On Tuesday, Barnes & Noble announced that the Nook, the company's e-book reader that aims to compete with Amazon’s Kindle, is available for pre-order. It's a very interesting device: the first dedicated e-book reader that is powered by Google’s Android operating system (it runs Android 1.5).
The Nook should ship at the end of November and it’ll cost you $259. That's the same price as the Kindle 2, though an international Kindle 2 that allows wireless access outside of the U.S. costs $279. (The nook doesn’t include an International option at the moment.)
Barnes & Noble's reader has a 6-inch diagonal E Ink display, just like the Kindle 2, but the clever folks at B&N have also added a 3.5-inch color LCD screen below the E Ink screen. That ancillary screen is used to navigate books via a Cover Flow-like interface, display an on-screen keyboard, and generally operate the device. The Nook comes with 2GB of internal memory, which Barnes & Noble says will hold about 1500 e-books, though that can be expanded by using the included Micro SD slot. You can even listen to MP3s on the nook, either through the built-in mono speaker or by plugging in headphones. And should you wish, you can remove the Nook's battery, for fun and profit—and B&N will sell you an extra battery if the 10-day charge without using wireless isn't enough for you.
The Nook, again much like the Kindle, comes bundles with wireless 3G access—via AT&T, while the Kindle uses Sprint’s network—so you can download content wirelessly. The Nook ups the wireless ante by also including Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g) and access to free Wi-Fi in all of Barnes & Noble's stores (which is a very good idea, though it doesn’t appear that the Nook has a Web browser, as the Kindle does).
An e-reader isn’t of much interest without something to read on it, and Barnes & Noble boasts more than a million titles, though many of those are through a partnership with Google to distribute public domain titles; there are newspapers and magazines available as well. Free samples of all titles will be available and users will be able to access special content when using their nook at a Barnes & Noble store. You can also read your own PDFs on the Nook, something you can’t do with a Kindle 2 without converting the PDF first.
One of the biggest differences between the Nook and Amazon’s Kindle is that you can let your friends borrow a Nook book for up to 14 days. They will be able to read it on their Nook, or using the Barnes & Noble e-reader available for PCs, Macs, the iPhone, some Motorola smartphones, and the BlackBerry. You can also start reading a book on your Nook, and then keep reading where you left off on your Mac or PC thanks to Barnes & Noble’s Reading Now technology, which sounds very much like Amazon’s WhisperSync feature.
If you want to play around with a Nook in person, you’ll be able to do so at any of Barnes & Noble’s physical stores, thanks to special Nook displays that should be popping up in the coming weeks.