About

On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

Recent Comments

April 2014
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

New Nook Tablet Planned To Match Updated Kindle Fire

A recent report through CNET indicates that Barnes & Noble is preparing to combat the anticipated Kindle Fire 2 release with a new and improved model of their Nook Tablet.  Very little is known so far when it comes to details about the device, but it seems that the new Nook will still be focused on being an eReader first and a tablet second.  There are a couple different ways that this becomes important.

The biggest selling point, according to this admittedly preliminary report, will be a new sort of screen technology never before seen in the tablet market.  This could mean any number of things, but seeing as Barnes & Noble is more concerned with the implementation of high quality reading applications there is a good chance that it will be battery efficient, easy on the eyes, and otherwise well suited to extended user focus.

Given their failure to seize a significant portion of the Android tablet market thus far, it would be unrealistic to speculate about a high resolution, high pixel density screen along the lines of what is used in the latest iPads and iPhones.  That isn’t the sort of direct competition that would go well for the company no matter how invested they are in the future of the Nook line.

Despite their inability to make much of a dent in Android, however, the new Nook Tablet will definitely be remaining with the OS.  There has been some speculation among analysts that the recent Microsoft investment in the product line would lead to a Windows 8 powered Nook, but that will not be happening just yet.

Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface tablet line was enough of an upset to their OEM partners that it seems unlikely they will enter the budget tablet market any time soon.  Without their direct involvement, and the waiver of licensing fees that would have to come with it, the price of running Windows 8 remains too high for any 7” tablet priced to compete.

Obviously the hardware specifications will be closely equated to the Kindle Fire 2.  Even if the Kindle Fire sold better by quite a lot, the Nook Tablet was practically a point by point demonstration of one-upmanship on that side of things and there is not likely to be much of a change despite the intrusion of Google’s Nexus 7 into the marketplace.

Where they really have to work is in media services.  Both the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 do far better at getting users the content they want when they want it.  There isn’t much point in offering nice hardware if it is hard to find something to use it for.  A Microsoft tie-in here would make a lot of sense, especially given the software giant’s recent interest in expanding their Xbox Live media services.  Streaming to Nook Tablets would help things along and save Barnes & Noble money on infrastructure development.

The Nook Tablet vs Kindle Fire decision will likely come down to an evaluation of this “revolutionary” new screen.  If it is truly amazing and half as unique as claimed then Barnes & Noble will have a major advantage.  If not, the Kindle Fire will still offer more content, better integration, and a smoother custom Android interface.  They are both said to be coming out for just $200, but the Kindle Fire has far less to prove.

The new Nook Tablet is expected to be released in late September or October of 2012.

Amazon Kindle Faces Big Trouble as Microsoft Backs Nook Line

Barnes & Noble has finally begun to spin off their Nook brand into its own subsidiary company and Microsoft has jumped at the opportunity to be a major part of that effort.  According to an announcement released jointly this Monday, the software giant will be investing $300 Million into the Nook business thereby acquiring 17.6% equity stake.  This could be bad news for Amazon’s Kindle line, which is already facing some of its toughest competition to date in the realm of eReading thanks to the new Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight.

Making things even more pleasant for B&N, this arrangement will also involve the settlement of Microsoft’s ongoing patent litigation the bookseller over certain aspects of the Nook’s design.  Microsoft will now be picking up royalties for all Nook products, but in the end this may result in significant savings compared to the cost of legal defense.  Whether or not that is the case, and admittedly I’m not a lawyer so it is purely speculative, this partnership will open up some major new opportunities for advancing the Nook.

In the immediate future we can expect a Nook app for Windows 8.  This will be an important development for both companies as Microsoft is betting big on the potential for tablets using their new OS while Barnes & Noble will need to be ready for the next major push in operating systems.  The nature of the Metro UI that Windows 8 (and its ARM compatible offshoot Windows RT) uses will actually create an even better reading experience than existing Windows reading apps if done right.

More long-term, Microsoft has already alluded to an interest in using Windows 8 to gain a foothold in the eReader market.  While this was mostly an offhanded remark at a recent event, and could therefore have been meant as a subtle emphasis on how adaptable their new operating system is, buying into as big a player in eReading as the Barnes & Noble Nook line is a fair indication that something more serious is going on.

In the face of this, Amazon has to be wondering what to do next with the Kindle line.  While the Kindle Fire is coming out on top of every other Android tablet on the market today, their Android fork might not quite compare to a properly configured Windows 8 installation powering the next Nook Tablet.  Nothing stops Amazon from following suit and licensing the new OS themselves, of course, but this would likely lose them the ability to completely control the user experience enjoyed under the existing system.  Microsoft will certainly allow locked-down version of their software to circulate, but fragmenting the Metro UI is not going to happen.

This might end up being the first step in a major Android vs Windows 8 fight.  The Kindle Fire holds the majority of non-iPad tablet users, but if a new Nook offered superior hardware and an operating system that shines when compared to Android without increasing the price significantly then the tables could turn.  Amazon still has their content distribution and the tight integration that gives them the edge, but the next Kindle Fire might need to be especially impressive to keep consumer interest going.

Nook Steps Ahead of Kindle With Announcement of GlowLight

While we recently learned that Amazon was planning something new with a front-lit version of the Kindle, Barnes & Noble has gone a step further and launched a lit Nook complete with release date.  There’s no reason to think this is anything but a reaction to the leaked info regarding Amazon’s plans, but the fact that they already had a response prepared like this indicates a great deal of foresight.  What was already quite possibly the best eReading hardware on the market will be the first to get upgraded for the next generation.

Those familiar with the Nook Simple Touch will also have a good impression of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.  They are the same product, as the name might imply.  GlowLight, Barnes & Noble’s solution to the problem of reading in poor lighting, has just been added into the existing model with minimal fuss.  It doesn’t even get in the way of what have traditionally been the strengths of the un-lit eReader.

The new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight will still have the same E Ink screen that we’re used to.  It will work as well as ever in direct sunlight and any other situation where reading from a paper book would be plausible.  The difference now is that holding down the ‘n’ button on the Nook will turn on a set of LEDs along the sides of the display.  This provides sufficient light for any situation while avoiding a drastic increase in battery drain.

This upgrade will add an additional $40 to the price tag of the Nook.  It is likely more than worth the investment, though.  You are getting all of the advantages of E Ink with the conveniences a standard LCD would provide, but supplied in such a way as to be fairly easy on the eyes even when the adjustable lighting is in use.  That’s the sort of convenience you really can’t pass up in an eReader.

The Kindle product line is still my preference and the eReader line that I would recommend to anybody I knew personally.  That is not so much a matter of hardware superiority at this point, though.  If anything, it is a matter of hardware adequacy and highly superior back-end support to shore up the physical product by comparison.  There is nothing wrong with the Kindle Touch, per se, but it also doesn’t come with any such compellingly interesting new features.

