Another look at the Nook

As expected, Barnes & Noble announced the Nook e-reader yesterday. Most of the rumors were accurate; the glaring exception being release date. Although Barnes & Noble is taking pre-orders now, the Nook won't ship until late November. Some rumors had it appearing in-stores this Thursday.

The Nook has a 6" e-ink screen stacked above a 3.5" color LCD touchscreen used as a menu/navigation system (the LCD goes dark when you're not actively using it, so don't worry about it being distracting). It has 2 GB of onboard memory plus a Micro SD slot. In addition to displaying reading material (EPUB or PDF), it'll play MP3s, so the expansion slot is a welcome addition. The Nook is running on Android but there's no support for Android apps yet. 3G wireless is via AT&T, and as of now the on-board Wi-Fi only works in Barnes & Noble stores. There's no web browser, which I find curious. I expected the smaller LCD screen would have a browser for quick look-ups while reading (say you came across a term you were unfamiliar with; it'd be nice to be able to pop over to Wikipedia from the same device you're reading on). There's a micro USB port for connecting to your computer in case you need to transfer files the old fashioned way. Battery life is 10 days vs the 14 days of the Kindle, which some bloggers seem to think is a big deal; 10 days seems fine to me.

Barnes & Noble is playing up their Lending feature, which they should be doing. But they're not making as much noise about the fact that it is up to book publishers to decide whether a particular volume can be loaned or not. Titles in B&N's e-book store will be marked to indicate if they're loanable. On the plus side, you can loan a book to anyone running the B&N e-book software on a computer, iPhone or Blackberry; it isn't only Nook-to-Nook.

At the launch event, it sounds like attendees weren't given a hands-on opportunity with the device. In a few of the videos floating around it seems like response times were pretty slow, but hopefully that's a prototype issue (or perhaps even a photo-op issue – it's hard to say exactly when the button is pressed) that'll be addressed in production units. Although you can pre-order the Nook now, the beauty of this being a Barnes & Noble device is that you can wait to go into a store and pick it up and play with it before throwing down your cash. That alone is a huge benefit over the Kindle, in my opinion.

With the Nook priced the same as the Kindle, and available in a brick & mortar store, will Amazon cut the Kindle price again? I took a very unscientific poll among friends that tells me $199 seems to be the sweet spot for buying an e-reader for a lot of them. And what is Sony going to do with its upcoming Reader Daily Edition? Last we heard, it was going to launch in December at $400, which is sounding preposterous when compared to these other devices.

Here's a video from Engadget. You can see the possible response issue about 20 seconds in:

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