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Do the e-reader shuffle
Which e-book reader or tablet is on your gift list?

11/10/11
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



The e-book wars heat up again just in time for holiday gift-giving. Amazon updated its Kindle line a few weeks ago, and now Barnes & Noble is ready to hit back. Details leaked to a few tech blogs late last week about the book retailer’s plans.

Their basic e-reader, the Nook Simple Touch, will drop from $139 to $99. That’s the same price as Amazon’s Kindle Touch With Special Offers, which displays targeted ads as screensavers. Without ads, the Kindle Touch is $139. Barring personal preference, Amazon gets owned in this head-to-head matchup.

Next up is the Nook Color, an aged veteran in the tech world at an entire year old. It cuts $50 off its price, from $249 to $199, and gets a software update with Hulu Plus and Pandora pre-installed. That only matches the Kindle Fire’s price, and the update can’t make up for the Nook Color’s obsolete single-core processor. It does come with coupons and expandable memory, though, and will probably be much easier to hack than the Fire. This one comes down to your own personal comfort with one or the other megacorporation and the ecosystem each offers. Hulu Plus and various music services or Amazon Prime?

The new kid on the block is the Nook Tablet. It takes over the $249 price point and is pretty much identical to the Nook Color but adds Netflix, doubles the RAM to 1GB, doubles the storage capacity to 16GB and doubles the number of CPU cores and still manages to be about an ounce lighter. For the $50 price premium, you get double the RAM and storage of the Kindle Fire, but again it’s the expandable memory (and associated hackability) and company affiliation that really distinguish the two. Barnes & Noble is even ponying up its own cloud storage, so you can store more stuff locally or online. If they were both $199, I’d call the Nook Tablet the clear winner, but as is, it’s another toss-up.

Both companies are also invading the publishing side of the business, inviting authors to format and sell their wares directly. Amazon offers Kindle Direct Publishing for their platform while Barnes & Noble puts your book in the more open ePub format through their unfortunately-named PubIt! system.

But wait! Remember Kobo, the Canadian company whose e-readers were sold at Borders? CBC News is reporting that they will launch their own publishing service in 2012. And, hmm, they seem to be shipping a tablet now, too, called the Kobo Vox. Its specs match up almost exactly with the Nook Color’s, and so does the $199 price. Their other models are the Kobo Touch at $129 and Kobo WiFi at $99, neither of which can really compete with Barnes & Noble on price, but they do come in different colors, so yay for them.

Where does that leave the big-name pioneer of e-readers, Sony? Well, they’re, um, still there. Their single current model, the Reader WiFi, is the most expensive of the touchscreen types at $150, but it can brag about being the thinnest and lightest. As a giant company with film and music arms, Sony could certainly handle self-publishing, though for now it partners with SmashWords and Author Solutions.

Amazon is still the biggest gorilla, but its competition remains strong.

Get busy reading and re-tweeting at twitter.com/CitizenjaQ.






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