We know that Amazon will be releasing something similar to GlowLight.  Chances are even good that now that B&N has set a May release date for the new Nook, a shiny new Kindle will appear by June.  If circumstances surrounding the settlements in the DOJ price fixing investigation didn’t seem likely to offer Kindle owners some truly amazing advantages in the near future, though, this would be the time when Amazon needed to sweat a little over the competition’s superior offering.

Last Minute iPad 3 vs Kindle Fire Thoughts

I am writing this on the eve of the launch of the next generation iPad. So speculations on what new features the iPad 3 will offer  and what it means for tablet competition is definitely on my mind.  As anyone who keeps up with tech news knows, the rumors get pretty wild in the days leading up to big announcements like these.

Aside from the new launch, there are two speculations that might have a more direct implication for the Kindle Fire.  The first is the possibility of a 7.85 inch iPad Mini.  Honestly, I can’t really see this fitting into the scope of Apple’s products.  I could be wrong, but right now, there is a big enough gulf between the iPad 2 and the iPhone that consumers can reconcile having both.  They serve different functions.

An iPad Mini would blur the lines a bit and give consumers less of a reason to have both.  So it would cause internal competition for Apple.  However, it would add some worthy competition to the smaller tablet market.

The other option is a budget version of the iPad 2.  This assumption seems more viable because Apple has done this in the past with the iPhone, and has had good success with it.  This would be an 8GB version as opposed to 16 or 32GB.

It depends on how much cheaper the iPad 2  is, but this is what could really give the Kindle Fire a run for its money.  Right now, Amazon’s bestselling tablet’s biggest asset is that it packs a lot of features for a rock bottom price.  Competitors certainly recognize that.  Just look at the recent price drop on the Nook Tablet.

In the next few years, I would love to see a tablet emerge that has computing power comparable to the PC.  Apple has that ability to to that with the iPad, but isn’t quite there yet.  That leaves room for the smaller tablets to serve consumers who want something more portable, inexpensive and multipurpose without too much processing power.

So, I don’t really think the iPad 3 will have too much effect on the Kindle Fire competition wise.  It serves a different market.  The thing to watch will be the introduction of either a budget iPad or a less probable iPad Mini.  So, all we can do at this point is sit back and see what happens.

 

 

Amazon to Sell E-Books Non Exclusively

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has sold e-books in the Kindle Store using its own formatting style ever since the Kindle was introduced in 2007.

That will change next year when a new program is launched called Amazon Lives.  This program will debut with biographies that will be available in multiple formats as well as places outside of the Kindle Store.

Amazon has been stepping out into a lot of new markets lately.  The online retailer is planning to open a boutique in Seattle to sell the Kindle and other products.  The company that started the online buying revolution will now have a tangible, brick and mortar presence.

We’ve also seen Amazon challenge Netflix with free movie streaming for Prime members, and take a stab at Apple’s iPad consumer market with the Kindle Fire.

Now with Amazon Lives, the line blurs as Kindle e-books lose their exclusive formatting identity.  Amazon Lives is just starting out with biographies, but I doubt it will take too long to branch out into other genres.  Barnes & Noble and Books a Million recently stated that they would not sell Amazon books in their stores, but the launch of this new program might affect that sales strategy.

The technology market in general involves a lot of cat and mouse type competition.  I’ve seen this ramp up a lot with the entrance of e-readers and tablets.  Competition is healthy in most respects because it makes the products better.  Take the Kindle Touch for example.  This version followed suit after other e-readers started adopting touch screen technology.  However, if a company wants to try to take over so many different areas of the market, then they risk losing quality in their products.

So my hope is that Kindle e-books will maintain their good reputation while serving the broadest audience possible as they venture into the new realm of non exclusivity.

To Match Kindle Fire, B&N Releases Cheaper $200 Nook Tablet

There has been some question about the importance of pricing in the Kindle Fire’s dominance over the seemingly superior Nook Tablet.  On paper the Barnes & Noble tablet is definitely the slightly better device with more storage, expandable memory, twice the RAM, and otherwise similar hardware, which means it makes sense to pick out the one aspect of the comparison (in this case the price) that goes against it when determining why the Nook Tablet hasn’t done better.  Barnes & Noble obviously thought so, and has decided to start offering a version of the Nook Tablet at $200 that sacrifices nothing but its superior onboard storage.  Surely they are hoping this will be enough to at least start to draw even with the Kindle Fire.

The big question we have to ask now is whether or not this is a reasonable expectation from such a small change.  Have people really been choosing the Kindle Fire just to get 20% off the competition’s price?  This is definitely a possibility for some buyers, but overall there are other factors that we have to consider.  What you buy when you get one of these tablets is more than just the physical device at this point; it’s an entire content ecosystem.

Many, myself included, are of the opinion that the real strength of the Kindle Fire stems from its deep integration with Amazon’s systems.  It is undoubtedly a mixed blessing thanks to the associated lack of access to the main Google App Marketplace among other things, but this integration does allow for some impressive features.  The on-device storage is practically irrelevant when a decent WiFi network is in range, for example, thanks to the streaming media options Amazon has made available.  There is also more than enough space at any given time for several dozen apps, a couple hundred eBooks, and assorted music and video files.  Will you be carrying around entire seasons of your favorite television show?  Probably not.  You can expect to have several hours worth of viewing on hand for when wireless connectivity is unavailable, though.

Barnes & Noble simply isn’t offering the same amount of service, which is why it makes sense for them to be trying to make up the difference with somewhat superior hardware at the same price as the Kindle Fire.  The new Nook Tablet is, if anything, an even better option than the 16GB model for those looking into the possibility of rooting their new tablet, but if you’re keeping the stock firmware then it is a decision that should be carefully considered.  Nothing has changed or improved here, when it comes right down to it, besides dropping the price.

If you are a fan of the Nook, or dislike the idea of Amazon’s having a hold on your tablet, this is a great deal.  If you really want a color LCD device for reading on, the Nook Tablet is also still your best option.  If these situations don’t apply to you, however, the $200 Kindle Fire vs $200 Nook Tablet competition is still pretty heavily weighted in favor of Amazon.

Barnes & Noble Considering A Nook Spin Off

After reporting less than stellar stock returns, Barnes & Noble is seriously considering spinning off, or even selling its expensive, but popular Nook business to allow the Nook to ramp up its competition with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Right now, the tech world is weighing three options with the pros and cons of each.  This article does a good job of breaking all of it down.  Barnes & Noble can keep an active role in the business as it is now, which is not likely, it can take a backseat, yet still hold the reigns, or it can sell the business entirely.

