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Nook Tablet Fires at Amazon’s Kindle

Barnes & Noble is jumping into the fire, launching its Nook Tablet as a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire this holiday season.

At a press conference in New York City, the bookseller showed off the tablet, which will retail for $249. That’s $50 more than the Kindle Fire, but about half the price of the Apple iPad.

“Today, Barnes & Noble was clearly trying to make the case that the better components and better screen quality of the Nook tablet will justify what is really quite a significant price premium over the Kindle Fire at $250 vs. the $199 of the Kindle Fire.”

For the higher price, users also get twice the storage and memory. Plus, a SD expansion slot for more storage. The Nook also comes with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora music service.

Barnes & Noble also unveiled its new Nook digital shops, including free in-person support. It’s something it hopes will differentiate it from online-only competitor Amazon and its Kindle devices.

But at $199, Amazon’s tablet is less expensive. And its $79-a-year Amazon Prime offers not only two-day shipping and streaming movies, but also the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which allows consumers to borrow one book a month for free.

Barnes & Noble has faced years of shrinking book sales. So it has invested tens of millions of dollars to develop the Nook to reinvent itself as readers move to digital formats.

The competitive tablet economy is causing price cuts elsewhere, too. Barnes & Noble’s dropping the prices of its other Nooks – Nook color to $199 and Nook SimpleTouch to $99. Amazon’s lowest priced Kindle, which comes with ads, is just $79.

Bottom line: Bookseller Barnes & Noble is upgrading its Nook digital book reader to a tablet in order to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire and with the Apple iPad.