Kindle vs Nook twist. A world with just Nook WiFi and Nook Color?

The Kindle 3 might be losing its biggest competitor – or perhaps it will soon face a newer, updated version of it.

There is a rumor that –

  1. Nook 3G production is being stopped.
  2. Nook 3G sales will only continue until current stock is exhausted.
  3. B&N is encouraging retail partners to not take bulk orders for Nook 3G.
  4. Demand for Nook WiFi is/was much higher than for Nook 3G.
  5. There might be a Nook 2 with eInk Pearl around the corner.

All these rumors, centered around a dwindling supply of Nook 3G, stem from an unidentified source within B&N itself that Engadget claims to be in bed with. It must be a very confusing relationship, the sort where you have to put Its Complicated as the relationship status, because the source has produced zero actual evidence and seems to have no idea whether a Nook 2 is on the way.

It’s rather interesting news. There are two distinct possibilities here –

  • B&N is going with a $149 Nook WiFi and a $249 Nook Color.
  • B&N is releasing a $189 Nook 2 to take on the Kindle.

It surprises me a little bit but my gut feeling is that the first option might be the better one for B&N.

Why a $149 Nook WiFi and a $249 Nook Color make a lot of sense

A world without Nook 1 wouldn’t be a huge loss.

Nook 3G wasn’t like the Kindle 3G – It didn’t have free Internet bundled in, and it didn’t have a ton of add-on features like popular highlights. 3G adds on a lot of costs – Amazon is, after all, subsidizing the free Internet and the 3G book downloads.

With a Nook WiFi, users are providing the WiFi or using free WiFi. Which means no download charges for B&N to contend with.

If B&N is seeing 3 Nook WiFis sold for every Nook 3G sold, then it might as well switch over to Nook WiFis completely. Plus we avoid all the confusion by having just one model – consider all the people in analysis paralysis over the Kindle 3G vs Kindle WiFi decision.

Nook Color makes a huge difference

The value for money Nook Color provides is incredible. Was just reading The City and the City on it, and it is so much better than iPad for reading it is not even funny.

Kindle 3 is a good prospect if you do not like LCDs or want the new eInk Pearl or the free 3G. However, Kindle WiFi and Nook Color are the value-for-money champions. With Nook 1 you get neither the new eInk Pearl screen nor the free Internet browsing. It just doesn’t compare that well to Kindle 3.

Nook WiFi at $149 is identical to Nook 3G. Most users were probably choosing it. On top of that you have the fact that 3G support was probably costing B&N a lot.

Finally, by leaving out the Nook 3G entirely, B&N can shift the Kindle vs Nook comparison to Kindle 3 vs Nook Color – a comparison in which it has several advantages such as touch and color and newness.

The downsides

There are obvious downsides to disbanding the Nook 3G.

Firstly, the Kindle 3 no longer has any credible eInk based competitors. Secondly, B&N no longer has a high-end eInk eReader. Thirdly, a lot of people love 3G for the convenience.

Basically, switching to WiFi-only Nooks reduces convenience for customers and at the same time it makes things easier and less costly for B&N. A difficult exchange to pull off successfully.

B&N would take a big risk by having no Kindle 3 competitor in its arsenal.

It makes you wonder if perhaps the real reason the Nook 1 is being discontinued is that Nook 2 is ready.

Why a Nook 2 would also be a good idea

B&N would be able to compete much more effectively with the Kindle 3 if it produced a really good Nook 2.

If B&N were to match all the Kindle 3 features, while keeping 3G and keeping library book support, it would have an eReader as good as, or even slightly better than, the Kindle 3. Amazon would still have the slightly better ebook store – However, Nook 2 would match Kindle 3 on the eReader level.

At that point, B&N could leverage its strengths – foot traffic at its stores, retail partnership with Wal-Mart, library book and ePub support – to make a really strong push.

Who B&N loses if it discontinues Nook 3G

It would be customers who – wanted an eInk screen, wanted 3G in their eReader, did not mind paying $50 extra for 3G, did not mind paying $199 for an eReader.

A lot of those customers probably prefer Kindle 3 – it has the new eInk Pearl screen, it has free Internet browsing, and it is $10 cheaper.

So, B&N might not really lose that much.

Nook vs Nook WiFi vs Nook Color based on my reading experience with each

Firstly, there is virtually zero difference between Nook and Nook WiFi. By eliminating Nook 3G all that B&N loses is the 3G feature. It is really not a big deal.

Secondly, Nook Color is marvellous. It does what iPad does not – allow decent reading on a LCD screen.

