The past few months have been interesting for both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. While the former has been enjoying record success in both their eReading efforts and the new Kindle Fire tablet sales however, B&N seems to be having some trouble keeping up with things related to their Nook line. There has even been talk of them spinning off the whole Nook endeavor into its own company due to the high expense of keeping pace in a competitive market. Despite all of this though, and regardless of how it plays out in the larger scheme of things, a lot has been happening that should keep the Nook line a definite consideration for consumers.
Probably the most important factor would be what’s new with the Nook Tablet. While it was always somewhat superior to the Kindle Fire on paper, the experience of using it has generally failed to impress by comparison and certain restrictions on how the end user could manage their data caused a great deal of upset. Recently this has all changed with the announcement of a simple method for rooting the tablet and gaining much greater control over it as a result. All you need now is a MicroSD Card and some freely available software from the guys over at XDA. While for most people’s general uses this still will not necessarily make the Nook Tablet superior to its Kindle competition, it does open up the possibility of finally making the use of the better hardware for those who want to get maximum performance for their money.
The eReader side of things has hardly been left to sit around unnoticed either, of course. There are currently two major bits of information going around specific to this. First, word is out that Barnes & Noble will shortly be announcing the release of their eReaders outside the US for the first time. Most likely this will be in a partnership with UK bookseller Waterstones, if the rumors are to be believed. Some might remember the same company expressing interest in creating its own eReader to compete with the Kindle some months back, so this partnership would be completely in character.
There is also word of a new generation of the Nook already getting set to hit the shelves. It would be difficult to imagine what significant improvements they could have planned over the Nook Simple Touch already given how well it stacks up against the competition (I would argue that if you ignore the differences in integrated stores it is noticeably superior to any of the latest Kindles), but could be an effort to either reduce prices or spring something entirely new on the market. Either way, for the most part these rumors are tied up in claims regarding the Waterstones partnership and should both come to fruition they will likely appear on a similar timeline.
Possibly not the best time in the world to be the company that runs the Nook line, given how heavily Amazon is investing in making the Kindle Fire and Kindle eReaders successful. They’ve done a great job of stepping up to the plate and providing good products despite this, however, and offering superior hardware for the money is always going to serve to draw the attention.
The competition in the 7″ Tablet market was obviously thrown into disarray by the arrival of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet devices. Even if you completely set aside the service being offered in conjunction by either company, any moderately powerful Android Tablet in the $200-250 range is attractive. Just look at how well the Nook Color did, even locked down with ridiculously few apps and a marketing campaign focused on reading. What’s also rather clear, however, is that with the Kindle Fire getting the majority of the attention pre-launch, B&N needed to make an impression on potential customers. They may have overdone it a bit.
The most obvious disappointment for Nook Tablet early adopters was the storage space. One of the biggest draws in this case was the fact that they included twice the Kindle Fire’s storage space. This is especially important given the huge emphasis on video viewing that’s been happening lately. The Nook certainly offers more natively supported formats, so 12GB of available space to side load your library onto is great on paper. As we’ve learned since then though, that’s not going to be happening. Barnes & Noble decided that Nook Tablet owners would probably be needing to have around 11GB of that space blocked to outside content. That’s less than 10% of what was promised, which means that the only people likely to ever get the most out of their new Nooks in this regard are the ones who root them.
Also related to the video viewing qualifications of the device is the quality problem. Probably to set themselves apart from the Kindle Fire yet again, B&N advertised the new Nook as “The best in HD entertainment”, among a number of other similar claims. Now, obviously this could not be the case. Anybody who gave it a decent amount of thought already knew that, given the resolution of the screen if nothing else. This sort of language has since been dropped from the Nook Tablet product page.
The official response was that what they “really” meant for customers to understand was that they pull a higher quality video feed from Netflix than the competition and the message just got lost in translation somewhere. Where the Kindle Fire pulls the standard definition stream and fits it to the tablet, the Nook Tablet grabs the HD and downgrades it. This does, admittedly, result in a better picture for those with the network reliability to support it and would have made sense to advertise. Instead, they opted for what seems to have been deliberate misinformation.
It’s taken a bit of time, but corrections are being made to the advertising. I think it’s important to make note of these early efforts to drum up preorders, though. While the Nook Tablet is definitely a good product for the money, there’s something a bit off about this approach to selling it. There is a big difference between fixing launch bugs and having to significantly modify your product descriptions to avoid deceiving customers.
