We had to replace this unit in our car right before we sold our '96. As I recall the part is more in the $1,500 range. As far as swapping them out goes it is extremely simple. I did it myself in maybe twenty minutes or slightly more. Anyone can perform this swap if you know how to turn a wrench at all.
If you don't want the power steering then you don't really need to do any conversion as with the EPS out you are in a manual/unassisted mode. The only downside to this would be the EPS light on the dash. You may be able to save some weight by removing a few parts if you're really inclined, but I don't know if this is feasible or really easy enough to be worthwhile.
I personally would not have replaced the EPS module if we weren't selling the car. It has been discussed at length before on the pros and cons of power steering vs. non-power steering with people about evenly split.