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E-book news: B&N intros color Nook; Amazon promises lending

The e-book-reader market may be warming up in time for the weather to cool off. After a summer marked mainly by price cuts, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have each committed some noteworthy news.


B&N's announcement came today: a color version of its Nook e-book reader that can do a few more tricks than its disappointing predecessor. The new, $249, WiFi-enabled Nookcolor (the New York firm writes "Nook" in all-caps, but I can't bring myself to do that for a word that's not an acronym) ditches the first Nook's e-ink display for a seven-inch color touchscreen.

With support for Web browsing, Pandora Web-radio listening, and reading and editing Microsoft Office documents, this Android 2.1-based tablet looks less like an e-reader and more like a simpler, cheaper alternative to Apple's iPad. Plus, B&N plans to launch a developer program through which programmers can create and sell Nook-specific applications like reference works and games.

It's too bad, then, that the Nookcolor's seven-inch screen size dooms it to irrelevance. (Wait, how did Steve Jobs get into this post?)

Amazon's news came Friday, when it posted a note on its Kindle discussion forum promising two features that have been on many users' wish lists.

First, users of its Kindle software for computers and mobile devices will be able to read newspaper and magazine subscriptions that had been confined to Amazon's Kindle readers. The Seattle retailer will add this feature to its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad applications "in the coming weeks," with Android and other platforms following.

Second, Amazon will make Kindle books a little more like paper books, in that buyers will be able to lend them to friends--but only under some conditions.

Second, later this year, we will be introducing lending for Kindle, a new feature that lets you loan your Kindle books to other Kindle device or Kindle app users. Each book can be lent once for a loan period of 14-days and the lender cannot read the book during the loan period. Additionally, not all e-books will be lendable - this is solely up to the publisher or rights holder, who determines which titles are enabled for lending.

What are the odds that book publishers will do the intelligent and forward-looking thing and allow a little sharing, even if 1 in 50 borrowers might have bought an e-book instead?

Even if every copyright holder in the Kindle universe signs on, however, the Kindle platform will still fall short of Amazon's stated goal of "Buy Once, Read Everywhere." Amazon has done a good job of making Kindle titles readable on a wide variety of devices, but as long as each purchase comes tied up in digital-rights-management restrictions that render it unreadable outside of Amazon's software, the correct description has to be "Buy Once, Read Everywhere We Allow."

How would your ideal e-book software work? Post your own system requirements in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 26, 2010; 6:42 PM ET
Categories:  DRM, E-books, Gadgets  
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Well, one thing against the Nook (color or not) is how expensive Nook books often are. A quick perusal of books found Nook at basically publisher list on many titles (though not all), and Kindle at well below list, and below Amazon's already discounted paperback prices. A Photoshop book I compared was $43.99 for Nook, $25.76 for Kindle; not a trivial difference. Overall, some books were the same as Amazon, none were less, and many were much more, as noted.

Posted by: BCinDC | October 26, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm a huge book reader but will shun all e-book readers until the books I buy for them actually belong to ME. I have an enormous library and love to lend books out to friends, as well as borrow books from them. As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and B&N are being particularly selfish and greedy, and all they are going to do is put off true book lovers like me.

Posted by: bibleburner | October 26, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I actually really like e-ink. I find it hard to read for very long on an LCD screen, whereas the e-ink is much like reading on paper. The lack of colour doesn't bother me; a book that's "fancy" enough to be in colour is one that I'd want a physical copy of anyway, and I don't really care about the periodicals.

And I am also not crazy about Amazon's DRM scheme. I mostly get ebooks without DRM and convert them to a Kindle-friendly format if necessary with Calibre, which is a great piece of software. I have bought a couple of books from Amazon, but I'm sure not building a library of DRM-restricted books.

Posted by: terayon505 | October 26, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

As a Nook V1 owner (still working fine, despite being dropped a year ago by a Certain Reviewer ;

I can read it for hours without needing to recharge it. I have to plug it in maybe once a week.

The large number of free titles from Google and Gutenberg are another big win.

For $250 the Nook Color seems like a decent tablet, but what is the max operating temperature:? How usable is it in full sunlight?

I'm waiting for the Archos 7o to be released, which Archos says will be Real Soon Now. 250Gb HD and Android 2.2 should make for a good replacement for my Archos 605.

Posted by: wiredog | October 27, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

That was interesting. The blog software mangled the smiley and stripped the closing parenthesis from the first sentence.
Let's see if it does it here ;

Posted by: wiredog | October 27, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

So any character after the ;gets stripped?

Posted by: wiredog | October 27, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

No, just

Posted by: wiredog | October 27, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Ah hah! Closing paren and less than sign are getting stripped! AnitSpam (TM no doubt.

And all this would be much easier to figure out if there was a 'preview' button...

Posted by: wiredog | October 27, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse say, "(the New York firm writes "Nook" in all-caps, but I can't bring myself to do that for a word that's not an acronym)"

Okay, but then you like another company (Apple)and its products, so you bring yourself to continuously capitalize the SECOND letter in the product name? (iPad, iPhone, iTunes) So, now we're off to seriously complex sets of rules for your blog.

I find this amusing and your rationale (almost) intellectually insulting.

Posted by: RHMathis | October 27, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I might buy an eBook reader if it behaved like my old Palm PDA. I own the book, and I can copy it to my PC and read it there (after signing in using my ID and password), and archive it on my USB hard disk to keep in the fireproof safe. I can even put another copy on my work PC -- after all, I can’t be at home and at work at the same time.

Isn’t NOOKcolor how our former president used to pronounce one type of weapons of mass destruction?

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | October 27, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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