Barnes & Noble unwrapped a new nook e-reader Tuesday that the giant book retailer is touting as an ultralight "simple touch reader" featuring extended battery life. Slated to begin shipping June 10, the new nook's black-and-white E Ink display minimizes screen flashing and reduces page-turn time by up to 80 percent compared to other e-readers.
With the new nook, Barnes & Noble's strategy is to attract price-conscious users looking for a device that is both simple to use and more versatile than previous products. Among other things, customers will be able to touch the device's screen to look up words, highlight passages, and adjust the font size and style. Also on tap is an on-screen keyboard that appears only when the user needs it to search for a key word or phrase.
"It's a coup for Barnes & Noble to beat Amazon to the touchscreen and at such a low price," said Forrester Research Vice President James McQuivey. "However, I think they're going to find that the simpler, cleaner look of the device is actually going to make people think it should cost less."
McQuivey had predicted Barnes & Noble's new nook would fill a niche at the low end of the retailer's nook lineup. "This will probably be a slimmer version of the E Ink nook, with some improvements in software, page-turn times, and user experience -- all at a cheaper price than before, closer to $129," McQuivey said in early May.
Barnes & Noble's latest move appears to be a direct response to Amazon's recent discount offerings of its lower-end Kindle devices -- the Kindle with Special Offers priced at $114 and the Kindle Wi-Fi priced at $139. However, McQuivey thinks the best countermove would be to bring down nook pricing even more.
"To round out the bottom of its offering, Barnes & Noble should put out a basic nook without the color touch panel for $79, thus encouraging a family to own a range of nook devices that satisfy a variety of needs," McQuivey wrote in a blog.
Now that Barnes & Noble's new nook has been unveiled, McQuivey thinks the "simple touch reader" might eventually alter consumer perceptions in a way that changes the value proposition.
"Even though touchscreens cost more to make, they seem simpler, less complicated, and therefore less expensive," McQuivey said Tuesday. "But before that price pressure settles in, Barnes & Noble is going to have a good run with this device, especially when nook Color owners decide to buy a new nook to complement it -- one for the briefcase and one for the beach bag."
Extending Battery Life
By contrast, earlier this month Gartner Vice President Allen Weiner suggested the new nook might have a color touchscreen based on Qualcomm's new Mirasol technology, which integrates an interferometric modulator (IMOD) element.
"[It] is a simple MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) device that is composed of two conductive plates," Weiner wrote in a blog. "The net result is color which uses less power in a non-reflective display."
The new nook does have new technology for extending battery life, but without the color screen. The book retailer noted that users of the new nook will be able to read for up to two months on a single charge with Wi-Fi off, which Barnes & Noble claims is twice as long as the other leading e-reader.
Tipping the scales at 7.48 ounces, the new nook is also 35 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner than Barnes & Noble's previous Wi-Fi nook. Additionally, the device's no-glare display offers 50 percent more contrast than the previous-generation device.