Can the new Nook save Barnes & Noble?

The struggling bookseller unveils an updated tablet e-reader to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire.

By Kim Peterson Nov 7, 2011 2:43PM
As just about everyone expected, Barnes & Noble (BKS) has announced a new version of its Nook e-reader to keep up with Amazon (AMZN).

The bookstore chain will sell the Nook Tablet for $249, which is about $50 more than the upcoming Kindle Fire from Amazon. Both devices are coming out next week.

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Does the Nook Tablet have what it takes to beat the new Kindle? As far as technical chops go, the Nook appears to be the winner.

The Nook Tablet: $249
Seven-inch color screen
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Storage capacity: 16 GB built-in (expandable with a microSD slot)
RAM: 1 GB
Runs over Wi-Fi
Battery life: Nine hours of continuous video or 11.5 hours of reading (on low-power mode)

The Kindle Fire: $199
Seven-inch color screen
Weight: 14.6 ounces
Storage capacity: 8 GB built-in. No microSD slot
RAM: 512 MB
Runs over Wi-Fi
Battery life: Eight hours (on low-power mode)

Both devices are running custom versions of the Android operating system developed by Google (GOOG). None have cameras or 3G wireless access.

The Nook also gives access to video streaming through Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu Plus. Amazon is trying to push content from its own video-streaming library.

So the Nook has some superiority over the new Kindle. But is that enough to save Barnes & Noble? Investors weren't too thrilled Monday, it seems. Barnes & Noble shares dropped a little more than 1% to $11.47 after the Nook Tablet announcement. Shares are down 20% in the past year.

Amazon shares were down less than 1% to $215.54.

Neither the Nook nor the Fire can match the Apple (AAPL) iPad, of course, but they aren't meant to be direct rivals. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are emphasizing a narrow media-consumption platform, with digital books, videos and music as the primary drivers. The iPad has more abilities and a higher price tag.

Barnes & Noble will still sell its Nook Color, by the way, but at a reduced price of $199. The Nook Simple Touch device gets a price drop to $99.
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