Barnes & Noble will begin shipping the Nook Color today; a $249 device that the company claims offers the “ultimate reading experience.”
A close look at the marketing message reveals B&N has been very careful about labeling the Nook Color. The company doesn’t call it a color eReader, as it doesn’t have an eInk display like the original Nook or Amazon Kindle, and B&N doesn’t label the Nook Color a tablet, despite the fact that it sports a touch-enabled color-LCD and Wi-Fi, features a full web browser, supports video and audio, and runs on the Google Android operating system.
So, what exactly is the Nook Color?
Not a Tablet
Many would say it’s a low-powered Android tablet based on its specs, functionality and form factor, though one designed specifically for consuming the more than two million B&N titles, including magazine and newspaper content in full color.
So, why not call it that? Perhaps Barnes & Noble wants to avoid the inevitable iPad comparisons, considering Apple’s Tablet is more powerful and has more than 200,000 apps (B&N is launching its own Nook app store in the near future as the Nook Color will not have access to the Android Market). The iPad is also more expensive, costing twice as much as the Nook Color for its least expensive model.
Another factor is the tablet label. The marketing team behind a similar Android-powered device has told me that they call their tablet an eReader simply because it’s easier to get an eReader on the big-box and discount store shelves.
So why not call it a color eReader?
Not a Color eReader
Barnes & Noble is well aware that many prefer eInk to LCD for reading, which is why they are still offering the original Nook — and going out of the way to mention it in promoting the Nook Color. A “color eReader” may render the Nook obsolete in the eyes of the consumers.
Also, there is the fact that the Nook Color is not a color eReader. To many, an eReader has an eInk display. And E Ink Holdings, the company behind the technology, recently announced the first color eInk display. In addition, the first device to ship with color eInk — made for the Chinese market by Hanvon as a low-cost iPad competitor — is scheduled to launch in March.
For their part, Amazon and others have been lukewarm toward color eInk potential. With simple grayscale displays, the eReader market is booming. Analysts predict 35 million eReaders will ship by 2014, and eBooks are expected to become a multi-billion dollar business the following year. Besides, when was the last time you read a color paperback or hardcover? Amazon and others could also argue that they offer PC, Mac, iPad, and smartphone applications that can display content in full color.
So, where does that leave the Nook Color?
In addition to magazine and newspaper content, B&N is pushing Nook Kids, a children’s book outlet featuring full-color, interactive children’s content. There is also potential for Nook Color cookbooks, and even textbooks. B&N also offers Nook Study, which is an eTextbook application that is currently limited to the PC or Mac.
Could the Nook Color then carve out a niche as something between a full-fledged tablet and eReader? A relatively low-cost device (compared to an iPad or Galaxy Tab anyway) specifically suited for full-color content?
TabletPCReview will attempt to answer these questions with our full review of the Nook Color coming soon.