Sales of all Nook e-readers combined were up 70% during the 2011 holiday shopping season, compared to a mere 2.5% growth of regular book sales.  That definitely goes to show that something needs to change, or the retailer will end up with the same fate as Borders, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

I think that Barnes & Noble’s best bet would be to stay invested somewhat in the business because the e-book is the way of the future.  Despite the lackluster reception of the Nook Touch, the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet have been doing very well.  I am not saying that print is dying out by any means, but e-books are definitely going to take an increasingly larger role over the next few years.  Consumers are already flocking to Amazon for both print and e-books because the prices are better.  So, the Nook would be a lifeline in case the print side of the business suffers.

Barnes & Noble recognizes that there is work to do to catch up with the Kindle, so the competition is going to get much more intense if the Nook gets more attention via a spinoff or separate company.

It will be interesting to see what this potential new development means for the Kindle.  Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales in 2011 because of the much anticipated Kindle Fire and by offering the prices to beat,  All three members of the Kindle Family took the top selling spots on Amazon. The Kindle will most likely remain firmly on top of the e-reader market for the time being.

 

How the Kindle Can Benefit Independent Bookstores

I was reading an article a couple of days ago that I thought made a good point.  It discussed how despite the surge of e-books and e-readers in recent years, there is still a place for print books.  On a personal note, I can still appreciate reading a print book from time to time despite owning a Kindle Touch, iPad and iPhone.

There seems to be a general consensus that print is on its way out, and getting an e-reader means you’ll never read print books again.  I think instead of replacing print books, digital books will just be adding to the types of formats that people can use to read.  Digital books allow more font adjustments and lighting, so they offer a more customized reading experience.

With the rise of e-readers including the Amazon Kindle, and the e-books that go along with it, many of the major book chains have faltered or have gone out of business.  Borders declared bankruptcy earlier this year, and Barnes & Noble is not doing all too great.  It does have the Nook in its arsenal however, and it has definitely provided healthy competition for the Kindle.

I think the foreseeable future still holds a big place for both print and digital materials.  Print books give a certain feel that digital books cannot.  There is really something for everyone.  You have print, e-readers, and most recently, tablets.  The Kindle Fire has taken the tablet market by a storm, and is taking a hit at the iPad sales already.

The thing that has hurt the big chain bookstores so much is that Amazon offers books in all formats so much cheaper.  Independent bookstores can also offer used books at competitive prices.  They can also offer a sense of warmth and community that you don’t get with a larger bookstore.

So, smaller bookstores have the potential to shine.  It is all a matter of addressing what the customers want.  I’ve always dreamed of owning a used book store where people can come to read, work, or just gather.  Maybe one day soon there will be more independent bookstores that sell both e-books and print books.

 

 

 

Get Nook App For Your Kindle Fire

Image: Business InsiderWhen it comes to deciding which eReader to buy, the biggest consideration is usually going to be whether you want to use a Nook or a Kindle forever.  Because sadly, it is difficult at best to change between the two platforms without losing access to every eBook you own.  While it is nice to dream of a day with no restrictive DRM, where you can move what you buy to whatever device you want, we have yet to reach that point.  Fortunately there are now some options that don’t require learning to tear out the DRM from every one of your eBooks, assuming you don’t mind reading on an LCD.

Naturally, whether you buy a Kindle Fire or a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (or Nook Color), there is always the option to root your device to install the competitor’s reading app.  That process can be a pain for a few reasons, more so with the Nook in my experience since Amazon didn’t really try to prevent their customers from doing whatever they want with the Fire.  Despite the complications, this is a great option for the Nook Tablet.  It adds a load of functionality and removes some of the rather silly restrictions on usage that B&N felt the need to include. With the Kindle Fire, however, taking advantage of rooting causes you to lose access to the wonderfully streamlines interface that Amazon came up with in favor of a default Android OS.  Maybe that works for some people, but personally I prefer what the device shipped with for once.

If you’re of the same opinion, hope is not lost.  While you cannot access the Android Marketplace through your Kindle Fire, you are still able to download third party apps.  Amusingly this includes the Nook App if you know where to look.

As a fan of the original Nook, I jumped at the chance to get easy access to my old purchases again.  You can find the app at m.getjar.com, using the Kindle Fire‘s browser.  While some have indicated that you need to download the GetJar app to proceed from here, I had no trouble without it.  Just search for “Nook”, download the app, and install from the downloads menu (Pull up the list by tapping on the number next to your tablet’s name on the status bar).  It will show up under the Apps tab.

The only complication in using the Nook App this way is that it is unable to download all of my books.  Since some of them work fine and new purchases come through smoothly, I’m guessing these particular titles are the freebies I picked out early on that have been moved or replaced with better free copies, but it’s been long enough now that I honestly can’t recall.  It’s got a couple features that might be preferable to the Kindle’s normal reading app for some people.  Small things like a dimmer brightness setting, or a different animated page turn.  For the most part they are practically identical.

To me, this increases the usefulness of the Kindle Fire significantly.  If nothing else, it is great to finally have all of my eBooks available on the same device at the same time.  While I would love to be able to do the same on an E INK reader, this works as the next best thing for now.  There’s no real downside and it takes just moments to get this installed.  Give it a try.

Nook Tablet’s Larger Storage Offers Less Than Kindle Fire

In the eyes of many, the Kindle Fire didn’t have much of a chance of competing with Apple’s technically superior iPad tablet.  That remains to be seen in the longer term, of course, but for now it’s all just speculation.  Regardless, this shifts the focus of people watching for active competition to the Kindle vs Nook battle.  They have been ongoing rivals in the eReader world, of course, and now they both offer budget priced tablets that will do a lot more than help you read.

On paper the Nook Tablet is quite possibly the better device.  It has the same processing power, more RAM, and most importantly twice the local storage of the Kindle Fire.  This last alone was enough to get many people to declare it a clear winner before either device hit shelves.  Now that we can use them both side by side, the situation has drastically changed.

The Nook Tablet, despite having 16GB of storage space (~12GB available to users), severely restricts what users are able to do with that space.  To such a degree that the idea of purchasing the device as a video player without the intention of rooting it is fairly laughable.  Users will find that Barnes & Noble has chosen to allow a mere 1GB of storage for the loading of outside content.  While the remainder can be filled by anything B&N sells, the fact of the matter is that right now they don’t offer nearly enough content to justify the choice.

There is not, for example, a video store for the Nook Tablet.  Neither is there an MP3 service.  You can, of course, access services like Netflix or Pandora for all your media consumption needs, but should you desire to watch or listen to things that you yourself own already then chances are good there is a problem.  Basically the only thing available in any quantity besides apps, and the scarcity of Nook apps is another complaint to address at another time, is reading material.  It simply does not justify this.

