Barnes & Noble has injected a little color into its NOOK e-reader – 16 million colors that is. The new NOOKcolor ereader sits somewhere between the familiar e-ink offerings and a full-blown tablet (read iPad) with its 7-inch, 1024 x 600 color touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity (but not 3G), a slimline design which measures 0.48-inches thick and weighs at under a pound and a price point which will challenge competitors on both sides of the fence – US$249.

The Android-based NOOKcolor has 8GB of space (expandable to 32GB via a microSD slot), a microUSB port, an audio player which supports MP3 and AAC files, MP4 video playback and Microsoft Office files can be viewed and edited. Sound output is through a standard headphone jack or a built-in (mono) speaker and battery life is, as you might expect, well below what we've come to expect from e-ink readers at 8 hours without using Wi-Fi.

The clear advantage of a color e-reader isn't about book reading, it's the ability to read magazines and surf the web in color, which brings us to the all-important screen. Barnes & Noble says its backlit 7-inch VividView Color Touchscreen delivers "reduced glare and optimum brightness for reading indoors or outside." The 1024 x 600 resolution is delivered at 169 pixels per inch (PPI) and the viewing angle is a wide 178-degrees. The device also caters for six text sizes, works in portrait and landscape modes and background colors and line and margin spacing can be customized.

Yves Behar at fuseproject was brought on-board for the design of the 8.1 x 5 x 0.48 inch unit which includes a soft-touch back and distinctive corner handle.

The NOOKcolor also gets social with a "LendMe" App which allows you to view friends digital libraries and request to borrow a title through Facebook and email.

Being Android based, Barnes & Noble is also encouraging developers to get involved through its NOOKdeveloper program.

With a color Kindle yet to materialize the Nook now has a key differentiating factor from the biggest player on the market (the 6-inch Wi-Fi only Kindle costs US$139). Definitely one to watch as the holidays roll around.

Pre-orders for the $249 NOOKcolor are being taken now with shipping to start around November 19.