IMG_0266.jpgIn 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.

IMG_0267.jpgThe 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!


  1. The last sentence of your post is the key. Given the infancy of these devices and the ebook market it is going to be a game of hopscotch for years to come as different generations/iterations of ereaders come and go.

  2. I must say, I think you have dramatically underestimated the willingness of consumers to connect devices to their computers. By your logic, ipods (and other mp3 players) and digital cameras should still be niche products since the vast majority of them require the user to connect them to a computer to either transfer music to them or to download the pictures off of them.

    I personally believe it has less to do with the connection to the computer and more to do with having really good software on the computer for managing the device. This is, unfortunately, not the strong suit of Sony’s reader (Fortunately, there is Calibre, but you need to know about that for it to do you any good).

    Ideally, the best library software should allow the user to manage their book collections, categorize books by the genre (or genres) that they belong to, etc. In many respects, it should look like itunes. The reader should then be able to synch their device to their library software or, if they have more books than space on their device, to select which books they want on their device at a given time.

  3. I’m disappointed that as a Canadian resident we are once again left out of the loop in terms of buying and using these devices. I sure would like to know who’s responsible for putting the geographical restrictions on them.

  4. I absolutely agree that the Nook raises the bar, much as the iPhone did for Smartphones. Consumers will now expect more from their Readers and demand to get it.

    I would expect to see a Kindle 3 sometime in the first half of 2010 that will mirror many of the advances of the Nook, and likely go a step further. Also, if Amazon has the nerve they will open up the formats on the Kindle and accept EPUB. Once ebooks have a strong single format, things will become even simpler from the consumer side.

    I wonder what sort of product meetings are happening at Asus right now, regarding their promised dual screen Ebook readers. We were supposed to see them by the end of the year…time is running out and I would bet that the Nook has caused them to rethink some things a bit.


  5. I agree with McHale. I don’t know how you come to the conclusion that most consumers are still mostly clueless about their computers. That’s kind of a ridiculous assessment. How many jobs are left in the world that don’t involve computers? Word processing, archiving, data sheets, and probably specialized programs are all part of a large part of the job market today. Programs like TurboTax have made doing taxes easy and popular among so many. Just email and web surfing? Hardly. Lots of devices that require the use of a computer are popular. How many people have digital cameras? How do they get their photos off? SD cards are so popular now that it’s kind of insulting to say the average consumer wouldn’t understand it. And that’s all it should take to get books on and off the nook. Use an SD card or plug the device in via USB then drag and drop. My parents are using my original Kindle right now and I email them material from time to time. I’ve yet to hear my dad complain about not knowing how to get an ebook from computer to the Kindle.

    User friendliness is essential, of course, for commercial success but, as seen with the iPod, that doesn’t necessarily require a device be divorced from the computer.

  6. I agree with Spider and McHale; you’re underestimating the consumer. Sure, there are many stupid folks out there, but I’d bet the vast majority of them can figure out plugging something into their computer and running some software, just like with their ipod and camera. Again, it’s the software that matters in that case, and sony’s software sucks. Also, among the stupid folks, most of them probably don’t read enough to buy a ereader.

    And, i think format does matter, in a way. Sure, the average consumer doesn’t care about epub or whatever, but they WILL care when they find out they can’t move their files to some other new shiny device.

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