Barnes & Noble plans to unveil a new e-reader device May 24, according to the company's latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"In a meeting with investor analysts on May 4, 2011, Barnes & Noble, Inc. ... indicated it expects to make an announcement on May 24, 2011 regarding the launch of a new eReader device," reads the May 4 filing, which offers no further details.
Barnes & Noble announced April 25 a host of new features for its Nook Color e-reader, including email and Flash support. In addition, the bookseller integrated video and audio for certain ebook titles, enhancements to magazine navigation, a social-networking app that lets readers swap books and recommendations, and access to 125 apps ranging from Angry Birds to Sudoku.
The updates suggested that Barnes & Noble is shying away from direct competition with Amazon's Kindle, which continues to emphasize the e-reading experience with a grayscale e-ink screen. Amazon has been expanding its own e-reader features of late, including an upcoming Kindle Library Lending feature that will allow readers to borrow Kindle ebooks from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States.
Based on Barnes & Noble's SEC filing, though, it now seems clear that the Nook Color isn't the only element in the company's longer-term road map. Could there be an update to the original, grayscale Nook in the works? That seems likely, given how recently Barnes & Noble introduced these new features to the Nook Color.
Earlier in 2011, tech enthusiasts figured out how to hack the Nook and transform it into a full Android tablet, with Websites like Ars Technica even posting instructions on how to do so. That interest may have prodded Barnes & Noble to add capabilities to the Nook that brought it more in line with an Android tablet.
Indeed, the addition of new features to Nook "strengthens its position in that space," Allen Weiner, a research vice president for Gartner, wrote in an April 25 research note, "and offers enough gaming, entertainment and productivity apps to keep consumers not so much from buying an iPad, but more from buying whatever Amazon or Sony might come up with for readers -who want more.'"
Barnes & Noble and Amazon both offer a selection of e-reader apps for mobile devices and PCs. Despite offering a prospect of convenience for bibliophiles who want to carry around their libraries in digital form, some analysts see the e-reader phenomenon as potentially devastating to the publishing industry in the long term.
"The book publishing industry has entered a period of long-term decline because of the rising sales of e-book readers," reads an April 28 research note from IHS iSuppli, which predicted a decrease in book revenue at a compound annual rate of 3 percent through 2014-a reversal from the period between 2005 and 2010, when revenue rose.
That note quoted IHS iSuppli analyst Steve Mather as saying: "The [publishing] industry has entered a phase of disruption that will be as significant as the major changes impacting the music and movie business."