Barnes & Noble gets back to basics with Nook GlowLight

Barnes & Noble gets back to basics with Nook GlowLight

Summary: "We’re going to the core of what we are — the reading experience — rather than just sell a tablet," says the COO of Nook Media.


SAN FRANCISCO---Barnes & Noble has gone back to its roots — and arguably the strongest spot of its hardware business — with the new Nook GlowLight e-reader.

The Nook business has undergone a long period of upheaval, to say the least, in the face of a digital media market shifting heavily in favor of e-commerce rival Amazon as well as Google and Apple. 

As things stand now, the tablet and e-reader brand has been split off as Nook Media. The majority of the department is owned by Barnes & Noble with Microsoft and Pearson signed on as investors.

Mahesh Veerina, who recently joined B&N in the last month as chief operating officer of Nook Media, acknowledged that there has also been a lot of misinterpretation about about the future of B&N’s hardware business. But he clarified that all of the user experience and industrial design continues to be done in-house. 

"We’re here to stay and continue to do these products,” Veerina explained. "We’re going to the core of what we are — the reading experience — rather than just sell a tablet."

"Everything we do going forward is going to be very reading-centric,” added Claudia Romanini Backus, vice president of product marketing for the Nook team. 

Backus who came over to Barnes & Noble from Motorola, listed some of the “basic pillars” that go into developing the Nook based upon customer feedback: readability (meaning the text needs to feel "paper-like"), a glare-less screen, and a long battery life.

Those pillars form the foundation of the latest iteration of the flagship electronic ink model, the Nook GlowLight, touted by B&N reps to be completely redesigned from the outside-in. 

"We’re here to stay and continue to do these products,” Veerina explained. "We’re going to the core of what we are — the reading experience — rather than just sell a tablet."

Barnes & Noble touted plenty of modifications to the user interface as well as the display quality with the usual upgrade with each generation to reduce the amount of flashing between pages.

But the most evident improvements start with the beauty on the outside. The Nook GlowLight is outfitted in an ergonomic, contoured, soft-touch “warm white" exterior with a new silicone trim intended to be comfortable in the palm of the reader’s hand.

At 175 grams (or 6.2 ounces), the Nook GlowLight is 15 percent lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite. During a demonstration last Friday, it became clear that this fine difference is not negligible, deserving the description “light as a feather” more than any other e-reader before it.

Having the word “GlowLight” in the title also warrants higher expectations among consumers. Barnes & Noble has gone back to the drawing board with the build-in lighting, spreading the glow more evenly across the entire page with the same amount of light across the display. Brightness can be controlled in the Settings menu with touch control, offering the potential to read content in virtually any lighting condition.

B&N has also doubled the amount of onboard storage space to 4GB total, meaning the GlowLight can hold up to 2,000 books in its local digital library.

On the interior, Barnes & Noble is also making a data-driven play to generate more content sales for its online bookstore through a custom-build engine. The system matches customer search and purchasing history with B&N’s own metadata-at-large across the company to produce what it hopes will be more relevant, personalized suggestions. 

Backus reiterated that B&N’s strategy is to concentrate on the reading experience over the hardware compared to competitors, which she wouldn’t name, arguing that there’s still a large demographic of consumers that are hesitant in moving from physical to digital content.

Veerina maintained an optimistic outlook for Barnes & Noble, asserting there’s “still a lot of work” in expanding in this particular market by connecting the dots between the device and social fronts. He also pointed out that B&N has "barely scratched the surface internationally” as well.

Nevertheless, the Nook GlowLight is only being launched domestically for the time being, available immediately in stores nationwide and online for for $119. As an extra incentive to build a more loyal fan base, a 10 percent discount will be available for Barnes & Noble book club members.

Topics: Mobility, Android, E-Commerce, Hardware, Tablets

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  • Bogus picture.

