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New Nook Color threatens Kindle dominance

I read a lot of books, and I admit to owning five ereaders – my favourite is the Kindle DX – the larger of the last generation with E Ink Pearl technology.

Recently I have been playing with the new Barnes & Noble Nook – the Nook Color, taking the name from the fact that it has a full colour screen, the first to be found in an e-reader. While this is the main talking point, they have caught up with Amazon in a variety of other areas.

The Nook Color can connect to the internet over a Wi-Fi connection and it includes a store application which allows the customer to purchase books, magazines and newspapers directly to the device. With the onboard flash memory there is enough space to store a whole collection of reading materials.

The colour screen is fantastic, and I was dubious when I first heard out about it – do we really need a colour screen on an e-reader? As many of you will know, all the other readers at this point are based around monochromatic e-ink technology. This is fantastic for displaying text, but not great for images. It also can’t refresh fast enough to display anything close to moving video.

My young children all want to use the Kindle for their own illustrated books, but again, the current platform is not ideal for this either. The Nook Color is based around LCD technology which will shock many e-reader aficionados – surely this is much harder on the eyes? In fairness, it is, and its also harder to read in direct sunlight – although in the UK right now the chances of that happening are beyond slim. The screen has some upsides, like the iPad it is touch sensitive which will appeal to a wide audience, not keen on dealing with physical buttons on the chassis.

Barnes and Noble are using the Android Operating System which has been doctored to focus on e-reading. On the home screen for instance there are books and other reading materials, rather than applications. They have even included some games for the kids in the family, and they say that they are going to offer some Android applications for the Nook Color in their online store. Magazines are much more intuitive to read on the Nook Color, due to the full colour images and interactive screen. A full web browser means you can use it to visit websites when you want a break from books. ePub format is also supported which is a standard for the industry, supported not only by Barnes and Noble, but from Google’s ebookstore. Sadly as it runs an older version of Google Android, there is no support yet for Flash media.

Downsides include higher levels of eye fatigue, and battery life is severely compromised. Between a full charge you will be lucky to get 8 hours of reading which means taking the device with you on holiday means you are going to need to recharge it daily. The Kindle devices in comparison can last for weeks between a charge.

The weight is also noticeable, being more than twice the weight of the third generation Kindle, so long term it can prove more fatiguing to hold.

Would it replace my Kindle DX? No, I find LCD technology much less usuable long term for reading books as it hurts my eyes, but there is no doubting that Kindle need to start looking into releasing a competiting product, offering a full colour screen with more media options.

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