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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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik