If you were waiting for the ebook reader wars to get a lot more interesting, it just happened. Throwing a one-two combo punch at Amazon, Barnes and Noble today cut the cost of its 3G Nook ereader (KERPOW!) and also introduced a new Wi-Fi only model at a comparatively bargain basement price (BAM!).
The 3G Nook now sells for $199, which according to B&N makes it the market's first under-$200 dedicated full-featured ebook reader offering both free 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity options in one. And while B&N can spin this one however it see fits, at less than two Benjamins, and $60 less than Amazon's Kindle, the price point speaks for itself.
And what about the new Wi-Fi only model? That will only set you back $149 and includes all the same features as the regular Nook, sans 3G. At that price point, B&N is likely to attract users who previously might have been on the fence because of the well documented speed issues. Equally important, these new prices put B&N in a much better position to compete with Apple's iPad and every other tablet that's due to come out.
Bookseller Barnes and Noble is starting to hand out free coffee to encourage the use of their e-book software. For the duration of the limited time promotion, customers need only show a cafe server an open e-book running the Barnes and Noble software. This will net the user one free tall coffee. Devices qualifying for the promotion are iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, Blackberry phones, the HTC HD2, Windows/Mac computers, and of course the Nook.
Barnes and Noble is in a race to catch up to the Kindle's lead in the e-book space, but the iPad may have them both beaten. If the tide turns against the monochrome eInk screens, these multiplatform apps are the bookseller's best hope.
Barnes and Noble has also been offering access to special content on the Nook that can be downloaded while in the store. They also allow Nook owners to read selected books for free, one hour per day, while in the store. Do these sorts of promotions make you want to live in the Barnes and Noble e-book ecosystem?
Borders is no stranger to the e-reader game. The brick and mortar book seller has had Sony units for sale for a number of years. But now in the face of rival Barnes and Noble's Nook push, Borders is looking to create a more integrated eBook solution, and offer customers more choice by stocking up to 10 different devices by the end of 2010. These e-readers are expected to run the gamut of price points. All the devices will be connected to Borders' as yet unlaunched Borders eBooks store in conjunction with Kobo. They will show off all the devices in the cunningly named "Area-e" section of the store.
Kobo isn't just running the technology behind the eBook store, they are also making an eReader that Borders plans to begin selling this month. The Kobo is expected to retail for $149. Much lower than the competing Nook and Kindle. The so-called Alex dual screen e-reader has also been rumored for months, Add to that the just announced Libre e-reader which should sell for a downright reasonable $120, and the Borders strategy becomes more clear. They will offer products at all prices to lure in consumers, and get them to commit to their book ecosystem. The Libre will have a black and white LCD (instead of eInk), and users will have to load books on via a PC of SD cards.
Do you think this is a better strategy than the Amazon and Barnes and Noble model of having a single hero device?
Acer today announced plans to join the ebook reader market with its upcoming LumiRead, a 6-inch device that will participate in the company's clear.fi initiative.
The LumiRead sports a monochrome display and QWERTY keyboard, as well as 2GB of internal flash memory (expandable via a microSD card slot). That's enough to hold about 1,500 ebooks, according to Acer, and you'll be able to purchase them from Barnes and Noble. In addition, Acer also inked distribution deals with Germany's Libri.de, and China's Founder.
It also comes with Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, and there's an ISBN scanner to create your own wishlist. No word yet on pricing, though Acer is apparently aiming for a Q3 release.
Pandigital's bread and butter up to this point has mainly been digital photo frames, and now the company wants to try its hand in the e-reader market. Kicking off this new venture is the Pandigital Novel, a 7-inch e-reader with a full-color 800x600 touchscreen display and an edge-to-edge glass screen.
Ready to roll right out of the box, the Pandigital Novel also comes with Barnes and Noble's eBookstore built-in, giving readers access to over 1 million ebooks, newspapers, and magazines. The device will support B&N's "LendMe" technology, which allows users to share publisher-approved ebooks with others for 14 days
"First and foremost, the Pandigital Novel eReader was designed to deliver a world-class e-reading experience," said Dean Finnegan, CEO and founder, Pandigital. "By focusing on delivering superior content from Barnes & Noble, an easy-to-use design and an excellent customer experience, Pandigital is delivering a value proposition not currently available in the eReader category. With its many additional features, Pandigital Novel customers will be able to read what they want and do more of what they want on the go with an affordable product that is simple and fun to use."
The Pandigital Novel measures 5.5 inches (w) by 7.5 inches (h) by 0.5 inches (d) and weighs 16 ounces. It comes with 1GB of memory expandable to 32GB via its SD/MMC memory card slot and supports a number of ebook formats, including PDF, EPUB, and HTML.
