Barnes & Noble debuts touchscreen e-reader

By @ibtimes on

Barnes & Noble Inc unveiled a new e-reader on Tuesday that features a touch screen, weighs less than a paperback book and has a battery life of two months -- features designed to help it compete with Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc.

Barnes & Noble's introduction of a new Nook comes just days after John Malone's Liberty Media Corp offered to buy the bookstore chain for $1 billion. Liberty Media, which has pursued a strategy in recent years to snap up cheap media-related assets, is said to be pursuing the takeover bid because of its desire to acquire the Nook franchise.

Barnes & Noble, which introduced its first e-reader in 2009, has been trying to remake itself into a digital book seller to cope with readers shifting away from print books.

The latest Nook will sell for $139, the same price as Amazon's e-reader, the Kindle, and will start shipping on June 10. The touchscreen device weighs 7.5 ounces, has a 6-inch display, and allows a user to look up words, highlight passages and adjust the font size.

The new Nook lands in a highly competitive market, where Apple, with its iPad, and Amazon are battling with Barnes & Noble for customers who want to read books and magazines on small portable devices.

Barnes & Noble rolled out the new Nook less than a month after it made improvements to its $249 color e-reader, which plays videos and features games such as Angry Birds.

While the black and white Nook introduced on Tuesday is more than $100 cheaper than its color counterpart, one analyst said the price would likely drop by the holiday season.

Even though this nook is technically more difficult to make, it looks smaller and cheaper and the average consumer is going to want to pay less for it, said Forrester research analyst James McQuivey.

He added the new Nook should put some distance between it and Amazon, which does not have color or touchscreen features in its e-reader. Amazon may be pressured to come out with a new version of its Kindle, he said.

Amazon is going to be forced to follow Barnes & Noble, first with color and then with a touch screen, McQuivey said.

The least expensive version of Kindle, which sells for $114, is slightly cheaper than the Nook. But that Kindle features advertisements, whereas the Nook does not.

Barnes & Noble executives trumpeted the new Nook's simplicity, saying designers streamlined it, reduced the number of buttons and armed it with a paper-like screen. It can hold up to 1,000 digital books.

The is the most advanced e-reader on the market, Chief Executive William Lynch said at a product event.

Another company with an e-reader on the market, privately held Kobo, announced on Monday it had partnered with book retailer Borders Group to share profits on sales of electronic books. Borders, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, already owns a stake in Kobo.

Barnes & Noble's shares were up 2.3 percent at $19.02 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Additional reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman)

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