While I think that anybody would agree that the Kindle Fire‘s 8GB on-board storage is one of its weak points, Amazon at least manages to expand your options.  Sure you might have trouble loading everything that you want onto the device at once, but you can always stream it or store in their provided cloud storage until it is needed.  This is in addition to also offering equally functional access to Netflix, Pandora, and basically everything else that the Nook Tablet is using to make up for its lack of media store integration.

What probably should have been a clear win for B&N has turned their device into a joke for many prospective buyers.  We can hope that as time goes on this will be changed via a software update of some sort since the Nook Tablet is honestly a decent piece of hardware for just $250.  It is ridiculous that to get any decent amount of storage space a new user should feel compelled to purchase a memory card when the drive is just sitting there more than half empty.

Kindle vs Nook: DC Debacle Spurs B&N To Dumb Move

It’s no real secret that Barnes & Noble has quickly come to depend on their Nook eReader line, which by extension means it isn’t really too surprising that they might overreact when that is threatened.  A recent spat with DC Comics over a limited term of Kindle Fire eComic distribution exclusivity for a segment of the publisher’s current titles has resulted in just such an overreaction, though, and their failure to see the mistake may well provide difficulties going forward.

The underlying complaint on the part of Barnes & Noble is that DC has had the audacity to offer eReader exclusivity on 100 or so titles to Amazon as a temporary means for Amazon to promote the Kindle Fire.  While there is no information yet, to the best of my knowledge, as to how long this deal will remain in place, both DC and Amazon have acknowledged that it is not intended to necessarily be a long term arrangement.

As a result, Barnes & Noble has pulled all DC titles from their stores.  This includes every physical copy of the Amazon digital exclusives from DC Comics.  No notice was given to customers initially, simply a blanket email to all stores requiring them to remove the books.  To pull the gist of the eventual published statement from the Brick & Mortar book giant: “Regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format.[...]To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms, and not have the eBook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”

On the surface, one has to applaud the effort.  Maybe this was an instance of Amazon throwing their weight around that required a significant response from a major retailer to help publishers see that such behavior is unacceptable.  That sentiment lasts right up until the realization that at this time Barnes & Noble does not in any way offer electronic comic publications.

The chain has decided that they are so dedicated to the principal on this issue that they are willing to turn away customers at the door rather than allow Amazon’s Kindle Fire access to something the Nook Color has not even tried to exploit after a year on the market.  Now not only with B&N customers not be able to download their comics, they can’t get physical copies except through the B&N website.  Stores have even been instructed to turn away special orders.  No copy will be allowed to enter the store, no matter how much you want to give your money to Barnes & Noble.

In the end, I see this hurting nobody but B&N, their customers, and the creators of the works in question.  Nobody wins but Amazon and customers have one more reason to avoid dealing with anybody else.  While this could have been quickly remedied with a quiet apology for initial overreaction, there is no excuse for letting it continue and treating customers this poorly, especially at a time when they are faced with a superior competing product.

Barnes & Noble Targets Kindle Fire With New Nook Tablet

With the Kindle Fire making such an impression on the Tablet PC marketplace, Barnes & Noble has been placed in a tough spot.  They are quickly coming to rely on their Nook product line and such a thorough triumph over their popular Nook Color would certainly be a tough blow to take.  They had to either put out something big or be left behind.  Fortunately, they’ve managed to come up with an answer.

The new Nook Tablet (that’s it’s name, not a generic designation) amounts to basically a point by point comparison to the Kindle Fire and may go a fair way toward explaining some of the popular bookseller’s more unexpected moves lately.  Here’s what we know so far:

Specs:

Display: 7″ VividView IPS LCD Multi- Touch
1024 x 600, 169 PPI
Processor: 1GB Dual-Core TI OMAP4 Processor
Memory: 1GB
Storage: 16GB Internal (~12GB Available)
Expandable Storage Slot via microSD Up To 32GB
Free Cloud Storage via Nook Cloud
Audio: Stereo Speakers w/ Mic
Dimensions: 8.1″ x 5.0″ x 0.48″
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Battery Life: Up To 11.5 Hours Reading
Up To 9 Hours Video Playback
3 Hour Charge Time
Bundled Apps: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and More
Price: $249
Release Date: 11 / 18 / 2011

Selling Points

Sounds a lot like the Kindle Fire, even if it looks identical to the existing Nook Color.  It might be 25% more expensive, but for that money you get a device that’s lighter, faster, and holds more.  Sounds great, right?  The differences are not extreme.  You save about half an ounce in terms of weight, 6GB of usable internal storage space, and a bit more RAM.  Even the advertised battery life is just slightly better, offering perhaps 90 minutes more video playback time under ideal circumstances.

What Amazon has been pushing, however, is the media.  Barnes & Noble has not been able to offer comparable content so far for their Nook Color’s App Store, so it was important that they be able to bring something to the table here.  Bundling with Hulu and Netflix will go a long way toward making up for the lack of an integrated video store, of course.  That was the whole point of pushing them, despite the fact that they will also be available for the Kindle.  The bookstore is obviously pretty good already, and they’ve been at the color eBooks game a bit longer than Amazon so hopefully they have a good grasp on things there.  Even music is covered thanks to Pandora and other similar services.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is the idea of Nook Cloud Storage.  We don’t have many details on that yet, but it accomplishes another aspect of the Amazon comparison in a vague fashion.  Chances are good that this will not be available for anything besides content purchased through B&N, but that is just speculation so far.

Barnes & Noble is claiming to have a screen superior to that on the Kindle Fire.  It is honestly hard to assess right now since they’re somewhat invested in the comparison.  It might be advisable to reserve judgement on that point until a side by side comparison can be arranged.

They are also making a big deal out of their new Nook Comics line.  This could explain a great deal of why they got so dramatically and publicly upset over DC Comics forming an exclusive deal of any sort with Amazon in preparation for the Kindle Fire launch.  B&N is now boasting the largest collection of digital Marvel comics brought together so far for a single device.  It’s an accomplishment, though there is no notice of exclusivity and therefore no reason to believe this will be a major factor moving forward.

Probably drawing on the same sort of technology that allows for those comics, though, is a new Nook Book category called PagePerfect.  Going off of what information is currently around, this is less an imitation of the new Kindle Format 8 and more a proprietary PDF imitation.  Static formatting, zooming, scrolling, etc.  The only obvious difference is that Adobe isn’t involved.

 Which To Buy

Now that we have a couple of competing budget media tablets to choose from, which is worth the money?  It depends on your needs.  The Nook Color, and by extension the new Nook Tablet since it is just a more powerful version of the same, is primarily an eReader.  Barnes & Noble has done a fairly good job of shoring up their shortcomings by bringing in excellent integration with other content providers, there is no substitute for direct support and every reason to believe that those same providers will be serving up media to Kindle Fire customers as well.

