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.
| October 26, 2010; 6:42 PM ET
Categories: DRM, E-books, Gadgets
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