When Barnes & Noble unveiled the Nook, the first Android-powered e-book reader, a lot of people were excited, because it appeared to offer some key competitive advantages over Amazon's Kindle e-reader.
First and foremost, while the Nook features the same 6-inch E-ink screen (600x800 pixels; 16 shades of gray) as the Kindle, it includes a separate, capacitive, color touch screen (144 x 480 pixels) that allows you to navigate content and use a virtual keyboard for typing searches and annotations. Furthermore, on top of its free AT&T 3G wireless connection, the Nook packs in Wi-Fi connectivity and a memory expansion slot; you get 2GB of internal memory, but can add up to an additional 16GB via the microSD card slot. And finally, Barnes & Noble offers an e-book-lending option (for participating titles) and the capability to browse the full text of e-books on your Nook if you're in a Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar store (the latter feature is due to launch in early 2010). Unfortunately, both the lending and in-store browsing features come with some significant restrictions.
Caveats notwithstanding, those features are nice extras, but the big questions are: how much of a difference do they really make in the overall user experience, and are they enough to push the Nook to the top of the e-book reader heap? Alas, the answer, you'll soon find out, isn't as clear cut as it might seem.
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