Hot on the heels of Kobo’s launch of a $130 e-ink touchscreen device, Barnes & Noble unveiled the Nook Simple Touch Reader, a $139 black & white e-ink touchscreen device with an upgraded 6” screen, faster page-turns and a battery B&N says will hold a charge for two months. The device will go on sale June 10.
B&N.com president William Lynch and B&N president of digital products Jamie Iannone were on hand to show off the new device at a packed press conference at B&N’s flagship store at Union Square in Manhattan. Lynch said the “all-new” Nook Simple Touch Reader is a device that combines the technology of the two most popular devices in the digital reading marketplace—tablets and dedicated e-ink e-readers. One thing to come out of yesterday’s IDPF forum was that dedicated e-ink devices, b&w devices designed solely for reading, are holding their own in the market despite rising consumer interest in tablet devices like the iPad 2. Tablet devices generally offer touchscreen navigation, full color and multimedia support, while e-ink devices consume less power, have long battery life and can be easily read outside in bright sunlight, unlike the backlit LCD screens of color tablets.
“Tablets and dedicated e-readers have been projected for explosive growth,” said Lynch, “and we’ve mixed the two technologies.” Both Lynch and Iannone emphasized that the Nook Simple Touch was designed to be very easy to use and navigate and in most instances the device only requires a single touch to call up different funtions or libraries.
The Nook Simple Touch Reader is wi-fi only, runs Android 2.1, has 2GB of storage, expandable SD card and has a nonreplaceably battery that Iannone said, “should outlive the life of the device.” The Simple Touch uses an infra-red technology to power its touchscreen, but take note that it will not run apps designed for the NookColor or Android apps. The device weighs 7.5 ounces, 35% lighter than the original Nook and 15% thinner. B&N is discontinuing the original Nook First Edition and dropping price for the wi-fi only device from $149 to $119 and the 3G/Wi-fi model from $199 to $169.
Lynch also said the new device will support Nook Friends, a reading social media platform that lets readers that allow readers to offer reading lists, recommendations and borrow and share books. B&N is also launching MyNook.com, a "lifetime" online account/library that includes all a customer's e-books. The device supports ePub and can be used to download library books. Lynch said that projections show that 3-5 years from now, paper books will still be dominant format in book publishing, “we plan to manage the print and digital sides and our stores are at the center of our digital strategy, it’s a competitive advantage for us.”
The announcement of the new Nook came as speculation about the fate of B&N intensified. Ron Burkle, who had led a proxy fight against Riggio last summer, increased his stake in the retailer to 19.7%, buying 603,000 more shares for an average of $18.49 per share. The new purchases sparked speculation that Burkle is counting on a bidding war to take the Liberty Media offer of $17 per share higher. Meanwhile, Liberty Media head John Malone told a special meeting of shareholders that the combination of the Nook, e-book content and physical stores makes B&N an attractive asset.