My first e-reader wasn’t a Kindle, it was a Nook. It had a 6-inch 167 ppi E-Ink show and a tiny, horrible, however thrilling LED show beneath. There was a headphone jack, wi-fi, and a music participant constructed proper in. Popping out a yr earlier than the iPad, it felt electrical. It felt like Star Trek. It felt like the right bridge gadget between my smartphone and my laptop. However quickly Amazon turned its appreciable may, and skill to subsidize its e book enterprise with all its different extra profitable companies, towards Barnes & Noble, and because it raced Amazon to the most affordable e-reader Barnes & Noble misplaced no matter id its e-reader division was creating.
Now, years after Amazon received and Barnes & Noble misplaced, the corporate is privately held and it has a brand new CEO, James Daunt. Daunt was introduced on in 2019 to assist save the corporate that had been devastated by excessive rents on its shops, a precipitous decline in gross sales, and the aforementioned retail big. Daunt’s imaginative and prescient for the indie bookstore killer approaches the ironic. The as soon as big of publishing is handing management of its shops to its managers, trying to instill in every of its shops the unbiased spirit it used to quash. Wall Street Journal has a profile of the company out this week that’s a captivating have a look at how Barnes & Noble is studying to compete with Amazon with out cannibalizing itself within the course of.
The Nook enterprise doesn’t come up within the profile, and thats most likely for the most effective. While you’re attempting to rebrand your organization as indie and funky you possibly can’t present up with the Nook. Whereas most e-readers are slim, with small bezels and glossy exteriors, the E-Ink a part of the Nook line up appears prefer it stumbled out of 2012. Taking a look at it I really feel the urge to ask the Glowlight 4 who the president is.
And I don’t assume it’s alleged to be this fashion. When Daunt launched the $149 Nook Glowlight 4 in 2021 he stated that the corporate was trying to “reinvigorate Nook within the coming months and years.” Since than the corporate launched 4 ebook-reading gadgets. There’s the 10-inch Android pill made by Lenovo, that…appears like each different $130 pill. However not less than it’s received the Google Play Retailer on the house display so you possibly can select which e-reader app you utilize.
Then there are the E-Ink readers. The flagship is the Nook Glowlight 4 which is a bit more costly than the Kindle and somewhat cheaper than the Kobo, and few options lighter than each. Nevertheless it does have web page turning buttons! The $99 Nook Glowlight 4e has page-turning buttons too, however sacrifices much more than the Glowlight 4 to maintain its worth low. Particularly the standard type of sucks. We had a lot of points with responsiveness which might be essentially the most irritating sin an e-reader can commit. If I press a button to show the web page…I would like the web page to show.
In September Barnes & Noble goes to try to flip issues round with the $199 GlowLight 4 Plus. It’s waterproof. It’s received a headphone jack and Bluetooth. There’s 32GB of onboard storage and a front-lit E-Ink show with 300ppi decision and shade temperature management. It’s not that first era Nook from approach again in 2009, however it feels extra thrilling than what Amazon is providing on the identical worth.
The issue is, like the opposite Nook e-readers its type of dorky, and should you’re already within the Kindle ecosystem—which lots of people are—there’s not a brilliant compelling cause to modify over past a want to chop the Amazon wire or since you love buttons.
The Nook lineup consists of a few different options that ought to theoretically be compelling, however all the time come up simply brief. For instance, you possibly can entry library books on the Nook, however retaining with the early 2010 theme of this lineup, you have to a USB cable and Adobe software program. In the meantime Overdrive can ship books to your Kindle instantly, and whereas it may be tough to arrange, Kobo has Overdrive in-built.
It’s unclear how Daunt’s present “reinvigoration” of the Nook model goes for the corporate financially, however from the skin I don’t see how it may be doing something however breaking even. Anti-Amazon clients and Nook diehards who by no means switched can’t be that a lot of a market, and it additionally has to compete with Kobo to woo individuals against Amazon—which analysts estimate owns between 68 and 83-percent of the e book marketshare within the U.S.
With that type of dominance Barnes & Noble both must battle over the scraps with Kobo (which is owned by Rakuten—the large Japanese on-line retailer) or differentiate itself. Lackluster design and bodily buttons aren’t gone be sufficient.
I’d like to see Amazon launch an Android E-Ink pill. These tablets are getting extra common in non-American markets the place one two to corporations don’t have a digital monopoly on the e-reader area. You should buy one on Amazon or direct from the producer fairly simply. I’m personally enamored with Onyx Boox and its line up of Android E-Ink tablets.
The issue is the software program expertise isn’t all the time superb, and most Android functions aren’t constructed for E-Ink shows with their glacially sluggish refresh charges. This results in a variety of friction that doesn’t exist if you use a standard pill or cellphone.
However Barnes & Noble has a stunning app expertise. It may theoretically cast off a variety of that friction. Think about an e-reader that supported the Barnes & Noble retailer out of the field however allowed you to additionally entry your Kindle library, or simply try a e-book from Libby, or scroll by way of your bookmarked articles in Pocket too.
Amazon won’t ever construct a Kindle with that flexibility—it ones you to remain proper within the Amazon ecosystem. Kobo is analogous. There’s a cause downloading a library books isn’t as seamless as shopping for a reserving from the Kobo retailer. However Barnes & Noble is the bookseller that wishes to point out off its unbiased spirit. It desires its brick and mortar shops to specific their individualism. So why not its e-readers too?