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Old 10-20-2009, 11:08 PM   #1
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Barnes and Noble Nook press conference in NYC (report)

Barnes and Noble Nook press conference

On Tuesday, October 20th, Barnes and Noble held an anticipated press conference at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Held at Pier 60, the event overlooked the Hudson river with a backdrop of million dollar yachts.

Barnes and Noble had a fairly full house, with about 250 - 300 people in attendance. The audience included all of Barnes and Noble's management team, plus business partners and designers.

The opening address was by Steve Riggio, CEO of Barnes and Noble. He welcomed everyone, and talked a bit about Barnes and Noble's history as a bookseller and innovator, who he felt had revolutionized book-selling. Riggio stated B&N was the first discount bookseller in the 1970's. They rescued a floundering chain in the 19890s to become a national book retailing presence, and pioneered and perfected the book superstore. They desired to have a store that was not intimating, with great selection and great service, and feels they succeeded.

They were also the first online bookseller, the first to offer free shipping, and the first to offer a dedicated ebook reader - the old Rocket ebook device. Riggio felt their current initiatives were natuaral extensions of what they have been trying to do, which is graw and expand the book market. According to Riggio, books overall, including trade books and texty books, are a $30 billion dollar industry - larger than music, games. videos, or movies.

He believes the industry must go digital, and customers want ebooks. Barnes and Noble's motto is "Any book, anywhere, any time."

He then introduced William J. Lynch, the new President of BarnesandNoble.com, their online presence. William praised Steve, and talked about the industry support for the initiatives, as the audience included the CEOs of Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan and Perseus Books, among others.

He recounted their purchase of Fictionwise, the fact that they had the world's largest ebook store, and that the eReader application had broad device support and the eReader for the iPhone had one million downloads. He stated Barnes and Noble will be the ebook store for the new Plastic Logic device which is forthcoming, and Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta was in attendance. (Plastic Logic is not the manufacturer of the Barnes and Noble device.)

William said the big question they had to answer was "Should Barnes and Noble make a dedicated reader?". He felt they had a tradition of leadership and innovation, and didn't want to produce a "me too" product. When they decided to do it, they aimed for technological sophistication in an attractive and easy to use package. He announced the new Barnes and Noble "Nook" reader.

A lot of what they chose to offer has already been leaked. The Nook features an innovative dual screen display, with a 6" eInk upper panel with 16 shade gray scale, and a color lower menu panel using capacitive touch screen technology similar to the iPhone. The Nook will support 5 fonts, have 2GB of internal memory, sufficient to hold up to 1,700 ebooks, and have a micro SD slot for a potential 16GB of additional storage per SD card. The Nook is USB based, and can connect to a PC or Mac for file transfer. According to the presentation, the Nook doesn't have buttons. Everything is handled via the touch screen.

Under the hood, the Nook is using the Google Android OS. Android is Linux based, and Barnes and Noble's designers claimed to like it because it was optimized for display on smaller mobile devices. (I'm sure the fact that it was free and open source, with no licensing required by Google didn't hurt.) I'd been following Android since Google released it, and have the SDK. I was wondering when we would see devices based on it that weren't smartphones, and the Nook is a good example of what sort of things are possible.

Lynch acknowledged that Android as a platform offers a base for development, but declined comment on future development, or whether an SDK would be released to allow third party developers to create Nook applications and utilities. My guess is this will happen at some point if the Nook takes off and demand is there, but I don't expect to see it soon.

As of now, the Nook supports three formats. It will handle the legacy "eReader" format originally developed by Peanut Press for Palm OS devices, and subsequently ported to a range of other devices. B&N has also partnered with Adobe and licensed Adobe's Mobile SDK, so the Nook will support ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM. Barnes and Noble's intent is to transition entirely to ePub in the future.

The Nook has connectivity options, featuring both free connectivity to Barnes and Noble's online store via AT&Ts 3G wireless network, and Wifi which can be used to connect within Barnes and Noble stores. The Nook offers a couple of features we haven't seen previously. One is an attempt to replicate the experience of browsing in a store. Just as you can pick a paper book off the shelf, go the the cafe, drink coffee, and potentially browse the entire book, the Nook will let you do that with ebooks, using streaming technology. If you decide you like the book and wish to buy it, you can download it on the spot to your Nook.

Another popular function with paper books is loaning them to friends. The Nook permits that with ebooks, allowing you to load a purchased title to a friend who also has a Nook for a 14 day period. Like with a paper book, when it is loaned out, your friend has the book and you don't. It is not available to you while on loan. Not all books will be loanable. Whether or not a book can be lent is determined by B&N's agreement with the publisher. Books which can be lent will be identified in B&N's online catalog.

Barnes and Noble is also apparently keeping customers bookmarks and annotations on the web. The presentation claimed you will be able to do things like read a book on your nook, and be able to pick up where you left off on you iPhone using their reader application. This implies connectivity and opens a level of privacy concerns, but details were not discussed at the presentation.

