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, in opposition to Barnes & Noble, and because it raced Amazon to the most cost effective 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 Road Journal has a profile of the corporate out this week that’s an enchanting 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 in all probability for the perfect. Once 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 modern exteriors, the E-Ink a part of the Nook line up appears to be like prefer it stumbled out of 2012. it I really feel the urge to ask the Glowlight 4 who the president is.
The Nook Glowlight 4 appears to be like acquainted… Picture by Barnes & Noble
And I don’t suppose it’s presupposed to be this fashion. When Daunt launched the $149 Nook Glowlight 4 in 2021 he mentioned that the corporate was seeking 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 to be like like each different $130 pill. However at the very least 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 value low. Specifically the standard type of sucks. We had numerous 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 want 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 colour 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 value.
The issue is, like the opposite Nook e-readers its type of dorky, and in the event you’re already within the Kindle ecosystem—which lots of people are—there’s not an excellent compelling motive to modify over past a want to chop the Amazon twine or since you love buttons.
You’ll be able to’t see it, however this factor has a headphone jack. Picture by Barnes & Noble
The Nook lineup contains a few different options that ought to theoretically be compelling, however at all times come up simply brief. For instance, you possibly can entry library books on the Nook, however preserving 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 troublesome 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 folks 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 struggle 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 widespread in non-American markets the place one two to firms don’t have a digital monopoly on the e-reader area. You should purchase 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 Leaf 2 begins at $199, has web page turning buttons, the Google Play Retailer, and a consumer expertise that wants enchancment. Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
The issue is the software program expertise isn’t at all times superb, and most Android functions aren’t constructed for E-Ink shows with their glacially gradual refresh charges. This results in plenty of friction that doesn’t exist if you use a conventional pill or telephone.
However Barnes & Noble has a stunning app expertise. It may theoretically get rid of plenty 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 ebook from Libby, or scroll by 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 comparable. There’s a motive downloading a library books isn’t as seamless as shopping for a reserving from the Kobo retailer. However Barnes & Noble is the bookseller that desires to indicate off its unbiased spirit. It desires its brick and mortar shops to specific their individualism. So why not its e-readers too?