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Black and White and Read All Over? B&N Rolls Out New Nook for the Holidays

Barnes & Noble today released its new $119 Nook black-and-white e-reader to positive reviews, but also to skepticism about the device’s ability to challenge the Kindle Paperwhite, given Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market and B&N’s own problems developing a solid digital business.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, told the New York Times that the new Nook was “spectacular,” but added:

“If you were just engineering a device that you wanted people to fall in love with, then yes, it’s a great device. But the bigger problem is, will people perceive that Barnes & Noble as a company will be around to fulfill the promises that that device makes? It’s a shadow that hangs over the entire Nook enterprise right now.”

On tech site Geek, a blogger noted that B&N is playing up the one weapon not found in Amazon’s arsenal:

“Amazon is really (really) hard to beat on ecosystem, but B&N thinks it can compete on experience. The company is pushing the experience aspect, touting their expert booksellers who have incredible knowledge of their field.

It’s not clear if readers will buy into B&N’s man vs. the machine comparison, in which humble book nerds fight against Amazon’s near-sentient, cloud-powered recommendation engine. “

Since last year’s holiday season, when Nook sales fell far short of expectations, observers have been predicting the demise of B&N’s digital business. This summer, B&N executives announced plans to reinvigorate the Nook division, including introducing new black-and-white and color tablets.

While B&N doesn’t intend to roll out any color tablets before the end of the year, the new Nook e-reader, arriving just in time to greet Christmas shoppers, sends the message that the retailer still considers itself a competitor in ebook game.