The price is a bit off-putting, now that we’re talking about tablets cheap enough for $50 to make a big difference, but you do admittedly get more power for the price.  While claims about the screen quality remain unproven, the extra RAM will make a difference and additional on-board storage will be a big deal for some.

As usual, which device you go for will depend on your needs as a consumer.  At this point it seems that Amazon is offering a clearly superior library of media to choose from, especially if you take all types of media together. They’ve also done a great job, by most preliminary accounts, of customizing and streamlining their Android Fork to make the Kindle Fire both look unique and perform more impressively than its specs might indicate.

On the other hand, Barnes & Noble is offering what is arguably the better dollar to power ratio.  This will be most important for people wanting to root the device and just exploit its most basic hardware capabilities.  That might be a smaller percentage of the intended user base, but it is worth addressing.  The Nook Tablet also comes closer to offering a stock Android experience, for those who are concerned about potential privacy concerns related to Amazon’s Silk browser and other cloud based services.  They are also more focused on building up the color eReader market, and you can count on Barnes & Noble to maintain the eBook as their primary concern for the indefinite future.

The choice will be up to you and the distinctions are honestly fairly slight right now.  What is most important is that the Kindle Fire might have some valid competition after all.  Competition always leads to improvement.  Just look at how far the Nook Tablet is beyond the Nook Color.

Barnes & Noble Already Prepping Kindle Fire Competition

Beginning just days before the press conference that revealed the Kindle Fire to the world, rumors started popping up that Barnes & Noble was nervously prepping their next tablet for a hurried launch to avoid getting shut out of the market.  Naturally they haven’t confirmed these rumors to any degree so far, but the latest reports indicate the potential for both a cheaper Nook Color hardware update and a larger, more powerful incarnation of the same at around $350.

For the past couple months, it’s been pretty great to be Barnes & Noble.  They’ve been selling one of the most functional affordable tablets on the market, almost by accident.  They’ve had what was honestly the best eReader in the US market in terms of performance and readability.  On top of this, Amazon spent months seeming to ignore the world of eReading hardware aside from vague hints.  It couldn’t last forever, but they got to make a big splash with no significant recently released competition.

At first glance Amazon has now got a huge advantage again, especially in terms of the Kindle Fire.  While the Nook Color brought a lot of function for comparatively little money, its main value has generally been in how easily rooted it is.  Barnes & Noble has added an internal app store that has gotten quite a bit better over time, but they have nothing quite as robust as the Amazon Android App Store nor do they have the ability to offer the same kind of end to end experience that the Kindle Fire is anticipated to provide.  Simply put, the emphasis on the Nook Color as specifically a color eReader might have backfired.

Since B&N is experiencing a great deal of its current success (what there is of it) from the Nook line, they cannot afford to not respond.  Fortunately, from the sound of things, there were plans in place.  The Nook Simple Touch eReader shouldn’t have any real problems just now.  It might be slightly more expensive than the cheapest of the Kindle Touch models coming up, but the technology is comparable and for now we have to assume that the experience will be generally similar.  What they’re worried about is the Tablet competition.

A new, larger, more powerful Nook Color, assuming rumors hold some basis in reality, will be either announced or released before the end of October at around $350. This, along with a hardware update to the existing Nook Color, would theoretically have a chance of bringing them back to the front of consumer perception again in time for the 2011 holiday season.

Admittedly we’re talking about theoretical hardware at the moment, so as with most of the Kindle Tablet speculation it has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Still, if they can bring hardware and content availability anywhere near to in line with what Amazon is offering with the Kindle Fire it would be great.  Just the announcement of a $200 tablet from Amazon has already changed hardware prices in the market significantly.  Real, effective competition among budget tablet providers can only be a good thing.

Toys R Us to Sell the Kindle Starting July 31

Toys R Us joins Target, Staples, Best Buy, Radio Shack and AT&T in selling Kindles in their stores.  So, from these stores, the e-reader reaches out to consumers in electronics, business, wireless, and now parents and children.

Why sell Kindles in a toy store?  It sounded kind of farfetched to me at first.  The e-reader has started to reach out to children as an educational tool.  K-12 schools are starting to experiment with using e-readers for textbooks and for other educational needs.  I’ve seen articles floating around that show that school libraries are testing e-readers and tablets for use.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are targeting the back to school crowd this year.  Office Max will be selling the Nook around the same time.

It also catches the eye of parents who shop at the toy store.  Just puts the Kindle out there in yet another way.  It will be well positioned for the holiday crowd on Black Friday.

The major shopping times are going to be overflowing with new gadgets this year.  The thought is kind of overwhelming.  But, the competition will be fierce, which means awesome prices.

Toys ‘R Us will offer the Kindle 3G and Wi-Fi, as well as the Kindle Wi-Fi with Special Offers.  In addition to the device itself, there will be a good number of accessories available.

I remember, just a couple of years ago, the Kindle was only limited to online sales.  It is now reaching out to brick and mortar consumers of all ages and interests.  Those who were skittish about buying online have a lot of venues to choose from.

The popular e-reader can be used as an important tool for education in several ways.  The lure of a cool new gadget gets kids excited about reading.  Kindle games and applications have been developed to help kids with learning math and spelling.  There are also interactive Kindle books available that are packed with adventure.

Lastly, the lightweight e-reader is portable and fits easily into a backpack.  I think the Kindle can be used as an important tool in encouraging all children to enjoy reading.  It offers so many types of reading material, from books to magazines, and even graphic novels.  There is something for everyone.

 

So Many Gadgets! What Do We Choose?

As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed.  There is so much to choose from these days.  So, I thought I’d break it down a bit.  It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.

E-Readers

The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story.  It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style.  Note the latest touchscreen craze.

Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.

In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down.  I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version.  Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders.  If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon.  Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices.  But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.

Tablets

The iPad wins here.  I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes.  I use mine as a laptop basically.  I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily.  Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad.  Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.

Why have a tablet AND an e-reader?  I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same.  I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes.  I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag.  Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.

And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.

 

 

Barnes & Noble Seeks Kindle Converts With eReader Upgrade Offer

Still walking around with a first generation Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader?  Barnes & Noble is currently offering incentives to upgrade from any other eReader when you switch to the new Nook Simple Touch eReader.  While supplies last, those who choose to take advantage will get themselves a memory card with 30 books on it.  Supposedly, it’s a value of over $300.  Admittedly when looked at closely it’s an offer of questionable value for the most part, but if you have an older device on your hands and intend to switch anyway then it might be worth the trouble.

