Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – comparison of the reading experience

This Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison will only look at the reading experience – what it’s like to read books on each.

The Kindle has an eInk Pearl screen and is built solely for reading – So it has a natural advantage, and is expected to have the best reading experience. 

We simply want to see what the trade-offs in the reading experience are, when you pick a multi-purpose device – whether it’s a ‘Reading Tablet’ like Nook Color or an ‘Everything Tablet’ like the iPad.

The Reading Experience on Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad

What’s it like to read a book on each of these three?

Reading on the Kindle is like reading a book

Kindle provides the best reading experience. A solid 9 stars out of 10. It’s a lot of fun and it’s ideally suited for reading books.

Reading on the Kindle offers a few solid advantages – eInk looks like print on paper, there’s no backlight shining into your eyes, you can read in bright light and direct sunlight, it doesn’t hurt or bother your eyes, amazing battery life, compactness, low weight.

Since the Kindle is built for reading from the ground-up, it also offers other advantages – a lack of distractions, free Internet reference via free 3G, in-built dictionary, a text to speech feature that works quite well, a great Kindle Book Store, reading across all your devices.

The two things Kindle specializes in are – reading books, buying books. Those are the only two things it specializes in.

Main advantages of choosing the Kindle will be that you will get the absolute best reading experience, you’ll read more than you used to, and you’ll have to spend less on the Kindle itself.

There are also several disadvantages – there’s no touch-screen so it’s a bit awkward to move around and enter notes and highlights, there’s no color so illustrations don’t stand out, the 6″ screen isn’t ideal as it’s a bit smaller than a paperback page, the support for PDFs is spotty.

Reading on Nook Color is like reading a book-sized LCD

Nook Color offers a decent reading experience – 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s quite fun and is adequate for reading books, surfing websites, and for some PDFs. It can be a bit tiring on your eyes.

By creating a ‘Reading Tablet’ B&N does a few great things – keeps the focus on reading, keeps the weight reasonable, delivers a decent sized device with a good 7″ screen, delivers color and touch, delivers a screen with a back-light, delivers a $249 Reading Tablet that is great value for money.

It also creates a few problems – it’s a LCD screen and despite the anti-glare layer it can’t be used in bright light or direct sunlight, battery life is low at 8 hours with wireless off, it’s not easy on the eyes, it’s not suited for long-form reading, at night the bright glow will keep you awake longer.

At the moment Nook Color specializes in – reading (to quite an extent), buying books, web surfing (to an extent),  being a tablet (to a limited extent). Nook Color doesn’t specialize in doing movies and games. The Nook App Store might cause Nook Color to evolve into a full-fledged Tablet – However, it’s far likelier that the focus will remain on reading.

Main advantage of choosing Nook Color will be that you’ll get a device with a focus on reading, which provides a decent reading experience, and still lets you do things other than reading. It’s more of a Tablet than an eReader – Yet, it provides a decent reading experience.

Reading on iPad is like reading from a rather large, hardcover-sized LCD

iPad delivers a reading experience that is somewhere between 6 and 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s well suited for PDFs, magazines, newspapers, and websites. It’s decentish for reading books. It’s a bit tiring on your hands and eyes.

There are two main drawbacks – the awkward size and the LCD. Depending on what you think of the size you’ll either hate it (6 stars) or find it quite enjoyable (7.5 stars).

iPad does some things very well – it provides color and touch, it provides a large 10″ screen, it provides lots of apps so you’ll find an app no matter what type of reading you’re looking for, it provides both Kindle for iPad and Nook for iPad, it handles things well (great usability), it provides a backlight.

iPad also has some disadvantages – LCDs tend to tire the eyes, there are tens of thousands of distractions, there isn’t really anything in the iPad to encourage reading, the size and weight are huge problems, it’s unreadable in bright light and sunlight, it’s expensive.

iPad specializes in – doing everything, letting you read from any store, letting you get a decentish reading experience, letting you read PDFs and other documents that benefit from the large 10″ screen.

Main advantages of choosing iPad will be that you’ll be able to read without losing the ability to do 10,000 other things, the screen size will be big enough for most types of reading, and you’ll get a decent reading experience.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Which would you choose if they were side by side?

Usually, the Kindle. If you had all three side-by-side, and had to choose one to read on, you’d always choose the Kindle for books and long form reading.

The Nook Color would be your choice if you wanted to read at night, and didn’t have the Kindle’s neat ‘cover with built-in reading light’. It would also be your choice for books in color, illustrated books, and perhaps even magazines. Nook Color is also quite good for browsing websites.

iPad would be your choice for anything that requires a larger screen – PDFs, newspapers, magazines. iPad might be a slightly better choice than Nook Color for websites.

It’s quite an easy decision. Kindle for books. Nook Color if you’d like color, or can’t handle the large size of the iPad. iPad if you end up reading a lot of PDFs and magazines, and don’t mind the awkward size.

