The Nook Tablet Disappoints

Barnes & Noble debuted their new ereader, the Nook Tablet, yesterday, and I found it entirely disappointing. It has slightly bumped specs from the original incarnation, the Nook Color, but those specs are largely unnecessary for an ereader, especially since the Nook Color can run all of its headline features.

I’m not disappointed in its specs or form factor, though. If anything, the similarities between these versions show just how solid a device the Nook Color was. Instead, I’m disappointed in Barnes & Noble’s continuing failure of strategy.

Here’s the official demo. Kate, the unnecessary tour guide, doesn’t mention reading until halfway through the video’s four-minute length. Hulu, Netflix, Facebook, web-surfing, Scrabble, Epicurious—all of these things get mentioned before books. These are bonus features. A bookstore’s flagship gadget should first attempt to demonstrate that it’s the best ereader in the world, and then, as a bonus, here are some cool extras like Netflix.

The Nook Tablet video is a structural copy of the Kindle Fire video. That’s another problem. Amazon showcased little to nothing of the Fire’s ereading capabilities. Instead of taking advantage of that oversight, B&N copied it.

The Nook Color/Tablet and the Kindle Fire appear to be more or less interchangeable. There are small differences, like the fact that parents can record audiobooks for their kids on the Nook Tablet. But from those videos, it’s impossible to tell which one is the better ereader, because both treat ereading as an afterthought. Right now, the clearest differentiator between them is their content providers. Barnes & Noble loses that matchup.

When there are signs that B&N isn’t all that interested in selling books anymore, how confident can you be buying ebooks from them? If you buy a Nook Tablet next week, are you still going to be using it in a year? Two years? Is B&N going to be around then? Are they still going to be a bookstore? Are they going to be interested in making sure their Nook Color ereaders keep up with Amazon’s Kindle Fires? The answer to any of these questions is a doubtful maybe.

(Side note: I haven’t had any personal experience with the Nook Tablet. I’m basing my impressions mostly on my own experiences with the first-gen Nook Color, which I bought when it first came out last year. I don’t use it anymore, because I’m afraid books I buy on it will expire in a couple of years, and partially because I got so frustrated with its wasted potential. Its version of the New York Times omitted most of the paper’s web content, like the blogs, videos, and picture galleries. The Nook Color never really had comic books or the New Yorker, cross-content interaction, or many other things I’d like to have seen.)

On the other side of the fence, you can be sure Amazon will still be here in 3 years. You can be sure your Kindle Fire will work well, will be safe and functional if not cutting edge, and will have a staggering array of content.

I said when I saw this little product card last week that B&N was heading in entirely the wrong direction. (I mean, from that sheet, can you even tell it’s supposed to be an ereader?) So sound the dirge trumpet, the B&N deathwatch has begun. Don’t buy a Nook Color this Christmas, I think you’ll regret it.

2 comments to The Nook Tablet Disappoints

  • First, the New Yorker is available on the Nook Color. It’s also cheaper than the normal subscriptions and doesn’t have any ads. It’s great, and I read them on the Nook Touch every week. (However the New Yorker is not available in the Nook application on ipad because Conde Nast forbids it).

    Second, on the hardware side it appears that Kindle Fire is following the Nook Color’s footsteps. Last year when Nook Color was released, it was ground-breaking, and the Kindle Fire matched the Nook Color with a few additional features. Now Nook Tablet has slightly more features than the Kindle, plus better processing power — although no cloud yet really. Refurbished models of Nook Color are costing about $149. I think that’s a great price point.

    As far as the New York Times on Nook Color, I guarantee you that it looked much much worse on the Kindle 3.

    Longtime Industry watcher Nate Hoffelder recommended both the Nook Tablet and Nook Color over the Kindle Fire . I work in publishing, and let me tell you Amazon’s embrace of proprietary standards is infuriating. The Kindle format is like running Netscape 4 on a brand new laptop, and the new ebook format for the Kindle Fire hasn’t even been released! Nook ebooks are using the international epub standard.

    Two things I agree about. These things are marketed like multimedia devices, and frankly most of the video reviews spend a lot of time talking about apps and stupid things like that. They don’t spend as much time talking about notetaking, organizing ebooks, how things look on the page, how to navigate through the book, reading features, fonts, etc. For example, the Kindle 3 e-ink has terrible support for images, borders and lots of other things we take for granted (and work basically out of the box on the Nook). On pagination, I think Nook Color has the advantage although I haven’t tried the Kindle Fire.

    I agree though that interactivity is a problem; wouldn’t it be nice to be able to attach bluetooth keyboards to these things. Also, would it really be so hard to create a built in search engine for Project Gutenberg works? (as you see in the Stanza app on the ipad). Also, it would be nice to have an RSS reader (ps. I read ChamberFour entirely on Mr. Reader app on my ipad).

    About comic books. With some exceptions, comic book makers simply refused to make comics in epub format. They could have, but they chose not to (for various technical and commercial reasons). They are now on the Kindle Fire because these kinds of publishers insisted on a fixed layout format, and Amazon complied, but for these pocket sized devices, the fonts are still too small. (It works much better on the ipad).

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      First of all, let me clarify one thing, because it typifies my frustration with B&N: the New Yorker is NOT available on the Nook Color. On the New Yorker’s Nook Magazine page, it says that the New Yorker is compatible with the Nook (and your Nook Touch), but it doesn’t mention the Nook Color. Which means that, unimaginably, the Nook version doesn’t work on the NC.

      This frustrated me for MONTHS, and Barnes & Noble keeps saying they’ll get it, but they never do.

      Also, would it really be so hard to get Comixology-type app to run on the Nook Color? That’s all I want. This is another thing they’ve long promised and never delivered.

      As for the Kindle format, I think you’re right. I’ve tried it on my phone, and I can’t stand the “Locations” thing, not to mention the slightly gross feeling I get buying things from Amazon.

      Personally, I won’t be going anywhere near a Kindle Fire, but I think a lot of people will, and I can’t say I fault them.

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