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Barnes & Noble debuts Nook Simple Touch ereader

Bookseller Barnes & Noble isn’t resting on its ereading laurels, revamping the lower tier of its Nook ereader line today with an all new Nook Simple Touch Reader. The Nook Simple Touch features a 6-inch E Ink Pearl display that the company says offers 50 percent better contrast than its first edition Nook ereader, along with a touch screen interface that eliminates awkward buttons and controls from the front of the unit. And Barnes & Noble says the optimized display offers 80 percent less flashing and the unit can run for up to two months on a single battery charge.

Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch eReader

“We set out to design the easiest-to-use, most optimized, dedicated reading device ever created and accomplished it with the all-new Nook,” said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch, in a statement. “Touch makes it simple to use, and the beautifully compact design makes it the most portable eReader in its class.”

The Simple Touch Nook weighs just 7.48 ounces and is under half an inch thick, making it 35 percent lighter than the original first edition Nook and 21 percent more compact—in part because controls have been eliminated by the new touchscreen interface. The unit has 2 GB of onboard storage (enough for about 1,000 books) with a microSD slot that can handle up to 32 GB of additional removable storage. The Nook features 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for wireless downloads (remember: free Wi-Fi in Barnes & Noble stores, as well as AT&T hotpots nationwide), and users can charge and sideload via microUSB. The Nook Simple Touch sports ePub and PDF documents, along with a range of standard image formats.

Like its predecessor, the Simple Touch Nook’s display supports 16 levels of grey, although Barnes & Noble says the new display offers 50 percent better contrast than the first edition Nook for improved readability even in direct sunlight. The touch interface enables users to turn pages, look up words, highlight passages, adjust fonts, and navigate their available libraries just by touching the screen. The reader also supports Barnes & Noble’s bookstore of more than 2 million book and periodical titles, as well as Nook Friends, which enables users to see what they’re friends are recommending and even loan books back and forth. A virtual on-screen keyboard enables users to enter text to shop or search their libraries.

The Nook Simple Touch ereader is available for pre-order online and in Barnes & Noble stores for $139; the company expects units will begin shipping around June 10th.

Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch eReader (CEO William Lynch)

Barnes & Noble’s announcement of the Nook Simple Touch ereader follows right on the heels of a touch-based ereader from Kobo, oddly leaving Amazon’s market-leading Kindle as the odd-ereader-out when it comes to E Ink devices with touch displays. Barnes & Noble is clearly going after the Kindle with the Nook Simple Touch, comparing their unit’s two-month battery life and touchscreen interface directly to the one-month battery and button-laden controls on the Kindle—the company is also quicker to point out they offer more ereading titles, borrowing, and integrated sharing features—although the Nook Simple Touch does not include rudimentary Web access.

Barnes & Noble is currently considering a $1 billion takeover offer from Liberty Media.