On Tuesday, Barnes & Noble updated its dedicated e-reader, the Nook, and it did so in great fashion at an event at the company’s Union Square, New York store. The company is the second of the four e-reader hardware makers to announce an update this week; Monday, Kobo announced its Kobo eReader Touch Edition.
The big news about Barnes & Noble’s new $139 Wi-Fi-only Nook—which, like the Amazon Kindle, maintains the same name in spite of a complete redesign—is that the device eschews the original year-and-a-half-old Nook’s clunky LCD navigation screen for an E Ink display. The Nook now is all screen, and its compact size reflects that shift.
Where the original Nook’s weight and size made it bulky and unwieldly, the new Nook’s specs are encouraging. It weighs 7.48 ounces, which is 35 percent lighter than the original Nook. It’s also more compact-it’s 6 percent thinner and more than an inch shorter the first Nook. It measures 6.5 by 5.0 by 0.47-inches.
Battery life is notably up: Barnes & Noble says the Nook can last up to two months on a single charge, with the Wi-Fi turned off.
The new Nook uses a 6-inch E Ink Pearl display, the same 800 by 600 pixel display that Amazon and Sony integrated last summer and fall, respectively; and the same display as in Kobo’s eReader Touch Edition. And like the Kobo, the Nook uses Neonode’s Zeforce infrared touch layer to provide a touch screen interface. With Barnes & Noble joining the touch party, that leaves only Amazon as the last of the e-readers not using a touch screen design. The E Ink Pearl display improves contrast and page-turn speed as compared with the now-antiquated E Ink display on the original Nook.
The front face of the new Nook has no buttons; just a wide bezel that’s a charcoal gray color, similar to Amazon’s Kindle. During the unveiling, Barnes & Noble made a big deal of noting that the Nook has 37 fewer buttons than Kindle, a clear reference to Amazon’s continuing reliance on a keyboard.
Interestingly, the new Nook runs Android 2.1 (the same mobile OS as the original Nook and Nook Color originally shipped with) and has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, with free Wi-Fi access at all Barnes & Noble stores and at AT&T hotspots nationwide; but there was no mention of a 3G variant. The Nook has 2GB of built-in storage, and a microSDHC card slot additional storage. Its redesigned interface integrates B&N’s Nook Friends social connection, something which also originated on Nook Color (). Nook supports ePub and PDF files; and JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP image files.
The Nook is available for pre-order now, and starts shipping June 10. Or look for it in stores at Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Walmart, Books-A-Million, and Staples.