(CNN) -- Barnes & Noble is still making digital products, and E-Ink readers are here to stay. File these two facts in your "things that may surprise you" folder.
The book retailer confirmed the first fact on Wednesday by introducing a completely redesigned Nook GlowLight e-reader. The new ultra-light E-Ink-based product arrived just weeks after Amazon introduced its newest Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, confirming the second fact.
Purpose-built devices such as the GlowLight and Paperwhite clearly have a place in the tablet world, and while neither Barnes & Noble nor Amazon divulge its e-reader sales, it's clear that both companies are fully committed to the category, and customers are still buying them.
A new-look Nook
In fact, not only are the two retailers committed, they continue to innovate. Like the Paperwhite before it, Barnes & Nobles' new e-reader features an updated 6-inch E-Ink display with 62% more pixels on the screen than the previous Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight; this improves text clarity and contrast.
Barnes & Noble also improved the e-reader's LED-based light source to make light coverage more uniform over the page. While Amazon puts the light source just below the bottom edge of the screen, those on the GlowLight were clearly visibly from just above the top edge. Overall, I'd say the GlowLight screen looks quite good; the contrast and lighting is comparable to what you'd find on a Paperwhite.
With the exception of its shape, Barnes & Noble's new GlowLight looks almost nothing like its predecessor. The original Simple Touch with GlowLight is black and gray, and includes a power/sleep button on the back. The updated e-reader is mostly white and off-white, and has a subtly curved soft-touch back, as well as a wraparound silicon edge.
The most remarkable change, though, is its weight. The GlowLight weighs just 6.2 ounces; that makes it more than an ounce lighter than the Paperwhite — and it's a noticeable difference.
Barnes & Noble worked on the software to reduce page-turn flashes to zero within books, and cut down on ghosting. This held up during a brief demonstration, but we'll have to wait for a review unit to see if if the e-reader's performance remains consistent. What's more, the company worked with Monotype to create four new fonts, including Avenir Sans and Tipperary; they looked quite sharp onscreen.
Storage space has now doubled to 4GB for the $119 model. Amazon's Paperwhite also costs $119 (as long as you accept sleep-state ads), but comes with just 2GB. Of course, books don't eat up a lot of space. The GlowLight can accommodate roughly 2,000 books, while the Paperwhite can hold roughly 1,100 books.
Barnes & Noble is also trying to bring the retail experience to its Nook devices. Last year, the company introduced curated shopping options on its Nook tablets; that experience has been recreated on the GlowLight in its Now on Nook section. According to Doug Carlson, Barnes & Noble's executive vice-president of digital content and marketing, their customers already rely on the retailer's 40,000 booksellers at its 14,000 locations for in-person buying advice. The curated recommendations on the GlowLight come from those same booksellers. "They've taken it as an opportunity to get more avant-garde and unique in thinking and approach," Carlson said.
Despite its reduced size and improved light and page-turn performance, the GlowLight's battery life is still rated at eight weeks. Your mileage may vary depending on how long you use the light and how often you access Wi-Fi to buy books through the device.
Barnes & Noble started selling the new GlowLight on Wednesday. The company will continue to sell the Nook Simple Touch e-reader for $79.
Barnes & Noble's future
There have been corporate shuffles. Carlson, whose background is in digital publishing (Zinio) and water (Fiji), joined the company in September. When I asked about Barnes & Noble's survival and commitment to digital hardware, he kept smiling, but answered firmly: "We're here and we're strong."
The company is profitable in its retail and college business, Carlson said, adding that millions of users are moving to digital platforms.
"We're definitely committed to the device business, and you'll see us continue to innovate on all platforms over time. There will be more devices."
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