Starting in June, you'll be able to pick one up "at several national retailers" for $200.
Bookseller and Nook purveyor Barnes and Noble has decided to partner with Pandigital to bring a $199.99 color ereader to the market. The device, known as the Pandigital Novel, will use a regular backlit LCD instead of an eInk display like the Kindle or Nook. The Android-based Novel will have a 7-inch 800x600 resolution resistive touchscreen display, and ARM 11 CPU, Wi-Fi, and 1GB of internal storage with support for SD cards.
In many ways, it's really more of an inexpensive tablet that happens to be sold by a bookseller. The Novel will have a full web browser, and multimedia capabilities. Details on just what sort of multimedia experience would be available were not forthcoming, but it will play MP3s and some video formats. Experience with Android means probably H.264 encoded files. As far as ebooks, we're pleased to hear it will support books from Barnes and Noble's store as well as any files formatted as PDF, EPUB, or HTML. Battery life for reading is listed as only 6 hours though.
It's clearly not a match for the iPad on features, but the price is less than half of even the low end model of the Apple device. It is even cheaper than standard eInk-based readers, which often clock in at $260. We'll be interested to see if anyone goes for this device over the competition. Look for it to ship in June.
Barnes and Noble had grand visions for its Nook ebook reader when the device first launch at the tail end of 2009, but other than an initial flurry of sales, the ebook reader hasn't been able to pluck the crown off of Amazon's market-leading Kindle. Maybe things are starting to turn around.
According to DigiTimes Research, ebook reader shipments to Barnes and Noble jumped ahead of shipment numbers to Amazon for the first time in March, indicating that demand for the Nook might finally be starting to pick up. Looking at figures from upstream suppliers, the Nook accounted for some 53 percent of ebook readers shipped to US vendors last month.
The Nook's future now looks a little brighter than it has been. B&N just recently released another firmware update -- version 1.3 -- which, among other things, purports to kick performance up a notch yet again. In addition, B&N recently struck a deal with Best Buy to carry the company's ebook reader both in the electronic chain's brick and mortar stores and website.
The Nook hasn't exactly made the same splash the Kindle has, but it's apparently doing well enough that Barnes and Noble is planning new versions. The always fun "anonymous source" indicates that a "lite" version of the Nook without cell data will be shipping soon. This will shave a bit off the price of the device as the cost of lifetime data is built in. Users would still have data connectivity over Wi-Fi. This version is rumored to be priced at $199, breaking that psychological $200 barrier.
As for the Nook 2, there aren't many details other than Barnes and Noble is working on it. But the Nook Lite will be available by the end of the second quarter. It's not that we aren't appreciative of a $60 price cut, but it may not be enough. The Nook's software has been on the buggy side, and updates have been slow to appear. Though, the 1.4 build is expected soon.
The wireless data is a major selling point on these devices. It's unclear if people will be willing to make the trade off. Would you take the Lite version at that price over the regular Nook?
Just a few months ago, the Nook was one of the hottest holiday items, so much so that Barnes and Noble had trouble keeping up with demand. But starting this Sunday, April 18, you'll be able to drop by any Best Buy store and pick up B&N's $260 ebook reader.
The deal makes Best Buy the first chain (other than Barnes and Noble) to carry the Nook, giving the ebook reader more than double the exposure it's been getting from B&N's website and 723 bookstores. In addition, Best Buy said it plans to include Barnes and Noble's BN eReader software on some of the PCs and smartphones it sells.
This is a great move for Barnes and Noble, who not only is up against Amazon's Kindle, but more recently has been put in a position to go up against Apple's iPad. Apple last week said it has sold about 450,000 iPads in its first few days, while B&N hasn't released any sales figures for its Nook.
On a side note, Best Buy also sells Sony's ebook reader. Amazon's Kindle is only available on its website.
In what could end up being a major boost for Apple's iPad, Barnes and Noble confirmed in a recent blog post that it will soon offer an e-reader application for the upcoming tablet.
"Designed specifically for the iPad, our new B&N eReader will give our customers access to more than one million eBooks, magazines, and newspapers in the Barnes and Noble eBookstore, as well as the existing content in their Barnes and Noble digital library," B&N wrote.
The bookstore went on to say that the app will be released around the same time as the iPad's "expected availability," which is April 3rd.
What this ultimately means for Apple, B&N, and the tablet space in general remains to be seen, but the implications are potentially huge. The iPad -- and by extension, every other upcoming tablet -- will inevitably go toe-to-toe with the pretty popular e-book reader market, which might not have room for two separate device categories. Not to mention what effect this could have on publisher pricing if the iPad takes off the way Apple hopes it will.