Barnes & Noble Monday launched promised new features, including an app store, email and enhanced browser for its Nook Color e-reader to help make its $250 device a more direct competitor with the iPad and other tablet computers.
The revamped Nook also includes a platform upgrade to Android 2.2 Froyo, the ability to play Flash-based content and Adobe AIR for building Web applications. Among the 125 apps on offer are popular titles, such as "Angry Birds" and recipe-centric "Epicurious." That total is expected to grow with the ongoing addition of new apps through Barnes & Noble's community of 5,000 registered developers.
In connection with the update, Barnes & Noble has also kicked off a new marketing push behind the Nook Color. Developed with Mullen, the "Read Forever" campaign aims to connect its e-reader with the "emotional power" of reading through a series of scenes showing people of all ages engrossed in their Nooks as well as print books.
With ads starting to air this week, the TV campaign will feature 30- and 60-second spots during regular episodes and season finales of popular cable and network shows, including "American Idol." The print effort begins in early May and will run in high-circ publications and include intimate portraits of readers as well as product-centric ads featuring the Nook Color.
Plus, Barnes & Noble is running a promotion on Facebook that will reward people for sharing the TV spot and articulating the reasons they could read forever. Participants gain the chance to win the grand prize of a Nook Color and a gift certificate worth $1,000 toward purchases from the Nook Bookstore. The contest itself will be promoted on AmericanIdol.com and other third-party sites.
Separately, Amazon Monday debuted a new author interview series on a site called The BackStory. The Author Interviews@Amazon program will launch with five video interviews, including celebrity chef Tom Douglas and writer Joshua Foer. Customers will be able to post questions for visiting authors that will be incorporated into each interview.
Nook sales have picked up lately, but Amazon remains the undisputed leader in the e-reader space, according to IMS Research. The Kindle accounted for 59% of devices shipped, followed by Barnes & Noble at 11%, Sony, 5%, and BenQ and Hanvon, each with 4%. But with the Nook's new capabilities, Barnes & Noble may hope its $250 e-reader tablet can eat into sales of the $500 iPad as much as the Kindle. Amazon has yet to launch a color version of its device.