Barnes & Noble’s first e-reader was the original E Ink version of the Nook, which had its virtues but lagged far behind Amazon.com’s Kindle in terms of overall polish. Then the company released the Nook Color, which went off in an un-Kindle-ish direction: color, richly-formatted magazines, and Android apps.
Today, B&N announced another new Nook–and this one, it appears, is meant to take the Kindle on more squarely than either of its predecessors.It’s $139 (matching the price of the Wi-Fi Kindle, but not the ad-supported one). It looks like a Kindle, with a gray case and 6″ E Ink screen (and no color touchscreen strip, the most striking feature of the original Nook). It stresses great battery life–in fact, Barnes & Noble is claiming two months on a charge, vs. one month for the Kindle.
Unlike the Kindle, the new Nook has a touch-enabled screen, which lets it shrink the size of the keyboard by ditching the Kindle’s physical keyboard. B&N says it weighs under 8 ounces, compared to 8.5 ounces for the Kindle. And the company says that the E Ink display has 80 percent smoother page turns and less of the annoying flashing effect when you flip a page compared to “other eReaders”–which, I suspect, includes the Kindle.
The new Nook has some of the features of its pricier color brother, including the Nook Friends social-networking and book-sharing tools. But it doesn’t appear to have an app store (and it runs Android 2.1, an old version of the OS–Android is presumably just plumbing on this reader, not a point in its favor).
Barnes & Noble is calling this Nook “The Simple Touch Reader,” which stresses one Kindle-like feature (simplicity) and one potential advantage over the Kindle (touch). Until now, the biggest single advantage the Kindle has had over the Nooks has been that simplicity–the degree to which the device, in Jeff Bezos’s words, disappears in your hands. Matching it will be no cakewalk–as evidenced by the earlier Nooks and all the other non-Amazon e-readers that aren’t as pleasingly minimalist–so I’m really curious to try the new Nook and see how B&N did.
The reader ships on June 10th, and is available for preorder now.