The Amazon Kindle and previous Barnes & Noble ebook readers download new books and magazines via wireless 3G connections. You can download new books most anywhere, as long as you are within a few miles of a cell phone tower. While convenient, the 3G connections must cost a lot of money for Amazon and for Barnes & Noble. The new, low-priced WiFi-only Nook solves the expense problem by downloading only from short-range WiFi connections.
If you have a WiFi router in your home, you can download new books and magazines to the new Nook. Barnes & Noble is also offering "complimentary access" to all the thousands of AT&T WiFi hot spots around the country. You should be able to download while visiting coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and many other locations. Finally, the new Nook will also be able to download new books from WiFi connections available in any Barnes & Noble retail store.
The marketplace remains competitive, however. Sony recently released a new Pocket Edition e-reader that sells for $149 but has no wireless connectivity and has a rather small 5-inch screen. Borders is just bringing out its Kobo e-reader for $149 but, again, it has no wireless capability. Barnes & Noble also announced today that the older model of the 3G-equipped Nook that was selling for $249 is now available for $199. The Apple iPad is much more expensive but is multi-purpose, so it is also very competitive. It functions as a very good ebook reader with a color screen.
The Barnes & Noble $149 WiFi-only Nook now appears to be the best bargain in the marketplace, but that could change within days. Rumors have been floating around, claiming that Amazon is about to release a new version of its own Kindle that may have a touch-screen interface and offer faster performance. Pricing of the yet-unannounced Amazon device is unknown.
UPDATE: A few hours after Barnes & Noble announced the new $140 WiFi-only Nook, Amazon responded by cutting the price of the Kindle to $189.