Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) is shaking up its Nook e-reader line, lowering the price of its 3G edition by 23 percent and adding a lower-end WiFi version to compete in the $149 price range. The 3G edition launched late last year at $259 but is now going for $199. At the same time, Barnes & Noble and AT&T (NYSE: T) are widening WiFi access for all Nook owners, extending free access from Barnes & Noble stores to any AT&T hotspot.
The move comes just after Father’s Day, the last major sales opportunity for the year until back-to-school and the holidays, and suggests that the company feels it has done as much as it can do at that price point. It’s also a way to push hard at Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), as if no other competition exists. The new comparison sheet compares the two Nooks to the 3G-only Kindle 2, which runs $259, and skips the rest.
At the same time, it widens the price gulf between a connected, dedicated e-reader and the multi-use iPad. As for its major big-box competition, the Nook WiFi should make its $149 version an attractive alternative to the computer-dependent Kobo e-reader now being sold at Borders.
The new model, slightly lighter and with a different color back, is being sold for now at nook.com and bestbuy.com so don’t expect to walk into a B&N or Best Buy today and walk out with one. The company expects to start in-store sales in some locations later this month, rolling out across the chains over the summer.