Barnes & Noble introducing in-store Nook boutiques

With the ereader wars continuing to escalate, bookseller chain Barnes & Noble will build a series of in-store boutiques spotlighting its Nook solution. In September, the chain will begin an aggressive promotion of its Nook e-readers by building 1,000-square-foot boutiques in all of its stores, with sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens and employees who will give customers advice and operating instructions.

Across all 720 Barnes & Noble locations, the Nook boutiques – each 1,000 square feet in size – leverage the company’s greatest advantage over online rival Amazon.com, giving consumers an in-store, hands-on demonstration of the Nook’s capabilities. “American consumers want to try and hold gadgets before they purchase them,” said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch in an interview with The New York Times.

Barnes & Noble stores already include small counters where customers can test drive the Nook, but the new boutiques – located near each store’s café – will offer far larger display space as well as designed Nook covers and related accessories. Within each store, customers may also read entire ebooks for free.

Earlier this week, Amazon released the latest version of its competing Kindle device, touting a new electronic-ink screen with 50 percent better contrast than rival units, a 21 percent smaller body that retains the familiar six-inch reading area and a 20 percent increase in page-turning time. Priced at $189, the Kindle also doubles content storage to roughly 3,500 books, with battery life of up to one month, built-in Wi-Fi, Facebook and Twitter integration, and a graphite color option and more. Amazon additionally introduced the Kindle Wi-Fi, which retails for $139 – optimized for readers who don’t want or need the 3G download connectivity of the regular Kindle device, the unit enables consumers to obtain content via WiFi connection.

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