I’m no industrial designer, but as someone who is immersed in retail market research, I have noticed a contrast between the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook that seem to reflect their retail philosophy.
Let’s think about Amazon, an online retail pioneer. When I think about online selling, I think about efficiency, value, purpose and focus. Get out of the way of the transaction. This is reflected in the Kindle which, despite its name, is an icy cold, colorless device. Jeff Bezos has said several times that a guiding principle behind the Kindle is to have it “disappear in your hands.” “Just give me the content and minimize the fuss.”
Now let’s consider Barnes & Noble – a multichannel retailer that seeks to at least match Amazon’s clean, expedient online experience, but which also evokes a warm library or reading room in its stores and wants a rich experience with books there. That multichannel approach is reflected in the design’s dual screens. The paper display is the cold, online part that blends into the white border like the Kindle. The bottom screen, though, shows color cover art and its touch capabilities allow you to browse as one would a bookshelf and get “hands on” with a book at a store. Warmth is also reflected in the “Nook” name and the choice of pastel backs.
And of course, the integration of the Nook with Barnes & Noble stores is more than just skin-deep, with the retailer taking advantage of the product’s integrated Wi-Fi to do in-store reading and promotion, and Barnes & Noble’s physical stores will be a good place to showcase the lineup of designer accessories that have high profitability potential.