All you have to do is bring your old eReader with you to any Barnes & Noble store when you go to buy your new Nook.  This isn’t a trade-in program, so they don’t expect you to hand over your old device.  Just show up with a Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo, or whatever you have on hand, and your new Nook will come with a preloaded 2gb SD card.

It is definitely a smart move on behalf of B&N.  Trade-in and upgrade programs are always a useful means to promote your new product, especially when that new product genuinely brings something useful to the table like the new Nook does.  The only issue I can really see with it is that of how little value the books will provide for most customers.  If it were a matter of getting 30 books of your choice, this would unquestionably be worth the trade for a PRS-500 or first generation Kindle even if it did mean handing over the old model, but instead B&N will be choosing your books for you.  A collection featuring cookbooks, crossword puzzle compilations, classics, and kids books will probably have something for everybody, but it is hard to imagine any particular person wanting all of it at once.  If I were to guess, I would be expecting perhaps 4-5 really enjoyable eBooks for any specific customer.

Normally, the shortcomings associated with this offer would be enough for me to find ways to subtly deride the good people over at B&N for such a paltry offering.  The fact is, however, that at the moment there are no competing opportunities on the market, as far as I am aware.  It won’t be a huge incentive for most people who are fairly new to eReaders, since you already have to own one to take advantage anyway.  It also certainly won’t be enough to pull in many customers who have a latest generation Kindle, since grabbing any books you want out of the offering selection would likely be cheaper than grabbing a second eReader that isn’t compatible with your existing purchases. For people who are unsatisfied with last generation devices, or those with no substantial DRM-protected eBook library, it might be enough to push the decision on an upgrade to Nook over Kindle.  The good folks at Barnes & Noble are almost certainly aware of the narrow margin by which they hold the lead right now, so any nudge in the right direction is going to help capitalize on the success.

Consumer Reports Confirms Amazon Kindle Lagging Slightly Behind New Nook

For the first time ever, the Kindle is not quite in the lead among eReaders, according to Consumer Reports.  Even though it is only a very closely held lead, it’s definitely a good sign for Barnes & Noble’s Nook line.  They’ve released a new product and come out on top, just a bit.

The Consumer Reports article makes the point that for the most part the new Nook succeeds by emulating the Kindle so well.  Rather than throwing everything possible at the reader in hopes that some feature will make it stand out, the Nook Simple Touch is all about the books.  No official web browser, no games, no second screen, just a means to read your book.  This is exactly what the Kindle has always tried rather successfully pushed for, of course, but with all of the fuss over potential competition with the iPad, it’s easy to see why companies like B&N felt the need to emphasize their diverse potential in the previous generation of devices.

Not surprisingly, the excitement over differing battery life claims between the two devices failed to catch on for this scoring.  Consumer Reports gives anything over 5 days the same score.  The screens also seem to have come in at a tie, being the same E Ink Pearl displays.  Price obviously wasn’t an issue either.  Really, the factor that pushed the Nook into the lead was completely separate from the hardware considerations.

The big advantage for the Nook, or at least what seems to have pushed it over the edge, is the library eBook compatibility.  It’s clearly a valued and desirable feature among consumers that will give the Nook the advantage until the Kindle gains Overdrive Library support later this year.  According to the reviewer, this alone could put the Kindle back on top if it is properly implemented.  Given that we know Amazon is pushing for a bit more by allowing in-book annotation on borrowed texts, there might be slightly more to consider than even the ease of use.

The takeaway from this is not, in my opinion, that the Nook is the better eReader or that it is just now belatedly rejoining the Kindle vs Nook competition in a serious way.  It isn’t even about Kindle vs Nook anymore.  We have at least two great eReaders on the market again, between which there is no clear and obvious advantage.  Where the first generation Nook was starting to look rather antiquated by comparison to the Kindle 3, we now have active competition again.  Competition is good.  Choices are even better.

If you’re in the market, this is a great time to grab an eReader.  Check them both out, either on the web or in person at one of the many stores they’re sold at, and figure out which one feels better.  If you have a distinct preference, great, because there aren’t really any downsides to either left.  If not, give some thought to which company you’d rather be working with.  Thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, you’re not going to get a noticeably better price on the Nook than the Kindle or the other way around for most of your purchases.  The customer service experience is slightly better with Amazon, in my opinion, but at the same time B&N offers perks if you happen to be able to get to their stores in person.  It kinda evens out, I think.  Isn’t it great when these are the biggest things we have to worry about when choosing our next eReader?

Barnes & Noble to Release New Kindle Competition

There has been a lot of speculation going around about the possibilities for the next generation of the Kindle competitive Nook eReader.  Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) announced quite recently that on May 24th 2011 we will be hearing all about their new eReading device.  Other than that, there’s little to go on so far.

The Kindle vs Nook competition has been an ongoing factor in the advancement of the eReading industry as a whole.  Amazon finds a way to extend the Kindle’s battery life, and B&N follows suit.  B&N brings a couple games to their eReader and now you can find bunches of even better ones in the Kindle Store.  It’s all about one-upsmanship.  Though there were obviously other factors involved this was a major force in driving eReader prices below the $150 in the first place.  It has only ever worked out to the benefit of the consumer.

These days, B&N has been concentrating on the Nook Color for a while now and as a result is pretty much out of the game.  The Nook Color is an amazing mini-tablet and can be a lot of fun.  It even has some definite advantages over the Kindle for particular uses.  It does not push things very well in a one on one feature comparison, however.

I’m hoping that this announcement addresses that with the first major update to the monochrome Nook’s hardware.  At the moment the Kindle is significantly lighter, easier to read on, faster, and has far better battery life.  The comparison definitely stands a bit one sided at the moment.  That said, it is hard to imagine where there is room for enough improvement to put a Nook product back on top.  The shortcomings of the Kindle, such as they are, have more to do with the software end than the hardware these days.

It is more likely that we’ll be seeing an update to the Nook Color.  The most recent software update for that device has made it capable of taking on the iPad in a limited sort of way, opening it up to a large variety of apps and drastically improved functionality.  The whole Nook Color endeavor has been such a success for B&N that it seems difficult to imagine that they won’t seize the chance to capitalize on the success with a boost to the somewhat underpowered hardware.

There is a lot of money to be made in digital content beyond the eBook and with Amazon seemingly poised to drop their own Tablet PC by the end of the year, now is the time for Barnes & Noble to get the jump on a serious entry into the marketplace.  Who knows, we might even end up getting the first color eReader with an E Ink screen from them?  Even without that, if they can keep the price down enough it will be a big hit.

Nook 3G Being Phased Out

In an interesting, but not exactly surprising announcement through Engadget, we have learned that the Nook 3G is on its way out.  At this point in time, what 3G models are left are pretty much all there will ever be, so now’s the time to pick one up if you’re interested in the more expensive, if somewhat more accommodating, version of this successful Kindle competitor.

