My first e-reader wasn’t a Kindle, it was a Nook. It had a 6-inch 167 ppi E-Ink display and a small LED display underneath. It had a headphone jack, Wi-Fi, and a built-in music player. It felt revolutionary and bridged the gap between my smartphone and computer. However, Amazon’s dominance over Barnes & Noble caused the Nook to lose its identity.
Now, with a new CEO, James Daunt, Barnes & Noble is trying to compete with Amazon without losing its independence. The Nook business is not mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal profile, possibly because it doesn’t align with the company’s rebranding as an indie and cool alternative. The Nook e-readers have outdated designs and lack the features of competitors like Kindle and Kobo.
Barnes & Noble has released new e-readers in an attempt to reinvigorate the Nook brand. These include a 10-inch Android tablet made by Lenovo and several E-Ink readers, such as the flagship Nook Glowlight 4. Despite some improvements, the Nook e-readers still appear outdated compared to the competition.
Barnes & Noble is launching the GlowLight 4 Plus in September, which offers waterproofing, a headphone jack, Bluetooth, and a high-resolution E-Ink display. While it may be more exciting than what Amazon offers at the same price, it still lacks the appeal for Kindle users to switch over.
The Nook lineup includes some features that should be attractive, such as access to library books, but the process is cumbersome compared to competitors like Kindle and Kobo. Barnes & Noble’s attempt to reinvigorate the Nook brand’s finances is uncertain, as it is competing against Amazon’s dominant market share in the U.S.
To differentiate itself from Amazon and Kobo, Barnes & Noble needs more than lackluster design and physical buttons. One possibility could be the release of an Android E-Ink tablet, similar to those popular in non-American markets. However, the software experience on these tablets is not always satisfactory, and most Android applications are not optimized for E-Ink displays. Barnes & Noble’s app experience could potentially reduce this friction and provide a flexible e-reader that supports its store while also allowing access to Kindle libraries and other reading platforms.
While Amazon and Kobo prioritize keeping users within their ecosystems, Barnes & Noble could leverage its independent spirit to offer a more versatile e-reader experience.