Barnes & Noble’s highly-anticipated Nook eBook reader has begun to ship, and a few reviews are showing up online. The Nook was designed as a direct competitor to the Amazon Kindle, and from what I can tell, it does make a strong run at the King. Its size is comparable to the Kindle, the weight is only 1 oz. more, and it can hold as many books (1500). It has wi-fi and 3G access to over 1 million books, compared to Kindle’s 360,000. But the difference in inventory is because the Nook accesses lots of public-domain materials in addition to more traditionally-published materials, something Amazon does not do. You can subscribe to magazines and newspapers with the Nook as well. The Nook does not offer a web browser. You can preview books on the Nook when you are in B&N, and “loan” books you’ve downloaded to a friend for up to 14 days (this is a beta feature). And probably the coolest feature is the touch-screen, which presents in full color, as opposed to the tiny navigation buttons and keyboard on the Kindle. The Kindle is running on a Linux operating system; the Nook is Android-based.
But on the horizon is a bigger, badder eBook reader. The eDGe from enTourage Systems is set to debut in February 2010, and this device sounds like the mother of all eBook readers. It features two large screens (each over 9 inches diagonal), with the left-hand screen for traditional eInk reading capability, and the right-hand screen in full color LCD for showing graphics/photos, surfing the ‘net, and writing emails. Even more exciting is the ability to use a stylus on the eReader side to underline text, write in the margins, etc. This is the one thing missing from traditional eBooks; the ability to annotate your text as you desire. This lends itself particularly well to textbooks, a market that the Kindle would love to be able to service fully but cannot because of the limitations of their device. The eDGe allows you to tuck away the LCD screen if space is tight or you don’t need its features at the moment. The device is obviously heavier, but with multiple functionality and use as a tablet and/or netbook as well, it may just offer what the modern student needs. I have a Kindle DX, and it’s great for reading novels and other pleasure-reading, but no good for anything that requires annotation or studying later (ever tried to go to a certain page on your Kindle?).
I really love seeing all of these developments on the eBook market. Everyone’s needs are so different, and just like cell phones, it will take multiple types of devices to meet everyone’s needs. The market, at this point, is wide open.