At a company hosted event today, Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook Color with a full 7-inch color touch screen. This is a huge improvement over the original Nook which only features an e-ink display. The new device is powered by Android, so it is capable of more than just books, and the new Nook Developer program will extend it even further as well.

Nook Color

The biggest surprise is that the price stays at a low $249. Don’t expect it to be a full-featured Android tablet though, Barnes & Noble has stated that is more like an e-reader with some additional tablet functionality. However it does have Wi-Fi (802.11n) and 8GB of storage, plus built-in integration for Facebook and Twitter. So it is primarily an e-reader, with web browsing and video playback being secondary.

The Nook Color is slightly less than half an inch thick, weighs just 15.6 ounces, and has a 7-inch IPS-panel touch screen running at 1024×600. Not much room to fit a hefty battery, but according to Barnes & Noble, it will give you 8 hours reading time without running out of juice, provided that you turn Wi-Fi off. This could be a problem for app development, but they have announced that Pandora will be shipping with it so I guess streaming music over the internet is not much of a problem.

Because it has a color touch screen, Barnes & Noble demonstrated full-color magazines, newspapers, and a new collection of “Nook Kids” books for children. They are clearly setting up for an interesting position in the e-reader market. By avoiding a complete feature comparison to the iPad they can have a low price color tablet capable of doing much more than the older e-ink model. It might not impress people who want an iPad, but for the casual e-reader user it might raise a brow, and with the Nook Developer program it might grow to be much more.

Barnes & Noble will ship the Nook Color on November 19 and pre-orders are available starting today. The original Nook will continue to be sold for $149, if you are still looking for an e-ink based reader. Check out the hands-on pictures and video of the Nook Color over at Engadget and CrunchGear.