There are a few theories being thrown around to try and figure out the logic behind this move.  One of the more popular ones, though in my opinion the least believable of the bunch, is that this is a prelude to the release of a 3G model for the Nook Color.  Were this to be the case (according to the supporting rationale behind this), the classic Nook model would then be moved to the category of “budget Nook”, given a price cut, and there would subsequently be no room for a higher priced model.  Why do I think this unlikely?  Mostly, there is no chance that Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) is going to do something as silly as putting unrestricted free 3G access onto one such an easily rooted, but highly versatile, device.  Their costs would explode.  Even the existing 3G Nooks have less 3G functionality than the equivalent Kindle models, being completely restricted to accessing the B&N book store.

Another possibility being tossed around, slightly more likely but still not quite making sense to me personally, is that this is a sign that B&N is getting ready to release a new version of the Nook with the improved E Ink Pearl screen, like that of the Kindle.  If this were the case, the assumption is that in order to sell the more expensive model in greater quantity, production of the 3G device would begin earlier than the WiFi model so that early adopters would be left without the option.  This one, however, relies on the assumption that the $50 price increase between the two models represents a significant per-unit profit increase for Barnes & Noble, and I just don’t buy that.  Between the extra hardware and the additional cost incurred in making the 3G coverage contract-free, there simply can’t be that much margin left for profit in such a small price hike.  Much as I hope we see a Nook with a better screen at some point soon, this one is far fetched.

No, this is probably something simpler.  Not the heralding of a new launch or update to the Nook line, but a streamlining of production and a removal of some of the complications of upkeep.  There have already been some reports of people having their Nook’s coverage temporarily denied by AT&T for whatever reason, which has to be one of any number of headaches B&N is enduring. Since they’re pretty much pinning their hopes on a more tablet-like future for eReaders, there’s not as much need for 3G coverage, especially when it is as highly restricted as the early Nook’s was. WiFi isn’t all that hard to come by anymore.  This shouldn’t hurt people all that much.  If all else fails, there’s always the Kindle with its unrestricted 3G coverage.  If you’re completely set on a Nook 3G, however, there’s still time!  Right now they may be turning down bulk orders, but the product hasn’t been pulled from shelves.  Grab one while you can.

Barnes & Noble Selling Out to Borders?

Recent news indicates that Borders Group(NYSE:BGP) has filed an intent to purchase rival bookseller Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) as of this past Monday.  Nothing is set in stone, as of yet, but this could have some interesting and far-reaching effects on the eReader and eBook marketplace should it some to pass.  Borders has been trying for some time to enter into the Kindle dominated eReader market, but buying the company currently making the second most popular eReader on sale today (sometimes estimated to hold as much as 10% of the market) would give them some real hope of making a place for themselves.

While Borders did manage to make a big splash a while back by bringing the basic, but functional, Kobo eReader to the public for just $150 at a time when popular eBook readers such as the Kindle hadn’t managed to make it below $250 yet, the prompt price matching on the parts of Amazon and B&N left it somewhat dead in the water, so to speak. They also run into the problem of having no device integrated book store to draw from, complicating the process and reducing potential income from impulse buyers and people who use their computers infrequently.  Yes, there is the fact that Borders chooses to host a whole collection of eBook Readers in their stores, but none have managed to capture public attention for any length of time lately, including the Sony Reader collection.  Picking up the fully grown Nook product line would turn this around completely.

This cannot really be seen as a great move in terms of business unless you look specifically at the eBook marketplace, given the state of things right now.  Let’s face it, neither Borders nor Barnes & Noble are doing that well as the last remaining brick & mortar bookstores with any real nationwide presence these days.  While combining the companies might result in a short-term boost in revenue, since one aspect of the competition would indeed have been eliminated, the real fights these days are between either online and physical sales environment or paper and digital books.  That’s to say nothing about the fact that B&N isn’t exactly without its own troubles right now that Borders would have to address.

So, if it happens, what can we hope for?  It’s really rather hard to say.  B&N does have a very nice eBook store set up, and I’m certain that that would see even more emphasis as time goes on, but competition is getting pretty extreme lately and newcomers like Google aren’t going to make it easy to stay near the top no matter what the state of the Barnes & Noble ownership is.  I am rather hoping it doesn’t happen though, mostly because of the uncertainty of what would happen with the B&N stores.  The Kindle is at the moment the superior eReader in pretty much every other way I care about, but it’s great to be able to break out the nook when I’m out shopping and have a chance to hang out there for a while since the preview feature makes for some great relaxation.

Nook Color Revealed

Well, today Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has unveiled the newcomer to their nook product line, the NOOKcolor.  What has been generally anticipated as the latest round of one-upsmanship in the Kindle vs nook competition has taken an interesting turn, to say the least.  People following the news have heard rumors about it for the past week and even seen a prematurely posted accessory sales page that only lasted a short while, but now we have some answers to the questions these rumors raised!

How will they pull off the color?

For the past week or so this has been the big one.  Everybody was curious how, if the rumors that there would be a color touchscreen nook were true, B&N would manage things.  There was speculation regarding those amazing Mirasol displays that act like eInk in a lot of ways but won’t be out until 2011.  Sadly, nothing of the sort was in the works. I don’t think anybody really thought it would be, since it would mean missing the 2010 holiday season and the resultant revenue, but there was some hope at least.  Instead, we’re getting an LCD on an eReader. I can only think of two possible reasons that they might have gone this route, ruling out a desire to cash in on the novelty as much as possible before pulling out of the eReader game.

One, their LCD is so altered by the addition of a lamination layer to reduce glare from both the back-light and outside light sources that it will revolutionize portable LCD technology in the short term while better technology becomes available. I honestly wouldn’t mind this much, however unlikely it is.  I don’t like the fact that LCD displays eat up battery life so amazingly fast by comparison with eInk, but my main objection has always been eye strain.  Reading for hours on a normal LCD hurts, especially when you have reason to do it regularly.  That said, this one seems somewhat far-fetched.  Until somebody has had some time with a NOOKcolor of their own though, not much can be said for sure.

Two, and far more likely in my opinion, this is intended to cater far more to the tablet fad that’s taking over the market at the moment than to have much to do with reading.  I’m not going to deny the potential usefulness in grabbing kids books and cookbooks and the like, but does that really justify the extra expense and inferior reading display?  Not really, but an app store just might.  This leads into the next line of speculation answered.

What will it be able to do?

