If you had happened to walk into the Union Square Barnes and Noble in NYC yesterday, you might have played audience to the company’s unveiling of their new touchscreen Nook eReader. And in the totally redesigned version, Barnes and Noble seems to have improved on some of the features that kept us from falling head-over-heels for the previous versions.
For one, the new form factor gives the new Nook a smaller profile at 6.5×5.0×0.47 inches, and it weighs under 8 ounces, about half the weight of the Nook Color. This will come as a relief to those of you who, like me, found the Nook Color to be on the heavy side and more cumbersome than the Amazon Kindle.
The sudden weight loss is most likely the result of B&N leaving behind the awkward, battery-sucking LCD screen. The Nook Color boasts a whopping 8 hours of battery life (yes, you heard me correctly, and that assumes you’ve turned off Wi-Fi), where the newer model promises two months of battery under similar conditions. I’m also happy they’ve opted for the same E-Ink Pearl technology that’s been adopted both by Amazon in the Kindle and Kobo in their Kobo eReader Touch (released earlier this week). There is a reason we all loved Amazon’s commercial that boasts the benefits of e-ink screens over their LCD brethren: in short, they are simply nicer to look at.
Apparently, Barnes & Noble was careful during their release event to point out that their new touchscreen eReader is light on buttons, and more specifically, that it has 37 less than the Kindle. Without putting in a touch screen, the Kindle is going to have trouble ditching the keyboard that makes it so button-heavy, and the new Fast Page speedy navigation feature in the Nook is a welcome departure from the annoying let’s-type-in-a-page-number method. The price point is also significantly less, at a competitive $139, a huge jump down from the prohibitive Nook Color cost of $249. It supports ePub, PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, and BMP formats and comes with 2 GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32 GB.
But Amazon is not one to take Barnes & Noble’s announcement laying down. In conjunction with the release of the new Nook, they’ve made their 3G Kindle available for $164 if you buy the version “with offers” (a.k.a. advertisements). This version also includes the Wi-Fi that’s built into the Nook, so the price jump of $25 is pretty small for the added 3G convenience. The Wi-Fi only version is available for $114 with offers, $25 dollars less than the B&N Nook announced today. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Kobo price has dropped to $99 dollars.
One thing is for sure, the newer version of the Nook appears to be the closest Barnes and Noble has come to hitting the mark when it comes to eReaders. Their design is lighter, more conservative on battery life and easier to use, and the touch screen will inevitably appeal to the types of users conditioned to finger commands who have tried to turn the pages on their Kindle by swiping at the screen at least once (you know you’ve done it).