Only a few days after we declared certain doom for the Nook e-book reader, Barnes and Noble announced a color entry with the Nook Color — a device that sits somewhere between an e-reader and a tablet, but thankfully sticks closer to ereader pricing at $250.
The Nook Color is pretty much a 7-inch Android tablet, but don’t expect it to be as unrestricted a device as something like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Instead, Barnes and Noble has developed a new user-interface that still caters to ereader functionality, while also including some tablet bells and whistles. The device includes Facebook and Twitter functionality, as well as some apps like Pandora.
Instead of the black-and-white e-ink display used in most e-book readers, the Nook Color uses a LCD display running at a high 1024 by 600 pixel resolution with 16 million colors. The screen is an IPS, or in-plane switching, panel — so it will offer more realistic colors than your average LCD screen. It also features a “full lamination screen film” above the LCD, which B&N says says will reduce glare from the device’s backlight, as well as external light sources.
There’s no 3G connectivity at this point, but the Nook Color does include your typical WiFi support. It packs in 8 gigabytes of storage, and also includes a microSD slot (like the original Nook) to plug in additional storage. It’s fairly thin at about half-an-inch thick, and weighs about one pound. Given that it’s now powering a full-color LCD panel, the Nook Color offers about 8 hours of battery life with its wireless turned off — a far cry from its bigger brother’s 7 to 10 days of juice.
The Nook Color won’t run typical applications from the Android Market. B&N instead is working on its own developer program to foster third-party applications. While developers won’t automatically be able to get their apps on the Nook Color, it shouldn’t be very difficult to translate an existing application for the eereader — assuming it doesn’t require very fast hardware.
While the battery life isn’t exactly conducive to bringing a large novel on vacation, the Nook Color’s screen means that B&N can now offer color children’s books, as well as newspapers and magazines.
The company isn’t abandoning the original Nook, which is currently awaiting a big software update, but I suspect that it will receive less attention than the sexier color addition. B&N has actually stumbled into an interesting niche with the product, since it could serve as a basic tablet for consumers who don’t want to splurge for a more expensive iPad or Galaxy Tab.
Given that the Nook Color is more tablet than ereader though, my position that the original Nook is dead remains firm. Strangely enough, by releasing this product B&N has seemingly killed the Nook themselves, leaving Amazon to remain king of dedicated ereaders. But in the process, Barnes and Noble has become the first company to release a desirable sub-$400 tablet.
The Nook Color is available for pre-order now, and will ship on November 19.