Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Barnes & Noble's new Nook digital reader is displayed at a launch Tuesday in New York City.
Barnes & Noble's new Nook digital reader is displayed at a launch Tuesday in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
A man holds the Amazon Kindle at an unveiling event for the second-generation version at the Morgan Library & Museum Feb. 9 in New York City.
A man holds the Amazon Kindle at an unveiling event for the second-generation version at the Morgan Library & Museum Feb. 9 in New York City. Mario Tama/Getty Images
E-books: Depending on your point of view, they're either the savior or the destroyer of the publishing business.
So far, Amazon has dominated the market. Its first Kindle electronic reading device debuted two years ago, and the company just announced that its third-quarter profits surged almost 70 percent, thanks largely to sales of new Kindle models.
Sony and a few other companies have also launched e-readers, but this week saw the debut of what could be the Kindle's first serious competitor: the Nook. It's made by the other giant of book-selling: Barnes & Noble.
Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan has been playing with both the Nook and the Kindle. He says what stands out about Barnes & Noble's new reader is the color LCD touch screen at the bottom of the device that allows users to browse book covers. It's similar, he says, to the "cover flow" feature familiar to Apple customers who flip through album covers on iTunes or with their iPhones.
And there's one big advantage that Barnes & Noble has over its competitor, Buchanan says. "Barnes & Noble has stores you can go to. Every Barnes & Noble will carry Nooks, whereas, you know, Amazon, you have to go online, order it and wait for it to come in. You can't play with [the Kindle] beforehand unless your friend has one."
In addition, he says, "One really cool thing with the Nook is ... every Barnes & Noble has free Wi-Fi, and if you go into a Barnes & Noble with a Nook and get on their network, you can browse any e-book there for free."
The Nook won't be available for sale until the end of November, but Buchanan says Barnes & Noble has the best chance of any competitor to Amazon so far.
"I think the real story is going to be in terms of the content and the platform and the software. These devices are almost secondary to what they're selling," he says. "It's been interesting to watch Sony try and play in this space as well, because they've been competing on technical specifications that are superior to Kindle in some ways. You know, people really don't care. What the Kindle has done right is the content delivery system, in that you can buy a book in 30 seconds. And Barnes & Noble's offering something similar and we'll see how well that pans out."
But a huge giant looms on the horizon: Apple is rumored to be working on its own device, a kind of super iPhone.
"Obviously, once Apple jumps into the fray, it's going to look like something else entirely," Buchanan says. "Because they're going to be offering a completely different reading experience, too. You're talking about reading on a tablet on a computer versus an e-book reader, which is a very different experience."
Still, the success of all these reading devices is tied to the publishing industry, which has been skittish about them.
"But you'll definitely see things continue to slide towards electronic reading," Buchanan says. "There's huge interest there. Everybody is trying to tackle it and go after it."