The ebook reader product space just got interesting with last week’s release of the Nook form Barnes & Noble. It is very close to the Kindle in size with the same E Ink display. A majority of the features found on the Kindle are mirrored on the Nook, including wireless connectivity for book purchases and subscription downloads. Where they differ significantly is in their user interfaces.

While they both place buttons for page turning on both sides of the screen, this is as far as the similarity goes. The bottom third of the Kindle’s face is given over to a physical keyboard—row upon row of tiny buttons. The Nook, on the other hand, sports a 3.5 inch color touchscreen. This screen is used for navigation, providing access to the various functions of the device, and browsing of your library in a coverflow-esque fashion (although not as fluid). It also provides the means by which you can highlight content, bookmark pages, and make annotations. This is what I was most curious about. How do they provide a touch UI in that small space that affords these complex interactions without direct manipulation, and presumably text entry? Unfortunately, they don’t demonstrate any of this in the screenshots or videos on the site. It’s almost as if they purposefully didn’t show it, perhaps to hide a kludgey interaction.

From what I’ve seen, the Nook seems more elegant than the Kindle, but I’ve never had the opportunity to try either one. And this is one instance in which having brick and mortar may provide an advantage. According to the website, you can try the Nook in the physical stores. I may have to pop in the next time I see a Barnes & Noble in my vicinity.