Why the New Nook Will Flop

Barnes & Noble (Stock Quote: BKS) is pulling out all the stops to conquer the e-reader market, but its most recent attempt may have missed the mark.

The company debuted the Nookcolor on Tuesday, an updated version of the current black and white Nook e-reader. The new device, which will start shipping in mid-November, boasts more memory for storing books, an expanded selection of magazines, newspapers and graphic novels and most notably, a full-color touch screen.

In a press release announcing the new product, Barnes & Noble made its intention clear. It referred to the Nookcolor  as the “first-ever reader’s tablet.” In other words, the device is now attempting to compete not only with e-readers like Amazon’s (Stock Quote: AMZN) Kindle, but they are also going after tablets like Apple’s (Stock Quote: AAPL) iPad.

This is a bold move, to say the least, but it may be ill-advised.

At the moment, the biggest perk that the Nookcolor has going for it, compared to the rest of the tablet market, is its price. Barnes & Noble will sell the Nookcolor for $249, which is half the cost of the cheapest iPad, and $150 cheaper than the soon-to-be-released Samsung Tablet.

However, the pricing and branding of the device places it in a kind of no man’s land for gadgets.

Sure, this is an e-reader first and foremost, but at $249, it’s more than twice the price of Borders’ (Stock Quote: BGP) Kobo e-reader.  And yes, the Nookcolor may have a new and improved selection of periodicals and graphic novels displayed in full color, but the tradeoff is that it is choosing to forfeit the e-ink technology that displays black and white text and images that mimic the feel of reading from a piece of paper. Instead, the Nookcolor will use a backlit LCD screen, meaning that it will feel like you’re reading books on a computer screen. The company is trying to offset this by adding a layer of film to reduce glare, but this will likely still be worse on the eyes than the original Nook, and on top of that, the backlight will drastically decrease the battery life.

Meanwhile, at least for the time being, there really is no competition between the Nookcolor and the rest of the tablet market. Yes, it may very well end up having a better reading experience than a device like the iPad (although that remains to be seen), but what about the many other features that make a good tablet?

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