Barnes and Noble will launch its rumored Nook eBook reader later today at an event in New York City. Thanks to an early leak of the device on the B&N Web site, however, we already know most of the details about the Nook. We can now confirm, for example, that the Nook will retail for $259 and that it will feature two screens: a small LCD touchscreen at the bottom of the device and a standard 6-inch eInk display above the smaller screen. The Nook will be available for pre-order today and will ship on November 30. One of the most interesting aspects about the device, besides the two screens, the 2 gigabytes of on-board memory and the microSD card slot, is that B&N will allow users to lend books to their friends.

Just yesterday, we wrote about the dual-screen Alex eReader, which looked like an interesting design study, but didn't strike us as a very usable device. In many ways, the Nook looks similar to the Kindle, but instead of a hardware keyboard, the B&N eReader features a touchscreen that can show a keyboard and will allow users to browse books. The Nook mostly uses the small color screen for navigation and doesn't try to add a lot of additional features like web browsing. The touchscreen is also used for browsing the B&N eBook store and for buying books while on the go.

Users will be able to lend out books for up to 14 days at a time.This is definitely an area where the Nook can outshine the Kindle. Users can just select a book and then send it to their friends' Nook, iPhone or iPod touch.

Just like the Kindle, the Nook will also allow users to synchronize books across devices, so that the Nook knows where a users last stopped reading a book on the iPhone, for example.

Judging from the images on the leaked Nook site, it also looks like the device will come in different colors.

As far as eBook standard go, the Nook will support EPUB and PDF documents. In addition, the device can also play MP3 files.

Wireless Connection

Just like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader Daily Edition, the Nook will also be able to download books wirelessly. To facilitate this, B&N has made a deal with AT&T. Interestingly, Amazon's Kindle International Edition also runs on AT&T's network, though B&N's focus is squarely on the US and we don't expect the company to offer its eBooks and the Nook outside of the US anytime soon.

B&N's eBook Strategy

B&N is adopting an interesting strategy for its eBook store. Unlike Amazon, which only supports the Kindle, B&N supports a multitude of devices, including the iRex DR800SG, the forthcoming Plastic Logic QUE, and various mobile, including the BlackBerry, iPhone and Motorola Cliq. Thanks to a partnership with Google, B&N also gives its users access to over 500,000 public domain books - another feature that is currently not available on the Kindle.

Thanks to the number of features like lending, bookmarking and syncing that the Nook can offer thanks to its tight integration with the B&N store, however, it remains to be seen if users will actually be interested in these third-party devices or if the Nook will simply become the de facto eReader for B&N customers.

Clearly, though, the Nook will put a lot of pressure on Amazon this holiday season. While Amazon could bank on the name recognition of its own brand and the Kindle so far, B&N will surely get a lot of publicity out of this launch and the Nook actually looks like a more interesting device than the current generation of Kindles.

Details from the Press Release

Update: Here are all the details about the Nook from the leaked press release, courtesy of our friends at Engadget:

Product Highlights:

  • Try, Then Buy - Once you sample for free, buying ebooks is easy. An entire book downloads wirelessly in seconds. Many bestsellers and new releases are just $9.99.
  • No reading glasses required! Choose from 5 different font sizes so you can read with ease. The best-in-class E Ink ® display with a 16-bit gray scale offers great contrast with no glare or backlight making for hours of reading enjoyment.
  • Just add an expandable Micro SD card , purchased separately, to add to your nook's 2 GB of internal storage space. Besides your ebooks, magazines and newspapers, add pictures, music, and personal documents. PDFs load directly and look great.
  • Sample eBooks for free just about anywhere you are, on us. Browse eBooks, magazines and newspapers on AT&T's 3G Wireless Network or on Wi-Fi. And every Barnes & Noble has free Wi-Fi, so you can connect at lightning fast speeds.
  • With 2GB of memory, nook stores up to 1,500 books, newspapers and magazines. Need even more space? Just add a memory card for storage of up to 17,500. An entire library light enough to take with you everywhere, so you'll never be without your favorites.
  • Never lose your place. Use the virtual bookmark to bring you back to the last book you've read, right where you left off. If you forget your nook at home and are stuck on a bus, keep on reading with your iPhone™, or BlackBerry®, using our free eReader software.
  • You can share nook to nook, but it doesn't stop there. Using the new Barnes & Noble LendMe™ technology... you will be able to lend to and from any iPhone™, iPod touch®, BlackBerry®, PC, or Mac®, with the free Barnes and Noble eReader software downloaded on it.
  • Control your nook with an easy-to-use full-color touchscreen, created to work seamlessly with the crisp, clean E Ink ® display. Just use your finger to swipe through titles and tap open your next read.
  • Visit the store, turn on your nook, and see what pops up on your screen. It's as simple as that. You will get exclusive content, special discounts and more. And soon, you will be able to read entire eBooks for free at your local Barnes & Noble.
Designed for a Better Reading Experience
  • nook feels great in hand and features a contoured, easy-to-hold back. About the size and weight of a paperback book, nook is thin, small and portable. Its best-in-class E Ink® Vizplex™ display is easy on the eyes with text as clear and crisp as a printed book. And with no glare or backlight and adjustable text size, you can read comfortably for hours. Our minimalist design puts the focus on the content, not the technology, welcoming the reader to dive right in.
Color Touch Screen for Easy Navigation
  • The first-ever color touch screen for navigation on an eBook reader offers an immersive experience, inviting you to virtually browse through brilliant cover art, flip through an expansive library, or search using a virtual keyboard. The combination of color and touch on the beautiful lower screen make navigating nook intuitive and simple, even for the tech novice. nook presents the controls, navigation and keyboard you need, only when you need them.
Download eBooks Wirelessly
  • With fast 3G wireless and Wi-Fi access, nook is the most-connected eBook reader. Browse and instantly download eBooks, magazines and newspapers simply and seamlessly on AT&T's 3G wireless network, the nation's fastest, with no set-up required or additional wireless costs. Connect to the complimentary Wi-Fi, provided by the AT&T Wi-Fi network, in Barnes & Noble stores and download at broadband fast speeds.
Lend eBooks to Friends
  • With nook's breakthrough LendMe™ technology, lend a wide selection of eBooks to friends free of charge, for up to 14 days at a time. Just choose the book you want to share and send it to your friend's nook or iPhone, iPod touch, select BlackBerry® and Motorola smartphones, PC or Mac® with Barnes & Noble eReader software.
A Continuous Reading Experience
  • With ?Reading Now,? your virtual bookmark, nook brings you back to the last book you've read, right where you left off. And it works across a range of devices. If you forgot your nook at home, Barnes & Noble's free eReader software on your iPhone, select BlackBerry and Motorola smartphones or laptop lets you pick up where you left off, including annotations. And when you're reunited with your nook again, the Reading Now page will be updated and ready to go.
Over one million stories. Any time, anywhere.
  • Browse and buy from our extensive collection of over one million eBooks, including thousands of free titles, virtually anywhere you are. Get your favorite eBooks, newspapers and magazines, plus exclusive reads from Barnes & Noble, delivered via fast and free wireless, with no PC required.
Portability and Personalization
  • You can also easily transfer PDF-format documents from your computer to access and read business documents, legal contracts and travel information on your nook. And transfer your photos to create custom screensavers.
Save Time, Money and Space
  • Carry up to 1,500 eBooks using nook's 2GB of memory, and a virtually unlimited library using nook's expandable memory slot, which will hold up to 17,500 eBooks on each 16GB MicroSD card. Buying eBooks is simple and seamless. With just two touches, you'll be able to purchase and download eBooks in seconds. And many bestsellers and new releases are just $9.99, so you can enjoy more for less.
Listen to nook
  • Using a standard pair of stereo headphones, plug into nook and listen to your favorite songs (MP3s), uploaded through your computer. Use the headphones or built-in speakers to enjoy listening to audiobooks, podcasts, lectures and more.
Protect Your nook in Style
  • nook comes with a removable back cover which you can personalize from a selection of four additional great colors. You can also chose from a range of accessories by renowned designers and brands as kate spade new york, Jack Spade, Jonathan Adler, Tahari and others.
Experience nook at Your Local Barnes & Noble
  • Customers will be able to browse complete eBooks for free on nook at any Barnes & Noble store, whether or not the actual book is in stock, beginning later this year. Plus settle into the café and get exclusive in-store-only content, free eBooks, special offers and much more using Barnes & Noble's complimentary WiFi, provided by the AT&T Wi-Fi network.

Images used courtesy of our friends at the WSJ Digits blog who deserve credit for discovering this leak.