Apr 122012

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

B&N today unveiled a new version of their Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight — an e-Ink based e-reader with a built-in reading light. Designed to appeal to readers who read in bed at night (without wanting to disturb a sleeping spouse), the new Nook uses an LED lighting system hidden around the bezel of the screen. As it’s built into the device and runs off the Nook’s internal rechargeable battery, it’s a superior solution to clip-on nightlights and reading lights.

Impressively, the new Nook manages to actually weigh a hair less than the previous Nook Simple Touch, and is still under 7 ounces, which is plenty light enough for easy 1-handed reading. It retains the touchscreen, e-Ink Pearl display, Wi-Fi, and other features of the regular (unlit) Nook Simple Touch, and the light can be turned on or off, for equally easy reading at night or outdoors in bright sunlight. It retails for $139, compared to $99 for the unlit version. It will be available on May 1.

While there have been rumors of Amazon coming out with a similar lighted Kindle version (and Sony had an e-reader with a similar, but not as advanced, built-in lighting system several years ago), kudos to Barnes & Noble for beating them to the punch. This seems to be a superior alternative to Amazon’s case with a built-in reading light (which also charges directly from the Kindle’s internal battery). Of note, the reading light will of course reduce the long battery life for which e-Ink e-readers are famous, but B&N says you can still read for a month for half an hour a day with the light on (compared to two months with the light off).

I haven’t seen one in person yet, but it seems like a great solution for people who like to read in bed while their spouses sleep. Now, if only B&N would cut back on the overblown hyperbole in their press releases and product descriptions. First of all, you don’t have the “World’s #1 Reader,” sorry, guys. And how they manage to pack “first & only,” “perfect,” “breakthrough,” “optimized,” “revolutionary,” “great,” “exclusive,” “Best-Text,” “fastest,” “most advanced,” “lightest,” “unbeatable,” “best of e-Ink,” and “amazing” all into a few lines of marketing copy is impressive. It’s like playing Superlative Bingo. And their press release is even more over the top. Really, B&N, you make a good product, but when you have to tell me 50x per press release how “most advanced” and “industry-leading” and “most stupendously amazing” and “world’s best in the whole world” your own device is, it just sounds like you’re trying too hard.

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Feb 212012

The revamped Nook lineup

Today B&N announced a lower-cost version of its Nook Tablet, the “reader’s tablet” with a 7″ color LCD screen, which I’ve discussed before here. This new version matches Amazon’s Kindle Fire pretty much spec-for-spec and dollar-for-dollar by reducing the price to just $199. It also reduced the memory to match the Kindle Fire, now with 8 GB of internal storage (instead of 16 GB for the $249 Nook Tablet version) and 512 MB of RAM (instead of 1 GB for the $249 version).

A quick re-cap of the specs of both Nook Tablet versions (different specs in italics):

Nook Tablet:

  • $249
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Nook Tablet “Lite”:

  • $199
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 8 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Probably a good move on B&N’s part to match the sub-$200 price of the Kindle Fire competition — I think many people would rather save $50 as a trade-off for the slightly reduced specs.

B&N also still offers the older-generation Nook Color (lowering the price by $30, to $169) and the e-Ink-based Nook Simple Touch (for $99).

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New Nook Tablet from B&N

 Posted by at 6:14 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Nov 072011

B&N's new Nook Tablet, a 7" tablet for $249

Today Barnes & Noble updated its Nook Color “reader’s tablet” with a new version (which I’m calling the “Nook Color 2”) with a faster processor and the same $249 price. B&N, in keeping the tradition of using overly-descriptive but not very helpful names that eschew numerals (like the “Nook Simple Touch” for the Nook Classic 2), is calling it the “Nook Tablet.”

It comes with the same 7″ LCD screen as its predecessor (the original Nook Color). LCD screens are backlit (like those on your computer or cellphone), and aren’t as easy on the eyes or energy-efficient as the e-Ink displays used on the Kindle or Nook Classic e-readers. On the other hand, they do allow for color and video, and the “VividView” laminated, IPS, LCD display of the Nook Color (and Nook Tablet) is said to be quite good.

The new name shows that B&N is positioning the Nook Tablet as more of a tablet than a reading device, as more of a multi-function device that can play videos, browse the Internet, display magazines, offer interactive children’s books, and run a small selection of specially-curated apps (like Angry Birds and some of the popular ones, but not the thousands of apps on the Apple App Store or Android Market). Being a general-purpose tablet (as opposed to a single-purpose reading device like the Nook Classic or Kindle) means it’s competing against Amazon’s new Kindle Fire ($199), as well as Apple’s larger (and more expensive) iPad 2 ($499+).

