New Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader due May 24

Barnes & Noble Nook ColorBarnes & Noble revealed this week that it plans to release a new version of its Nook e-book reader on May 24, the Wall Street Journal reports. The news comes via a filing from the company with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Reports of the new e-reader closely follows news that Barnes & Noble has upgraded its Nook Color e-reader with Google’s Android 2.2 “Froyo” mobile operating system. This update converts the Nook Color from a standard e-reader into a device with functionality more on par with Apple’s iPad and iPad 2 tablets, though at a considerably lower price — and considerably less processing power. (As Apple critics are sure to point out, Android-powered Nook Color units can also run Adobe Flash, while Apple’s iOS devices cannot.)

Barnes & Noble has so far withheld concrete details on the new Nook device, so there are few specifications we can report. According to speculation from WSJ, however, it’s possible that Barnes & Noble “will release a more powerful combination tablet and e-reader, perhaps running a more advanced software like Google’s Honeycomb software,” the third-generation OS used on Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom.

So far, most iPad competitors have had trouble breaking into that market, which Apple currently holds in a vice-like grip. Fortunately for Barnes & Noble, the e-reader market, which is led by Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, has been more receptive to competition. Because of this, other industry watchers believe that the new B&N e-reader will be an inexpensive device that more directly competes with Amazon’s Kindles. In other words, a Wi-Fi-only Nook with e-ink technology that costs about $100.

Either way, the new Nook will be here in just a few weeks, at which time we’ll have a better idea of where Barnes & Noble plans to take its e-reader line, and which company it will have to compete with most for business.

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