The pricing war over color tablet devices stepped up in intensity after Barnes & Noble lowered prices on its Nook Tablet and Nook Color e-reading devices. Beginning today B&N has lowered the price of its 7-inch 8GB Nook Tablet from $199 to $179 and its 16GB Nook Tablet from $249 to $199. In addition the price of the 7-inch Nook Color device will be lowered from $169 to $149.

The Nook price changes follow in the wake of the recent release of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet which sells for $199 (8GB) and $249 ($16GB) and also sharpens competition with Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, which sells for $199. The price changes have identified seven-inch multimedia tablet devices as a hotly competitive sector for price, new tablet hardware and multimedia functionality when it comes color e-reading devices. The change also follows the recent introduction of the Microsoft Surface, a 7-inch tablet reading device running the Windows 8 operating system likely to go on sale in the fall although pricing has not yet been announced.

Jamie Iannone, president of digital products at Barnes & Noble, said the price changes now make B&N’s tablet devices, “available for the lowest prices ever,” and added, “our customers can enjoy our best-in-class digital reading and entertainment experience with an expansive selection of digital content and apps at an unbeatable price.”