The salient details had all leaked out already, but now they’re real: Barnes & Noble has unveiled its e-book reader. It’s called the Nook, it packs both a 6″ e-ink screen and a color touch one below, and comes both 3G and WiFi, 2GB of memory, and an SD slot. The Nook will offer both bestsellers and other new releases (“many” at $9.99) and over a million titles in total, including free public-domain works. It costs $259–the same as Amazon.com’s cheapest Kindle–and is due to ship by the end of November.
Oh, and it syncs with Barnes & Noble’s e-reading software for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and BlackBerries, and has a lending feature that lets you virtually loan an e-book to a friend for two weeks. Let’s op
As with Spring Design’s Alex, the Nook’s two-screen design feels like a kludge to deal with the deficiencies that both e-ink and color LCDs still have. (The color display has an impact on the Nook’s battery life: ten days on a charge, vs. fourteen for the Kindle.) But maybe it’s an elegant kludge–I look forward to getting my hands on a Nook soon.
The single thing about the Nook that I’m most excited about is something kind of mundane: Like Sony’s Readers–but unlike the Kindle–it supports the industry-standard ePub format, and therefore doesn’t render your book purchases worthless if you someday decide to switch to an electronic reader made by someone else. I’m a mostly happy Kindle owner, but the current explosion of interesting alternatives from other companies leaves me hesitating each time I’m about to plunk down money for an e-book. I wonder how long it’ll take until Amazon decides that its proprietary book format is a drag on sales?
(Footnote: I’m still not clear whether the fact that the Nook and Sony Reader both support ePub means that I can just move my books back and forth starting right now. But that’s the direction the whole industry needs to go, and it can’t happen soon enough.)