Barnes & Noble has unveiled a Nook e-reader with a color touch screen and more social networking features that give the bookseller solid advantages over rival Amazon.com’s Kindle, while also giving avid readers reasons not to switch to more expensive tablet-style computers, such as the Apple iPad.
The $249 Nookcolor, introduced Tuesday, trades the black-and-white, E Ink digital paper display in the rest of the Nook family for a 7-inch, full-color screen. The new display takes the device into the business of selling magazine subscriptions and children’s books, many of which depend on color, so are unavailable for E Ink-based e-readers, such as the Kindle.
As the first full-color touch electronic reader, the Nookcolor stands apart from black-and-white competitors like Amazon’s Kindle. The device can be used to read books, magazines, newspapers and an expanded array of children’s titles. It also takes hints from Apple Inc.’s iPad with more games, Web browsing, music streaming and its own application store. Like earlier versions, it runs on Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
Barnes & Noble, which announced the product Tuesday, said it will begin taking orders for the device online and in stores on Wednesday and begins shipping in mid-November.
“I think Barnes & Noble did a pretty good job presenting this device as its own e-reader instead of just a cheaper version of the iPad,” said Simba Information analyst Michael Norris. “It is focused on the reading experience.”
E-readers are again expected to be popular holiday gifts, but competition has exploded over the past year — especially since Apple released the iPad in April. New models and price cuts for Amazon.com’s Kindle and new offerings from Kobo, Sony and others intend to compete with the iPad and other tablet computers.
Nookcolor’s features include full-color display on the new 7-inch screen; earlier versions offer color only on the bottom half of a dual-screen. It is lightweight at about a pound, making it easy to grasp while holding a cup of coffee in the other hand, and its battery is estimated to last roughly 8 hours between charges.
Barnes & Noble also is offering more digital books for the Nook, including more than 12,000 new titles for kids.
Other e-reader makers also are amping up competition. On Monday Borders, which offers several e-readers online and in stores, announced several offers that last the rest of this week. Shoppers can save $30 on some readers and get free shipping with online orders, or they can get a $25 gift card with a Velocity Micro Cruz tablet purchase or free e-books with a Kobo pre-order and 20 percent off e-reader accessories.
Also last week, Amazon said it would let e-book owners start borrowing books later this year, a service similar to one Barnes & Noble offers. And Amazon’s Kindle is now available at Best Buy, Target and Walmart, along with Amazon.com. The Nook is also available at Best Buy and Walmart and soon Books-A-Million stores, along with Barnes & Noble stores.
Traditional booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders are pinning their hopes on e-readers. Research firm The Yankee Group has forecast 6 million will be sold in 2010 and the market will grow to $2.5 billion by 2013.