The reader, named the “Nook,” looks a lot like Amazon’s white plastic e-book, only instead of the chiclet-keyboard there is a color multi-touch screen, to be used as both a keyboard or to browse books, cover-flow style. The machine runs Google’s Android OS, will have wireless capability from an unspecified carrier and comes in at the same $260 as the now rather old-fashioned-looking Kindle.
But it’s the details of the Barnes & Noble service itself that have us really interested. Gizmodo, which first broke the leaked images, has information that B&N will be discounting titles heavily in their electronic format, which is as is should be (no paper, printing or shipping costs). The Nook will also be able to use books from the Google Books Project.
And over at the Wall Street Journal, somebody got a peek at an at ad set to run in the New York Times this coming Sunday. The ad features the line “Lend eBooks to friends”, and this has the potential to destroy the Kindle model. One of the biggest problems with e-books is that you can’t lend or re-sell them. If B&N is selling e-books cheaper than the paper versions, then the resale issue is moot. And lending, even if your friends need a Nook, too, takes away the other big advantage of paper.
In fact, this loaning function could be the viral feature that makes the device spread. 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.
OUCH! That might be a bit premature to say, but it sounds like some powerful competition. Perhaps the first real competition the Kindle has yet had. I do agree -- the lending function sounds like the next 'killer feature.' Especially if the owner had the option to specify a finite amount of time the book is being lent for and have it automatically return to his library when the time expires.
If the 'Nook' is as good as it sounds, expect some strong responses from Amazon. The eBook business is way too important for Amazon to take this lying down. (Of course if the 'Nook' has some kind of App Store, Amazon could simply release an App to read Kindle books on it. Bezos has already said he plans to sell Kindle books on multiple platforms and views Kindle books and readers as separate businesses.)
Engadet also reports:
We can't say with 100 percent assurance, but a reliable source of ours claims that Barnes & Noble will be partnering with Best Buy for sales of the device, and units will actually be available this Thursday. That last bit sounds daring at best, as it's Windows 7 launch day, but you never know what folks will get up to these days.
Stay tuned for more. Barnes and Noble will hold their official press release at 4 PM EST this afternoon.
In other eBook news, Spring Design just announced another dual-screen e-Book reader and Plastic Logic has decided to call their reader 'Que'... and it will "come in a sleek metallic black casing." Sounds cool.