The new Nook Tablet looks very similar to the original Nook Color; the changes are mostly under the hood. It comes with a faster processor and more RAM: a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 CPU with 1GB of RAM. It sports 16GB of internal storage, plus an SD card slot for expansion.

By contrast, the Kindle Fire comes with a similar dual-core 1GHz processor, but only half the memory: 512MB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Both devices use a 1024 x 600, 7″ LCD touchscreen. Of course, the Kindle Fire’s $199 price undercuts the Nook Tablet by $50. The Nook Tablet weighs 14.1 oz (compare to 14.6 oz for the Kindle Fire and 15.8 for the old Nook Color) and claims a battery life of 11.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of video (compared to a claimed 8 hours of reading and 7.5 hours of video on the Kindle Fire).

To recap, the Nook Tablet’s specs:

  • $249
  • 7″ VividView IPS LCD touchscreen display with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage (plus SD card slot)
  • 14.1 oz
  • battery life: 11.5 hours reading / 9 hours video

Certainly an interesting contender in the 7″ tablet arena. On paper, the specs are a bit better than the Kindle Fire, although Amazon counters with its super-fast Silk browser and by offering to store all your media purchases in the cloud, ameliorating the lesser memory of the Fire. I think Amazon’s $50 price advantage may be the most important difference to many buyers. In any event, both $199 and $249 certainly look good when compared to the iPad 2’s $499 starting price.

B&N Nook Classic 2 Debuts for $139

 Posted by at 4:18 PM  Tagged with: , ,
May 242011

Nook Classic 2

As expected, B&N today announced their next-generation e-reader, available in Wi-Fi only for $139, and available June 10. I’m calling it the “Nook Classic 2,” to differentiate it from the LCD-based Nook Color. (Update: B&N calls it the “Nook Simple Touch.”)

It’s a strikingly simple design based around the standard-sized 6″ e-Ink Pearl touchscreen.

It’s also strikingly similar to the Kobo Touch introduced yesterday for $130.

The feature list:

  • 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen
  • Infra-red based touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 7.5 ounces
  • 2 GB internal memory, plus SD card reader

Yeah, pretty much the same as the Kobo Touch. I can’t help but think that Kobo did a pretty great job of stealing B&N’s thunder (and for a few bucks less, too).

On the plus side, the Nook Classic was badly in need of a refresh, and this release at least allows B&N to tread water, although it doesn’t seem at all groundbreaking to me. B&N also seems to have admitted that the small LCD touchscreen at the bottom of the original Nook Classic was a costly gimmick: it decreased performance and battery life, increased size and weight, and never seemed to be implemented all that well. Interestingly, it also abandoned the 3G model.

B&N is touting 2 month battery life, based on 1/2 hour of reading per day. I think this is about the same as the Kindle 3’s claimed one-month battery life, which probably assumes 1 hour of reading per day. Next maybe someone will claim 4 months based on 15 minutes a day? Come on. Maybe just give us the battery life in hours from now on?

B&N also claims that the Nook Classic 2 is the “simplest” e-reader out there, lambasting Kindle’s “37 extra keys” (the Kindles have full keyboards). However, I consider an actual, tactile keyboard to be a positive (especially for anyone taking notes); touchscreen keyboards are OK but far inferior to real keyboards, in my opinion. And I do prefer page-turn buttons to swiping at (and getting finger oils on) the screen.

B&N also claims impressive page-turn speeds, although the video I saw seemed about on par with the Kindle 3. Honestly, page turn speeds (which were slow enough to be an issue on the Nook Classic 1) are fast enough for my needs on most modern e-readers already. It’s about the time it takes to blink, and already quicker than turning a physical page. B&N also found a way to reduce the amount of “flash” where e-Ink screens black out the screen for a moment when changing pages; it now happens only on every 6th page change. E-Ink flash never bothered me before, and this might actually be more distracting, where it only happens sometimes.

The look of the Nook Color is decidedly simple, with the single button at the bottom (again, like the new Kobo Touch), but in a more squarish configuration with no extra space on the bottom. It’s supposed to be a rubberized, soft-touch material, which also sounds similar to the Kobo to me.

So, how does it stack up? Well, physically, it’s a solid effort, but a bit underwhelming, especially coming on the heels of the very-similar Kobo Touch. After all, it shares the screen, touchscreen technology, Wi-Fi wireless capability, SD card slot, ePub capability, and more with the Kobo Touch. It does boast longer battery life and double the internal memory, but is a tiny bit heavier and more expensive. Basically a wash. (Both trounce the Sony touchscreen e-readers on price.)

Compared to the Kindle, the same comments from my Kobo Touch article apply: the Nook Classic 2 is a little smaller and lighter than the Kindle 3, but lacks in features, including audio (used for audiobooks or listening to music), an Internet browser, text-to-speech, and games & apps. I’d only recommend it over the Kindle 3 if you’re a big fan of touch (I’m not). Of note, if you want 3G connectivity, the $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G (with free-for-life 3G) is now the only game in town, with B&N ceding that market completely to Amazon.

As for the e-book store, I think B&N and Kobo both have very good e-book stores (ahead of Sony, Apple, and Google), but Amazon is still the undisputed leader, with the most titles available (ignore B&N’s marketing talk of having the “largest” e-book store: they count public domain titles that Amazon doesn’t, even though they are easily available for the Kindle as well). Amazon has nearly a million e-book titles in the Kindle store so far. However, if you’re already tied into one of those three ecosystems, the e-readers are probably close enough that it wouldn’t be worth it for you to switch.

Of note, B&N also announced that they own 25% of the e-book market, and that their Nook Color is the #1 Android tablet, #2 overall behind the iPad.

My overall impression is that the Nook Classic is at least back in the game (the Nook Classic 1 had fallen behind) and worth considering again. But there’s nothing groundbreaking here; B&N was aiming to hit a single, not a home run. At best, this offering (and the Kobo Touch) match Amazon’s Kindle 3, they don’t leap ahead of it. And considering that the Kindle 3 has been out for about 9 months now, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Kindle 4 before Xmas that raises the bar still further.

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Nook Color $199 at eBay, $50 Off

 Posted by at 9:08 PM  Tagged with: ,
Feb 282011

The B&N Nook Color at eBay for $199

If you act fast, you can grab a Nook Color from eBay for $199, which is $50 off the normal price of $249. Use coupon code “CBARNESDD” at checkout through the “Buy It Now” link on eBay. Barnes & Noble is the seller, and it comes with free shipping. You might have to act quickly; the deal is “while supplies last,” and says it expires at 8 AM Pacific time on March 3, although there’s also a countdown timer on the page that shows just under 14 hours remaining.

This is the best deal I’ve seen so far for a new Nook Color.

The Nook Color (discussed more here) is an Android-based “reader’s tablet” with a 7″ LCD screen, and is made by Barnes & Noble and linked to B&N’s e-book store.

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Feb 252011

The coffee is free at B&N, the Nook Color is $249

The image pretty much says it all, but head into a Barnes & Noble store tomorrow (Saturday, February 26) and check out B&N’s Nook Color “reader’s tablet,” and get a free cup of coffee at the B&N Cafe. The fine print: you must visit the Nook or Nook Color counter and try a demo unit, then ask for a coffee coupon. The coupon is good on Feb 26 only, only at “B&N Cafe (serving Starbucks coffee)” locations (not Starbucks), and you get one non-customized “tall” (which means “small” in Starbucks language) coffee.

The Nook Color is an Android-based tablet computer with a 7″ LCD screen. B&N markets it as a “reader’s tablet,” and it can read e-books from B&N, as well as color children’s books and magazines. It is $249.

The Nook and Nook 3G are B&N’s e-Ink-based e-readers, with 6″ e-Ink screens, but they’re a generation behind Amazon’s Kindle 3. They are $149 and $199.

It’s a good excuse to stop by B&N this Saturday. If you do, please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the Nook Color.

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Jan 152011

The "Always Write" Blog, now in convenient e-book form.

I am pleased to announce that I have just released The Future of the Written Word: “Always Write” Blog Posts from 2010, on both the Amazon Kindle Store and the B&N NookBook Store. It is just $0.99.

This collection of blog posts from this Always Write Blog covers developments pertaining to e-books, e-readers, the publishing industry, and my own writing endeavors. It includes all blog posts from the year 2010, a total of 103 posts spanning over 65,000 words, plus pictures.

The posts cover a variety of topics, but the main ones include:

• E-Books: e-book sales figures, availability, reviews, and features (such as lending, text-to-speech, and DRM).

• E-Readers: news, tips, and info on e-book reading devices, focusing on Amazon’s Kindle (mainly the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3), with coverage of Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s E-Readers, the Kobo E-Readers, and Apple’s iPad.

• Publishing: commentary on the state of book and e-book publishing, and its future, including discussion of e-book pricing, the agency model, and the future of bookstores and printed books.

