I still don’t own an e-book reader. Until a few days ago I hadn’t been particularly intrigued by any of the current models, but PC Magazine’s review of a new version of the Nook Simple Touch caught my attention:
With E Ink screens, you need an external light source—that is, until now. The Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight ($139 direct) includes switchable edge lighting, like you’d find on an ultra-slim LED HDTV. You’ll pay more for the privilege—$40 more, to be precise, over the existing Nook Simple Touch ($99 direct, 4.5 stars), which remains in the B&N lineup.
I spent all the hours I ever intend to spend staring at an electronic screen that requires ambient lighting when I was playing games on my original Gameboy. The idea that I might be able to read an e-ink screen in a dimly lit environment like, say, my bedroom, has considerable appeal when compared to reading in, say, a bustling cafeteria. (Along with its review of the new Nook, PC Magazine released a roundup of all of the current readers. Although their five-circle rating system has always been badly skewed toward the high-end, it’s fairly reliable when comparing products across a particular segment.)
When B&N’s Nook first came out it was lambasted by the same tech snobs that turned Apple into a religion. While the Kindle is still the leading e-book reader, the fact that the Nook is holding its own — let alone introducing new features — is having an effect on both Barnes & Noble’s economic health and competition in the e-reader market. Specifically, Microsoft, always looking for an opportunity to cross swords with Apple, Google and Amazon, is now investing heavily in B&N:
The e-book market is still young; if Amazon continues to be seen as the enemy, there’s no reason in theory why the Nook shouldn’t become just as popular, if not more so. It’s true that you can’t read Kindle books on your Nook, or vice versa, but over the long term, we’re not going to be buying Kindles or Nooks to read books. Just as people stopped buying cameras because they’re now just part of their phones, eventually people will just read books on their mobile device, whether it’s running Windows or iOS or something else. And that puts Amazon at a disadvantage: the Windows/Nook and iOS/iBook teams will naturally have much tighter integration between bookstore and operating system than anything Amazon can offer.
Whether that bit of prognostication proves accurate or not, Microsoft’s involvement can only broaden the range of e-reader options and help keep prices competitive, and that’s good for everyone who isn’t manufacturing e-book tech. More here on Microsoft’s gambit from the Wall St. Journal.
Not too long ago there was serious speculation that Barnes & Noble might follow Borders and other big-box bookstores into the dust bin of history. I don’t know that anyone thought the introduction of the Nook would potentially lead to B&N’s salvation.
Update: The Nook Glowlight seems to be a hit.
Barnes & Noble plans to add near-field communication (NFC) technology to its Nook e-reader platform, chief executive William Lynch said Tuesday.
Lynch also revealed that the Barnes & Noble Simple Touch with Glowlight, B&N’s latest Nook, has sold out.
I’m not surprised. In e-book reader commercials everyone may be reading at the beach, but in real life the only people reading on a beach are wearing one of these and still going blind.
— Mark Barrett