This afternoon Barnes & Noble unveiled its answer to Amazon's Kindle, the $259 Nook, which goes on sale at the end of November, but is now up for preorder at nook.com. One-upping its competition, Nook adds a small full-color touch/horizontal scrollable navigation LCD that displays book cover art underneath the now de rigeuer 16-gray scale E Ink e-paper screen.
The touchscreen also displays standard content lists and a pop-up touch keypad. The screen goes dark so you're not distracted while reading.
To combat Kindle, Barnes & Noble couldn't intro a "me-too" e-reader. "Following the leader is simply not in our DNA," said William Lynch, president of B&N's online division. Inside Nook is 2GB of memory, which will hold 1,700 e-books, supplemented by a microSD slot. Nook also has an MP3 player and picture viewer (or as much as a 16-gray scale screen can render a picture) and can display side-loaded Adobe PDFs.
The Nook-to-Nook feature lets you lend e-books to other Nook owners or to anyone with a Barnes & Noble-enabled device, for up to 14 days. While the e-book is lent out, the owner doesn't have access to it, just like a physical book. To bribe you into the Nook, the first 10,000 Nook buyers will get a free e-copy of The Tipping Point. Author Malcolm Gladwell showed up to read from the opening chapter.
Nook is the first e-reader (but not be the last) with both 3G (via AT&T) and Wi-Fi for downloading content and exclusive streamed content inside B&N retail stores. It also runs Android, which potentially opens up the device for all manner of third-party app development.
Nook is just one weapon in B&N's war against the Kindle. Not only will Nook enable access to more than a million e-books (Amazon has less than half as many), magazines and newspapers, from both its own online store, it can also access free public-domain titles from Google Books, and Fictionwise.