• Writing: details about the self-publishing “indie” movement in general and my own writing endeavors in particular, including tips for fellow authors on formatting, retailing, and marketing.

Please note that these blog posts are available for free here (www.davidderrico.com/blog). However, these e-books are formatted and proofread specifically for the Kindle and Nook, and includes a table of contents, chapter waypoints in the locations bar, all images, and the links to other included blog posts have been changed to internal links for your convenience. It’s a much more convenient way to read all this info on your favorite e-reader.

You can purchase the e-book for just 99 cents here:

Amazon Kindle Store

Barnes & Noble Nook Store

Thanks for checking it out! I hope you find it useful! As always, comments are welcomed below.

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Nook Color Hands-On

 Posted by at 5:28 AM  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 102011

The Nook Color: not really an e-reader, more of an iPad light.

I recently got a chance to experiment with a Nook Color at a local Barnes & Noble store. As I discussed in my previous post (Nook: Color Me Disappointed), the new $249 device from B&N is a tablet computer marketed as a “reader’s tablet,” with a 7″ IPS LCD touchscreen. While this touchscreen is sharper and nicer than most LCD screens (like the one you’d find on the iPad), and boasts an anti-glare coating, I am still not sold on the idea of reading on an LCD screen; I far prefer an easy-on-the-eyes e-Ink screen.

During my time with the Nook Color, I was impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the unit — a nice improvement over the original Nook with the 1.0 software, which was buggy and slow. Some features were definitely cool, like the ability to customize your “home screen” by arranging the covers of your favorite books however you’d like. Of course, certain things are better in color, like the aforementioned book covers, but where I think the Nook Color really makes some sense is as a magazine, newspaper, and children’s book reader.

Magazine reading was similar to what you’d find on the iPad, except with only a 7″ screen (which, of course, helps weight and portability, but makes it tougher to see a full-size magazine page without lots of zooming in and panning around). Yes, everything is in full color and looks nice, but I just haven’t fallen in love with reading magazines on e-readers yet (mostly due to the aforementioned zooming and panning, which is annoying even on the iPad’s 9.7″ screen). On the plus side, page navigation is pretty good, with a scrollable thumbnail view of the pages along the bottom that pops up when you use it, and the “article reader” mode, which formats the text of an individual article into a single, easily-readable column with adjustable text, is a must-have feature.

Unfortunately, e-magazines and other digital content (like newspapers) are crippled by publishers’ insistence on overcharging for them: while customers understand that digital distribution costs less than physical and want to buy content once and read it online, on a Nook Color, and on an iPad, publishers insist on charging separate subscriptions for print, online, and iPad or Nook Color subscriptions. Even worse, the digital subscriptions are often the same price or even more than the physical version, which must be printed and shipped.

Since I don’t yet see the appeal of digital magazines and newspapers (until they get some pricing and delivery issues worked out first), and I’m not the target market for children’s books, I look at the Nook Color mainly as an e-reader. And, for that purpose, I find the Nook Color about the same as an iPad: so-so. It has a smaller screen and less battery life, but is a little less heavy and costs only half as much. But my Kindle 3 still blows it away for pure fiction reading: smaller, half the weight, much longer battery life, added 3G connectivity, $70 cheaper, and much easier on the eyes.

On the other hand, as an Internet machine, the Nook Color’s LCD screen makes it far more useable than the Kindle, which doesn’t handle Internet browsing well. It also includes a couple of interesting apps, like Pandora radio, which the Kindle doesn’t have. The Internet worked pretty well on the unit I tried, with pages looking pretty good, within the confines of a 7″ screen, anyway. I certainly wouldn’t replace my 21″ monitor at home, but it works on the go.

One other aspect to note: the Nook Color is a fairly powerful tablet computer than runs on the Android operating system, with a layer of B&N software over it that locks out certain Android applications and focuses it on reading. However, tech-savvy users have started rooting their Nook Colors, bypassing B&N’s software and thereby running any Android app they want, including games and even the Kindle for Android app! This means — if you’re OK with reading on an LCD screen — you could use a Nook color to read books from both B&N and Amazon (and Kobo and anyone else with an Android app).

My final recommendation still is dependent on what you’re looking for: if you want an e-reader and plan to spend most of your time reading fiction novels, I can’t recommend any LCD-based tablet computer, including the Nook Color. However, if you (a) like reading on an LCD screen, (b) are really interested in magazines, newspapers, children’s books, or Internet surfing, or (c) are looking for an inexpensive Android tablet computer, the Nook Color may be worth a look, as it’s snappy and seems to function well.

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