Barnes & Noble reported Nov. 16 that shipments of its Nook Color e-reader have begun ahead of schedule, with the first units arriving to customers this week. The bookseller claims only a limited number of the full-color devices will be available in stores and that customers ordering this week can expect theirs to ship "on or around" Nov. 26.
The Android-based Nook Color offers a 7-inch display, 8GB of storage space expandable through a microSD slot, WiFi capability, Web surfing, and the option to share selected passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter. Barnes & Noble hopes the device, which retails for $249, will allow it to carve market share away from Amazon.com's Kindle, which still features a gray-scale screen.
"Nook Color is the device for people who love to read everything: books, newspapers, magazines, children's books, and more," William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, wrote in a Nov. 16 statement. "We're encouraged by the consumer response thus far, and the organization is committed to doing everything we can to meet demand."
The previous-generation Nook, with a gray-scale screen and $149 retail price, will apparently receive a "major update" next week. Barnes & Noble launched that device in late 2009, only to experience shipping-delay woes along with reportedly high sales.
Although the e-reader market remained something of a niche throughout most of 2009, last year's holiday season saw the devices become a "must have" shopping item. In addition to the Kindle and Nook, smaller manufacturers such as Plastic Logic and Spring Design offered their own takes on the form factor. Most of the smaller companies, though, seem to have disappeared from the market by this point.
Analytics company In-Stat earlier estimated e-reader shipments would rise from 12 million units in 2010 to 35 million in 2014. E-readers as a whole remain challenged by the rise of tablet PCs such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, which offer e-reader applications. Both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble offer e-reader software for download on a variety of PCs and mobile devices, the better to expand the reach of their respective e-bookstores.
Barnes & Noble's Nook Color received largely positive notes from analysts following its October unveiling. "By expanding its offering to include a tablet reader with broader publishing distribution opportunities, Barnes & Noble may have elevated itself to the head of the class," Gartner analyst Allen Weiner wrote in an Oct. 26 posting on his corporate blog. "The Nook Color, based on its specs, offers the color and rich flexibility of a tablet blended with the reading experience of the gen-one e-ink readers."
In the meantime, however, the Nook Color faces the third-generation Kindle, backed by Amazon.com's massive pre-holiday marketing campaign. Last year's battle, it seems, is due for a repeat.