October 21, 2009

Barnes And Noble Unveils “˜Nook”˜ E-Reader

Barnes and Noble unveiled its new electronic reader on Tuesday, launching itself into a crowded market dominated by devices such as the popular Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader.

The nation's largest bookstore chain said the "Nook" would be available at the end of November, at a cost of $259 "“ the same price as the Kindle. 

The Nook, which is powered by Google's Android operating system, is roughly the size of a paperback book, and can store up to 1,500 e-books, or up to 17,500 with an external memory card. 

The device features a black-and-white electronic ink display and a small color touchpad for making purchases, navigation or storing books.

Barnes and Noble said the Nook would give users access to more than one million books, magazines and newspapers, along with digital "subscriptions to every major U.S. daily."

Users will also be allowed to lend e-books to others at no cost for up to 14 days to read on devices such as the Apple iPhone, the iPod touch and some BlackBerry and Motorola smartphones.

The newest e-reader is only the latest entrant in a crowded market that has already seen two major product announcements this week.

Mountainview, Calif-based Plastic Logic said Monday it would announce the availability and pricing of its new "QUE" e-reader during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.  The QUE is being targeted towards business professionals.

Meanwhile, Fremont, Calif-based Spring Design Inc. said Monday it would release a dual-screen, Android-powered e-reader called the "Alex" later this year. 

Although Amazon does not release its Kindle sales figures, market research firm Forrester Research estimates that the Seattle-based online retailer has a nearly 60 percent U.S. market share.  Sony is ranked 2nd with a 35 percent U.S. market share.

Other firms selling e-readers include Britain's Interead, which maker the "Cool-er," and Netherlands-based IREX Technologies.

Some speculate that Apple Inc. may also be coming out with a portable tablet computer early next year that will also function as an e-reader.

Some three million e-readers will be sold in the U.S. this year, up from a previous forecast of two million units, according to Forrester.  And sales of e-readers are expected to double to six million units next year.

While Barnes and Noble seems to be challenging Amazon with its new device, the company "will need to use all the tools in its arsenal -- merchandising it prominently in its stores, promoting it through advertising, email marketing, etc. -- to make up for lost time since the Kindle's launch in 2007," said Forrester's Sarah Rotman-Epps.

"To steal market share from Amazon and make up for lost time, B&N is pricing the Nook as aggressively as possible," Reuters quoted her as saying in a blog post.

"Getting the price right is crucial to success in this emerging device market."

"We expected something in the range of 399 dollars, which would make the device competitive with the other touch plus wireless eReaders on the market, the Sony Daily Edition and the iRex DR800SG," she said.

"Pricing the Nook a full 140 dollars below these other devices sends a strong signal that B&N is focused on Amazon, not Sony, as competition."

In August, Sony announced that it was discontinuing the use of proprietary software on its Sony Reader, converting instead to an industry standard. The move will allow the company's e-book store to compatible with a number of devices, and is seen by some as another challenge to Amazon, whose e-books can only be read on the Kindle or an Apple iPhone using Kindle software.


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