Nook Tablet: How does it stand up to Amazon's Kindle Fire?

Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet is lighter, faster, and less restrictive than Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Barnes & Noble calls its new Nook Tablet, available now for preorder, the “lightest, fastest tablet with HD entertainment.”

Just in the nook of time, Barnes & Noble unveiled its new Nook Tablet Monday, positioning it to jockey against Amazon’s Kindle Fire for top placement on holiday wish lists.

Barnes & Noble calls its Nook Tablet, available now for preorder, the “lightest, fastest tablet with HD entertainment.” At $249, it’s $50 more than its competition, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which Jeff Bezos presented with fanfare several weeks ago.

The newest tablet reader to hit the market, the 7-inch touch screen slate gray Nook Tablet weighs a slight 14.1 ounces into which Barnes & Noble packs a 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, and 16 gigabytes of internal storage – double the amount of storage offered by Amazon’s Kindle Fire. (Plus, the Nook Tablet comes with a micro SD memory card slot to increase memory with external storage space.) It’s got the same basic styling – single black bar home button and rounded hook, along with a rubberized backing – in a sleeker gray color.

The tablet comes with access to Barnes & Noble’s online bookstore, plus some 250 magazines and periodicals designed for it. It will also come preloaded with apps (think Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora) to facilitate media consumption.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire? Because Barnes & Noble is more focused on selling e-books and other digital reading content, it’s less restrictive than the Kindle Fire, allowing users to access content from other suppliers. Amazon, by contrast, is reportedly selling the Kindle Fire at a loss so it can make profits selling Amazon services.

"The Kindle Fire is a vending machine for Amazon services – they've said it themselves," Barnes & Noble Chief Executive William Lynch said at the company's flagship store in New York's Union Square during the Nook Tablet unveiling. "In one word, we're more open" in allowing users to get their media content from wherever they want.

Barnes & Noble also announced it is dropping the price of its Nook e-reader, now called the Nook Simple Touch, from $139 to $99, and the Nook Color tablet from $249 to $199. The Nook Simple Touch will also be 25 percent faster and sport an improved display.

Barnes & Noble’s new tablet-style e-reader is not only an attempt to stay viable in an Amazon-dominated world, but a struggle to stay relevant in an increasingly digitized industry.

The Nook Tablet will be released on Nov. 17 – two days after the Kindle Fire is scheduled to ship. 

In 2010, $21 billion of the $22 billion trade book business represented paper books, with the remaining $1 billion in e-books, Lynch said in the unveiling. By 2015, he said he expects the numbers to be closer to $15 billion in paper books and $7 billion in e-books.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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