Barnes & Noble today announced a new Nook device that focuses solely on the reading experience. The $139 e-reader offers a 6-inch, e-Ink display, much like Amazon’s Kindle, but eliminates the keyboard by using infrared touchscreen technology, similar to the new Kobo reader announced yesterday. Barnes & Noble is squarely taking aim at Amazon’s Kindle by touting a smaller design, longer battery life, and ease of use with the new Nook, expected to ship on June 10.
Assuming the new Nook is used for 30 minutes of reading per day, Barnes & Noble says the new device can last up to two months on a single charge. Measuring 6.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 0.47 inches deep, the Nook is roughly 10 percent smaller than Amazon’s current Kindle device, and aside from a single button, the entire front face of the Nook is taken up by the e-Ink display. Using an 800-MHz, Texas Instruments OMAP processor to power the Nook, Barnes & Noble claims to have reduced the refresh rate by 80 percent. That means the pages will turn faster with less of an annoying flash. The device includes a Wi-Fi radio for bookstore access, which can be used inside Barnes & Noble retail locations or at AT&T wireless hotspots.
Barnes & Noble today says it has captured 25 percent of the digital book market. Given that measure of success, a solid e-Ink device makes sense for those who want a reading experience with less eye-strain than that of LCD screens. The new Nook will appeal to such a crowd, but the e-reader also poses an interesting juxtaposition between Amazon and Barnes & Noble: two of the largest players in the e-book market.
Amazon is widely expected to extend its Kindle reading devices by offering at least one, if not more, Android-based tablets later this year. With the Kindle software available on various mobile platforms and Amazon’s offering of Android applications and compatible music store, the company has a broader ecosystem to offer than Barnes & Noble. On the other hand, the Nook Color from B&N is also Android-powered and works with apps found in the Nook Apps store. The two companies are walking a similar path as some e-readers have morphed into tablets.
However, as nice as the new Nook device looks, Amazon’s entry into the tablet market is likely to have a bigger overall impact than a refreshed touchscreen Nook based on e-Ink technology. People that prefer an e-reader that’s easier on the eyes are sure to be attracted to the new $139 Nook; or a reader from Kobo, Amazon, or Sony, for that matter. But multi-purpose media tablets have a growing appeal for reading and other activities: Playing games, checking email, updating social networking and more. I suspect over the long run that folks who read for several hours per day will opt for the pure e-readers while occasional readers will invest in a tablet.
Then again, the newest Nook runs atop Google Android 2.1, so there’s no telling what additional features B&N might add to the device in the future. And that future may be very dependent on what Amazon has up its sleeves for later this year. How about it, fans of digital books: Do you want a tablet, e-reader or a little of both?