The arrival of the Kindle 3 has made things really boring since it’s the clear #1 choice in the eReader market. Amazon probably likes it this way – However, as a reader you want to see companies fighting bloody battles to win your hard-earned dollars.
B&N has been careful to not reveal any details about if/when the Nook 2 will arrive and what it’ll be like. So, to fill the void, here are my predictions for what the Nook 2 will be like. Please keep in mind that this is giving B&N a lot of the benefit of the doubt – It’s highly unlikely it’ll release a Nook 2 that’s this solid.
Nook 2 – B&N’s last stand
B&N knows it can’t keep losing the battles and that perhaps only the top 2 eReader companies are going to make it out of this alive. Nook 2 is probably going to be its very best shot -
- Nook 2 Price: $199 or $189.
- Screen: eInk Pearl 6″ screen.
- Nook Body: Pretty much the same as before.
- NEW: Text to Speech and Speech to Text introduced. Accessibility still missing.
- Nook Apps: High probability of a few additions like Crosswords (Nook 1 already has Chess and Sudoku). Low probability of opening up to a selected set of Android apps.
- LendMe: Expanded. Publishers and B&N are both desperate and they’ll probably agree and make this a real feature (lend to 2 people or 3 people).
- PDF Support: Much Improved though buggy since this will probably be added at the last minute to compete.
- Weight: The same since it’s unlikely B&N got time to even think about this.
- LCD touchscreen: Much improved in both quality and performance.
- Usability: Still spotty though it’s likely the LCD and eInk screens now work better together.
- Library Books – Support continued and now advertised more.
- ePub support – Continued.
- Battery Life – Improved marginally to 2 weeks (Nook 1 has 10 days battery life).
- Page Turn Speed – Improved marginally (Nook 1 is pretty slow).
- B&N Store – Continues and books can now be moved to any device capable of reading DRMed ePub.
- Google Editions – New Content Partner. Works in parallel with B&N ebook store.
- Google partnership on Search - B&N and Google Editions show up first for nearly all ebook related searches.
- WiFi – Continued with 802.11 n support added.
- 3G – Expanded with free Internet through AT&T.
- Lots of benefits stay the same – Custom Screensavers, Back Covers, Replaceable Battery, SD Card Slot.
- Lots of bug fixes and no more sluggishness – A bit unlikely but would be a big help if B&N pulls it off.
- Possible Killer Feature 1: Unbreakable Screen.
- Possible Killer Feature 2: eInk touch screen.
- Possible Killer Feature 3: Color – either through Qualcomm or via a dual-mode display.
- Possible Killer Feature 4: International release with Unicode font support.
The unbreakable screen and the touch screen are somewhat possible while Color is highly unlikely. An International release is pretty likely though the Unicode font support might not happen. Also, B&N is unlikely to put in the effort to sign book deals with Publishers in other countries.
We already know B&N is going to make a big Nook 2 push with mini-stories focused on the Nook 2 in all retail B&N stores. This is a good move and it helps B&N take advantage of one of its main strengths (one that Amazon can’t really match).
Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 – Will Nook 2 restore parity?
There are three scenarios -
- Nook 2 is an absolute smash of a release with multiple killer features (2 or more of color, touch, unbreakable screen, international availability) and manages to edge the Kindle 3. This is a bit unlikely since Kindle 3 has really pushed the bar.
- Nook 2 is a very solid release but is a little behind the Kindle 3. This is the likeliest possibility and it might be enough for B&N – Perhaps its first priority should be ensuring it outdistances everyone other than the Kindle and keeps a top 2 spot. After that it can try to use its store advantage and strategic partnerships (Google Editions) to attack Kindle.
- Nook 2 is not an impressive release. This is quite unlikely since Nook 1 was a very decent release and B&N is desperate - it’s quite possible that it produces a masterpiece in its desperation. At the minimum it is unlikely to produce a clunker since its fate depends on it.
The likeliest scenario seems to be a Nook 2 that is 90% of what the Kindle 3 is.
How would B&N close the gap (perhaps even pull ahead)?
There is one obvious option.
All Nook 2 roads lead to Google Editions
It’s not enough for B&N to match Kindle and Kindle Store. It needs a differentiator and a solid Kindle 3 means Nook 2 can’t be that differentiator – even if Nook 2 is exceptional it’ll be at or a little above the level of the Kindle 3.
Step in Google which is trying desperately to find a second revenue stream. Given the presence of Publishers even Google won’t be able to find a way to destroy all possibility of profit. Google Editions threatens to have the largest supply of ebooks (which may or may not include exclusive access to orphans it has adopted to subscribe out) and Google has the world’s biggest starting point (its search engine) and some amazing infrastructure - all that’s missing is a Nook to complete the ecosystem.
