Approximately one year after introducing its first e-reading device, Barnes & Noble took a major step forward Tuesday with the introduction of the Nookcolor, a $249 tablet with a seven inch VividView Color Touchscreen. The addition of color to the e-reading device allowed B&N to officially announce Nook Kids, which in addition to 12,000 chapter books, will have 130 picture books at launch with that number expected to double by the end of the year. Some of the children’s books will be enhanced e-books, featuring video and audio. A third part of the launch was the announcement of Nookdeveloper that will allow creators to develop “reading-centric” apps that will be sold through the Nook app store. Since the Nook runs on the Android platform, apps from the Android Market can be ported to the Nook, but Android Market apps will not automatically be sold through the Nook since B&N want to curate the store, company CEO William Lynch said.
Initial reaction to Nookcolor from the many publishers in attendance at B&N's New York headquarters was positive, with the addition of color and the price seen as the most exciting features. Color, said the head of one children’s division, “puts children’s publishers in the e-book game.” Also in attendance was Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Book Group, who observed that the presentation, which featured actors and actresses going through a typical day using the Nookcolor, seemed aimed primarily at women, the people most likely to buy picture books. Katz believes that not only will the Nookcolor provide a needed boost to picture book sales, but will also change the way authors and illustrators create picture books in the future, requiring them to keep in mind how the book will look on a screen. She said Harper authors and illustrators whose books are part of the Nookcolor launch were very happy with how the books look.
The Nookcolor will begin shipping around November 19 and will be available for sale through all Barnes & Noble trade bookstores in late November along with the entire portfolio of Nook readers. The Nookcolor will also be sold in Walmart and Best Buy and B&N reached an agreement with Books-A-Million making Nookcolor the exclusive reading device at the nation’s third largest bookstore chain. BAM will sell all Nook devices in a dedicated display section at the store, and its e-bookstore will be powered by B&N. Terrance Finley, executive v-p Chief Merchandising Officer at BAM said, "we are delighted to be partnering with Barnes & Noble in the digital realm. We believe Nook is best in class and we look forward to bringing it to our customers chain-wide."
At launch, there will be 2 million (including free) e-books available for Nookcolor, with the “vast majority” priced at $9.99. Over 100 newspapers and magazine will also be available in full color. The Nookcolor weighs in at under 1 pound and is less than half-an-inch thick, attributes that B&N executives stressed make the tablet, which has Wi-Fi connectivity, very portable. With 8 gigabytes of memory, Nookcolor will run for about eight hours before needing a recharge and will hold 6,000 e-books.
Other features include a social network, Nookfriends, that lets users connect with each other, and a LendMe app that enables Nookcolor users to share titles. Nookcolor also comes with the free radio Internet music service Pandora as well as a few games.
While B&N expects Nookcolor to be a very popular holiday item, Lynch said B&N has “no road map to ending” the E-Ink Nook, which Lynch said has sold over 1 million units. “There is still a segment” that want a plain black and white reading experience, Lynch said. The original Nook is set to receive a software upgrade in November.
Lynch said he doesn’t believe Nookcolor will cannibalize sales through B&N stores, but will rather be “accretive to Barnes & Noble overall. We expect to cannibalize other people’s physical books much more than ours,” he said.