Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Barnes & Noble’s “Nook” ereader

October 20, 2009 by Robin Parrish  
Filed under Electronics

Has the first real challenger to Kindle’s throne arrived at last? Sure looks that way, ’cause this baby is loaded with all sorts of advanced functions that Kindle can’t touch — and at the same $259 pricetag.

Barnes & Noble picked up Amazon’s gauntlet today with the revelation of its own ereader device, dubbed the “Nook.” B&N’s device measures 7.7″ x 4.9″ x .5″, and weighs 11.2 ounces (smaller than Kindle, but an ounce more), the Nook’s snazziest feature is its two screens: one e-ink for book reading, the other a color touchscreen for all your navigation needs, including a virtual keyboard. The only physical buttons on the device are page-turning clickers on either side of the e-ink screen. Everything else is handled with the touchscreen.

There’s 2GB of built-in storage with a microSD expansion slot; the primary storage holds up to 1,500 ebooks, while a 16GB SD card will hold up to 17,500 ebooks. I can’t imagine anyone who would own that many books, but it’s an impressive number. The Nook plays MP3 files and reads EPUB and PDF standard documents. You can highlight and bookmark any text, and one of the nicest little extras is the ability to customize your wallpaper and screensaver with your own photos. One of the most talked-about features is “LendMe,” which lets a friend with a Nook, PC, or smartphone borrow ebooks from your Nook for up to 14 days.

As expected, the Nook runs on Google’s Android mobile OS, with a replaceable battery that lasts up to 10 days on a single charge. Like the Kindle, the Nook uses a 3G network to give you access to B&N’s ebook library, but it also has built-in WiFi — a handy feature that B&N plans to put to good use at its brick-and-mortar stores. When you take your Nook into your local Barnes & Noble, you can utilize the building’s free wireless connectivity to download exclusives to your Nook, as well as read entire books for free. This last bit shows how much B&N thought through its ereader’s functions; stores are known for being friendly to patrons who want to sit in comfy chairs and read any book off of store shelves for hours on end, and I like that the Nook is built with this same company policy in mind.

Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble has its own library of ebooks already available, though B&N’s longtime foothold in the publishing industry gives it a distinct edge here, with more than 1 million ebooks already available to buy, today. Magazines and newspapers are also available to purchase or subscribe to. B&N is wisely planning to utilize its retail stores well when it comes to Nook sales, outfitting every store with Nooks so that patrons can enjoy hands-on time with the device before they buy.

Barnes & Noble is taking pre-orders for the Nook now at nook.com, with units expected to ship November 30th. The first 10,000 customers to pre-order will receive a free ebook copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

Images: Barnes & Noble.

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