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Nook news: Barnes & Noble introduces cheaper, Wi-Fi-only tablet

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On Monday, Barnes & Noble said it would drop the price on its 3G-enabled Nook e-reader to $199 and introduce a Wi-Fi-only Nook priced at $149. Both models would undercut the popular Amazon Kindle – which starts at $259 – and help boost the Nook's chances in an already crowded e-reader market. The Wi-Fi only Nook is available now for pre-order; Barnes & Noble says units should ship by the end of the week.

In an interview with PC World, Tony Astarita, vice president for digital products at Barnes &, said that the Wi-Fi-only Nook is a response to consumer demand for a low-priced, simple e-reading device. "It's targeted at someone who's a solid reader but someone with Wi-Fi availability at home or outside the home and is not as mobile a traveler or reader as a 3G person," Astarita said.

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Back in April, Best Buy said it would begin selling the Nook at more than 1,000 retail outlets around the US. In a press statement at the time, Barnes & Noble executive VP Kevin Frain said sales of the Nook had "exceeded our expectations," and argued that the "loyal consumer electronics-focused audience" at Best Buy would eat up the Nook.

A month later, Borders released the Kobo, a boxy e-reader priced at $149.99. The Kobo, which launched last week, comes preloaded with 100 "classic" books, so readers can fire the thing up and start reading, straight out of the box. By releasing a $149 Wi-Fi-only Nook, Barnes & Noble now has a device that goes head to head with the Kobo.

The Nook debuted in 2009 to a lukewarm critical reaction.