Looking for a niche with the Nook

Barnes & Noble's "Nook" e-reader.

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Kai Ryssdal: The holiday shopping season is getting going, anemic though it may turn out to be. There's a lot of buzz about electronic book readers out there. Amazon just upgraded its Kindle recently. Today Barnes & Noble joined the e-reader crowd with the Nook. What does it have that the Kindle and the others don't? Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman turns that page.


MITCHELL HARTMAN: The Nook's wireless so you can buy and download books fast. Just like the Kindle. Plus, it has a split screen: color for photos and touch-screen commands, black-and-white for text. The Kindle, just black and white.

The Nook's got another feature too, for all those consumers who still love to own and share books.

Sarah Rotman Epps follows the e-reader market at Forrester Research.

SARAH ROTMAN EPPS: In the physical world you can lend a book to a friend, and you can't read that book while your friend has it. That's something similar that they'll be setting up, with the ability to lend your friend an e-book and not have access to it, but be able to share the pleasure of reading that book.

CARL HOWE: The idea that a consumer can lend a book to someone else is a piece of consumer behavior that nobody else has really picked up on yet.

That's Carl Howe, a consumer technology analyst with The Yankee Group. He says the social aspect of the Nook, plus Barnes & Noble's huge online catalog, will help it compete with Amazon.

But neither may be enough to get consumers to embrace the technology en masse.

I caught up with Catherine Rigsby at a bookstore in Portland, Ore. She'd just plunked down $200. She is considering an e-reader.

CATHERINE RIGSBY: I'm enticed by it's easier to carry one little reader than 10 books like we have right here. But again I like the physical, tactile sensation of reading and holding that book.

Rigsby says she's also put off by the price. The Kindle and Nook are at the low end: $259. But analysts say e-readers probably need to get under $200 to really take off.

In Portland, I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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