Nook Color Users Like Apps–And Pay for Them

Owners of the Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reader/tablet don’t just buy books. They also consume apps, quite few of them, it seems.

Nook Color photoThe buying habits of Nook Color owners are a bit surprising, and that could have interesting implications for’s  forthcoming Kindle Fire. Both the Nook Color and the Fire are highly modified Android tablets that identify themselves primarily with their retailer sponsors, not Google and Android. And both are connected to their own dedicated app stores, not Google’s Android Market.

“Our customers are used to buying content,” says Claudia Romanini Backus, a tech industry veteran who serves as director of developer relations for Barnes & Noble. That is a contrast to other Android products, whose owners have developed a reputation for having a fierce appetite for apps, as long as they don’t actually have to pay for them.

I had a chat with Romanini at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications show, where B&N was appearing for the first time. Compared to the typical Android customer, the typical Color buyer is far more likely to be female (women buy about 75% of the units) and older. The tablets are bought primarily as book readers and users begin to download apps when they realize that the Nook can do more.

About 9 of every 10 apps downloaded are paid, with the typical price at $2.99. However, a surprise best-seller is the most expensive item in the catalog, the $14.99 QuickOffice, which allows both viewing and editing of Microsoft Office documents. Other big sellers are games, including the several variants of Angry Birds; apps aimed at children, including iStory Time from DreamWorks; and educational apps. Productivity apps are surprisingly popular, with the free Taptu news reader being a popular download.

“We’re doing something unique and different from mobile,” says Romanini. “It’s not about the apps. It’s an additional way of consuming content. What differentiates us is that we come at it as reading first.”

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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

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