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The Nook – Complexity vs Simplicity

500x_bnnookThere is another major player in the ebook reader niche, the Nook from Barnes & Noble.  The Nook will go head to head against the Amazon Kindle 2.  From Gizmodo, the hardware specs will make anyone that recently purchased an Amazon Kindle feel buyer’s remorse, or maybe not.  The Nook has a great second multi-touch screen that is in color, you can expand it’s memory, and it has wireless support beyond 3G.  All things the Amazon Kindle 2 does not have at the same same price.  But as a colleague pointed out to me, all this adds to a level of complexity that is just not needed for ebook readers.  Really?  Is that a statement from a jealous Kindle 2 owner or a valid point.  Tell you the truth, I think this guy is onto something here.

We all heard the statement, “there is no one device that can do it all.”  Many vendors have tried in the past for virtually every tech sector you can imagine and mostly failed.  What we have now are devices that can do one or few things but do them well.  Netbooks fits that bill and so do ebook readers.  The problem for netbooks is that the public became confused at what the device can and cannot do, hence the strong distaste for the device.  Why is netbooks so popular with the mainstream group?  Cost has a big factor to do with it but so does the limited functionality the device will satisfy.  Those who purchase a netbook are not going to edit mpeg4 video or use the device for heavy lifting.  They will use it for light web browsing and a notes/draft generator, which works infinitely better than a sidekick or even an iphone.  Have you ever been in a lecture hall with stadium seating and the only writing surface you have is a small plank that you pull up from the side of your seat?  Netbooks work and have a purpose but confusion arose to what can be done on the device.

alex_ebook_readerThis will also true for ebook readers as well.  As a device for leisurely reading, it is quite acceptable (some may argue the devices are still not up to snuff).  You can have multiple books, bookmark where you left off and take it with you in compact form.  For that purpose, ebook readers rock!  For the purpose of using them to replace textbooks and the need to annotate text, as Amazon tried with the Kindle 2 DX, that obviously did not work out as well.  There lies the problem.  Vendors are trying to capture potential revenue in an emerging market and trying to find a feature-set that will work for the masses.  We are now witnessing a slew of devices in the ebook reader market that are trying to one up each other as demonstrated by the Nook and the soon to be released, Spring Design Alex ebook Reader.  What will happen is the same thing that had occurred in the netbook market, confusion.  There is a group of people that will love an ebook readers for the simple fact of reading books and nothing more.  Produce a product that does just that, aka Kindle2, at a price point of $199 or less and you got a netbook-like winner. For those that need to manipulate the text and extend functionality, wait for the tablets of next generation.  These stop-gap measures will only add unnecessary complexity to a device driven by a simple concept thus frustrating the public to demand more features.

I am all for cool new gadgets and innovations, and convergence is necessary, but I have to agree with my colleague on this one.  eBook readers were created to take with you what you like to read in a simple efficient device.  Beyond that, it is no longer simple.

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