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New Color Nook Takes the Worst From Both Worlds

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Apple's foray into the world of tablet computing shook up more than just netbook alternatives. Given its dimensions and approach, the iPad was also marketed as an e-reader -- posing serious competition to the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Barnes and Noble Nook.

Although sporting a large 9.7-inch screen and its own bookstore app, the iPad isn't conducive to extended reading sessions as well as the Kindle or Nook. Its backlit LCD screen drains its battery much quicker than its e-reader competitors, the larger dimensions make portability a factor -- especially on crowded subways -- and the bright screen isn't easy on the eyes nearly as much as the sharp and subtle e-ink.

Still, it being an Apple product, the iPad is selling like gilded hotcakes with many users treating it like an e-reader. It's developed a highly loyal niche market of its own, but still draws some customers away from purchasing a standard but limited e-reader like the Kindle or Nook.

In response to the iPad launch, Amazon opted to keep things relatively the same for its third generation Kindle released in July. Storage, battery life, and font selection were increased, but the design and e-ink screen still came standard. Barnes and Noble, however, decided to target the iPad crowd with a revamped Nook that now features a color LCD screen.

Essentially, the new color Nook takes the worst of both worlds. The easier-to-read screen is lost, replaced with an eye-straining backlit screen. Worse, at seven inches, it's more difficult to read than an iPad, but still adopts its battery-draining aspect. And even considering its increased social integration with Twitter and Facebook on an Android 2.1 platform, it currently doesn't support nearly as many stock apps as Apple's online store.

This is a situation where the middle-ground doesn't represent your best option. People love steak and people love ice cream -- combine the two and you have a something nobody wants.

If you strictly want an e-reader, buy a Kindle. If you want a larger, more expensive, but more versatile tablet device, buy an iPad. If you want a portable tablet device that can't do nearly as many things as an iPad and is more difficult to read than a Kindle, buy the new color Nook.

Available November 19 for $249 at Best Buy, Walmart, Books a Million, and more.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.