Like the Kindle, the software will synchronize content among a variety of devices, including PCs and Macs, as well as Blackberries, iPhones, and iPod touches. But it also allows users to lend their purchased items to friends with linked accounts. So, for example, you can choose a book and send it to a friend via the touchscreen interface. Once sent, your friend has 14 days to read it (presumably, the work is inaccessible to you during that period).
Back in July, Barnes & Noble made it clear that it, too, had designs on the developing e-book market, as it launched an e-book store and released reading software for a variety of platforms, from traditional PCs to the iPhone. Today, the company is releasing its dedicated e-book reader, called the Nook, at an event in New York City. The device has many features that distinguish it from its competitors, including a small color touchscreen for control, the use of the Android operating system, all at a $259 price.
Information about the device has been appearing on and off at the Barnes & Noble eBook site for the last hour or so, so it’s possible that it will be accessible if you visit. At its most basic, the device evokes the Kindle, with a rounded white plastic frame sporting navigation buttons on either side of an E-Ink screen. The similarities end there, however.
In contrast to the Kindle’s physical keyboard (and Sony’s on-screen one), the Nook uses a color touchscreen for most of the navigation (it’s listed as a 3.5″ TFT-LCD); it’s laid out as a wide band immediately below the E-Ink screen. Various demos show that this can be used to access a series of settings through hierarchial menus, and it will display book covers, either from the B&N store or in your library, in full color. It’s not clear at this point whether it can also display an on-screen keyboard for note-taking and other text entry.
In other ways, the Nook is a bit of a throwback to the first version of the Kindle. It’s a bit thicker and heavier, but that enables B&N to include a removable battery and an SD card slot for additional storage—2GB is built in. It also comes with free access to a 3G cellular network (this one from AT&T), but one-ups Amazon by including WiFi, which will allow some of its features to operate during foreign travel. It can be connected to a computer or charged via a mini-USB port, and the device also has a speaker and headphone jack.
All of these features may explain why the battery is removable. B&N estimates that the device will run for about 10 days on a single charge if the various wireless options are shut down, but heavy use of the optional features may drain it in as little as two days.
Some of these hardware choices may make it a compelling device, but the real differentiator is probably in the software. B&N turned to Google’s Android operating system to power the Nook, which may be why it supports so many file formats, including PDF, EPUB, eReader, MP3, and PNG, JPG, and GIF image formats.