Barnes & Noble announces new Nook GlowLight 4, says it cares for real this time

Barnes & Noble has once again remembered that it ostensibly wants to sell e-readers and has announced the Nook GlowLight 4, a $149 e-reader that offers a refreshed design, more onboard storage, and USB-C charging to the company’s lineup.

The last dedicated Nook e-reader, the GlowLight 3, was announced 49 months ago (to the day) on November 1st, 2017, although Barnes & Noble did give the Nook brand a shot in the arm earlier this year with a new, Lenovo-made budget tablet.

The new GlowLight 4 doesn’t appear to move the needle much compared to the 2017 model, though. The display is an identical six-inch, 300ppi e-paper display with an integrated backlight and adjustable color temperature functionality, although the company has slimmed down the bezels and overall size of the new model. Battery life has been increased, with up to 50 days off a single charge (up from a month on the old model). And the onboard storage has been quadrupled from 8GB to 32GB.

Those new upgrades also come with an unfortunate $30 price increase, with the Nook GlowLight 4 costing $149, up from the already expensive $119 that the GlowLight 3 went for. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Barnes & Noble isn’t adding back more important features like waterproofing or more premium materials.

It’s something that’s especially puzzling given that Barnes & Noble was one of the first companies to add both of those features with the 2015 GlowLight Plus, which offered a sleek aluminum design long before Amazon did with its Oasis. The Nook was also waterproof years before Amazon and Kobo would make that the standard across most of their product lineups.

And given the $149 price tag, the GlowLight 4 is a pretty hard sell. It’s pricier than Amazon’s new Paperwhite model, which starts at $139 (when not on one of its frequent holiday sales) and has a bigger display, waterproofing, and a larger ebook storefront. And it matches up poorly against Kobo’s Libra line, too, which has a $159 starting price but adds a bigger and better display, waterproofing, and easier access to borrowed library books. The only real benefit that the GlowLight 4 offers is physical page turn buttons, making it the cheapest major e-reader to do so.

That said, it seems like the GlowLight 4 might just be the tip of the Nook iceberg. “Barnes & Noble is now investing significantly in our Nook line of products,” Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt promised in an accompanying press release, noting plans to “reinvigorate Nook in the coming months and years.”

And while Barnes & Noble has a long way to go before it catches up to Kobo or Amazon, getting a third competitive player in the e-reader space would be a good thing — even if Barnes & Noble is only slightly less of a monolithic corporation than, say, Amazon or Rakuten (which owns Kobo).

The Nook GlowLight 4 is set to go on sale on Barnes & Noble’s website and in stores in one week on December 8th.