This point is in B&N’s favor, I’m sure, in spite of the loss of 3G access.  Many nook owners have been somewhat disappointed in the lack of app development for the nook so far, given its Android platform and interesting potential.  Short of rooting your eReader, however, the closest we’ve gotten to apps is sudoku and a web browser.  Nice, but not really anything to write home about.  the new NOOKcolor, though, will ship with Facebook and Twitter integration, a request feature for the popular LendMe setup to let your friends know you want their books, a Pandora Radio app, some degree of Microsoft Office compatibility, and even a new crossword puzzle game!  Ok, so the crosswords aren’t a big selling point, the rest is cool.  On top of that, there is to be a nook app store that they are now taking developers on for in order to maximize the potential for users.  This is very cool, and means a lot in terms of long-term viability of the product.

How will it compare?

This is quite possibly the hardest question to answer.  Mostly because B&N has set themselves up in an odd sort of in-between space.  Yeah, they still want to be an eReader and are clearly highlighting features that match or exceed the Kindle as a selling point.  At the same time, however, they also clearly want the option for some iPad-like functionality and diversity of purpose.  So where do we make the (nook vs. iPad) comparison?  I’d say we’ll have to wait for a chance at some head-to-head functionality tests after the first units ship before a real evaluation can be made.  Right now it feels like a shot in the dark to try to beat Amazon to the punch on color eReaders and address the crowd who still see the iPad as a part of the eReader competition.  The features are all there for books, of course, and the potential seems plentiful for app development, but the compromises in terms of price and technology make me wonder.

In short, it’s an odd situation.  the NOOKcolor looks cool.  It really does.  Is it really an eReader anymore though?  I’ll admit that color touchscreens seem to be the way of the future, but there seems to be a chance that Barnes & Noble jumped the gun here and put out their entry into the market before the available screen technology was ready for it.  eReaders have been characterized by their amazing battery life and easy to read screen.  It’s that combination that has set them apart.  To throw that off is to take a gamble, in my opinion.  I hope it does well as a tablet device, but the Kindle might have lost its biggest competition.  I will, as always, caution people to avoid making too much of early speculation before the product even becomes available, but the indications are there and we can only do our best with the information we have available at the moment.  Give it some thought.  This might fill exactly the niche you’ve been looking forward to, personally, even if it isn’t what we might have expected.

B&N Nook Takes Aim At Students

Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has announced an August release for their new NOOKstudy software package.  Following in their recent tradition of following up Amazon’s original moves with some further refinement, it appears we’re looking at a few old favorites with a couple new twists.  The Kindle DX has proven to be slightly less than ready for big-time school exposure so far, which leaves the field open to the nook and its related software for the time being.

As anybody might expect, looking at software for students, there will be highlighting, annotation, and in-text note-taking for follow-ups.  In addition, annotations and notes in general will be tagged for easy searching and full-text searching will be, obviously, much faster than the existing search feature native to the nook device. There also appears to be some browser integration to allow for fast look-up of formulas and definitions as you read.  Users will be able to open two texts at once for simultaneous reading/reference on the same screen, a tabbed browser will allow multiple documents to be open for use at any given time, and students will likely find the ability to organize documents based on class and topic quite helpful.

This all comes at the same time as an announcement of integration of the Barnes & Noble eBook Store with the ever-popular Blackboard educational software, which will allow students to download any available texts directly from a list of what is required for their classes.  Basically, B&N is hoping to take the college scene by storm and they seem to have a good idea of how to go about it.

Kindle Available at Target Stores April 25

It looks like Amazon is taking a page from Sony and Barnes & Noble’s book by offering the Kindle in a retail outlet.  The Kindle will debut in Target Stores April 25.  The good part about this strategy is that customers will finally be able to test a Kindle before they buy them in a secure environment.  According to this article from Wall Street Journal, Amazon previously recruited volunteers to go to public spaces such as coffee shops and showcase their Kindles.  However impact of these activities was limited. More than two years of what everyone believes to be stellar sales have passed and as I use my Kindle in public places some people still ask me “what is this” having no clue about Amazon Kindle specifically or eReaders and eInk in general. Clearly Kindle needs more public exposure.

Until B&N Nook came about much later, Kindle was the only device that could work without PC at all. So technically one could by it like a cell phone, have store associate set up amazon.com account with payment information and then read books without ever having to use a computer for that purpose. This way Amazon would be able to pick up some customers who never shopped online before. It’s a win-win situation all around. Why did it take Amazon 2.5 years to finally get there is a total mystery to me.

However, don’t rush to your nearest Target tomorrow. Chances are you will not find Kindle there. The plan is to pilot this in a limited number of stores with broader roll-out to follow sometime later.

Brick & Mortar eReader Sales?

One of the biggest impediments to eBook Reader distribution has always seemed to be exposure. Those of us who enjoy such things were forced, with each product that arrived on the market, to weigh the pros and cons of each device based on rumors, specs, and buyer feedback without, in most cases, ever having the chance to see a device in person. New reports indicate that this is going to be a phenomenon of the past, however!

Now, I’m not saying that this was a problem for everybody. Originally those who were close enough to a Sony run store had this luxury, of course, and in fact still do. Hell, the Sony Readers have long since come to Target stores around the country as well. Today, however, the eBook market is heating up based on distribution models and 3g devices like the nook and Kindle have center stage as they make the move to the big name storefronts.

Later this month, the 25th if reports can be believed, we should be seeing the Amazon Kindle popping up at Target stores all over the place. In what may be a coincidence, but is probably a reaction, Best Buys will in turn be picking up sales of Barnes & Noble’s nook. This should be a fun time.

Kindle sales set a new record in November 2009

Amazon may face tough competition from Google in the year to come but now they seem to be on top of things as Kindle eBook Reader sales skyrocketed in November.

Amazon.com said on Monday that its Kindle electronic book reader posted its best sales yet in the month of November, as rivals struggle with fulfilling their customer orders.

The online retailer said shoppers were buying several Kindles at once as holiday gifts, while businesses and organizations were buying the device “in large quantities” for employees or clients. Amazon does not provide precise data on Kindle sales.

via Reuters.com

Kindle’s main competitors, Sony and Barnes&Noble on the other hand reported their new products sold out and shipments delayed even before the holiday season actually started. While this indicates high demand for their products, it would give them little comfort as some of “could-have-been-their” customers are going to instant gratification here and now with Amazon as they have no other option for wireless-enabled eReaders.

B&N is new to eReader market and it’s understandable how they could mess up on their first entry attempt. Sony on the other hand has been in the exact same situation before when they released PRS-500 in 2006. The device was immediately sold out on US market and unanavailable internationally for months to come. A friend of mine who back then lived in Europe via community forums tracked down a US store that had a whooping 5 units in stock of which I bought all to be sent to my friend and his coworkers. Back then scalpers were making a killing on eBay as Sony PRS-500 sold for 150%+ of retail price.

This time around though there is Amazon that is more than willing to sell Kindles to anyone who is not willing to wait for Sony eReader or a Nook.