NEW YORK (AP) — Barnes & Noble is rolling out two new versions of its Nook tablet with sleek new hardware and a sharper high-definition screen. The bookseller's move heightens the already intense tablet wars heading into the holiday season.
Barnes & Noble said Wednesday that its new Nook HD will come in two sizes, one with a 7-inch screen (measured diagonally), starting at $199, and one with a new 9-inch diagonal screen, called the Nook HD+, starting at $269.
In addition to the new HD screen and a lighter body, Barnes & Noble is also increasing the services the Nook offers, adding a video purchase and rental service, allowing users to maintain different "profiles" and making it easier to browse titles in its book and magazine stores.
New York-based Barnes & Noble, the largest traditional U.S. bookseller, has invested heavily in its Nook e-reader and e-books. In its most recent fiscal quarter, sales of digital content surged 46 percent, but revenue from devices dropped partly due to lower prices. Nook prices in the May-July period were about 23 percent lower than a year ago.
The company is seeking to offset tough competition from online retailers such as Amazon.com, as consumers increasingly move away from traditional books and DVDs to electronic books and streaming video.
The Nook HD is an upgrade to the hardware and services offered by its previous tablets, the Nook Tablet and Nook Color, which Barnes & Noble is phasing out. The company will continue to sell its smaller black-and-white e-reader, called the Nook Simple Touch, for $99, and a backlit Nook Simple Touch for $139. The Nook HD runs on Google's Android 4.0 system and includes Barnes & Noble's own app store and browser.
Tablets are —once again— expected to be hot items this holiday. The new Nooks come on the heels of Amazon.com's announcement earlier this month that it will offer four new varieties of its Kindle, including a high definition version of its Kindle Fire tablet with an 8.9-inch diagonal screen, which starts at $299. That compares with Apple Inc.'s iPad with a 9.7-inch diagonal screen and $499 starting price.
Apple's iPad is the most popular tablet, and that is not expected to change. Seven out of every 10 tablets sold in the second quarter were iPads, according to IHS iSuppli. Meanwhile Amazon.com has a 4.2 percent share of the tablet market, while Barnes & Noble has a 1.9 percent share, according to iSuppli.
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