Barnes & Noble on Tuesday introduced an e-book reader called Nook Color, which will allow users to view color e-books and access social media applications on the Internet.
The device combines the simplicity of a wireless e-reader with tablet functionality, said William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, during a launch event for the device in New York. The next big step in e-books has been color, and users and publishers have asked for it, he said.
Users will be able to read e-books such as color picture books, Lynch said. But like tablets, users also will be able to access social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter as well as e-mail through Google's Gmail service. The device has a 7-inch color LCD touchscreen that is capable of showing 16 million colors and an on-screen keyboard that allows users to enter Facebook updates.
When reading e-books, users will be able to highlight text and look up meanings of words through a built-in dictionary. Passages from e-books can also be shared with users through Facebook or Twitter.
Users also will be able to access streaming music applications from sites like Pandora.
The device is built on Google's Android OS. It has 8GB of internal memory and a MicroSD card slot, and offers eight hours of battery life for continuous reading. The device is about 0.48 inches thick.
The Nook Color will be priced at US$249 and will start shipping by Nov. 19. It will have Wi-Fi capabilities for the delivery and sharing of books, but 3G capabilities are not available in the device.
The company originally announced the Nook in October 2009. The existing models come with two screens: a small, color LCD screen at the bottom of the device to scroll through features and options, and a larger black-and-white e-ink display, which is designed to show an e-book, with text appearing as it would on printed paper.
The new device will compete with e-book rivals like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's e-reading devices such as Reader. E-book readers are also offered through book sellers such as Borders, which announced price cuts on its tablets and e-book readers on Monday.
The device comes as the company puts more focus on its digital business, with consumers increasingly buying digital books as an alternative to print books, and healthy Nook sales helping to sell more e-books, according to the company. The company expects to generate US$1 billion in revenue from sales of digital books, including e-books and e-textbooks, by 2013, the company has said.
Amazon.com has found that e-book sales are outpacing hardcover book sales. Amazon sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books during the previous three-month period, it said in July.
Beyond hardware, B&N is also focusing on software to increase its digital book sales. The company this year released the Nook mobile e-reader applications for Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS, which is used in the iPhone. The company on Tuesday said it established a developer program to enable application development for its Nook devices.