In the end I think that the Nook is a very important device because it is the first consumer-friendly device that will be mass marketed to a broad audience. This will help propel the ebook into the consciousness of average people and profoundly increase acceptance of the medium (or profoundly set it back if it isn’t successful).
There are only three consumer friendly devices on the market so far – the Kindle, the iPhone and now the Nook. To be such a device it is essential that the unit be divorced completely from the computer. Most people, today, are still afraid of their machines and only use them for email and surfing the web. The idea of connecting stuff to their computers is something that the majority of users doesn’t want to deal with. This is why the current Sony units really only appeal to a tech-savvy portion of the market. To anyone who has used a Kindle, with its wireless access, it becomes immediately apparent that this is the way of the future. (The TeleRead audience is not relevant to this analysis because, by its nature, it is tech and ebook savvy. We are not the typical consumer by any means.)
What B&N has done is design a consumer friendly interface that lures the user into buying books. The color screen at the bottom is really only a gimmick, but it certainly makes buying books easier. The same with WiFi. It is only usable in the B&N stores and so urges the consumer to come to the store and see what’s new.
The Nook is far more of a closed system than the Kindle. If you want a public domain book on the Kindle you have many options to directly download from numerous third parties. With the Nook you have to either buy the book directly from BN or connect it to your computer to sideload the book – something most consumers won’t do, and probably don’t know how to do. This locks the consumer into BN for all their needs.
The wide range of accessories is also a clever marketing move, something Amazon has completely neglected. I loved a couple of the book light cases I saw at the press event, one of which is pictured above. Take a look at the picture below which was their display of all the designer cases available for the unit. The lending feature is the same. When you lend you loose the ability to read the book for the lending period, just like a real book, so the feature’s main purpose is to sell a second copy of the book, again marketing.
The use of EPUB, as opposed to Amazon’s proprietary format, is largely irrelevant to the consumer. Even the BN President said, correctly, that consumers don’t know or care about the format. This is something that will primarily benefit the techies who move books around, but the average person who will buy an ebook on the Nook will never move it off, except maybe to their iPhone, but I suspect that even this will be unlikely.
The same with the use of DRM. For most TeleRead readers this is a vital issue, for reasons not necessary to enumerate. For the consumer it isn’t, until something goes wrong. When ebooks reach a critical mass, and when some disaster happens related to DRM, then we will see an outcry and maybe a change, but not before. The publishers are too hidebound to be ahead of the curve.
So all in all, I like the Nook, think it is a great thing for ebooks in general, and will stick with my Kindle until the next generation comes along because the new features of the Nook are basically marketing ones, rather than stuff that is really useful to a techie. (The Nook is on Android and BN hinted pretty strongly that it wouldn’t object of Android applications on the device, but I suspect that by the time this becomes significant we’ll be into the next generation of devices.)
The profoundest effect of the Nook is that it will force all the players to plan to go to a higher level on the next generation of readers. Good on you, B&N!