Late Tuesday afternoon, Barnes & Noble Booksellers finally unveiled
"The Nook," the company's first e-reader. Set to hit Barnes & Noble retailers in November, the dual-screen device runs Google's Android OS. Scrutinizing the Nook's technical specs, bloggers speculated about the device's chances against the clear market leader, the Kindle, and the legion of imitators coming to stores in time for the holidays.
- 'Looks Like a Kindle-Killer' The Atlantic's own Derek Thompson is already enamored with the new gadget, especially its sharing feature, which allows customers to "loan" their e-books out to friends on various devices from computes to mobile phones. As Thompson notes, "This is obviously great for consumers… Maybe Barnes & Noble's calculus is that the ability to share will encourage more people to buy books because it increases the books' utility. For example, I'm somewhat interested in buying sports writer Bill Simmons' 'The Book of Basketball,' but I might be more interested if I knew that I could lend the book to all my friends who read Simmons on ESPN every week so that we could talk about it later."
- Gives Kindle-Owners 'Buyer's Remorse' Along the same lines, Wired's Charlie Sorrel begins his preview of the Nook with a bold warning to Kindle readers to "stop reading now" to avoid regretting their purchase. He says the products share the same physical look, but the Nook's specs combined with Barnes & Nobles enormous library of discounted e-books gives it the edge: "Who would buy a walled-garden machine like the Kindle when the Nook has the same titles, cheaper, and you can borrow? The Nook is already starting to look like the real internet to the Kindle’s AOL."
- Destined for the Dustbin At the Business Insider, Peek.com CEO Amol Sarva doubts the Nook's ability to make up for ground already claimed by the Kindle. He also thinks that with all the bells & whistles, Barnes & Noble is losing money on every Nook sold for $259. Finally, he's not so sure offering the device in bookstores is even the way to go: "You know who the #1 online electronics/gadgets retailer is? Not Barnes & Noble. And Best Buy appears to be giving room to Sony (Mr. #2) this fall. So where is B&N's gadget going to be? Book stores? Perhaps this sounds logical to you, but we did a little research at Peek on who buys what. And 'the literate' is not the target market for e-book readers."
- Remember the iRiver? Peter Kafka of D: All Things Digital is similarly unswayed by the device, saying that it looks "very similar to Amazon's Kindle" from afar. He invites readers to think back on the early market for MP3 players, when the iPod's success was anything but assured. Of course, we all know how that turned out: "Recall that in the early days years of iPod, plenty of competitors offered competitively priced gadgets with features that Apple’s (AAPL) didn’t have, and today you haven’t heard of them. My hunch is that we might see a similar dynamic play out with readers."
- Who Wants an E-Reader Anyway? Business Week writer Hardy Green is lukewarm on the Nook's chances for success. Conceding that the Kindle has been a bare-bones product, he still doesn't see Barnes & Noble having a breakout hit: "The nook still may not be the game-changer that e-book advocates hope will attract legions of new readers, but it has its attractions." He also voices the broader undercurrent of skepticism toward the e-reader market in general: "Many say that all of these devices will find their way to the back of the hall closet within a couple of years."
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