Barnes & Noble’s Dual-Screened Nook: $260, Eats the Kindle’s Lunch

By | October 21, 2009

Remember that crazy, dual-screen Barnes & Noble we scooped the hell out of a while back? Well, it’s online-official, with Wi-Fi and 3G, person-to-person lending, and expandable memory. Oh, and it ships November 30th. UPDATE: Site’s pulled, we’ve got screens.

To be clear, this is the same device we saw before—a smallish (7.7 x 4.9 x .5, it turns out) e-reader with two screens, a 6-inch E ink display up top for displaying book text, and a 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD down below for navigation.

Connectivity comes by way of free AT&T 3G as well as 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, while storage duties fall to the 2GB of internal memory, as well as an microSD expansion slot. Barnes & Noble claims charge time of 3.5 hours—by microUSB, thankfully—which’ll let you read for “up to ten days,” which is a curiously indirect way of describing battery life, and doesn’t really say much about what “reading” means. With constant LCD use? Occasional? None? Audio playback seems limited to MP3s, with a 3.5mm headphones jack taking care of output. Say what you will about the design, but you can’t fault B&N on ports.

Naturally, the main content source is the B&N ebook store, which has a reasonable—though not spectacular—selection of magazines and newspapers too. What the Nook has that other B&N-compatible readers don’t, though, is sharing. As with Amazon’s Kindle iPhone app, the Barnes & Noble’s reader can be synced with the company’s various mobile apps. Even better is the user to user sharing, which sounds an awful lot like the Zune’s old “Squirting” feature, which let people sharing DRM-wrapped songs for a limited time. That said, the sharing terms are pretty generous:

Share favorite eBooks with your friends, family, or book club. Most eBooks can be lent for up to 14 days at a time. Just choose the book you want to share, then send it to your friend’s reader, cell phone, or computer.

Avid readers can easily plow through all kinds of books in 14 days, so this is a pretty sweet deal.

And in a deprecating nod to the Kindle’s notorious durability issues, Barnes & Noble is pushing extended warranties right out of the gate: a $70 protection plan stretches the stock warranty to two years, and throws in accidental damage coverage, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about pulling a Matt, which given that this thing has two freakin’ screens, is a very real worry.

So let’s just get this out of the way. “Hi, I’m Kate, and this is my Nook!” Ha. Ok!

Disregarding my inner 12-year-old for a second, the above video does give a better sense of how the reader’s control scheme works than words ever good, but I’ll give it a go anyway: the only hardware buttons you’ll really use are the right and left page switchers. The rest, from book library navigation to settings menus to book sharing, is managed through a separate menu system on the much more responsive (though from the looks of it, kinda jerky) color LCD. One one hand it’s a clever workaround for E Ink’s horrendously slow refresh rate; on the other, it’s kind of hilarious. I mean, really? [B&N]

Preorders are live on B&N’s site, and units should hit mailboxes on November 30th.

UPDATE: Err, looks like B&N’s web guys jumped the gun a little bit, and they’ve pulled the site. But ha, not soon enough. Eyes, feast:

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