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David Zax

A View from David Zax

The New, New Nook

B&N refreshes its barely-months-old tablet.

  • February 22, 2012

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t Barnes & Noble just come out with a Nook tablet a couple of months ago? Indeed it did. It was favorably reviewed.

But it cost $50 more than the Kindle Fire, and technology consumers are a miserly bunch, aren’t we. For B&N, which is currently engaged in something of a fight for its life, there’s no sense waiting more than a few months if they can iterate on their product and offer something more competitive–which is exactly what they’ve done with a new $199 Nook Tablet, priced to go head-to-head with the Kindle Fire.

The principal difference between this tablet and the one released in November is that its onboard storage and RAM have each been halved–you get 8 GB of storage and 512 MB of memory. Of that 8 GB of storage, only a fraction of it–roughly half–is available to use as you please, unfortunately. But the new, new Nook, like its recent predecessor, also has an SD card slot, meaning you can add up to 32 GB with a microSD card. If you already have a vast music library you’ve acquired over the years, that’s a blessing.

To sum up the Nook portfolio, now, there’s a $99 Nook Simple Touch, a $169 Nook Color, the new $199 8 GB tablet, and the original $249 16 GB tablet.

The fate of the Nook, and thus of Barnes & Noble, is extremely important to the future of publishing. The news of the new Nook tablet came bundled with B&N’s quarterly report, which The Verge sums up as a “mixed bag,” mostly because net income is down year-over-year by 16%, from $60.6 million to $52 million. But there’s good news in there, too–such is the nature of mixed bags, after all–including a 5% uptick in total sales, a 2% sales increase even in brick-and-mortar stores, and a 32% rise in online sales.

And how’s the Nook faring? There was a dramatic increase in sales there, a boost of some 64% during the quarter. “[A]ccording to some of the largest U.S. publishers, we maintained or slightly gained share in the eBook market during the third quarter,” claims B&N.

The more competitive 8 GB model should only stand to help matters. Want to know more about it? If you can endure the Rob Schneider ad I encountered the top of this YouTube video, CNET has a good hands-on with the device.

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