Barnes & Noble announces NOOKcolor e-reader

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As expected, Barnes & Noble rolled out the NOOKcolor today. Gone is the odd dual-screen design that caused such friction with the makers of the Spring Design Alex (whatever happened to the Alex, anyway?) and instead we have a much more traditional tablet form-factor. The 7" LG "Vivid View" screen features 16 million colors and a lamination layer that is supposed to minimize glare and maximize readability. They claim you can use it outdoors. The resolution is typical for a 7" screen: 1024x600 (at 169 pixels per inch). It weighs 15.8 ounces. WiFi only, no 3G option.

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B&N says the device will launch with 100 newspapers and magazines available in full color. A "Daily Shelf" section of the screen lets you see what new issues/content are available at a glance. Also the Nook Kids titles that I mentioned this morning will be available, along with a "Read to Me" option. Of course all the boring old monochrome e-books that you read on the original Nook will work here too.

Other new features include NOOKfriends, a way to share passages and recommend books via Twitter or Facebook and NOOKbook (I'm already sick of this naming convention, how about you?) Personal Shopping (a recommendation engine). They promise a very customizable experience: make the home page your own, tweak fonts, line spacing, margins and so on. Presumably more so than with other e-readers.

NOOKextras are apps such as Sudoku, Chess or Pandora, and B&N is launching a Nook Developer initiative to get Android app developers interesting in building apps for the NOOKcolor (and to a lesser extent, the original Nook).

The NOOKcolor (and it sounds like this will be sold alongside the original Nook) will be available on November 19th for $249.

OK, enough of the official word, what do we really have here? An Android tablet designed for e-reading. It'll surf the web but doesn't have Flash or access to the Android Market (but it'll have its own market, of sorts). It'll play music and video. It's a lot heavier than a Kindle but a lot lighter than an iPad.

Maybe I'm just caught up in the moment but it feels to me like B&N might have found a niche here. While Apple has been frustrating magzine publishers who're trying to offer subscription based content on the iPad, B&N has clearly been working with these same publishers. I know plenty of people who feel the iPad is a little heavy for long-term reading. Shaving 30% of that weight could be significant for these people. Once again we're looking at a 7" screen which might feel a little cramped for magazine reading; I'll reserve judgement until I have hands-on experience. Assuming that isn't an issue, this could be the perfect e-reader for people who spend more time reading papers and magazines than books. And of course, for parents who want to encourage their kids to read.

The $249 price tag still feels a little high. I would've been happier had they managed $199. On the other hand, $249 looks pretty good next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab at $500.

So what do you think? Is this interesting to you?

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