B&N has got to be a bit concerned about not having anything to take on Kindle 3 – However, Amazon should be super concerned about not having anything to take on Nook Color.

If Amazon wants to be optimistic it can simply say – B&N has given up on ever beating the Kindle 3.

If Amazon wants to be pragmatic it needs to consider – Perhaps a Nook 2 is in the works. Perhaps Nook Color is doing so well that B&N feels it does not need a Nook 3G any more.

What might B&N add to Nook 2?

The Kindle is a third generation eReader that improves greatly on the Kindle 2.

Kindle 2 and Nook were neck to neck, with Kindle edging ahead because of a better ebook store and better infrastructure. However, Kindle 3 features like the new eInk Pearl screen and really good battery life make Kindle 3 a clearly better choice than Nook. 

You’ll usually be picking Kindle 3 over Nook 1 – Unless you need ePub support, library book support, or prefer B&N over Amazon. B&N needs a Nook 2 that is really, really good to compete effectively with Kindle 3.

B&N has shown, with the Nook Color, that it can create really impressive devices and that it’s getting better at this hardware stuff. Now, it just has to create and release a Nook 2 that can take on the ‘bestest sellingest eReader ever’.

What might B&N add to Nook 2?

First, we have the obvious candidates –

  1. eInk Pearl. This is an absolute must-have.
  2. Touch. Perhaps something like Sony Reader’s InfraRed based touch.
  3. Faster page turns. This is another must-have
  4. Better battery life.
  5. Smaller Size.
  6. Lower Weight. Nook 1 weighs quite a bit more than Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 – It’s time for B&N to cut down on weight.
  7. International availability. B&N can easily increase its sales 50% or more by shipping Nooks worldwide. It will have to add bookstores for countries other than the US.

These are the things B&N is quite likely to add to Nook 2.

Next, we have the long shots –

  1. Mirasol display or eInk Triton (color eInk).
  2. Lower Price – B&N managed to release Nook Color at $250. It needs to create a similarly magical price for Nook 2.
  3. Elimination of the touchscreen at the bottom.
  4. Text to Speech. This is a really valuable feature. Now that Kindle has matched Nook’s LendMe feature, it’s time for B&N to add Kindle’s text to speech feature.
  5. Speech to Text. Might as well add this alongside Text to Speech.
  6. A Nook 2 App Store. The current Nook App Store is only for Nook Color. To effectively compete with Kindle, the Nook 2 will need apps sooner or later. Might as well add support for apps now.
  7. 7″ screen. Not sure if eInk can provide a 7″ screen for Nook 2. If it can, this would be a great move.
  8. Completely different, very simple UI. B&N might create a very simple, easy interface for Nook 2. If it did, it would really help.
  9. Multi-level folders. An instant advantage over Kindle.
  10. Much better PDF support. Hard to see this happening as PDFs on 6″ screens are really difficult to get right.
  11. Further retail availability. B&N already sells Nooks at Wal-Mart and BestBuy and Target. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to expand beyond these stores.
  12. More color choices.

It’s unlikely B&N will be able to get color eInk into Nook 2. A lot of the other long-shots are doable, and B&N might sneak in a few.

Finally, we have the crazy possibilities –

  1. Free Internet via 3G. Very unlikely as this is probably really expensive.
  2. Sub $100 price. Might B&N make Nook 2 a Kindle WiFi competitor, instead of a Kindle 3 competitor?
  3. Expand the Lending feature.
  4. Remove its password protection DRM, and make Nook store ebooks readable on any eReader that supports Adobe DRM. This will allow Nook owners to migrate to any eReader they want to – It’s therefore unlikely that B&N would do this.
  5. Support for Audible audiobooks. It’s unlikely B&N would support a rival.
  6. A physical keyboard. Given what it’s done with Nook Color a touchscreen is far likelier.
  7. Stylus and handwriting support.

These are all pretty unlikely. There is a slight chance B&N goes for a sub-$100 price – but not much.

What should B&N add to Nook 2?

That’s a tough question to answer.

Option 1: The $99 Nook 2

B&N could make a big splash by going with a $99 budget Nook 2.

This would have – eInk Pearl, no touch, very simple user interface, faster page turns, better battery life, much smaller size, lighter weight, text to speech, speech to text, no touchscreen at the bottom, WiFi only, Nook Apps, much better PDF support.

It would also be available internationally.

Option 2: The $199 Color Nook 2

B&N could make an even bigger splash by going with a $199 Color Nook 2.