Barnes and Noble considers the bookstore to be the critical demand generation center. They intend to make the nook available for sale through 700 Barnes and Noble outlets and 600 college bookstores in late November, at a retail price of $259. This counters the rumor that Barnes and Noble would offer the device through Best Buy. With a network of 700 Barnes and Noble stores, plus 600 college bookstores, there's no need for additional retail partners. If they can't sell it themselves, it probably can't be sold.

Nook will have personalization options, including the ability to load user supplied photos, with on board software to handle the conversion, and a range of designer cases will be available.

The first 10,000 nooks pre-ordered at Barnes and Noble will ship with a free copy of Malcolm Gladwell's _The Tipping Point_.

When asked whether Nook would go global, it was stated that that was being looked at, but no announcement would be made now.

Another question was on pricing. The Barnes and Noble reps stated they were comfortable with the $259 price for the reader, and didn't see that being adjusted for competitive reasons. They did announce their intention to be "competitive" on ebook pricing. Whether this means matching Amazon's $9.99 standard price for many books was not explicitly stated.

They announced that they were working with publishers and exploring "bundling" options, where you could buy the paper and electronic versions of a book at the same time, though details of how this would work were not offered.

They were asked about plans to support Windows Mobile and they stated that was planned. Since eReader is currently available in versions for the PocketPC 2002 and earlier, and Windows Mobile smartphones of 2003, it's unclear what support is being mentioned. They were also asked about an eReader app for Android, and while no specific announcement was made, they commented that the Nook was based on Android, so a reader app for other Android devices was a logical next step.

In response to queries about future devices akin to things like the Kindle DX, they stated they were looking at a variety of form factors, and geve the impression that the Nook was simple the first in what could become a line of readers optimized for different purposes.

They stated they have a mailing list of 20 million, and announcements would be made periodically of special events, free ebooks and the like. They also said they are workign with publishers for things like "author exclusive" offers available only fir the Nook.

A question about publication support got a response that Barnes and Noble didn't plan to use an RSS feed, but instead intended to convert publications purchased for viewing on the Nook to ePub. They also stated the Nook would not have a web browser, as they did not feel eInk supported a decent browsing experience.

It was a well received presentation with a couple of innovative features announced. Further information will be available at http://www.nook.com, and at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/twitter/.

Will this effort bear fruit? Can Barnes and Noble successfully compete across the board with online retailers like amazon, and brick and mortar stores like Walmart and Target? We won't know for a while, but Barnes and Noble seems to feel they have no alternative but to try. The development of BarnesandNoble.com, the purchase of Fictionwise, the partnerships with people like Plastic Logic and the release of a dedicated reader under their own brand are evidence of a determination to compete. We'll see whether they can.

I'm just wondering how long before people make remarks about the Barnes and Noble "nookie"...
______
Dennis
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Attached Files
File Type: pdf nook fact sheet.pdf (86.0 KB, 1418 views)

Last edited by DMcCunney; 10-22-2009 at 11:46 AM. Reason: Corrected typo - internal capacity is 1,700 books
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:25 PM   #2
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The PDF fact sheet says:

Quote:
In addition to nook, eBooks can be enjoyed on the following compatible devices using Barnes & Noble eReader software (available free at www.bn.com/ebooks):
iPhone and iPod touch, select BlackBerry and Motorola smartphones, Android and Windows-based mobile devices, as well as most Windows and Mac laptops, netbooks and full-sized desktop computers. These devices also allow for synchronized reading of last page read.

Lending enabled between nook, iPhone, iPod touch, select BlackBerry and Motorola smartphones, PC and Mac.
So it looks like Android and Windows-based mobile devices are coming soon. Any idea what "select Motorola smartphones" means?

Note that B&N only provides Desktop, iDevice and Blackberry Readers currently. It does not support all the eReader devices, and it looks like many "legacy" phones and PDAs will be dropped (perhaps still supported by eReader, but not by the B&N ebook store).
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:32 PM   #3
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So will we be able to read B&N epubs on other reading devices?
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:41 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Superlucky View Post
So will we be able to read B&N epubs on other reading devices?
I think that depends on the particular book. If it's a legacy Fictionwise title in eReader format, anything eReader runs on. If it's an ePub volume not protected by DRM, anything that displays ePub. If it's a Barnes and Noble ebook in ePub format with DRM, you may be limited to the Nook, unless they upgrade their eReader application to handle ePub and Adobe DRM. That was not announced, but it would not surprise me if it were done. They are touting their widespread device support, and mentioned support for things like reading a book on the Nook and the iPhone, maintaining your bookmarks and annotations.
_______
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:41 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Superlucky View Post
So will we be able to read B&N epubs on other reading devices?
Not at first, see Adobe + Barnes & Noble Partnership. The Nook can read all Adobe PDF and ePub ebooks, but B&N ePubs will require Reader Mobile SDK 9.1 (due early 2010) and vendor action. It is possible that Sony would not implement it for example, since they don't even seem to be using version 9.0 at present.
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:44 PM   #6
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Ugh. Will we ever see a format that we can buy anywhere and use on any dedicated reading device?
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:51 PM   #7
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The PDF fact sheet says:

