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BY NICO VREELAND

Barnes & Noble debuted their new ereader, the Nook Tablet, yesterday, and I found it entirely disappointing. It has slightly bumped specs from the original incarnation, the Nook Color, but those specs are largely unnecessary for an ereader, especially since the Nook Color can run all of its headline features.

I’m not disappointed in its specs or form factor, though. If anything, the similarities between these versions show just how solid a device the Nook Color was. Instead, I’m disappointed in Barnes & Noble’s continuing failure of strategy.

Here’s the official demo. Kate, the unnecessary tour guide, doesn’t mention reading until halfway through the video’s four-minute length. Hulu, Netflix, Facebook, web-surfing, Scrabble, Epicurious—all of these things get mentioned before books. These are bonus features. A bookstore’s flagship gadget should first attempt to demonstrate that it’s the best ereader in the world, and then, as a bonus, here are some cool extras like Netflix.

The Nook Tablet video is a structural copy of the Kindle Fire video. That’s another problem. Amazon showcased little to nothing of the Fire’s ereading capabilities. Instead of taking advantage of that oversight, B&N copied it.

The Nook Color/Tablet and the Kindle Fire appear to be more or less interchangeable. There are small differences, like the fact that parents can record audiobooks for their kids on the Nook Tablet. But from those videos, it’s impossible to tell which one is the better ereader, because both treat ereading as an afterthought. Right now, the clearest differentiator between them is their content providers. Barnes & Noble loses that matchup.

When there are signs that B&N isn’t all that interested in selling books anymore, how confident can you be buying ebooks from them? If you buy a Nook Tablet next week, are you still going to be using it in a year? Two years? Is B&N going to be around then? Are they still going to be a bookstore? Are they going to be interested in making sure their Nook Color ereaders keep up with Amazon’s Kindle Fires? The answer to any of these questions is a doubtful maybe.

(Side note: I haven’t had any personal experience with the Nook Tablet. I’m basing my impressions mostly on my own experiences with the first-gen Nook Color, which I bought when it first came out last year. I don’t use it anymore, because I’m afraid books I buy on it will expire in a couple of years, and partially because I got so frustrated with its wasted potential. Its version of the New York Times omitted most of the paper’s web content, like the blogs, videos, and picture galleries. The Nook Color never really had comic books or the New Yorker, cross-content interaction, or many other things I’d like to have seen.)

On the other side of the fence, you can be sure Amazon will still be here in 3 years. You can be sure your Kindle Fire will work well, will be safe and functional if not cutting edge, and will have a staggering array of content.

I said when I saw this little product card last week that B&N was heading in entirely the wrong direction. (I mean, from that sheet, can you even tell it’s supposed to be an ereader?) So sound the dirge trumpet, the B&N deathwatch has begun. Don’t buy a Nook Color this Christmas, I think you’ll regret it.

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