Will Google be able to step away from its tendency to blow up the profit stream in every business it enters (well, except Search)? Will B&N and Google be able to strike up a partnership deal?
Yes, it would. Yes, they would.
It’s pretty likely they will combine to form a very dangerous and rather dysfunctional partnership. It might not last because Google would replace Nook with its own device in a few years – However, it would probably last long enough to either make life difficult for Kindle or to give Google enough of a foothold that it becomes the #2 ebook seller.
Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 might actually be Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 + Google
Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 becomes a completely different battle if Google steps in to help Nook 2. Google brings a lot to the table -
- Books via Google Editions. If Google’s claims are valid it has 2 million published books and 1 million+ orphans (the latter depends on the settlement). It would mark the first time a store has more new books than the Kindle Store.
- Search. Searches for eReaders and searches for eBooks.
- Money. Something in short supply at B&N.
- Branding. Google is very well-known outside the US while B&N is a relative unknown.
- Desperation. It’s hard to think of Google as desperate but it is – It has to find other revenue streams to make up for the fact that search growth has slowed down.
- Added ‘Openness’ and ‘Goodness’. Lots of people still buy the whole ‘open’ act and DRM-free and open advocates would flock to Nook 2.
- Google Books. It already gets (supposedly) 30 million people a month.
- Google’s Infrastructure and Cloud. B&N could easily offer free Internet and lots of other features by using Google’s dark fiber network and its data centers.
Nook would finally be on equal terms. It’s been a good ereader with a decent store and poor infrastructure. Nook 2 + Google would mean Nook competes with Kindle on almost equal footing in each of eReader, Store, and Infrastructure.
What would happen in Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 + Google?
There are 4 main possibilities -
- Google buys Nook. It could probably do this right now if it ponied up enough cash and promised Mr. Riggio it would go after Kindle with a chainsaw. If Google and B&N team up Nook is going to transfer over sooner or later.
- Google establishes its store and then introduces its own device. If Nook 2 is using Android and using Google Editions and dependent on Google Search and dependent on Google’s money then, at some point of time, Google is going to feel it might as well take over the device too. B&N knows this but it might not have another option so it’ll take the risk.
- Google+Nook 2 fails and Google exits ebooks. This is very unlikely since there’s too much money in ebooks for either Google or B&N to step away or give up.
- Google+Nook 2 gets a healthy 30% share. Amazon with the Kindle 3 has 60% and Nook 2, with Google’s help, gets and keeps 30%.
The main thing Google’s entry would do is turn it into a two-horse race where the second horse has the capability to catch up and even exceed the first horse if the first horse makes a mistake.
Since Kindle has a pretty big lead in both eReaders and eBooks and a lot of hard-core readers already own Kindles it’s not easy to envision Kindle losing out. However, Nook 2 and Google might get enough of the casual readers and enough of the remaining hardcore readers to get a firm hold on the #2 spot.
After that we would see a crazy fight – both Google and Amazon have shown they’re willing to throw away money for future profits and they both have a lot of money to throw away.
Is Nook 2 doomed if Google doesn’t step in?
It’s likely though not 100%.
B&N is trying to sell itself. It doesn’t have as many new books as Kindle Store and some of them are more expensive. It doesn’t really have infrastructure. There’s no big pile of money to be able to sustain losses while building up market share for Nook 2. It doesn’t have an App Store (to the best of our knowledge) and that might become a factor.
If you consider that Kindle 2 was the end-product of 5 years of development and Nook took 1 to 1.5 years it’s admirable how good of a job B&N did. It attacked every single Amazon weakness – ePub, lending, public domain books, library books, SD card, PDF support. It basically took almost every Kindle disadvantage created by Amazon’s focus on a closed system that locks in ebook revenue and attacked it.
That opportunity will always be there – any eReader willing to give up on the ebook revenue stream (either to Google or to user choice) will always have a shot at Amazon Kindle. However, that disregard for ebook revenue by itself can’t win the entire eReader war. There has to be a very good reader, a great store, and a great service to back up the freedom of choice and openness.
B&N is missing some of that with the Nook. It’ll miss some of that with the Nook 2 too so it needs circumstances to line up very favorably or it needs a savior (a perceived savior) like Google. Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 is going to be very, very interesting and this time it’s B&N that has the advantage of knowing what it’s going up against in advance.
Filed under: Barnes Noble Nook | Tagged: kindle 3 vs nook 2, nook 2 | 2 Comments »