Barnes and Noble announced a new eBook reader today called Nook, and it's already earned a place in our hearts (as well as our wish list). On the outside: a curvy industrial design that would make Apple engineers proud. On the inside: an ARM processor powered by the Android operating system. It's available now for pre-order with shipments expected to start as early as next week in late November.
The first thing you'll notice about the Nook is that it has two screens. The top screen is for reading, and like a regular book it's high-contrast black and white (eInk). The bottom one is for navigation, typing, and other interactivity. It's a standard back-lit LCD touch-sensitive display. Overall, the Nook is about the size and weight of a paperback book.
The Nook lets you use two different wireless networks for free: AT&T 3G Wireless (like Kindle's WhisperNet), and WiFi. You can browse books, magazines, and newspapers using either network. When you're inside a B&N store, you get free WiFi plus exclusive content, special discounts, and more. Soon you'll be able to read entire eBooks for free at your local store.
Another innovation in the Nook is the ability to lend books to your friends for up to 14 days. They don't even have to have a Nook, just the free B&N eReader software installed on a PC, Mac, or mobile phone.
After the break we'll get into the technical specifications and other details...
- 6" E ink Vizplex electronic paper display
- 3.5" color capacitive touchscreen LCD for navigation, virtual keyboard
- Free wireless from Barnes & Noble via AT&T (3G)
- Wi-Fi ( 802.11 b/g)
- Removable battery
- Removable back cover with 4 additional colors
- Personalized screen saver using your own photos
- Multiple font sizes
- Android 1.5
- 2GB memory built-in (about 1,500 eBooks)
- MicroSD slot expandable to 32GB (35,000 eBooks)
- MP3 music player
- 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (mono speaker built-in)
- Micro USB connector (for charging and transfers)
- Size: 7.7 inches x 4.9 inches x 0.5 inches
- Weight: 11.2 ounces (317 grams)
Nook supports the standard EPUB format as well as eReader (PDB) and PDF. It uses MP3 for music and audiobook files, and JPEG, GIF, PNG, or BMP for photos.
Thank to the eInk screen (which takes no power at all when you're just reading it), B&N says the Nook's battery will last up to 10 days with wireless off. It has a rechargeable battery, which can be swapped out with a $29.95 replacement using a Philips-head screwdriver. Charging time is 3.5 hours from a wall outlet. You can also plug it into your computer's USB port and charge it that way if you like.
A wide variety of covers, backs, and frames are available for the Nook. These include Designer covers from kate spade new york, Jack Spade, and Jonathan Adler. Other accessories include:
- The "nook light", a battery powered clip-on light to illuminate the screen when reading at night.
- A replaceable rechargeable battery.
- Anti-glare Nook Matt Film Kit, covers both the eInk and LCD screens.
- Extra AC Adapter and USB cable kit.
- A Lyra book light cover, that is basically a case with an articulated light-arm that comes in from the left.
- Various sizes of microSD and microSDHC cards.
The Kindle has been on the market for over a year, and so have a number of Sony eReaders. To overcome that head start, B&N had to release something that was unique, something that blows away the competition, and something at a mainstream price point. I believe they've accomplished the first two goals quite nicely. The Nook is unlike anything else in the market today.
On the third goal, price, they decided to stay on par with the Kindle ($259). That puts them slightly higher than the lowest priced Sony models, and slightly lower than the (expected) price of their high-end touch-screen model. With two screens, this unit looks expensive to make, especially compared to the Kindle and its little chicklet keyboard.
Given the Nook's feature set, the Kindle is looking overpriced at this point. Amazon will need to lower their price to around $199 to remain competitive. Unfortunately for them, they just lowered the price because of the International version of the Kindle. So it's unlikely they'll lower it again until next year. That gives B&N a great opening to make up for lost time.
I'm very excited to see Android on the Nook. In a news conference, B&N left the door open to the possibility of Nook development using the Android platform. The screen sizes and controls are definitely non-standard, so I don't expect to see the Android Market and its 10,000 Android apps appearing on here any time soon. But, you know that Android modders are just itching to get their hands on this little gem and will make it dance and sing no matter what the company plans. B&N would be smart to follow the Lego Mindstorms route and welcome developers to their platform with open arms.