Barnes & Noble could be prepping a new Nook for release, but it faces significant competition from both Amazon's Kindle Fire and a revamped line of Kindle e-readers.
Barnes & Noble could be readying a
tablet response to Amazon's new Kindle Fire, a 7-inch device capable of playing
video and music in addition to displaying e-text.
The bookseller's invitations to a Nov.
7 event, at its store in New York City's Union Square, are topped with a large "N"
in the same typeface as the logo for its Nook e-reader.
Barnes & Noble and Amazon have
battled for share of the increasingly lucrative ebook audience. Neither company
releases sales numbers for their respective e-readers, although it's generally
assumed that Amazon's Kindle maintains a healthy market share lead. Some
analysts had viewed Barnes & Noble's latest Nook as a dark horse in the
contest, with a full-color screen that gave it an edge over the Kindle's
However, Amazon changed the rules of
the game on Sept. 28 with the unveiling of the long-anticipated Kindle Fire.
The slate, which uses a custom version of Google's Android operating system,
costs $199.99 and is expected to ship Nov. 15. That's an exceptionally low
price for the tablet market, but even if Amazon ends up losing money on every
Kindle Fire unit sold, the company can still use the full-color screen and
built-in easy access to its online storefront as a way to more fully leverage
its multimedia content and ebooks. J.P. Morgan analyst Douglas Anmuth has
estimated that, based on channel checks with supply-chain vendors, Amazon could
sell as many as 5 million Kindle Fire units in the fourth quarter of 2011.
However, other analysts feel the Kindle
Fire will have a softer impact on the market. "In our view, Kindle Fire's
low price point speaks to how there is much lacking in the device," J.P.
Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a Sept. 30 research note, pushing back
against his colleague's rosy assertion. "At $199, we argue that the price
point is not going to afford most users a tablet experience, which is a problem
if Amazon wants to become a major tablet vendor."
He argued that the Kindle Fire's lack
of camera and support for a 3G connection, along with 8GB of on-board storage,
place it at a disadvantage to Apple's iPad, currently the dominant tablet on
However, the Kindle Fire's features,
and tight linkage with Amazon's massive libraries of ebook and multimedia
content, could make it a most formidable direct competitor to Barnes &
Noble's Nook. Amazon is also releasing a revamped line of Kindles, including
the touch-sensitive Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G.
That is the state of the competition as
Barnes & Noble gears up for its Nov. 7 announcement.
Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter