Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

If You Like Buttons, You’ll Hate the New Nook

Barnes & Nobles’ pitch for the new Nook is simple: It’s the simplicity, stupid.

The book chain’s newest e-reader, available in stores “around” June 10, will go for $139–the same price as Amazon’s basic Kindle (but more than the cheapest Kindle, which sells for $114 and comes with ads). The difference, according to Barnes & Noble execs: The Kindle is too complicated for lots of people!

That will come as a surprise to the millions of people who’ve bought Kindles already, but whatever–no one says e-book peddlers can’t engage in some puffery. In any case, the things you need to know about the “all-new Nook:”

  • It’s small.
  • It’s got a black-and-white touchscreen.
  • It only has one button.
  • B&N is marketing it as a single-purpose e-reader for people who just want to read books. It’s meant to stack up against Amazon’s basic Kindle line, as opposed to the Nook color, which is essentially a low-end Android tablet computer that’s meant to compete, in a way, with Apple’s iPad and whatever tablet Amazon rolls out sooner than later.

Simple, right?



The Nook is no Kindle, but the e-reader has still been a success for Barnes & Noble–enough to convince John Malone to make a $700 million bid for the bookseller itself. Today we’re supposed to meet the Nook’s newest incarnation, set to be unveiled at one of Barnes & Noble’s New York City stores.

If my technology cooperates, you should see a live blog of the event here:

10:01 am: Greetings. Coming to you live from Union Square, Wi-Fi willing.

10:01 am: We’re two minutes away, says Mr. Announcer. Sitting next to NPD’s Ross Rubin, who is predicting w/some confidence that the new Nook will feature a larger screen. Does that excite you folks?

10:03 am: Music has moved from sleepy techno to something that’s hip-hoppy but not too hip-hoppy. Not scary hip-hoppy, prime time TV hip-hoppy.

10:04 am: Lights are off, video is on.

10:04 am: “Read forever” we’re commanded. Here’s BKS CEO William Lynch. Loud applause from people wearing Nook t-shirts.

10:05 am: Some windup: “Explosive” market, B&N gaining share. In 22 months, B&N has 25 percent of e-book market.

10:05 am: We believe Nook color is “best selling Android tablet in the U.S.”–that is, the tallest midget.

10:06 am: And our app store is awesome too.

10:07 am: More self-accolades for a number of publishers, B&N working with, etc. Pubit! Terribly named self-publishing platform. Angry Birds! Of course. 1 million app downloads to date.

10:07 am: And we have a cloud service and we have customer service.

10:09 am: We have a tech team and we have people who sell books in stores.

10:09 am: Digital newsstand has sold 1.5 million subscriptions *and* downloads in 6 months. And did you see those great stories about us in the NYT and WSJ? [Weird how those showed up in advance of our launch. That was lucky!]

10:12 am: OK, talking up merits of a “simple, pure reading experience.” Translation: The Nook we’re going to will be cheap, B&W.

10:12 am: The new Nook is for people who are “turned off by buttons, keyboards and complexity.”

10:13 am: The “all-new Nook.”

10:13 am: Loud applause from people in Nook t-shirts.

10:13 am: Video with soundtrack that sounds like Enya, I think. The all-new Nook is small, black-and white. It appears to have no buttons. It is “The Simple Touch Reader.”

10:14 am: “Easiest to use, most portable e-reader ever created.”

10:14 am: “Touch makes everything easier.” 6″ display (sorry, Ross). 7.5 oz., 5″ x 6.5″.

10:15 am: 2-month battery life. More applause from people who are wearing Nook t-shirts.

10:15 am: E-ink display. New display “leapfrogs” competition with better page-turns, minimized “flashing.”

10:16 am: $139. Same as lowest ad-free Kindle, I believe. More than Kindle w/ads.

10:17 am: “The Kindle 3 has 38 buttons. That’s 37 more than the all-new Nook.”

10:17 am: More applause. Guess what kind of t-shirts the applauders are wearing?

10:17 am: To sum up: The Kindle has a keyboard, and the Nook has a touchscreen.

10:19 am: Like to show you a picture but B&N PR says won’t have images until 10:30 ET. Doesn’t appear to be on BN site yet.

10:20 am: Jamie Iannone, president of Nook digital on stage for more product review.

10:21 am: Nook can hold 1,000 books, comes w/2 gigs of storage. Expandable up to 32 gigs.

10:24 am: If you want buttons, the all-new Nook is not for you. Touchscreen, touchscreen, touchscreen.

10:24 am: This wasn’t clear, is now. It’s Wi-Fi, not wireless, which makes sense.

10:27 am: Accessories! They are stylish.

10:27 am: Remember, it is “the simplest e-reader ever created.”

10:28 am: Applause! I’m going to try to get one of those Nook t-shirts, and then I’ll walk around the city randomly applauding, loudly.

10:28 am: Back to Lynch. Pre-order now and in-store. Available June 10. Also via Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc.

10:29 am: Q&A time: “All media please remain seated.”

10:30 am: Now we have to wait for “invited guests” at front to leave and grab some breakie.

10:32 am: PR person warns us: Only questions about the all-new Nook!

10:32 am: Q: Any 3G avail? A: Nope. Wi-Fi is dominant in e-book reading. Also 3G radios are expensive. And pricing in e-book readers is elastic.

10:33 am: Q: Talk about the chipset, please. A: [technical words make head hurt]

10:34 am: Question I couldn’t hear. Also, can you replace battery? Iannone: 2 month reading time based on 30 minutes of reading per day. We think that’s apple-to-apple comparison. Battery can’t be removed.

10:35 am: What will new Nook mean for your 25 percent market share? Lynch: Did I mention our explosive growth?

Here’s the press release, btw.

10:37 am: Can you get apps for the all-new Nook? Iannone: Nope. Apps are complicated and people who buy this thing like simple.

10:38 am: How many Nooks have you sold? And why won’t you tell us? Lynch: We’re not the only ones who won’t tell you. But we’ve said “millions.”

10:39 am: Missed question, but this is running Android 2.1. Meanwhile old B&W Nook Wi-Fi now selling for $119.

10:39 am: Q: International? Lynch. Yeah, we’d like to. But not yet.

10:40 am: What about cannibalizing Nook color sales? Lynch: Not worried about it, we’re fine with segmentation. Nook color is “the readers tablet.” “This is just the straight-forward reader, single-purpose product.”

10:41 am: Iannone chips in: Some households will buy multiple versions, we think.

10:42 am: Hey! If this is for Grandma, then who’s going to buy paper books? And if no one’s going to buy paper books, why do you have these stores? Lynch: We sell paper books at our stores, and also our devices. “Your assumption that somehow our store sales are declining, they’re not.” Cites Q4 #s.

Still waiting for new Nook site to go live.

Found some art. Up shortly.

10:47 am: Hey, what about a “Nook with special offers”? Lynch: “No ads on Nooks.”

10:48 am: OK, art up now at top of post.

Q&A over.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus