Mega book chain Barnes and Noble this week announced NOOKstudy, a free online reading and study platform for college students. Described as the "ultimate study tool," NOOKstudy allows students to manage their eBooks, class materials, and notes in a single place.
"NOOKstudy is a big win for college students: it will not only lighten their backpacks, but also help them save money and study more efficiently," said Tracey Weber, EVP, Textbooks and Digital Eduction, Barnes & Noble.com. "NOOKstudy is a revolutionary approach to learning that offers students access to the reading and organizational tools they need, across all content sources and formats, enabling them to study smarter, not harder."
B&N said the NOOKstudy platform represents "extensive feedback" from students, professors, and administrators alike. With NOOKstudy, students are able to view multiple books and sources at the same time while also accessing complementary content, like toolsets, reference materials, and so forth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Barnes & Noble has been criticized for seemingly rushing to market its Nook e-book reader before manufacturing could churn out enough units to satisfy demand, and already B&N has pushed back its anticipated preorder ship date several times. According to The New York Times, however, availability is the least of the Nook's problems.
The media behemoth posted a review of the Nook on Wednesday and summarily ripped it apart. Speaking of which, the review starts out by accusing the Nook of being "ripped right out of the Kindle's master playbook," noting the same price tag, same off-white plastic frame, the same screen saver, and other similarities. Given the popularity of Amazon's Kindle, this wouldn't be a bad thing, but NYT goes on to thrash the differences between the two units as pointed out by the Nook website.
"Unfortunately, we, the salivating public, might be afflicted with a little holiday disease of our own: Sucker Syndrome," NYT writes. "Every one of the Nook's vaunted distinctions comes fraught with buzz kill footnotes."
For example, NYT points out tht the color touchscreen is just a horizontal strip that, at times, "feels completely, awkwardly disconnected from what it's supposed to control on the big screen above." And of the over one million titles B&N advertises, NYT claims that "well over half of those are junky Google scans" of out of copyright books filled with typos. Then there's the slow performance, quirky Wi-Fi, and unfinished features. Ouch.
And all that's just part of what NYT had to say. Read the entire unflattering review here.
Is NYT's review being too harsh on the Nook, or will it make you think twice about which e-book reader to buy? Hit the jump and sound off.