This isn't how products are typically announced, but thanks to a couple of sentences in an SEC filing, word is out that Barnes & Noble plans to release a new e-reader later this month.
Late yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that according to the filing, Barnes & Noble will unveil the "new eReader device" on May 24:
Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating declined to comment beyond the 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which contained one sentence of text to comply with Regulation FD fair disclosure rules, except to confirm the meeting took place in New York City. The filing says simply that the company, in the meeting, "indicated it expects to make an announcement on May 24, 2011, regarding the launch of a new eReader device."
The filing had no specific details about the e-reader, but for some reason the Journal speculated that Barnes & Noble might release a "more powerful combination tablet and e-reader" that would perhaps run Honeycomb, the Android 3.0 OS designed for tablets.
We're here to tell you that's probably not the case and that the more likely--and logical--scenario is that Barnes & Noble finally will be replacing its lower priced e-ink e-reader, which has had major trouble competing with the third-generation Kindle in recent months.
The Nook Color has only been out since last November and recently was updated to Android 2.2 (Froyo), which enabled Flash support. Barnes & Noble also launched an app store for the Nook Color as part of that update.
It's true, the Nook Color doesn't offer the processing power of some competing tablets such as the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, or Samsung's Galaxy Tab, but the Nook Color's affordable $249 price tag has played a large role in its success, and Barnes & Noble probably won't refresh the Nook Color with more powerful components until the fall.
We've been waiting for Barnes & Noble to replace the original Nook, which came out in November 2009 and has struggled to keep up with the leaner and slightly less expensive Kindle that features the latest generation e-ink display (Pearl) and double the battery life. Industry insiders have also told us that because the Nook features a small touch-screen color display, it costs Barnes & Noble more to produce the Nook than it costs Amazon to produce the Kindle.
We suspect that in building the new Nook, Barnes & Noble has been more cost-conscious because it knows that Amazon will most likely drop the price of the Kindle with Special Offers to $99 this holiday season and a Wi-Fi-only version e-ink Nook will have to approach that price to compete. That may mean Barnes & Noble will do away with the small color LCD and touch navigation system that has become the Nook's signature. We hope that Barnes & Noble moves to a full touch-screen system similar to the one that Sony now offers in its Reader line and really shrinks the size and weight of the device.
We should know more soon--May 24 is only a few weeks off--but in the meantime, let us know what you'd like to see from a new e-ink Nook.