Taking a cue from Amazon, which last week announced that Kindle owners who subscribe to the digital version of The New York Times would be granted free passage through the paper's new online paywall, Barnes & Noble today announced that Nook owners will receive the same courtesy. All a Nook user has to do is subscribe to the daily e-edition and they'll gain unfettered access to NYTimes.com.
Barnes and Noble had hoped to put all this unpleasant legal wrangling behind them, but their effort to have the case brought by Spring Design dismissed has been rejected. The judge said in his ruling that there was insufficient information to assure Barnes and Noble did not violate California law. Spring Design will be allowed to pursue their claim against the bookseller turned ebook seller for misappropriating trade secrets and breach of contract.
Spring design, maker of the Alex e-reader, claims to have shared its e-reader design with Barnes and Noble in hopes the retailer would enter a partnership to sell ebooks. Instead, Barnes and Noble made and launched the Nook with a similar two screen design. Spring Design sued shortly thereafter. The Ales did eventually launch in April of 2010 with a $299 price tag. The high price and lack of a strong content tie in has made for a tough sell. Do you think Barnes and Noble borrowed a little too heavily from the Alex?
There's a new firmware version available for the Nook, version 1.5, and according to Barnes and Noble this is the largest update ever to the company's eBook reader platform. New features include:
Sync current reading position across devices
Customizable folders and group content for My B&N Library
Password protection option for purchases made on a Nook device
Pass code security for the Nook
In addition, the new firmware brings about faster page turns up to 50 percent quicker than previous versions, improved search functionality that includes My Documents in the results, better battery life, and "other performance enhancements."
The version 1.5 software applies to both 3G and Wi-Fi Nook devices and is available for download at www.nook.com/support.
As expected, Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Color today at their event in New York. The device ditches the eInk monochrome screen used by the Amazon Kindle and regular Nook. In its place is a 7-inch IPS color touchscreen. The resolution is a very reasonable 1024x600, and it will come with a special anti-glare film. There is also Wi-Fi, a microSD card slot, and no 3G right now.
This device is utilizing more elements of the underlying Android system, but it is thoroughly skinned. It is clear this is a reader first and foremost. But users will have access to music, the browser, social networking, and a few select apps like Pandora. Since this is significantly different from the stock Android platform, developers looking to get their apps on the platform will have to use a Barnes & Noble supplied SDK.
The Nook Color will sell for $249 when it comes out on November 19. The bookseller is looking to get people reading magazines and newspaper on this device, in addition to regular books. Barnes & Noble may be calling this part tablet and part reader, but they may find that it isn't good enough at being either. Do you think this device is going to succeed?
Most people would argue that the e-book market has nowhere to go but up, however analysts continue to be surprised by just how fast people are ditching ink for pixels. According to the Association of American Publishers e-book sales from January to August were a staggering $263 million, this compared to just $89.8 million during the same period last year. This threefold increase in sales certainly helps to validate the market, and it looks like the impact of having so many affordable e-book devices on the market is finally starting to kick in.
In January 2009 anyone wanting to read an e-book needed a device worth several hundred dollars, and had to worry about DRM protected content with no guarantee over future compatibility. Today just about anyone with a smartphone can tap into several different e-book stores, Kindles and Nooks have never been cheaper, and some little known company by the name of Apple launched the iPad.
E-book sales still only account for about 10 percent of books sold, but it still paints a clear picture for brick and mortar retailers. The trend is not your friend.
Barnes & Noble this week announced it has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a completely new, next-generation Nook app for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and PC. This latest release adds a handful of customer requested features, like in-app content rating.
"We are committed to offering and easy-to-use, comfortable, and fun Nook eReading experience across multiple platforms. Nook for iPhone users can shop Barnes & Noble's vast catalog of eBooks, while enjoying new, customization features and sharing their favorite eBooks with friends for free," said Douglas Gottlieb, Vice President, Digital Products for B&N.
Many of the improvements are aimed at iPhone users, who can now "create completely personalized or utilize professionally designed themes," optimize content for daytime or nighttime reading, utilize a one-tap option, and have the ability to preview changes before saving them.
