Barnes & Noble Intros $139 6”Nook, Claims to be #2 Tablet

Barnes & Noble announced a new version of its Nook ereader device with the curious name of All-New Nook (photo below). The device is priced at US$139, has an 800 x 600 resolution 6-inch E Ink Pearl Display, and features only one physical button like Apple’s iPad. While unveiling the device, the company claimed that the Nook Color, introduced in October of 2010 and updated in April, is the #2 media tablet behind the iPad.

“The Kindle 3 has 38 buttons, 37 more than the all-new Nook,” Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said (wryly, according to Fortune) during the media event announcing the device. “Anyone who has mobile devices with [a lot] of buttons and nav bars knows that means a lot of scrolling and a lot of interface… with the all the new Nook, you just get into the device.”

The Nook is Barnes & Noble’s effort to compete with Amazon’s Kindle platform, and to help the brick and mortar book retailer transition to a future where digital books sales (Kindle, Apple’s iBooks, and Nook) become an ever-greater part of the book industry. The company announced the Nook 1st Edition in 2009, followed it up with the Nook Color in 2010, with the (still bizarrely named) All-New Nook being the next iteration.

While the Nook Color is a 7” Android-powered device that can now run apps, All-New Nook is aimed squarely at the ereader market, which at this point means Kindle. The grayscale E Ink Pearl display is designed to display text well, and like Amazon’s E Ink Kindle devices, it isn’t backlit and it does not run Android apps. ZDNet posted a photograph that shows just how good text looks on the device in the real world.

The device uses an on-screen virtual keyboard, connects to the company’s eBookstore via WiFi, has a microSD slot for additional memory, and supports Nook Friends for some social networking connectivity.

It weighs 7.48 ounces (212 grams for our metric readers), and is 6.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 0.47 inches deep (16.51cm x 12.7cm x 1.19cm). Barnes & Noble said that’s lighter than a paperback and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket (that is at least 5” wide). In that the All-New Nook is not a full media tablet, B&N isn’t pushing stats like its total memory, but it will hold up to 1,000 books, expandable via the above-mentioned microSD slot.

The company is also claiming extraordinary battery life of up to two months for a user who reads 30 minutes a day, though that does require the built-in WiFi to be turned off. By doing so, B&N has made the issue of recharging the device a complete afterthought, rather than something its users have to plan around. It is also a clear demonstration of the power management benefits of not offering backlighting and other features needed by more versatile media tablets like the iPad.

During the media event, Mr. Lynch also claimed that the Nook Color is the #2 tablet behind the iPad, though he didn’t offer any numbers to back that up. Of course, #2 in this case should have the qualifier “distant” in front of it, but if true, that would mean that Barnes & Noble is selling more tablets than Motorola and Samsung, the two Android hardware makers who have made the biggest splash, but have failed to move many devices into the hands of customers.

Other questions about the claim include how many people use the Nook Color as anything more than a color ereader — the ability to run apps was only added in April. It’s still a solid boast if the company can back it up.

The device is available for pre-order and is scheduled to ship on June 10th, 2011.

All-New Nook

All-New Nook