June 16, 2011

New nook wows reviewers but Barnes & Noble still looking for users


The new nook, boasting about its book selection.

The newly revamped nook eReader is generally getting rave reviews across the web, but Wired especially loved the new device.

In his article “The Nook Nails It,” John C. Abell lists a slew of innovations that have put the nook ahead of its immediate eInk competitors from a technological standpoint. It’s just that pesky market-share business that Barnes & Noble‘s eReader is still getting its, ahem, buttocks handed to it.

But as Abell notes it’s not for the usual reason. Abell writes:

Nothing here gets in the way of a good read. Six-inch e-ink screen is crisp. Epic battery life. Hardware design eases one-handed operation. B&N sells over two million Nook books — more than twice what Amazon offers for the Kindle, which is just shy of a million titles.

That’s one of the most interesting aspects in this battle of blood-thirsty monopolists. The selection is not important to end-users this time. The nook doubles its nearest competitor’s offering and still flounders in the shallows while the Kindle pushes further out to sea. For no discernible reason other than that Amazon knows what it’s doing when it comes to playing endgame capitalism. The Kindle is heavily advertised and marketed, with savvy copycat ads like their parody miming of the Apple vs. PC ads of yesteryear. The nook has always been the more friendly device, and now it is even further ahead from a tech standpoint than the Kindle. Did I mention the twice-as-many-books angle? So beyond Amazon’s bottomless war chest for advertising, what’s causing supposed readers to gravitate towards the Kindle instead of the better, and better-served nook?

Barnes & Noble looks like a company in retreat. Floor space in their brick & mortar castles is being devoted more and more to boardgames, Legos and the like. While Amazon increasingly looks like it wants to be your one-stop shop for all things book (as in they want to publish, distribute and sell all books – a thing we used to have laws against), B&N increasingly looks like a middle-aged guy going through a midlife crisis. Because of this the nook to consumers then looks like a bright red convertible. Sure it’s nice, but the guy driving it has no idea what he wants in life.

That said, I need to reiterate something: 2 to 1 selection. For the tech breakdown Wired’s review is heavily recommended.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.