Barnes & Noble announces Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, its first eReader with a lit screen

Summary:Beating out Amazon, Barnes & Noble is introducing its first eReader with a lit screen.

The future of the Nook Simple Touch is here, and it's, well, bright.

Barnes & Noble announced today the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, its latest eReader and the first to feature its unique GlowLight technology.

See alsoBarnes & Noble pushing e-reader market forward with new Nook

The idea behind the device is pretty simple: Barnes & Noble has essentially taken the central features of the tablet and the eReader and combined them. The result is light, highly portable device that can be used just as easily in the bright outdoors as it can in a darkened bedroom.

"We're really glad to be first with anything, so we're excited about this,"  Nook User Experience and Design VP Michelle Warvel told me on Thursday.

That excitement is justified, seeing has how Barnes & Noble has pretty swiftly beaten Amazon and the Kindle to the next, most obvious step in eReader development. And at a time when eReaders are starting to blend in to one, homogenous E Ink whole, that's a big deal.

Here's how it works. Unlike with a typical backlit LCD device, the Nook's GlowLight technology works via a string of LED lights along the top of its screen. These LEDs emit a soft light that's distributed evenly across the screen, which sounds like a simple tweak but is actually a deeply complex and multifaceted feat of engineering that B&N engineers have been working at for over a year.

And it works pretty well. GlowLight can can be turned on and off via a long press of the device's Nook button, which is a much, um, brighter solution than introducing a separate button to do the job. The light itself is much less harsh than that of an LCD screen.

And battery life?  Barnes & Noble pegs that at a over month with GlowLight on and Wi-Fi off. That, while notably less than the estimated two-month battery life on the current Nook Simple Touch, is still pretty good when compared to the 8-hour span of most backlit tablets.

Also notable is that, at 7 ounces, the newest Nook is somehow lighter than its predecessor, a feat that B&N engineers chalk up to "some exotic materials", not to mention obvious engineering prowess.

In short, it's B&N has managed to solve a fundamental and pervasive problem while somehow managing not to alter too much of what makes the Nook such a viable product.

The company says the the device will sell for $139 when it launches in early May. At that price tag, the device is $40 more expensive than the current Nook Simple Touch, not to mention the ad-free Kindle Touch.

(Correction: In an earlier version of this article, I quoted Nook User Experience and Design VP Michelle Warvel as saying: "We rarely get to be first with anything, so we're excited about this."  It's clear from context and research that that I actually misheard this bit.)

Topics: Tablets, Amazon, Hardware

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Ricardo Bilton writes for ZDNet's The ToyBox.

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