October 26, 2010

Barnes & Noble Nook Color, a Step Backward?

Barnes & Noble has announced a new Nook Color. The previous Nook models have been examples of a new generation of e-reading devices. Let's take a quick look at the history before of e-readers before discussing why the Nook Color could be seen as a step backward.

The previous generation of e-readers had LCD screens. This meant shorter battery life than the typical 1 week minimum of the Nook, Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle. It also meant more eyestrain, staring at a screen causes more strain than staring at a piece of paper. E-ink changed all that. The e-ink generation of reading devices promised and delivered the same reading experience as paper, plus extremely long battery life. The downsides of e-ink include a lack of color, and that like regular paper, since there isn't a backlight you need light to read. Benefits include reduced eye-strain since it's just like reading a traditional paperback, and no problems reading outside, since it's not an LCD screen.

Now we have the Nook Color. Why do I say it's a step backward? The Nook Color doesn't use e-ink technology. It uses an IPS screen, like the iPad. This effectively removes the similarity to reading a book, adds the backlight, whether you want it or not, and reduces battery life to a paltry 8 hours. At the moment, the Nook Color looks like a device trying to be a tablet and an e-reader. It remains to be seen if it manages to fit both, or ends up falling short of either.

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