The dust hadn't even had time to settle on the announcement of the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition before Barnes & Noble (B&N) unveiled the Nook Simple Touch Reader. The new Nook has 50 percent better contrast than the previous e-Ink edition (thanks to being upgraded to the latest Pearl e-ink technology) and, like the Kobo device, its 6-inch display has been made touch sensitive with the aid of infrared technology. It's also 35 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner than the first edition Nook, and offers a best-in-class battery life.

With the Nook Color already offering many features to the bookworm, why bother to take a retrograde step and release a simple black and white e-reader with no apps, no web browsing, and no email? B&N appears to believe (quite rightly in my opinion) that there is still a huge market for readers who just want to relax with a good book and escape from our tech-centric world - enter the Nook Simple Touch Reader.

Other than side navigation and home buttons, all user interaction takes place on the 800 x 600 resolution screen, courtesy of optical touch technology. Readers can now use an onscreen keyboard for making notes or searching for titles, text or phrases from the user library, or while shopping for new material online via an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connection. Touch is also used to highlight words or passages and definition lookup from the built-in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary.

The new 6.5 x 5 x 0.47 inch (165.4 x 126.6 x 12 mm) Nook weighs 7.48 ounces (212 g), which makes it bigger and heavier than the Kobo e-reader but smaller and lighter than the Amazon Kindle. The B&N device is said to offer 80 percent less page transition flicker than any other e-reader, and comes with a user replaceable battery that is claimed to last up to two months per charge with the Wi-Fi turned off or up to three weeks with it turned on.

Users can choose from seven font sizes and six font styles for reading comfort, and can either opt for B&N screensaver backgrounds or import personal images in JPG, PNG, BMP or GIF format.

Unlike the Kindle, the reader's home screen features images of book covers, and supports both PDF and ePub formats. Content can be added to the 2GB of onboard memory (with microSD media card expansion) wirelessly from the Nook Bookstore or via the microUSB port. Running on Android 2.1 and being Adobe-friendly also caters for digital book borrowing from a local library. Users can also browse complete books for free at any B&N store over Wi-Fi through the Read In Store program.

In addition to Twitter and Facebook integration and the company's LendMe book-lending technology, B&N has brought the Nook Friends experience from the Nook Color to the new device. A new My Nook website is also about to be introduced, where customers will be able to "get recommendations from Barnes & Noble expert booksellers and Nook Friends, access their Nook Library, and manage their device."

The new Nook Simple Touch Reader is priced at US$139 and is scheduled for release in early June.

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