Barnes and Noble has just announced a new version of its Nook e-reader. The goofy little color screen at the bottom is gone. Notice also that it is mostly button-free, because the screen is touch sensitive. Price is $139, same as I paid for my Kindle 3.
I’m a little jealous over the coolness factor, but otherwise not much. It would be nice to point directly at a spot on the screen, rather than navigate a cursor with the Kindle 5-way button. But it isn’t something one does often enough to be a real headache. I expect that soon enough people will start figuring out new e-reader-specific functionality that a touch screen makes possible, but at the moment there really isn’t any such thing.
What’s most heartening about this announcement is that industry is clearly feeling the pressure to rapidly push the technology down the cost curve. I’ve heard that when it was introduced Amazon made little or nothing on the Kindle 3. Now B&N raises the bar with a touch screen, something that they will probably lose money on for awhile. These companies are betting that sales will take off while prices from their suppliers are driven down. If they are right, the impulse-buy e-reader is not far off, with the promotional premium e-reader and the disposable e-reader coming not long afterward.