Monday, November 07, 2011

New Nook Tablet--Will it hold Fire's Feet to the Flames?

The new nook Tablet unveiled.
(Big disclaimer, I am a B&N bookseller. Nevertheless, I continue to be impressed personally by the B&N e-reader lineup simply as a person who is interested in e-reading. So while I think I'm unbiased on this account, use whatever grains of salt you wish.) 

Sure, I'm a shelver, and a stocker, and occasionally even a barista when need arises. But mostly, when I am at work, I am a digital bookseller, that is, a seller of the Barnes & Noble nook. So I've known for awhile that this announcement was dropping today, and the specs of the new device have been hanging around on places like Engadget for a good while.

Nevetheless--this is a pretty exciting device. Move over, Fire. The nook Tablet is on the market at $249, the same price as the existing nook Color, which is going to drop to $199 even as it adds some of the multi-media features like Hulu Plus and Netflix (which up until this point haven't been available on the nook Color, making it less desirable to some who want a table to do all of those things).

From USA Today, here are the specs on the new nook Tablet:

Resolution: 1024 by 600 (same as nook Color, same as Kindle Fire)
Weight: 14.1 ounces (two ounces less than NC, .5 ounces less than KF)
Processor: 1GHz dual-core
Storage: 16 GB of internal storage (twice as much as NC and KF)

In addition, the new nook has a microphone. It's touted as being created to allow children and parents to use the "record my voice" option on children's books, but I see it being exploited very quickly by softrooted nook users for applications like Skype. That will be a big boon, and a big advantage over the Kindle Fire. It does, however, retain the nook Color's form factor, which, let's be honest, isn't the most beautiful. But that hasn't stopped nook Color owners from owning the Color, and I suspect it won't be a huge hindrance to the Tablet.

Now, my only concern is that I really would've liked to see B&N come in and hit at Amazon's price point. Pricing down the original nook Color, even with major software updates, I don't think is going to make up for the fact that the Fire competitor is $50 more than the Fire. Now, I understand that supposedly the Kindle Fire is sold at a loss. However, the Kindle and Amazon have unbelievable name recognition. People have "Kleenex"ed the Kindle, meaning that they call all e-readers "Kindles," and this means that any device on the market is seen in comparison to the Kindle. In this instance, the extra $50 isn't going to win anybody any friends.

At the same time, Amazon continues to gobble up the book market at an alarming rate, becoming publisher, distributor, agent, as well as retailer. Their increasing chokehold on the market is something a lot of people want to fight against. In the past, a number of people have chosen the nook over the Kindle devices because it isn't Amazon, and because the access to read DRM-protected ePub directly from publishers and authors is seen as an advantage.

B&N is banking on the hardware upgrades to get people to pay the $50, and certainly, the people who understand hardware, as well as issues related to rooting software and DRM protection will probably want the nook. But they're the customers who've already been gravitating toward the nook. To really take a bite  out of Amazon's market share, B&N needs to focus on the average-joe consumer--the one who has it in his head that bookstores are great for browsing, but Amazon is where you go to buy, and the one who doesn't give a darn about how much RAM or processing speed he has if the device is fifty bucks cheaper.

For me, however, the more interesting number is the price-drop on the Simple Touch (along with some pretty nifty software upgrades). Now, we've been pointing out to people ever since the Kindle Touch debuted that the Simple Touch is the same price as its true competitor--the Kindle Touch without ads, which retails at $139. Kindle did a little fancy footwork with its pricing so that the Kindles with ads show up by default, making people think the base device is $99, which isn't the case. However, to fight back, B&N is dropping the price on the Simple Touch to $99 (and I'm praying my 15% employee discount is still going to work, because-- an $85 nook? Sweeeet!) to turn up the heat.

When I started working for B&N, we'd just debuted the nook 1st Gen WiFi at $149. When you're in $149 and below territory, you're at the level of impulse buy for a number of users. Drop below $100, and you're in the range of impulse buy for huge numbers. So despite the unbearable lightness of Kindle (I had a chance to check out the $79/$109 device this week, and it is teeny), I think this move will have a greater impact on sales than the nook Tablet. 

I think with the hardware upgrades and the streaming content, the nook Tab is going to be a success for B&N. But I'm not certain at this point that it's really going to steal the ball from Amazon.

However, for the sake of continued competition in the e-bookselling world, I certainly hope it will.

1 comment:

  1. I've been waiting for the Simple Touch price drop which I've anticipated since hearing they would drop the color price. I'm pretty sure this will now be a Christmas present for my daughter. So, I agree with your assessment. If the gap had remained with the new Kindle, it would have been a tougher choice, now the the nook is a no brainer for me.


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