Freescale Semiconductor says that its i.MX508 applications processor will drop e-reader prices to $150 this year. In addition to lower prices, the processor will result in faster page turns, longer battery life and will enable dev

elopers to build richer features.

The San Jose company's processors power 90 percent of all e-readers.

While there are still people out there who claim the printed book has something inherent that e-readers lack – most often it’s the smell – the most prohibitive factor is price. $200 and up is just too much for many consumers to pay for a single-function device. $150? Getting warmer.

“There’s a big unsaturated market out there, and price is a big factor,” Freescale marketing director Glen Burchers told Bloomberg. “We do see the price of e- readers [sic] coming down this year, and Freescale is trying to facilitate that. That’s a lot of what this chip is doing.”

The potential big threat to e-readers right now is the iPad, which will have e-reader technology. Not only is the iPad (while more expensive) more functional, it also has something that Amazon and Sony do not: the rabid consumer base.

We’re seeing more and more e-readers being used by the public, but the danger is that if the price doesn’t continue to drop, demand could be replaced by multi-function devices like the iPad and other devices yet to be launched on the tablet/smartbook market.

Analyst firm DisplaySearch predicts that e-book and e-reader shipments will triple this year over 2009, reaching over 14 million units.

“Key to this growth will be improving the quality of the digital reading experience while simultaneously making it affordable," said Dr. Jennifer Colegrove, director of Display Technologies at DisplaySearch. "The results coming from Freescale and E Ink collaboration are very encouraging,”

By Mark Alvarez