Barnes & Noble has cut the price of its Nook tablets significantly and extended the length of its Father’s Day sale until, well…whenever the company decides to end it. As attractive as the prices seem, better tablets are available for reasonable prices, and I suggest you shop around. Chances are you’ll be using whatever tablet you choose for a couple of years, so paying a bit of a premium now will be worth it in the long run.
First the Nook numbers: The 7-inch Nook HD, normally $199, is now $129; the 9-inch Nook HD+ has plummeted from $269 to $149.
The Nook isn’t a terrible tablet. Back in May, B&N updated its software and enabled users to run standard Android apps and buy apps and other content from Google Play. Before that, the Nook was pretty much restricted to B&N content, which was a turnoff for many users.
If you’re looking at tablets in this low price range, you’re probably not really considering the 7.9-inch iPad mini. It’s probably the best small tablet available, and it runs a ton of great iOS apps. But it also costs $329.
Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is $199 and the Nexus 7 costs $200. Both are better tablets than the Nook, in my opinion. Better hardware, better playback, and in the case of the Fire, more and better content. (Check out an in-depth comparison here.)
There’s another issue as well: It’s altogether unclear what Barnes & Noble is up to. The best case is that it is clearing out inventory in anticipation of launching a new version of the Nook. In the worst case it has decided to get out of the hardware business; maybe selling that business to someone else, maybe just writing it off. If that’s the case, Nook becomes an orphan, and few – if any – developers will be willing to write new apps for it. (There’s also an outside chance that Microsoft buys the Nook business, and who knows what that would mean. But I suspect the resulting confusion would not make Nook owners happy.)
The bottom line here: If price is far and away your primary consideration, taking advantage of B&N’s fire sale isn’t a bad idea. But in the long run you’ll be doing yourself a favor by looking elsewhere.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.