Today Barnes and Noble announced the successor to its Nook Color: the Nook Tablet. The specifications of the new dedicated e-reader are both over and underwhelming. The device boats a faster processor and more RAM than an iPad 2, it is Netflix and Hulu ready, but early reviews of the device claim it is slower than both the iPad 2 and the Kindle Fire, its newest and most immediate competitor. The Nook Tablet is set to be released on November 17th.
Barnes and Noble made a strong entry into the e-reader market back in November of 2009, with its e-ink/LCD screen e-reader simply titled the Nook. Back then, its most immediate competition was the seasoned Amazon Kindle, which also used an e-ink screen. The companies have been neck and neck at the edge of the e-reader battle, releasing new versions of their e-readers on a regular and predictable time-table, until last year when Barnes and Noble released the Nook Color, a $250 LCD e-reader, which was half tablet and half e-reader.
Nook Color users (like myself (full disclosure: I worked for Barnes and Noble for three years as a bookseller, starting in 2001)) found little else to do with the Nook Color other than read, despite its competent web browser, until Barnes and Noble released an upgrade to the Nook Color’s Android -based operating system. This update introduced more advanced features to the Nook Color like email applications, Evernote, and Graphic.ly, a comic book application. At $250 the Nook Color was a reasonably-priced tablet, with limited function, and was a good alternative for those who didn’t want to drop $500 on an iPad, or didn’t need the greater function of the iPad. Amazon did not have a direct competitor for the Nook Color until this fall when it announced the Kindle Fire, which has heated the e-reader battle, considerably.
So the announcement of the Nook Tablet is in no way surprising. Amazon predictably raised the e-reader/tablet bar, and Barnes and Noble was ready with a serious response. Though the initial reaction to the Nook Tablet is underwhelming, Barnes and Noble has a couple of weeks to refine some performance issues. If those issues aren’t resolved, Barnes and Noble is also capable of fixing issues down the line, as, today, the company also announced a free upgrade to its Nook Simple Touch e-reader (a touch-screen e-ink reader) which is supposed to increase page-turns by 25% and extend battery life.
If someone would like to buy these two devices for me, I will gladly give them a side by side comparison. 😉