Did you know there’s a new Barnes & Noble Nook? Not quite a Kindle beater

Newsletter from the Washington Post Book Club dated March 26, 2021

We took a look.
We saw a Nook.
Despite getting walloped by Amazon’s line of Kindles, Barnes & Noble is introducing a new e-reader — its first fresh model in three years. This HD tablet designed with Lenovo will be in stores by next Friday ($129.99). I’ve been using the new Nook this week, and if it isn’t a Kindle killer, it’s at least a viable Kindle competitor. 

At 9.5 inches tall, the Nook is shorter than the 10.3-inch Kindle Fire, but its display is the same size, which is a neat trick. And despite its sturdy metal frame, the Nook is three ounces lighter than the plastic Fire, about 15 percent thinner and $20 cheaper. I found the Nook fast and responsive while surfing the web, reading the news and watching shows on Netflix (it sports dual audio speakers). And since it’s running Android OS with Google Play, the Google apps I use work great. (With the Kindle app, I could read e-books and e-magazines I’ve bought from Amazon, too.) I never take pictures or video chat with a tablet, but this Nook has front and rear cameras (5MP and 8MP respectively).

The Nook’s real advantage is Barnes & Noble’s cleverly designed software, which emphasizes discoverability and serendipity. It feels much more like browsing a bookstore than meandering around the Everything Store. I like the way book covers are displayed on shelves and organized into channels that feel fun and creative, e.g. Summer Flings, Urban Magic, Native American Mysteries. 

Ironically, the only thing I don’t want to do on this tablet is read a book. Text is not as crisp on the Nook screen (1280 x 800 pixels) as it looks on the 10-inch Kindle Fire (1920 x 1200). 

B&N CEO James Daunt remains firmly committed to the Nook. “A percentage of people will always want to read electronically,” he tells me, “and Barnes and Noble should always aspire to meet that demand.” While hesitating to cast judgment on his predecessors, Daunt acknowledges that Amazon’s marketing prowess and B&N’s past instability have weighed on Nook’s success. “The interesting thing is that Nook survived, despite all of that, and in its own small way has thrived,” he says. “We can settle down to be an increasingly confident bookseller for whom the e-reading component is an important and worthwhile part.”

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