NEW YORK - Barnes & Noble unveiled a $249 Nook Tablet Monday just ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season in a bid for more of the growing markets for e-books and tablet computers.
Both Barnes & Noble Inc. and Amazon are challenging Apple Inc. and its dominant - and much more expensive - iPad for a piece of the holiday pie. The Nook Tablet arrives just weeks after Amazon.com released its Kindle Fire tablet, which sells for $199. Barnes & Noble said its device offers more memory and longer battery life.
The book seller cut the prices on its existing e-readers. The Nook Color is now $199, down from $239, and the Nook Simple Touch black-and-white reader, which has no browser, is now $99, down from $139. The Nook Tablet will be in stores and shipped to customers on Nov. 17. Like the Nook Color, it has a 7-inch color touchscreen.
Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble doesn't offer streaming services, but the Nook includes preloaded apps from Hulu and Netflix Inc. that allow users to subscribe to stream movies and TV shows.
Morningstar Analyst Peter Wahlstrom said the tablet appears to be a solid device.
"At $249, it gives Barnes & Noble customers or potential customers enough to think hard about which device they want," he said.
Since introducing its first Nook in 2009, Barnes & Noble has spent heavily on its e-book readers and e-bookstore. As people change the way they read, the New York-based company also faces tough competition from discounters and online retailers in the market for traditional books. Barnes & Noble has struggled to turn a profit, and its much smaller rival, Borders Group Inc., sought bankruptcy protection and then liquidated its assets this year.
In its most recent quarter, Barnes & Noble did report a narrower loss than a year earlier as its revenue edged up 2 percent to $1.42 billion.
The Nook Tablet weighs less than a pound, has a battery that enables nine hours of video watching and comes with 16 gigabytes of memory and an SD slot to add more.
Another selling point: free customer service at the more than 700 Barnes & Noble stores, CEO William Lynch said.
If you bought a Kindle and had a question about it, Lynch asked, "Where would you go, Amazon's headquarters in Seattle?"
Apple's iPad, now the king of tablets, starts at $499 for a bare-bones version and runs as much as $829.
Analysts at Gartner Inc. predict that three of every four tablets sold this year will be an iPad. Apple has sold nearly 29 million since they first came out in April 2010. Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com Inc. generally do not release sales figures.
The Nook Tablet will be sold online, in Barnes & Noble stores and by a variety of other retailers, including Target, Best Buy, Staples and Fry's.
Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc. shares ended the day down 22 cents at $11.39 and were unchanged after hours.