Barnes & Noble Announces Nook Simple Touch eBook Reader

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In a media event in New York, Barnes & Noble announced the $139 Nook Simple Touch Reader, that will hit store shelves by June 10.

The new Nook is a less capable, more simplified device, in comparison to the company’s more expensive Nook Color tablet–which is more of tablet computer that also reads eBooks. The new reader features an updated screen with 50% better contrast, is is almost a square 5″ by 6.5″ and at just 7.5 ounces, weighs less than rival Amazon’s Kindle 3, and 35 percent lighter than the original Nook.

While it is similar to the Kindle in appearance and functionality, with a black and white E Ink screen, instead of buttons, the new Nook features a touchscreen interface, allowing users to simulate turning pages by touching the screen with their fingers and search and type notes with an on-screen keyboard. “Kindle 3 has 38 buttons. That’s 37 more than the all-new Nook,” said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch, adding that so many buttons “assault the user.” Currently, Amazon doesn’t offer a touch screen version of the Kindle, or a Kindle tablet, though both are rumored to be in development.

The Nook comes with a non-user-replaceable battery that Barnes & Noble claims can last up to two months on a single charge, better than any competing eReader on the market. It comes with 2 GB of built-in storage, or about 1,000 books, and features a microSDHC memory card slot for further expansion. Despite all the improvements, some users may be disappointed to see that the new Nook is Wi-Fi only–there is no 3G model as of yet, unlike the original Nook.

Barnes & Noble also added social media and sharing capabilities to the Nook in the form of “Nook Friends.” With this new social network–which the company still says is in beta–users will be able to create groups of friends in order to lend books to each other, swap observations, and see what their friends are reading, as well as be able to share what they’re reading via Twitter and Facebook.

Barnes & Noble announced that it is phasing out the original “1st Edition” black-and-white Nook, and issued a one-time price drop to $119 for the Wi-Fi only version, and $169 for the Wi-Fi/3G version. Production has stopped on the older units, so once the 1st Edition is sold out, they’re gone.

Nook eReaders, including the 1st Edition model and the Nook Color tablet, make up “more than 25 percent of the digital book market — just 18 months after launching Nook 1st Edition,” the company said.

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