and/or further price deductions during the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy—on Black Friday especially. Here are a few of the gadgets that are intriguing, if only because they’re newly easier to afford:

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Amazon Kindle: $79
The base model e-reader, with a six-inch screen and weighing under 6 oz., now goes for under $80. Buy one on Black Friday at Staples and get a bonus: a $15 Staples gift card when you buy a $79 Kindle.

Nook Simple Touch: $99
When Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook Tablet, it also dropped the price of the regular Nook—now dubbed the Nook Simple Touch—from $139 to $99.

Kindle Touch: $99
Introduced in September, the Wi-Fi only version of Amazon’s touch-screen e-reader goes for $99. A Wi-Fi and 3G version is $50 more expensive.

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HP TouchPad: $149.99
It’s ba-aack! HP’s tablet quickly sold out when offered at the fire sale price of $99.99 in August. HP’s idea was to simply get rid of its inventory of poorly selling TouchPads and never think of them again. But the sale boosted consumer interest, and the HP TouchPad is returning. On Black Friday, TouchPads will sell for $149.99 at Office Depot, with a catch: That price is only available to shoppers who also buy an HP PC at the same time.

Acer Iconia Tab A100: $189.99
Though nothing’s confirmed, a leaked version of Best Buy’s Black Friday ad is circulating online in which Acer’s seven-inch tablet, usually priced at $330, will sell for just $189.99.

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Nook Color: $199
The Nook Color tablet also became cheaper recently ($199, down from $250), and Staples throws in a $25 gift card for purchases made on Black Friday.

BlackBerry Playbook: $199
Normally, BlackBerry’s tablet starts at $499. Expect major markdowns during the holiday season, however: In Staples Black Friday sneak peek, the device is discounted by $300 off the original retail price.

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Before getting too-too exciting about any of these prices, take note that some Black Friday prices aren’t necessarily set in stone. Also, mind the fact that the price of electronic gadgets get cheaper by the day. By this time next year, the prices listed above may even seem inflated, according to what one analyst told MainStreet:

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the price point for e-readers approach $50 by next holiday season,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, a senior analyst with Forrester who tracks the tablet market. “If the price to beat is $79 now, it’s not hard to imagine it being $59 next year.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.