Barnes & Noble announced Monday a new version of its Nook electronic book reader that supports only a Wi-Fi connection and is priced at $149. It also cut the price on the 3G Nook model to $199. The moves means that B&N now has two e-reader models priced below the market leader, Amazon's Kindle, which sells for $259 in its most economical configuration.
According to Tony Astarita, vice president for digital products at Barnes & Noble.com, the new Nook was built in response to market research and customer feedback. "It's targeted at someone who's a solid reader but someone with Wi-Fi availability at home or outside the home and is not as mobile a traveler or reader as a 3G person," he told PCWorld.
At $149, the new Wi-Fi Nook is competitive with the Sony Pocket Reader and the Kobe e-reader from competing mega-bookseller Borders. However, neither of those competing readers support Wi-Fi and the Sony product has only a five-inch screen compared to a six-inch display for the Nook.
B&N has also leveraged its bricks and mortar stores to add value to its e-readers. In addition to offering free Wi-Fi access within its stores, it allows Nook users to read any electronic book without purchasing it within stores, as well as offering free content and coupon deals.
Other distinctive features include time-limited lending of books between users of the Nook platform, which includes software that runs on a variety of mobile devices, including Apple's iPad. "Our strategy is any book, any time, any place," Astarita observed.
The new Nook is a half ounce lighter than its 3G sibling and has a white, rather than gray, back panel. What's more, it, as well as its 3G relative, offers complementary access to some 20,000 AT&T wireless hotspots across the country.
B&N began taking preorders for The Wi-Fi Nook today. The device is expected to be available at the end of the week.