May 25, 2011, 11:24 AM

Amazon and Barnes & Noble release new e-readers this week

The devices pit touchscreens against cheaper e-readers for consumers willing to put up with ads.

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The battle for the hearts, minds and pocketbook loyalty of digital book lovers heated up this week with the release of new e-readers from Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc.

First up was a new Nook e-reader from Barnes & Noble, No. 41 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. The retailer earlier this week released a device with the formal name of The All-New Nook, The Simple Touch Reader. As the name suggests, the device has no buttons, but instead enables consumers to navigate by tapping on the 6-inch touchscreen, as consumers have shown they are fond of doing with tablet computers like Apple Inc.’s iPad. “Customers can look up words, highlight passages, adjust the font size and style or search by typing on the responsive on-screen keyboard that appears only when a customer needs it,” the retail chain says in a statement.

The Wi-Fi-enabled device has a battery that can last two months per change, Barnes & Noble says. The e-reading device costs $139, cheaper than the $249 for the Nook Color, which has a 7-inch touchscreen, but more expensive than the $119 for the Nook 1st Edition, the retailer’s basic e-reader.

Amazon, meanwhile, today introduced a $164 version of its Kindle e-reader. This one has 3G capabilities—that is, consumers can connect to the web and download books through cell phone networks—but comes with special offers, such as Amazon discounts and sponsored screensavers, that are a trade-off for having a relatively low-priced 3G reader. Kindle 3G without special offers costs $189.

Last month, Amazon introduced the basic, $114 version of Kindle with Special Offers, a device without 3G capabilities but with the offers and sponsored screensavers. That device has become the bestselling Kindle device, Amazon says.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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