This would have – eInk Triton for a color screen, 7″ screen, flexible screen that’s hard to break, very simple user interface, touch with stylus and finger support, WiFi and 3G, faster page turns, better battery life, text to speech, speech to text, voice commands, Nook Apps.

Again, it would be available internationally.

Perhaps Both – A Nook 2 and a Nook 2 WiFi

Nook WiFi needs an update just as much as Nook does. Perhaps it’s time for B&N to introduce a Nook 2 and a Nook 2 WiFi. There could be a no-frills $99 Nook 2 WiFi to target people with a low budget. The $199 color eInk Nook 2 would target readers who don’t mind paying $200 for a state-of-the-art eReader.

Nook 2 probably won’t have a color screen, might arrive by March 2011

The big problem with color eInk is that it isn’t really ready. 

We have no idea when eInk Triton will be ready. Mirasol will be arriving in PocketBook Color in Q3, 2011 – which probably means the actual release will be in Q2, 2012.

There are a few companies doing color eReaders, but these aren’t being brought to the US. Fujitsu has been releasing frighteningly expensive color eReaders in Japan for the last 2 years – However, it isn’t releasing anything here. Hanvon has a color eReader that it’ll release this year in China – but it has no plans to bring this color eReader to the US.

B&N might want to release a color Nook 2, but it doesn’t have any color ePaper options. That leaves it with things like flexible screens, touch screens, software improvements, and 7″ and 8″ screens.

Not being able to bring a color Nook 2 to market soon makes it harder for B&N to compensate for Kindle 3’s supporting cast – the Kindle Store and Kindle WhisperNet. Two of the most significant moves B&N could make, to improve Nook 2’s chances, are –

  1. Improve the Nook Store.
  2. Provide more Cloud based features. B&N has an opportunity here as Amazon has been too focused on non-core additions like Twittering and Sharing Highlights. If B&N delivers a great social feature like book clubs, or a social network related to reading, it could turn an area of weakness into an area of immense strength.

Nook Color has been a huge hit for B&N. Nook 2 is going to be one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2011. Will B&N deliver a Nook 2 as impressive as Nook Color?

Kindle vs Nook Color – 'Nook Color' confirmed

We have proof that the Kindle vs Nook Color showdown is indeed guaranteed. Well, if you take my little find as enough proof (and it almost certainly is). 

  1. The domain is registered to Barnes & Noble.
  2. The domain registration clearly shows ‘Barnes and Noble LLC’ as the organization.
  3. It was registered on March 9th, 2010 – That seems to indicate Nook Color has been in the works for 7 months or rather that the name was decided 7 months ago and that the Nook Color was conceived at least 7 months ago.  
  4. The fact that is registered to B&N while other domains like colornook, nook3, nooktablet, etc. are not suggests that B&N has already decided to call it the ‘Nook Color’.
  5. B&N did the same thing with Nook WiFi where it bought up the domain name before hand.

In my opinion this is more than enough proof that there really is a color Nook – which confirms the CNet tipster’s claim. It’s nice to know it’s going to be called Nook Color and not something outlandish like NookCranny.

B&N is super clumsy at times – Not only did it not make the domain registration private to hide the upcoming release it also has its administrators’ information listed in the WHOIS directory. You could literally call up the admins and ask why they have registered. Of course, it’s 3 am EST so that option is out.

Now that we know Kindle will have to compete with Nook Color …

The guessing games start.

  1. Is Nook Color a tablet with a focus on reading or an eReader with a color screen?
  2. This pretty much guarantees the October 26th event is about Nook Color. What else will B&N announce? Nook App Store? LendMe enhancements?
  3. Will B&N really keep Nook 1 around? It makes sense at one level (the cheaper Nook eReader) but at the same time it’s a lot of extra testing and overhead.
  4. How will Kindle 3 compare with Nook Color? We still don’t know the color Nook’s technical specifications so it’s hard to say who will win.
  5. How did B&N get the time, in the midst of its selling itself to itself soap opera, to come up with a color screen Nook?  
  6. Is Mike Cane right and is Nook Color just a rebranded Archos 70?
  7. Does B&N have bigger ambitions than just ebooks? Is B&N thinking of competing with the iPad?

Kindle vs Nook has been revived and with a color screen Nook no less. In fact, B&N might have taken a big, huge jump and decided to take on more than eBooks and build more than an eReader. Perhaps the prospect of extinction has given B&N extra courage and creativity and it has something truly remarkable in store for us.

The next week is going to be very, very interesting and it will probably decide the direction Kindle vs Nook takes and determine which reading device wins the 2010 holiday season.