As per internet rumor, Barnes and Noble unveiled their newest addition to the NOOK lineup: NOOKcolor. It’s sort-of an ebook reader, sort-of a tablet, and B&N seems pretty excited and confident it’s going to win them marketshare over the Kindle (and possibly the iPad). I’ve been debating with myself about whether this is going to be successful or blow up in their faces, and the only way to settle this is to lay out both sides. The optimist in me thinks this could be a big win for B&N, and the cynical side of me thinks this is an awful idea doomed to failure.
This is a brilliant move by B&N. For starters, they’re getting the jump on Amazon; it’s clear with Amazon’s future Android store that a “Kindle color” is coming at some point. Now it’s going to be Amazon trailing B&N for once!
Second, this is giving them a great way to control their content more effectively. Currently any multimedia ebooks, color magazines, etc can only be read on a tablet or a smartphone. Essentially, B&N is selling items that can only be utilized on someone else’s hardware. This way they have a way to sell those items but they won’t be beholden to the whims of iOS, etc.
Plus, NOOKkids! And NOOKstudy! Both of these are perfectly suited to color screens with the right implementation, especially since they’ve been notoriously difficult to implement well with eInk. B&N is putting a lot of effort into cracking both of these markets, so having a reasonably priced color device is a great way to push that!
Finally, everyone seems to want a color ebook reader. It’s a common criticism of current ebook readers, so why not answer it with a decent device backed by a large store? If every critic and forum poster who complained “The Kindle is great but I wish it were color” went out and bought one, B&N would have a huge hit on their hands!
This thing is like a duck-billed platypus. It’s not quite a tablet and not quite an ebook reader, and with so much competition from both ebook readers and tablets, there’s a question of what consumer would go for this instead. As our own Jessica Fritsche commented on Twitter: “No interest in the NookColor…I have an eInk Nook for novel-reading and an iPad for magazine/newspaper/web surfing.”
While at first glance the price looks good, it’s a question of value. The apps need to be pre-cleared by B&N, so until/if the nookdev people get to rooting you aren’t going to have the full Android marketplace. B&N hasn’t indicated whether the screen is capacitive or resistive and until it starts hitting the streets no one will know for sure how it stands up in sunlight. Compare that to the price of an entry-level iPad ($499) and that of an entry-level nook ($149). Sitting in between are the various iPod Touches, as well as the Cruz Tablets which will be running full Android. And of course, battery life is another big question mark. It’s a tough, tough marketplace, and this isn’t a guaranteed slam dunk.
As far as the kids market/school market goes, would you hand a $249 device to a small child? Probably not. B&N would have a better tie-in making a cheaper, more rugged version for the kids market. It’s unclear how comfortable or easy notations will be, so the university market is a bit up in the air. Also, again, they’re up against the iPad, as well as traditional textbooks.
And is anyone left who truly wants a color ebook reader? Most of the people who wanted a color device snapped up iPads. Or they bought a Kindle or nook and realized how comfortable eInk can be for reading. It’s tapping into a market that’s being drained by iPads, smartphones, iPod Touches, competing Android tablets…so is there anyone left who wants something so limited out of the box?
Personally, I think the NOOKcolor has an uphill battle. I also think B&N needs to decide for sure whether it’s “nook” or “NOOK” because trying to remember regularly gives me a headache. Still, it’s tough to make a final call until they’re actually released. In the meantime, are you anxiously awaiting one? If you pre-ordered or will be camping out at your local B&N, let us know in the comments!
Check out B&N’s full NOOKcolor site for more information on B&N’s latest release!