What Is Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and How Does It Work?

What is Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and how does it work?

The battle for eBook reader dominance is raging on. Though Amazon was the first company to put an eBook reader in wide release (the first Kindles came out in 2007 and completely sold out nationwide within fifteen minutes) there is one company whose reader is fighting for some of that company’s market share.

Barnes and Noble, whose bookstores pepper the American shopping mall landscape, put out an eBook reader this year called the Nook. Fortunately for Amazon (and unfortunately for the eggheads at B&N) the Nook is receiving the kind of negative reviews we haven’t seen since Microsoft tried to take on the iPod.

Nook’s Reviews — Disastrous

Many tech writers have chuckled about the similarity of the Nook and its reviews to the failed Zune player put out by Microsoft in 2006. Both devices feature lame “sharing” functionality — the Nook allows you to share books with a friend who also has a Nook. Sounds cool until you realize you can only share certain books for 7 days to one friend, once, ever, in the history of that book. Look, I’m a fast reader, but even I need more than a week for some books. The “share” feature of the Nook is just not powerful enough to be a selling point.

Other similarities to the Zune include the fact that the Nook looks and behaves almost identically to the Kindle, just slower and with more glitches. The Zune did the exact same thing, featuring very few if any improvements on the theme of its rival.

Other problems with the Nook

I hate to sound like a broken record, but just like the Microsoft Zune had a much smaller library of songs to pick from than iTunes had, the Nook has access to fewer total books and even fewer bestsellers. You’d think the folks at B&N could have arranged for at least the top twenty books of the year to be sold on their format. But no.

The overarching problem with the Nook is time — Amazon has released three different versions of Kindle, has had time to improve their Internet access, library, and user interface while Barnes and Noble sat there figuring out how to market their Nook. By the time a new version of the Nook is released (in a couple of years at the latest) there will be a full-color high-speed and Bluetooth capable eBook reader from Apple or Microsoft. Why even start to compete in a market that is drying up?

Facts about the Nook

The Nook uses the same “E Ink” technology that the Kindle and Sony brand readers use but somehow it takes a full three to four seconds to turn a page.

The Nook will set you back $259 — but good luck finding one for that price, as all available supplies are sold out as of this writing. The difference in price comes when you try to buy a book. Amazon’s library is cheaper than B&N’s by as much as 15%.

The Nook features a 6 inch E Ink screen, an off white case, and the same tech features as the Kindle, namely the ability to share media from your computer and to connect to the Internet.

The one thing the Nook has going for it? You can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.

In short, the Barnes and Noble Nook device is an eReader that is somehow “behind” its time. Had this device appeared at the same time as the original Kindle, there may have been a real competition for top dog in field of eBook readers.

As of this writing, it’s no competition at all.

This is one in a series of posts about various ebook readers. The other posts include: