B&N Maintains Their Rearguard Position in the eReader Market With the Launch of a New Nook Glow

nook glow 2013 2Remember how I wrote back in May that if B&N released an amazing ereader it could have revitalized the Nook platform?

Apparently that idea didn't occur to B&N, because on Wednesday they are releasing a new Nook Glow that features a few anemic improvements but is lacking much of the hardware details that set it apart from the pack.

You don't have to take my word for it; the new device should be in B&N stores on Wednesday morning. Retail is $119. And if you're interested, here is the briefing doc (PDF) and fact sheet (PDF).

The new Nook Glow has an improved frontlight, a higher resolution 6" Pearl E-ink screen (1024 x 758), twice as much storage (4GB, with 2GB reserved for B&N content and 1.5GB taken up by software), and somewhat improved software. It's about an ounce lighter and it has the Regal screen refresh tech found on the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kobo Aura. B&N also talked up the improved fonts and tweaked reading app.

All in all, this would not have been a bad ereader - if B&N had released it last year. In fact, a release last Fall would have made up for all the hardware features that the new Nook Glow doesn't have.

Laura

The new Nook Glow is still running Android 2.1 and it has an 800 MHz CPU, which is underpowered in comparison to the 1GHz CPU found in the Aura, Aura HD, and the new Paperwhite. And to make matters worse, the new Nook Glowlight is missing the card slot and page turn buttons found on last year's model.

Oh, and it has a white shell which will attract fingerprints while making the E-ink screen look gray. This is the exact opposite of Amazon and Kobo, both of which went with a gray and then black shell because black makes the E-ink screen look whiter (this is ereader design 101).

Yes, Barnes & Noble has basically thrown away everything that made the Nook Glow special and better than its competition while at the same time releasing a device that is on par with what Amazon and Kobo released last year.

Folks, I know that some might say that it is unreasonable for me to expect a 6.8" Nook, but wouldn't that have been cool? Wouldn't it have been more exciting than this Nook Glow retread?

This isn't a device from a serious competitor; what we are looking at here is an example of B&N treading water. Stick a fork in B&N; they're done.

 

***

Update: I finally got my hands on the new Nook Glowlight.

Barnes & Noble launched their latest and meh-est ereader this morning, but I wasn't able to get my hands on it until this evening. I'm still not impressed, but I can say that I am no longer quite so as underwhelmed as I was before.

I caught up with the new Nook Glowlight in my local B&N store in Manassas VA. The staff didn't seem to give a damn about selling any ereaders, but at least they did have the new Nook Glowlight on display. Of course, they also had the wrong pamphlet and they had neglected to configure one of the display units, but at least the hardware was there.

nook glowlight new 2013

I spent a good 20 plus minutes playing with the new device, and here's what I noticed. First, it readily passed the drop test. As you might recall the previous model had a fragile frontlight, but B&N has fixed the problem. The NGL2 also has a much more even frontlight, just like the press release said.

I then pulled out my KPW2 and compared the 2 devices. After comparing them from several angles I concluded that the KPW2 has a dimmer frontlight than the NGL2. I also noticed that the KPW2 was faster at turning the page - most of the time. There were times that the NGL2 was nearly as fast, but I could not see a pattern t explain why the difference was so inconsistent.

After that I went noodling around in the menus to see what I could do about the screen refresh. A number of commenters have called me out for dismissing the media claims that "B&N has axed full-page flashing in the new Nook", so I wanted to see just how true that was.

First, there's no way to alter the screen refresh settings on the NGL2 that I saw in my local store.

I didn't see any full page flash while reading (or any ghosting for that matter), but I did see it in the menus. While that does agree with what B&N said in the press release, it is a far cry from what the media is saying. It's also completely different from what B&N's defenders have written in the comments below.

Based on what I have seen, I think B&N is using the same Regal waveform tech found in the new Aura and the KPW2, only B&N has decided to take it to an extreme. Rather than minimize the full page flash, they disabled it when you are reading. Some people are going to like that, but I prefer the flash because it guarantees me a whiter screen.

 

54 thoughts on “B&N Maintains Their Rearguard Position in the eReader Market With the Launch of a New Nook Glow

  1. Always interesting to see how you ream BN for doing the same things your favorite company does (in this case, iterative upgrades).

      1. In some respects, yes (certainly the exclusion of the SD card and page turn buttons). In some other very important respects, it’s a nice upgrade though (particularly the resolution). And I personally prefer the white, but that’s definitely a personal choice thing.

        Note that I don’t completely disagree with you: BN needs something flashy to get back mindshare in the race with Amazon. It’s just the blatant favoritism in some of your posts that grates.

      1. And an open android, kinda like the Onyx T68, no?

        BTW, Kindle PW2 has less storage but you can use it any way you want–you can fill it with non-Amazon ebooks. They even host your books in their cloud.
        Nook’s 500MB for user content is also a step back.

        And the cover system is…odd…

        CNET has a slide show:
        http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-3508_7-10018789.html

        I would rather have the hackable/expandable old Glo.
        (Which I do.)

  2. Still 2.1? Missing the turn buttons on the side? NO MICRO SD? What have they done? What were they thinking?! The only advantage the Nook had was the android part of things and 2.1 is so old and outdated that it is practically useless. Without a microSD slot the device is useless root wise as well.

    I couldn’t care less about the “updated reader”, I would rather use FBReader from the Play Store instead.

    All they needed to do was to keep the NST as it is, with better glow, higher resolution and with minimum android 2.3 (or more preferably 4.0) and they would have a sale. But no, they had to screw up big time. Goodbye B&N, I’m going to Kobo.

  3. I wanted to quibble with one word “underpowered.”

    Why on earth is is necessary that an e-ink device have cutting edge CPU specs? That would matter only if the device were running multimedia apps or games, which it is certainly not.

    (I guess it might matter for large epub files and scrolling, but I wouldn’t think it would make that much of a difference).

    I care a lot more about storage and page turn buttons. As someone who produces ebooks, I’d be curious about support for css media queries and other low-tech epub3 features.

    Another thing. Would it be too much for Nook promotional material to indicate exactly what fonts are included?

    Finally, on the Verge article, saw a fairly good explanation and defense by flyingtoastr about ADEPT DRM over kindle’s DRM.

    1. flyingtoastr gets it mostly correct. (I’d comment over there, but I don’t want to create a new account right now.)

      While B&N doesn’t use ADEPT, they do use Adobe DRM (which includes ADEPT). It isn’t just credit card vs. Adobe ID, it’s password (credit card) vs. authentication server.

      Someone further down asks what happens if Adobe goes under. The short version: you lose access to all your Adobe books except those purchased from B&N.

    2. B&N was the last major company that still had physical page turns buttons, which are an absolute must if you read while doing anything you don’t want on your screen (like eating). Now not one major company releasing in the US has any non-touch interface elements in a current generation device (non-touch kindle doesn’t count, it’s an older device being kept around for low price point).

      Sony would technically still count if they hadn’t abandoned the US market, albeit I am not fond of the shaped arrow buttons since the T2.

  4. As usual, Nate, I love your articles and your opinions. You certainly said it right about this product!

    “Yes, Barnes & Noble has basically thrown away everything that made the Nook Glow special and better than its competition.”

  5. While I was writing my article rant about the new Nook, I noticed on the description page at B&N that is says “With a new top layer material and lamination process, NOOK GlowLight’s display stands up to keys, pens, and anything else you might carry with you. ”

    That made me think of you and your experience with the last Nook Glow. I swear they put the word keys in there just because of you :).

  6. Afraid I’m going to have to disagree here. What wrecked this company’s finances was exactly their attempt to be a hardware innovator. Nor is there any evidence that their supposed superior older model had sales worth talking about.

    Unfortunately they seem to have no Plan B, this release is a stop gap until they can get rid of the entire Nook enterprise. No doubt shareholders are praying that happens sooner rather than later.

    1. Uh, B&N’s Nook problems aren’t due to innovation, they are due to inventory management.
      And locking down the hardware to try to lock in the customer’s. Which they’re still doing.

      1. Sure, but their inventory management issues was due to them overestimating sales – by a lot. That should tell you something. As it is they seem unable to make up their minds whether to get out of the hardware business, so now they are just doing the bare minimum.

        If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results then this would now be a cautious insanity I guess.

        One way or another the Nook business is going to be bought, the only question is by whom, and how low will the price fall from its inflated valuations of last year.

  7. I’m a former Nook reader who just upgraded to a Paperwhite 2. I was debating waiting for this new Nook because of the two things that made the Nook better than the PW: hardware page buttons and add-on storage.I can’t believe those are the two things they removed. Congrats B+N, you’ve just re-released the PW1 a year late. Sure glad I didn’t wait for this.

    1. so let me gets this straight. You are complaining about the nook not having and SD card slot and page turning button but yet went out and bought a kindle paper white that doesn’t have an sd card slot and page turning buttons.

      I fail to follow your logic.

  8. Another 6″?

    No, thanks. The Kobo Aura HD is the minimum size screen I find acceptable, plus it has better UI and it is more open, overall.

    I really don’t know why they keep churning out these cheap 6″ readers. We have enough, already.

  9. This is an interesting bash of a product that reaks of double standards and Kindle love

    Let’s see

    1. In what world does white show more fingerprints thatn black.

    2. So when the Kindle lacks an SD card slot and page turning buttons it’s a minor blip on the way to the Holy Grail of Ereaders carved out by God himself but BUT when the Nook removes them then it’s the sky is falling, it’s a horrible product yadda yadda yadda. Ummm What? Why not the rant to the high heavens when the kindle DIDN’T include them

    3. the Processor ? Really? This is an Erearder not a full blown LCD multi media tablet. It doesn’t not require the latest and greatest processor to power these and to run nice . You don’t need a Porshe or a Corvette to go a mile down the road to the grocery store.

    4. And of course you left out the fact that they eliminated the page turning flash. While to some it may seem rather small, but it has been an ongoing annoyance among ereaders and eink in general. Now if the Kindle did this then it would groundbreaking and innovative. but yet not a whisper about it.

    1. 1, Black may pick up fingerprints as quickly but white will show them faster. With enough use the new Nook Glow will turn a grimy gray.

      2, The Kindle hasn’t had a card slot since 2009. The NG lost the card slot today. It’s not the same situation. And I bitched about the card slot issue in 2009, too.

      “And of course you left out the fact that they eliminated the page turning flash.”

      The new KPW has the sane screen tech, so it too lacks the page turning flash.

      1. Please you didn’t rant about it like you did the nook, I don’t know if Barnes and Noble ran over your dog or just fanboy blogging run amok

        and are you POSITVE the kindle pW2 eliminates the flash or just caches it?

        as far the white goes, interesting you already know it’s going to gray quicker without any real world experience. and how does one pick up fingerprints FASTER? that’s a copt out. While personally I like the black better but they do show the prints much much more than the white will. but I think it’s all a moot point since 90% of these will be in cases.

      2. NOPE it’s still just cached instead of every 6 pages it’s now 14 pages on the 2013 Kindle Paper white.

        from the Cnet review
        ” The new display requires less refreshing, which is sometimes referred to as flashing (e-ink screens need to be refreshed every so often to eliminate artifacts or “ghosting”). The previous model refreshed every six page turns and in my tests with the new model it refreshed every 13 to 14 pages.”

        the new Nook Glowlight completly eliminates the flashing.

        1. Let me present a counter argument.

          B&N didn’t invest in updating the chips inside the new NGL, they didn’t invest in updating the OS, and they sure as heck didn’t hire a decent designer. But you’re going to argue that they invested in the fiddly bits of the screen refresh?

          I would bet you the price of a NGL that B&N is using the exact same E-ink supplied panel as Kobo and everyone else with nearly identical driver software. That is a much more likely possibility than B&N investing in this one area.

          1. and let me present a counter to your counter

            They improved the resolution
            They improved the light distribution
            They increased it’s overall brightness
            They increased the contrast
            its lighter

            the chip and software is a moot point. This isn;t the latest the Nexus phone or Samsung Galaxy phone where you need it the latest OS version. It needs to powerful enough to run the UI in a snappy well designed way.

          2. But did B&N improve all that or did they simply buy a better component from E-ink?

            The thing is, E-ink could have sold the entire frontlight/touchscreen/epaper screen to B&N as a single piece. It’s listed in their catalog. And since neither will tell the truth about it we don’t really know who did what.

          3. So wait a minute you are trashing them because they don’t own their own manufacturing facility? Really? You do know that Amazon contracts out as well right. They don’t make kindles on site they to look to outside manufactures like eInk and Foxconn

            and beside Yes Barnes and Noble like every other company works closely with the manufacture They are part of the design process and the set the standards.

            Honestly why do you have it in for Barnes and Noble. You are creating over the top nit picks to do a hit piece and trash the product.

            Again you do know that Amazon contracts out to build the Kindle right?

            Holy crap

          4. If there is no ghosting and you can leave the refresh off then how is their claim bogus?

            Listen I don’t get hoot if you are a Kindle fanboy. That’s fine it’s your blog and you can trash anyone that you like. Sort of like John Gruber and his Daring Fireball, he doesn’t hide the fact he’s an over the top Apple fan boy and trashing MS and Google.

            But don’t run a blog and say it’s an objective blog for all ereaders. Just say this is a Kindle blog and then you wouldn’t have to justify your double standards, nit picks and trashing of Amazon’s competition.

          5. B&N’s claim isn’t bogus; the problem is in how you (and a lot of the media) are repeating their claim. There is still a Flash in the menus, so it has not actually been eliminated.

            And hey, you said that “B&N did this” and “B&N did that”. Your statements were almost certainly false, which is why I questioned them. What really happened is that B&N bought the same component as Kobo and then changed a single software setting. That is not something to be amazed at.

        2. Okay, I just got back from getting my hands on the new NGL.

          The claim that B&N did away with the full flash is bogus. It’s still there – in the menus. B&N has simply disabled it while reading.

          1. It’s the nature of eink. It’s not possible to eliminate it…no matter what the Nook propagandists say. :D

          2. They both disabled it while reading and removed the ghosting effect that typically accompanies non-refreshed eInk screens. It is a legitimate advance.

    2. I’m not a Kindle fan by anymeans, but I’m very disappointed with this release. They’re throwing away precisely what difference the Nook from their competition. As many people have commented here, some of us really want the page turn buttons, and the SD card expansion, and the possibility of rooting it to access to some Android applications: better dictionaries, dropbox for library sincronization, better reading application…
      OK, I’m not the client they want, they even don’t sell me their books, I’ll have just to wait for that Onix T68, let’s see if it’s worth it.

  10. oh and you do realize if and when you ever need to free up space you can archive your books into BN cloud storage but I suppose you already knew that.

  11. Just wondering if they fixed their PDF “support”. I have an original Nook and it claimed to support PDF but the “support” is stupid: they scoop out the text in some bogus incorrect way and display it in some ridiculous inept way, rather than actually displaying PDF natively. It was my biggest disappointment with the original Nook: unusable for any PDF. If this problem has been fixed, it would bring the Nook e-ink device up to nearly the level of the old and new Kobo e-ink readers, which have fine PDF support. (And B&N obviously know how to do PDF display because the Nook Color supports it just fine.)

    1. I can’t comment on the new one, but…

      PDF support on the NST is similar to most other e-Ink devices. At the smallest text size, it just shows the PDF, exactly like you want. If you increase the text, it switches to reflow mode.

      I think e-Ink devices are pretty okay for reading PDF once the margins are removed. Why the software can’t chop off the blank space surrounding the page is beyond me…

      With the faster refresh and touch, it also seems reasonable to allow some level of scrolling, but I’m guessing a huge percentage of e-Ink buyers are primarily in the market for novels. (It could be an opportunity for a new market and a response to the existing poor software, but it’s unlikely.)

  12. Coming from the perspective of a (rooted) Nook ST:
    800 mhz chip speed is fine.
    The old buttons suck. They are rubber and work poorly with the stock case bevel. Good riddance (and I’m a button fan).
    Android is 2.1 is not useless. I use it. A lot.
    No SD-card slot? Yikes. This might mean no root.
    White? Really?

    Anyway, yes, there’s not enough there to interest me. If they had just taken the existing NST / Glo e-reader, maybe upped the def of the screen and fixed the light, and I’d be interested. If they’d also upgraded to Android to 2.3+, I’d definitely want one.

  13. Missing SD card?
    How are we going to root it now? They have thrown away one of very few reasons to buy this device over other, similar devices.
    Not that it was a big reason. Android 2.1 sucks big time. I had rooted my NST. It was nice to be able to install FBReader and Coolreader. But when you installed those two, plus a very few other spartan apps you were done. Most of those apps were installed by the rooting package so you could use the device without hardware home and menu buttons.

    1.5GB reserved for their content. This by itself is enough for me to avoid this device.

    You forgot to mention that they will hold your new device hostage until you register at their store.

    Missing page-turning buttons only aggravate the situation.

    It seems that the only positive feature is the improved display.

  14. I just wanted to address one issue: the idea of Nook cloud storage. Nook is a fading brand; it’s worthwhile to ask how long Nook Cloud storage will last if the Nook brand is ever EOLed or BN goes bankrupt. I guess that’s a concern with Kindles as well, but right now they’re on top. Having an offline way to access storage is essential. I guess 4gig internal storage isn’t a dealbreaker, but I wonder what was the cost/benefit analysis. What did Nook gain when it lost SD card support?

    Another ecosystem argument. Amazon offers a lot of books at free and promotional prices which never make it to BN. As much as a Nook fan as I am/was, I can’t ignore some of the great freebies I obtained on my Kindle via ereaderiq or bookbub.

    1. You can make a backup of your B&N e-books using one of the Nook apps like Nook for PC or Nook for Mac.
      Unlike Kindle DRM and Adobe Adept DRM, B&N’s social DRM allows you to make backup copies of your books that will work on any device supporting the DRM, without needing an DRM server.

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