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David Zax

A View from David Zax

With the New Nook, Grandma Gets Wired

A pared-down version of the Barnes & Noble e-reader has the grandmother demographic in mind.

  • June 6, 2011

The other week, something disturbing happened: my grandmother outwitted me at technology. I was visiting my childhood home for Mother’s Day, where my grandmother was also staying for the weekend, and she was borrowing my mother’s Kindle. I personally have been a holdout with e-readers, clinging doggedly to the printed word, and when I borrowed the Kindle for a moment from my grandmother, I pressed the wrong button and lost her page. I was sheepish. Grandma was running laps around me with her mastery of the new tech.

So it’s no surprise to hear from Barnes & Noble’s CEO this week that one of the target markets for its latest iteration of the Nook is the granny demographic. At an event in New York on Tuesday, reports Reuters, chief executive William Lynch told the group gathered that the inspiration for the latest Nook was a letter that had asked why no e-readers were tailored to the geriatric set (or other dead-tree loyalists, like myself).

“The Kindle 3 has 38 buttons. That’s 37 more than the all-new Nook,” Lynch said, comparing his offering to Amazon’s latest. With just one button, the latest of late-adopting grandparents should be able to take the latest Nook for a whirl.

The new Nook is priced at $139, making it competitive with Amazon’s Kindle, and starts shipping on June 10—though you can pre-order it now, if you like. (There’s actually a cheaper Kindle, one that costs $114, but it’s ad-supported—not true of the latest Nook.) The Nook weighs in at 7.5 ounces and has a 6-inch touchscreen display. It was just a month ago that the B&N introduced a revamped color e-reader, priced at $249, one that could even play videos and let you play popular games like “Angry Birds.” But the whole idea behind the $139 Nook is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Its display is plain black and white—a true e-reader. Its screen is specifically designed to be “paper-like.”

B&N execs made a claim at the May 24 event—that the new Nook had superior battery life to its competitors, lasting up to two months. This led to a battle of press releases between Amazon and B&N, with the former claiming the latter hadn’t played fair with their battery life tests. Amazon has traditionally based its battery life claims on one-hour-per-day usage; B&N’s usage tests assumed just a half-hour per day. But the smackdown seems to have reached a sort of détente, reports Wired—Amazon just rejiggered its own analysis based on 30-minutes-per-day usage.

Two months of battery life? One month? Who cares? It’s a tremendous amount of time, next to what a charge gets you on your laptop or smartphone. Then again, unless grandma also has those gadgets, her expectations how long a battery ought to run may be different from yours.

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