Barnes and Noble has made the Kindle Fire less of a no-brainer for eBook fans. With twice the built-in memory and four times as much using the SD card slot, the Nook Tablet has a much roomier inside for apps and content storage. Instead of Amazon’s proprietary movie service the Nook Tablet comes Netflix-ready right out of the box. And the Nook tablet has a microphone, initially touted for use with B&N’s children’s books that allow you to record a “read-along” in your own voice, but certainly to be usable for many other applications. In fact, if the Nook Tablet had a camera, it would be a total Kindle-killer.
There’s one other thing the Nook Tablet doesn’t have: Amazon.com behind it. In particular it doesn’t have the ability to display Kindle users’ library of DRM books they have already invested in. That is Amazon’s big advantage: the existing user community that trusts Amazon to “get it right” when it comes to the eBook experience, and who already have a large investment in Kindle content. Will you be able to run the Kindle app on the Nook Tablet? I wouldn’t want to make that bet.
And Amazon has the aura of permanence: they aren’t going anywhere. The recent fate of Border’s Books may cause a small shudder to run up the Barnes and Noble community spine. B&N doesn’t have the vastly deep pockets Amazon does – they have far less wiggle room when it comes to customer satisfaction, and one bad screw-up could change their fortunes. Personally I hope the Nook Tablet does well because I think Amazon needs the competition – before there was any in the eBook space they were quite content to sit on their butts and roll-out updates and upgrades at their leisure.
Competition is good in the eBook market, and right now Amazon and Barnes and Noble are the heavyweights slugging it out for dominance. Where is the Sony reader? The much touted but little seen Kobo and BeBook? The iRex? The seemingly mythological Plastic Logic devices? None seem to have gained any traction with consumers, and the Kindle and Nook are only partially the reason. The iPad and the emerging Android tablet ecosystem are holding dedicated readers back. And that’s too bad, because I still think the back-lit display is second-rate when it comes to text.
Are the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet even viable in the world of $300 Android tablets? Only because of their hand-holding approach to the consumer. They are comforting to those who want a tablet but don’t want to become Apple thralls or Android techies. And Amazon and B&N have the delivery infrastructure in place to offer a huge amount of content from day one.
Day one is November 15 for the Kindle Fire, and November 18 for the Nook Tablet. Both are taking pre-orders now.