2011
11.10

I’m having a déjà vu. Earlier this week, Barnes & Noble, the manufacturer of one of the top ereading devices on the market, announced it will offer a reasonably priced tablet named after its trademark ereader, the NOOK. The NOOK Tablet is described as a “wireless media tablet” with a 7-inch color touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a friendly price tag: $249.

Sound familiar?

Just last month, Amazon (the other manufacturer of a top ereading device) also announced a reasonably priced tablet named after its trademark ereader—the Kindle. The Kindle Fire tablet, you may recall, has a full-color 7-inch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a price tag of just under $200. Hmm. What’s an ereading tech writer who’s not so keen on spending $500 on an iPad to do?

I’ve already been asked (by three people) for a holiday gift list. (My Halloween welcome mat is not even put away yet. Calm down, people!) So … do I go with the “original” and stick with Amazon? Or do I choose Barnes & Noble, the former underdog that has proved to be an innovative forward thinker?

I already have an ereader, a smartphone, and a laptop, but let’s assume that, like a gazillion other people, I also want a tablet. Let’s also assume that, even though I own a Kindle, I’m not an Amazon loyalist and I’ll be making my tablet purchase decision based solely on the merits of the devices themselves.

But, after comparing the specs of the NOOK Tablet and the Amazon Fire, the “merits of the devices themselves” seem too close to call. Without being able to hold each device in my hands, the spec sheets and pretty pictures leave little to persuade me one way or the other.

I did find some differences. For instance: internal memory storage (16 GB on the NOOK Tablet vs. 8 GB on the Kindle Fire, although both tablets boast cloud-storage solutions); size and weight (NOOK Tablet is slightly bigger, but weighs less: 8.1’’x5’’x 0.48,‘’ 14.1 ounces; Amazon Fire: 7.5”x 4.7”x 0.45,” 14.6 ounces); and battery life (up to 11.5 hours of reading on the NOOK Tablet and up to eight hours of reading on Amazon Fire).

If these specs are important to you like they are to me, perhaps, then, we’d both lean a smidge toward the NOOK Tablet. But then again, it also costs $50 more. And really, are we going to base our decision on a 0.5-ounce weight difference? I think it’ll come down to personal preference.

While I’m still on the fence as to which of these devices will ultimately win my loyalty, I’m looking forward to seeing how the two stack up during this holiday shopping season. With the Kindle Fire scheduled for release on November 15 and the NOOK Tablet scheduled for release on November 18, this should be an interesting battle between two eerily similar devices.

Of course, there’s always the chance the Kindle Fire vs. NOOK Tablet discussion is a moot point—we might all end up buying iPad 2s anyway.

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