So it looks like Android and Windows-based mobile devices are coming soon. Any idea what "select Motorola smartphones" means?
At a guess, new devices based on Android. Moto is prepping about 8 of them for the Chinese market,l among other things

Quote:
Note that B&N only provides Desktop, iDevice and Blackberry Readers currently. It does not support all the eReader devices, and it looks like many "legacy" phones and PDAs will be dropped (perhaps still supported by eReader, but not by the B&N ebook store).
Good question, and not addressed at this announcement. They did announce plans to support Windows Mobile. I don't expect to see support for legacy Palm OS, though Palm's WebOS might be forthcoming if the Pre shows decent market penetration.

I see Barnes and Noble as wanting to sell ebooks, and not being married to one platform. The Nook has the potential advantage of eInk, simplicity, anc convenience. Buy and read your ebooks wuith the touch iof a screen, pretty much regardless of where you are. But if you would rather use your PC, iPhone, or Blackberry, hey - they'll happily take your money.

I see it as similar to Amazon releasing an iPhone app. Despite possible competition with the Kindle, the iPhone is a very popular platform, and it your main desire is to sell ebooks, it makes sense to support it.
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:56 PM   #8
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Ugh. Will we ever see a format that we can buy anywhere and use on any dedicated reading device?
If and when all parties decide to support one ebook format. Right now, that looks to be ePub, but support is far from universal.

One big issue is getting it as part of publisher's workflows, so creation of an electronic edition happens automatically as part of the process. Most publishers use Adobe InDesign to do markup and typesetting, generating PDFs which go to the printer to create plates. InDesign will output ePub, but currently does not do it well.

One of the folks at the announcement was Bill McCoy, Adpobe's General Manager, Digital Publishing Business. He stated that a point release of InDesign with better ePub support was on the way, which will be a boon.
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Old 10-21-2009, 12:40 AM   #9
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He stated that a point release of InDesign with better ePub support was on the way, which will be a boon.
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That's good to hear.
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Old 10-21-2009, 01:58 AM   #10
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Well, from what the have shown in the brief video demo, I am not sure they have a UI finished yet. In fact it looks fairly clumsy right now. It will be curious how it develops. I certainly hope that since the device has wifi there is a web browser.

I know this is still pretty early in the process, still, I am not seeing anything as today that makes it stand out over other devices in it's category. I sense the key is how open the device is to third-party apps could be the difference.

Oh, and the display is the same dirty dishwater grey background of almost all others I have examined in person.

Worth watching as time goes on though. Thanks for posting the info...
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Old 10-21-2009, 04:49 AM   #11
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They obviously paid attention to some of the most common gripes about reader devices.

It's not nearly enough in my opinion but I would say it's vastly better of an experience than the utilitarian Kindle. I'm excited to give one a try. If BN can compete with Amazon on eBook pricing I'll be happy as a clam.

Hope this lives up to the claims. It'll be good for the market.
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Old 10-21-2009, 06:25 AM   #12
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Annotations of PDFs?

Any word on whether the Nook allows annotation of PDFs? I suspect that (like the Kindle DX) it doesn't.
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Old 10-21-2009, 06:44 AM   #13
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I do like the look of this reader. As mentioned before, its not nearly enough in terms of satisfying our collective requirements, but it does seem to have some really good features.
One that really excites me is the potential for Iphone type apps. This could really open up opportunities for enhancing the reading experience.
I'll be keeping an envious eye on the Nook, with the likelihood that it will never be seen over here in Ireland.
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Old 10-21-2009, 07:44 AM   #14
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This was a great report, thanks.

The lack of the ability to do general web browsing is a very significant lack, in my opinion. I have used my Kindle 2 happily to get my Yahoo Mail and to read, say, today's NY Times. It's not as good in black and white, but it's a lot better than nothing.

The idea of getting cool things if you go into a Barnes and Noble store is ok, but Barnes and Noble stores can already be crowded, whereas I always have a seat at home.

I thought that the Plastic Logic device looked very cool, and I will evaluate it eagerly when it comes out, some say in January.
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Old 10-21-2009, 07:59 AM   #15
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It's worth noting as an historical footnote that Barnes & Noble only got their title of ``first online bookseller'' by purchasing Bookstacks Unlimited, a small company which owned the books.com domain.

They honoured Bookstacks' ``bookmarks'' for a while, sending out a broadcast e-mail noting when the cut-off date for them would be.

William
(who bought an awful lot of books from Bookstacks Unlimited (over dial-up, though I think a couple of times I telnetted in from a workstation at college) and lost a fistful of bookmarks)
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