Amazon's Kindle might currently dominate the e-book market, but things could be about to change with Barnes & Noble making an entrance into the UK this autumn.
Besides releasing two E Ink readers, the Simple Touch (£79) and Simple Touch with Glowlight (£109), the US book seller is also announcing two brand new Android tablets that will compete head-on with tablets from Amazon and Google.
The 7-inch Nook HD tablet will be taking on both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch tablet and Google's Nexus 7, but has the upper hand with a class-leading 1440x900 pixel high-definition display, expandable memory and the lightest weight of the three (315 grams).
It is also aggressively priced at £159 for the 8GB model and £189 for the 16GB model, undercutting both the 16GB Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD models by £10.
The Nook HD is also accompanied by a bigger bother, the Nook HD+. With a 9-inch screen displaying 1920x1280 pixels, it almost matches the Pixels-Per-Inch of Apple's new iPad (256PPI vs 264PPI), despite retailing for significantly less.
Prices begin at £229 for the 16GB model and £269 for the 32GB model. At 515 grams, the Nook HD+ is more than 20% lighter than the iPad and almost half the price.
Barnes & Noble has also launched a new video service for Nook, allowing the purchase and rental of movies, on top of the 2.5 million books and an ever growing number of comics, newspapers and magazines.
Like the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Nook is built on Google's Android operating system (Ice Cream Sandwich in this case), but carries a user interface layer that restricts access to the standard interface. Instead, Barnes and Noble has installed a replacement home screen that gives access to content, including the Nook app store that offers up to 10,000 carefully selected apps and games, all designed to work with the native resolutions.
Unlike the Amazon devices, every Nook is ad-free and ships with a power adapter that is sold separately for the Kindle Fire HD.
Unlike a traditional Android unlock screen, the home screen of the Nook HD and HD+ shows different users (up to six in total) that can be set up to use the tablet as their own. By dragging the profile to the centre of the screen, entering a password if preferred, you get access to your own personal space - showing your personal content left in exactly the same state as when you last logged in.
Changing profiles is performed by merely dragging down from the top of the screen (where standard Android users would normally expect to see notifications appear), and every user can have their own screen layout, including custom font sizes and wallpaper image.
Different screens can be set for adults and children, complete with restrictions on who can access the Nook store, email client or web browser.
Content can also be shared with different users on a loan basis, or restricted to any individual member. In addition to this, books can also be accessed via the cloud on other platforms.
When reading newspapers and magazines, viewable on screen without the need for zooming, dragging the fingers down the screen in a tearing-like motion 'rips out' pages of interest to store in a unique Nook Scrapbook, for easy access to those special reviews or features even after deleting the magazine itself.
Both tablets are powered by Texas Instruments' OMAP 4470 dual-core chipset, clocked at 1.3 GHz on the HD and 1.5GHz on the HD+ (each with 1GB of RAM and Wi-Fi only). With Barnes & Noble carefully selecting apps for its store, the choice of games may be more limited to that of a standard Android tablet, but every title will be optimised to run full-screen without scaling.
To further enhance the experience for gaming, as well as movie viewing, both Nook tablets include a fully laminated display to reduce glare, excellent viewing angles and customised speakers with SRS TruMedia technology, as well as Bluetooth support for wireless audio streaming.
If the high-resolution screens aren't enough, an HDMI output can transfer the gaming and video action to a big screen.
Instead of simply offering access to the 2.5 million books by bundling hundreds of thousands of titles into generic categories, the new Nook channels features a new recommendation system that promises an unbeatable curated browsing experience, targeted by interest and sensibility – and previous titles read. The service will later expand to recommending movies in the same way.
Online pre-ordering for the Nook HD (available in 'Snow' and 'Smoke' colour variants) and HD+ ('Slate') will open in mid-October with the devices set to ship in November, as well as being sold at Curry's, PC World, Foyles, Blackwell's, John Lewis, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.