Barnes & Nobles’ Nook is worth an enterprise IT look

If Canadians are tired of waiting for the Kindle, they might not want to hold their breath for a Nook, the e-reader launched by Barnes and Noble on Tuesday.

Although I imagine will details of product availability will come out shortly, I can’t imagine why a U.S. bookseller would be keeping Canadian consumers top of mind. This is despite the fact that, unlike early versions of the Kindle, the Nook is getting lots of positive attention for its ARM processors, Android operating system and sleek, Apple-influenced design. So far, however, Canadians are like IT managers: no one wants to give them an e-book reader of their own.

I continue to wait for a company that recognizes the people most likely to read long content on an e-book reader are the same people who often prefer accessing other kinds of information digitally. IT managers sit atop that list, but so do the many users they serve in departments like marketing, finance and so on. Why doesn’t anyone recognize that consumers would be much more likely to dip into an e-book if the reader they used was also storing the lengthy documents – such as contracts, business plans or annual reports – that business users typically juggle in a series of e-mails and awkwardly-saved Word files on their laptops?

The Nook seems to recognize that e-readers could become a more sophisticated device. Notice the two screens – one for reading and one for navigation and interactivity. Imagine a version of a Nook which could incorporate an enterprise dashboard, or messaging capability to connect with the creators of more business-oriented content. For that matter, why not a way to connect with the authors of e-books? A great e-reader would also include options to connect to Tweetdeck or similar social media tools where users could share their experiences of reading – for business, for pleasure or (ideally) both.

Of course, IT managers might say they don’t want to have to support another device, but that’s like asking all the netbook makers, smart phone OEMs and other device companies to go away quietly. Better to identify the products with the biggest consumer appeal, and encourage the industry to build in the kind of functionality that lets them cross over into the enterprise. This kind of trajectory is the opposite of what IT professionals were used to, but that’s not an excuse, either.

The book industry seems to be treating e-readers as niche devices instead of recognizing them as the potential future PCs that they are. Bigger than a smart phone, more streamlined than a notebook, more functional than a tablet – I’m really starting to think e-readers deserve a place within corporations. Or at least a nook.

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