The much awaited Barnes & Noble announcement on March 24th has taken place and provided the marketplace with a new Nook eReader that is far better suited to compete with the Amazon Kindle than the Nook Color has so far managed. It seems like a long overdue and very welcome update to the increasingly dated original Nook offering. Due to ship before Father’s Day, specifically by June 10th if the B&N website is to be believed, we should have some more hands-on information in the near future. For now, looking at the feature list, there’s some reason to be excited about it. The feature list is almost point for point a comparison against the Kindle. Here’s what they’ve got for us:
E Ink Pearl Touch Screen
This one was a bit obvious, but finally the Nook gets a better screen. Even if B&N had done nothing besides throw the Pearl screens into the existing first-generation Nook, it’s a no-brainer. Still, glad to have it. While I’m somewhat skeptical of the usefulness of a touch screen, it’s likely to be more user-friendly than the one on the old Nook and we have to hope the implementation is smoother than the Sony equivalent. I have little doubt that it will be.
2 Month Battery Life
You say the Kindle is good for a month of reading without recharging? Then of course the Nook must be good for two! In all seriousness, do we really need to worry about how long the charge will hold once we’re over a month? My only complaint on this point is that it is misleading. In truth, all they’ve done is give us a battery with the same life as the Kindle and measured the expected battery life with an assumed 30mins of reading per day instead of the previously assumed 60mins. In response, Amazon has changed the info on the Kindle page to match. No, they didn’t change any hardware, just the metric.
Newer, Lighter, Smaller Form
One of the biggest complaints about the old Nook was the size and weight. Now, it’s shorter, lighter, and even has a dark frame to make the screen stand out more. All good news! The Nook is now around an ounce lighter, an inch shorter, and only a little over 30% thicker than the Kindle. It will be far more comfortable to read on for extended periods than the original Nook ever was.
Who Comes Out Ahead?
Well, Amazon still has a couple things going for them. More internal memory is nice, though of course the Nook still allows use of an SD card so the point is moot. There’s no 3G version of the new Nook, so that’s still a plus for the Kindle. For some reason B&N seems to have gotten rid of the web browser, so that’s something to take into account. No matter how either side tries to play things up at this point, though, it seems that we’ve got something of a tie. Unless you have very specific needs, the two are fairly even. While I would have loved to see some sort of innovation from the new Nook, at least they’re back in the game and you can’t find much wrong with the product they’re presenting us with.
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.
It seems that in one day we not only get a drop in price for the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook, one of the front runners in the eReader device marketplace, but an immediate reaction and one-upping from Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN).
As already reported, the nook has undergone a steep drop in price from $259 to $199, as well as welcoming a new member to the product family: A WiFi only model at a mere $149. In response, Amazon has cut the price of their ever-popular Kindle from $259 to $189 in what can only be seen as a direct and hostile response to B&N’s move.
One of the main sources for concern lately among critics has been the pricing of these devices. While always a reasonable investment for the avid reader, some have had trouble justifying the expense of the more popular and full-featured of the eReaders such as the Kindle and nook. This is quickly becoming a non-issue. The Kobo made its splash by setting an amazing new low price for the market and mere months later we have one product with a more robust support list and feature set being offered at the same $149 price, and the most popular and well-supported eBook reading device on the market today for just $40 more. There is simply no excuse anymore not to own one. Amazon and B&N are in a price war and the only one winning is the reader.
It appears that not only were the rumors from a few months ago about a WiFi only version of the popular Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook true, but that the price wars have had an effect. The new nook comes to us at a mere $149, which, as far as I know, makes it the first eReader at that price to have wireless connectivity. The exclusion of the 3G coverage changes very little about the device beyond making it half an ounce lighter and being signified by a back cover in white instead of gray.
At the same time as this release, we see a drop in the price of the full-featured nook model to just $199. Considering B&N has managed to provide a good deal of competition for the market leading Kindle even when they shared a price point, these options could well give them a short-term edge until Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) manages to get out the thinner, wirelessly compatible model being talked about for this fall.
On top of the new release and price cut, current owners of the nook eReader will be pleased to note the v1.4 software upgrade released today. Most importantly, for travelers wanting to go for the new nook model, it adds free and seamless connectivity to all ATT(NYSE:T) hotspots around the country. The included additional large font size is likely a useful option for many as well. Finally, and my favorite feature of the list, 1.4 adds in a “go to page” feature, which allows for better and more precise navigation of eBooks. This is especially important when reading a poorly constructed eBook across two devices since the B&N software does not track what page you last read back to your nook, nor do many free books have working chapter bookmarks.