The release of the updated Amazon Kindle DX wasn't met with the same level of fanfare it was used to in a post iPad world, but the new gadget showcases the next generation of e-ink displays which offer up impressive performance improvements over what you may have seen in the past. The new "Pearl" display featured on the DX is currently one of a kind in the electronic reader market, but the E Ink Corporation has already successfully ported the design over to smaller screen sizes, most of which are slated for product releases later in the year.
The difference between the previous generation displays and the pearl is described as the difference in contrast between a newspaper, and a high quality paperback book. In terms of numbers this is estimated to be a 50% improvement over the previous generation, and even offers up additional power savings. According to the company, "the crisp text and detailed graphics also continue to remain pleasant to view when E Ink products are enjoyed outside. In addition, with 16 gray level depth, E Ink Pearl offers the sharpest rendering of images and allows product developers to display images with smooth tones and rich detail."
Improved contrast and better battery performance are going to make for an impressive next generation of e-book readers, so those who are on the market would be well advised to wait a couple of months if they can help it.
One advantage in today’s technological world is upgradability. The product you buy today, no matter its limitations, has a reasonable chance of being transformed into the product you really want. All you have to do is wait for an update. An example of this is the second nook software update in as many months. Good news for users of the Barnes & Noble eReader, as they are now one step closer to having the eBook reader of their dreams.
The update, version 1.2, starts over-the-air distribution today. Registered nook users will see the update sometime in the next week, either on Barnes & Noble’s Fast & Free wireless or Wi-Fi. The process should take less than 15 minutes, depending on your connection. If you are impatient you can get the update manually, but you will have to download the update, connect your nook to a computer, and update it via USB. Instructions are available at the nook support site.
What’s new and improved in version 1.2? Better in-store connectivity, for starters. More reliable Wi-Fi and more in-store content will be available for visitors to Barnes & Nobles brick-and-mortar locations. Probably more important are speed improvements for opening eBooks and periodicals, better responsiveness for Reading Now and Settings buttons, properly saved current page and bookmarks, easier navigation of daily subscriptions, sorting of personal files, battery optimization, plus the obligatory, but indefinite, catchall “overall system improvements”.
If a generous friend or family member has Nook waiting under the tree for you this year, you’re far from the only one. Barnes & Noble is expected to have shipped approximately 60,000 of their new eReaders before the year is out; not bad considering the shortage. We can only guess how many they could have sold if they had instructed their manufacturing partner, Foxconn, to build more of the gadgets out of the gate.
Barnes & Noble has pushed back preorders several times, and is now offering a $100 gift cards if preordered Nooks don’t ship by today (December 23). After the fiasco the holiday buying season has been, B&N is directing Foxconn to increase production. The bookseller claims Nook sales could hit 500,000 in 2010. The original Kindle only sold 400,000 in its first year. Though, admittedly that was before the large second generation price drops.
One has to wonder if people will still be buying Nooks at this rate when there are units readily available in stores for people to use. The software experience is reportedly a bit buggy and page refreshes are slow. If Barnes and Noble can work out these problems, the Kindle may have something to fear from the Nook. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
There’s two ways to consider the firmware update for Barnes & Noble’s Nook. It’s either a step in the right direction. Or it’s a step in no direction at all.
Wired is reporting that the much needed update improves on some of the Nook’s less desirable features. According to Wired, the update “...attempts to fix some of these problems. The update improves the start-up time for features such as ‘My Library’ on the device. It also ensures that the device displays the correct time on its status bar, has better page numbering for books and removes some formatting-related issues.”
The keyword in Wired’s assessment might be “attempts.” Mark Wilson, at Gizmodo, says he doesn’t see any changes from the update. He reports that loading a new book and turning pages is still slow. And a bug in the highlights-and-notes feature appears unrepaired.
If you are a Nook owner, you’ll soon get to see for yourself. Barnes & Noble has started the process of updating Nooks from 1.0.0 to 1.1.0, so expect to see it soon.