E-Reader Wars Begin in Earnest with the Release of the Nook

NEW YORK—With Tuesday’s announcement of the launch of Barnes & Noble’s new Nook e-reader, the battle for the soul of readers around the world begins in earnest. As traditional print continues its slide into what some believe will be oblivion, the evolution of wireless electronic readers takes on increased significance not just for the companies producing these devices, or for publishers producing content to be read (and now heard) on them, but for a myriad of technologies and services that could potentially be integrated into these first- and second-generation devices.

Not even on the market yet, Nook is being called a Kindle killer, a reference to Amazon’s Kindle 2, which has had the e-reader marketplace essentially to itself.

According to PC World’s Tech Inciter, David Coursey, who coined the term Kindle Killer, “If Amazon doesn't have a new model up its sleeve, it will be a Merry Christmas at B&N and a sack of coal for Amazon.” He provides five reasons why the new product is superior, including better hardware, a color display, more download capacity, loan-able e-books and the fact that people can take Nooks for a ride at their local Barnes & Noble.

But there are many other abilities contained in Nook that are not available with the Kindle 2. For instance, the device has touch screen capabilities for navigation, is 3G and Wi-Fi-enabled, has a micro SD expansion slot, directly loads and reads PDFs, has a replaceable battery, and perhaps most significantly of all, uses the Android operating system. The Nook also works as an MP3 player using a built-in mono or a headphone jack.

For those wondering whether B&N plans to give the device full browsing capabilities, representatives from the company remain tight-lipped, but it seems like an obvious evolution for such a device. The color screen itself promises many more uses for the Nook, especially for magazines, such as AVN magazine, that feature color graphics and ads.

While the Nook has had an auspicious debut, to say the least, not everyone is enamored with the device. Carl Franzen of the Atlantic Wire has compiled a smattering of first reviews, including some that actually suggest the Nook cannot overtake the Kindle, and furthermore, that e-readers themselves are overhyped and destined for the technology dustbin.

Over at Wired, however, Charlie Sorrel is unabashedly impressed. “If you just ordered a Kindle, stop reading now or you’re in for a giant dose of buyer’s remorse. Barnes and Noble unveiled a new e-book reader called ‘Nook,’ and it is hot, both inside and out.”

The Nook costs $259 compared with $279 for the Kindle 2.

For more information about the Nook, visit Barnes & Noble.

For more information about the Kindle 2, visit Amazon.

For a side-by-side look at the two devices, click here.