All this makes August even more vital for Amazon. It’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with to jump to the front again.
This Thursday, perhaps a little behind the crowd but better late than never, Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) put out their very own eBook Reader application optimized for the iPad. The impact has the potential to be greater than one might expect at first glance, especially given the unexpected success the chain has had in marketing their nook eReader device against the more established Kindle.
The big selling point, from my point of view, is the extensive customization of the reading experience available to the user. There are several premade themes for you to choose from, including fairly ideal settings for nighttime reading. You can also make your own reusable themes by adjusting font size(10 available), font style(5 available), background and foreground colors, margin sizes, text justifications, and link coloring. Dictionary integration isalso mentioned, which is fairly useful sounding. The LendMe feature that B&N is becoming known for is intact in this reading application and users will be able to lend books directly from the iPad. Page turning should be intuitive for most users, with simply a tap or swipe doing the job. In general, all the features we’ve come to expect and desire out of software like this and a few nice little additions.
While I would ideally like to see integration with the nook device, at least to the point of syncing up the last-read page in a given book, that’s still not to be found so far. You do, however get integration with the PC app that will allow notes and progress to be saved between devices. Overall, I’d say it’s a great offering and worth checking out if you happen to have an iPad that you like to read on.
After years of Amazon’s dominance in the self-publishing ebook marketplace, Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has decided to enter the scene. Eligible independent publishers and self-publishing authors will be able to add their content directly into the BN.com and Barnes & Noble eBook Store Catalogs, giving them immediate exposure to one of the largest electronic book marketplaces on the net with all the perks already built in. Books published through this PubIt! system, as it is called, will be accorded the usual digital rights management one would expect out of Barnes & Noble, an industry standard ePub format for distribution, and a presence accessible through any of B&N’s many platforms including the nook eReader and their many computer-based software and cellular downloads. While there has not, as of yet, been any discussion of what the royalty model will be for these publishers and authors, there have been assurances that it will be competitive and simple to use and understand.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a groundbreaking new technology or idea. It does, however, bring Barnes & Noble in line with Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) as they attempt attempt to secure their place alongside or even ahead of the Kindle and its ever-growing pressence in the ebook market. Sure Amazon got there first, but who will make it most worth their authors’ while as time goes on? More options have to be good for the lesser known names out there.
In March 2010, the Nook surpassed the Kindle in sales. So much for all of that hype around the iPad being such a fierce competitor for the Kindle. The Nook is Barnes and Noble’s e-reader that includes a selection of over a million titles from Barnes and Noble, as well as books from outside resources such as Google Books. It was launched at the end of November, 2009 with fantastic sales. Such early competition from the Nook is surprising considering that the initial release was flawed. Shipments were delayed and the reviews at the launch were mixed. There were reports of viruses in the e-book downloads.
Apparently, the kinks from the initial launch have largely been ironed out. According to an article from Digital Trends, out of the 1.43 million e-book readers shipped, 53% were Nooks. This is good news for both the Nook and Kindle, because it means that the e-book reader market is really taking off on a global scale. The Kindle still holds its status as the veteran of the e-book reader market. E-book reader sales are projected to quadruple from 2009 to 2010, from 3 million to 11 million. Threatened by competition from the Nook and the iPad will hopefully push Amazon to make changes suggested by users and experts to the Kindle, such as price cuts and faster screen reaction times.
A big question is whether the Kindle, Nook and iPad will target different sections of the market or whether they will all be vying for the same group of people in the long run. Either way, competition is heating up and the makers of e-book readers will be on their toes.
One of the things that B&N has been advertising since the nook first debuted is an enhanced in-store experience. With the recently released 1.3 patch, they’ve really delivered. Here’s how it works:
- Take your nook to any B&N store and get access to the store’s hotspot.
- Open up the nook’s store browser and find a book you’re interested in.
- Select your book and choose the “Read in Store” option from the menu.
It’s ridiculously simple and works for every last book in their ebook catalog. You get an hour per book per 24-hour period, so you’re not likely to see your way through to the end of a book in a single sitting, but there seems to be no daily limit on number of books per day or number of days per book.
I don’t claim to understand the business model, but it’s certainly fun. I anticipate many a lunch break around the country being spent in the local Barnes & Noble cafe. Whether you’re reading a bit at a time or previewing that new release you were on the fence about, you can’t really go wrong. It ties the nook device into the physical store better than anything else I could think of. I would really love to see something like this coming from the Kindle, honestly. It’s a neat feature that’ll give the nook a huge advantage should it catch on.