    Notice how the brightness in the Nook has been cranked to the max while the paperwhite looks dim by comparison? I own both models of the paperwhite and it can be made much brighter than what is shown. It is NOT how bright it can get but how well the contrast works. Not a mention in the story about which type of e-ink it uses, how fast the pages refresh, or what type of book files it supports (mobi? epub?). No thanks, the nook has failed TWICE already in the marketplace, I expect no better this time around. "ME TOO" is not a good marketing strategy. Buy a Paperwhite 2.
    • Re: Bogus picture

      Two features that differentiated the Nooks from the Kindles were the SD card slots and the page turn buttons. This Nook has neither. I agree with you, there is little reason to choose this reader over a Kindle Paperwhite.
      • Re: Bogus picture.

        I don't understand what is "ME TOO" about the nook or how they have failed twice. Several features, including the backlight were launched on the nook first. Until Kindle supports the epub format, I'll continue to stick with my nook. With the Kindle, I would be locked into only buying books from Amazon. With the nook, I can buy books from B&N, Sony, Google, Kobo,, booksamillion, etc. etc., check out ebooks from the libraries in my city and all neighboring cities (none of them have Kindle support around me), and even get free epubs direct from certain publishers like Tor. IMO, support for an open file format trumps any of the minor hardware differences the nook may have.
        • Re: Bogus Picture

          Actually, you aren't locked in to Amazon's store. You can use unDRMed Mobi books from anywhere. Baen, Smashwords, Project Gutenberg...there are loads of sources. On the other hand, B&N doesn't exactly make it easy for you to use other ebook sources. Of the 2.5 GB usable on the new Nook, they only allow you 512 MB (roughly 20%) of the space for sideloaded books. The rest is locked to their store.
        • Agree!

          In addition to the format thing, I will continue to support the Nook to protest Amazon's so-called"predatory" pricing policy. I really enjoy browsing (and supporting) real live bookstores like Barnes & Noble, and will do what I can to help keep them around. I use the previous version of the Nook w/GlowLight to read myself to sleep almost every night. :)
  • Still waiting for color eInk

    This was supposed to be the tech that marries the best of the reading experience with color in a way that only PDF's can, but none of the three eReader makers (Amazon, Nook, and Kobo) have used their "technology". If Nook wants to be relevant going forward, they need to support the Kindle format as well as .epub and .pdf.
    • formats

      The Nook does support epub and pdf.
  • At last, sane people!

    Good to see B&N understood they need to focus on what they do and understand best, not do "me too" products like an Android tablet.

    There is still plenty of technology in the e-book market that has not been commercialized, such as color eInk (there are only few products), flexible eInk displays etc..
  • I own a Nook Glowlight

    I own the original release Glowlight and I couldn't be happier with it. The fact it doesn't read Kindle isn't a problem for me, especially considering Amazon's "1984/Brave New World" fiasco. Amazon has the ability (still!) to simply reach out and erase anything you paid for off your Kindle.

    The irony in that was heavy enough to forever sink my interest in Amazon. They are *BOOK BURNERS*, folks. Given how flash memory works you could say they're literal book burners. (chuckle).

    B&N hasn't yet put a foot wrong like Amazon and Sony have, the hardware is solid, and they have an enormous book inventory (not to mention sites like Gutenburg Press and FanFiction.Net can provide epubs too).

    So yeah. Nook is my choice, not a Kindle (and certainly not a Kobo or whatever Sony's version is called either). They haven't failed yet, and I don't expect they will.
  • B&N says "me too!"

    I recently replaced a Kindle and went with the Kobo Aura. 1 gram lighter than the Nook if the weight is important to you. Same 4Gb internal storage as the Nook Glowlight but allows you to add up to 32GB on an microSD card. Very likely the same eInk supplied screen with it's reduced refresh requirements. A 1GHz processor. Since I do read quite a few comic format files, the Aura's support for CBR/CBZ without having to jump through hoops converting the files was fairly important to me.