Barnes & Noble took a big swipe at Amazon’s dominance of thee-reader market with the introduction Wednesday of a new color Nookreader and a program to encourage development of apps for its devices.
The US$249 Nookcolor is designed to appeal to readers interested inperiodicals and graphic books as well as traditional text-dominatedbooks, and it could boost the book retailer past prime competitorAmazon in the race to capture customers in the growing e-readerand tablet market, said Michael Norris, senior analyst for Simba Information.
“The Nook has really eaten into Amazon’s perceived lead,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The WiFi-only Nookcolor features a backlit 7-inch, 1,024 by 600 displaywith a resolution of 169 pixels per inch. It’s built on IPS LCDtechnology, similar to that in Apple’s iPad.
The device weighs in at 15.8 ounces in a 8.1 inch tall by 5 inch widebody that’s less than a half inch thick. It ships with 8 GB ofinternal memory, enough for up to 6,000 books, Barnes & Noble said. Itcan be upgraded up to 32 GB with a microSD card.
It includes an audio player for music or audio books and can also play MP4 videos,with a 100-hour limit on audio files.
The Nookcolor also includes a Web browser and social networking supportfor lending books to other Nook owners and for sharing readingexperiences on social networking sites.
It’s currently available for pre-order for $249, a $100 premium on theoriginal grayscale Nook, but less than half the price of competingtablets such as the iPad or Galaxy Tab.
The device will have access to a specialty app store to be driven by anew developer program, also announced Wednesday.
The marketplace will provide developers with the tools necessary tobuild on e-books in a variety of ways, including enhanced content,applications built on interests of readers as well as word games. TheNookcolor will ship with some such applications, including a crosswordapp, Sudoku, chess and Pandora Internet radio.
Barnes & Noble said it will release tools in the coming weeks, anddevelopers will be allowed to submit apps beginning in early 2011.
Children’s’ Books Targeted
The company is also targeting parents with a program to developinteractive children’s storybook titles, also announced Wednesday.
“Children’s books are going to be a good market mover for Barnes &Noble, simply because they will intercept the parent shopping forchildren’s books on their website or in their stores and they’ll offerthem a path that leads straight to Nookcolor,” James McQuivey, vicepresident and principal analyst with Forrester Research, toldTechNewsWorld.
Advantage Barnes & Noble?
Although the new device has some downsides — notably battery lifethat’s rated at 8 hours, compared to weeks for grayscale e-Ink devices– the broad functionality and low price point of the Nookcolor shouldmake it an attractive package to consumers, McQuivey said.
“Barnes & Noble knows that they won’t dissuade Apple fans from gettingan iPad, but for the host of people who learn about the iPad but findthemselves turned off by the high price, the Nookcolor offers itselfas a way to be part of the future at half the price,” he said. “OnceBarnes & Noble can show that it has enough developers willing to porttheir apps from the Android Market to their modified Android platform,I think this device has the chance to attract a lot of latecomers tothe tablet market.”
Amazon in the Crosshairs?
A primary question now is whether Amazon will respond with a colordevice of their own.
In June, Amazon cut the price of its Kindle reader to betterposition it against the Nook, and it’s unlikely the Internet retailerwill wait long to respond with a color reader of its own, even thoughAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos said as recently as 2009 that color reader isyears off.