Areas Nook Color, Kindle, and iPad win – The long, complicated list

Let’s go through all the areas of comparison we can think of beyond reading experience -

  1. Screen Size – iPad is better than Nook Color, which is slightly better than Kindle.
  2. Color – iPad and Nook Color tie. Kindle doesn’t have color. 
  3. Pixel Density – Kindle and Nook Color are close at around 167 pixel per inch. iPad is quite a bit behind.
  4. Battery Life – Kindle wins by a mile. iPad beats Nook Color.
  5. Weight and Size – Kindle wins. Nook is within striking distance. iPad fails as it’s heavy and awkward.
  6. Memory and Memory Expansion – Nook is best with a memory card slot. iPad is next as it has a lot of memory. Kindle is last as it only has 4 GB memory.
  7. Store – Kindle Store is best but iPad wins because it has both Kindle Store and Nook Store.
  8. Reading Software – Kindle is best. Nook Color’s reading software is very well done. iPad has both Kindle and Nook reading apps – However, they aren’t as good as the real thing.
  9. ePub – Kindle fails.
  10. Library Books – Kindle fails.
  11. PDF support – iPad has the best PDF support. iPad’s screen size also helps. Kindle and Nook are quite a bit behind.
  12. Lack of distractions – Kindle wins. The other two aren’t suited for focusing on reading though Nook Color is much better.
  13. Surfing – iPad is best, Nook Color is close, and Kindle is last.
  14. Value for Money – Kindle WiFi and Nook Color are probably tied. Kindle and iPad are next. Also depends on what you value – If you don’t value reading, you might not value the Kindle at all.
  15. Price – Kindle WiFi is just $139, Kindle 3 is $189, Nook Color is $249, and iPad is $499.
  16. Customer Service – Amazon, without a doubt. Apple and B&N are decent too.
  17. Infrastructure and Support – All three do a decent job.
  18. Apps – iPad easily wins. Kindle has a fledgling App Store. Nook App Store isn’t even open yet.
  19. Physical Keyboard – Kindle wins. The other two only have virtual keyboards.
  20. Ease of Use – Kindle wins.
  21. Openness – Neither of the three is open. Nook Color probably wins as it’s based on Android and you can easily root it.

As you can clearly see – Each of Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad has its strengths and weaknesses.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Who this Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison is not for

There are three groups this review is not for.

People who think reading isn’t worth a separate device

If you feel that reading isn’t worth a dedicated device, or that reading doesn’t add value, then you should definitely get a Tablet. If a device has to be usable for more than just reading, then an Android Tablet or the iPad would be a good choice.

The LCD compatibles

There are some people who are naturally suited to LCD screens. If your eyes don’t get tired reading a book from a LCD screen, if bright light at night doesn’t affect you, or if you can’t ever imagine any screen being better for reading than a LCD screen – pick a Reading Tablet or a Tablet. An eReader would be a waste for you.

Apple people

If you feel Apple products match your aesthetic sensibilities, and are the best products ever made – get the iPad. The iPad is a decent enough reading device.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad – Regret Minimization

Will you regret buying a $139 Kindle WiFi or a $189 Kindle 3?

If you love to read, or like to read, or want to read more – Never.

In every other case – probably.

If you’re buying a Kindle for PDFs or magazines – Probably.

Will you regret buying a $249 Nook Color?

If you want the absolute best reading experience – Yes. The minute you see eInk Pearl on a Kindle 3, or Sony Reader 350, you’ll wish you’d chosen a device with an eInk Pearl screen.

If you are LCD incompatible i.e. you can’t read for long stretches on LCD screens – Yes.

If you want a device focused on reading that can also do other things – Never.

If you want a cheap Android Tablet, and are comfortable rooting your Nook Color – Never.

Will you regret buying a $499 iPad?

It’s very hard to say. The iPad is very hit or miss – my recommendation would be to try it out first. If you’re planning on reading books on it – actually read a book on it before buying it.

If you want the best reading experience, or if you’re LCD incompatible – Yes, you’ll regret buying the iPad.

If you’re more of a creator than a consumer – Yes.

If you want a device that does more than just read – No, you’ll love the iPad.

In almost every other case – No. You may or may not get your money’s worth, as iPad is a very hit or miss device – However, it’s unlikely you’ll regret it.

Kindle has the absolute best reading experience, Nook Color has the most potential

The Kindle and Nook Color are both focused on reading, and will help you read more. Kindle sacrifices everything else to bring you a 9/10 reading experience. Nook Color accommodates your other interests/pursuits while bringing you a 7.5/10 reading experience.

Kindle and Nook Color are probably the best devices to go with if reading is your first priority, or even if it’s a top 3 priority. If reading isn’t a top 3 priority, or isn’t a priority at all, then it’s best to go with the iPad.

2 Responses

  1. Great comparison. Would be nice to view more of the technical aspects such as 3g vs wi-fi. I believe Nook has a much larger library available, over 1 miliion titles on B&N catelogue, vs 350,000 from Amazon.

    • Actually that figure includes free books.
      Actual numbers are –

      B&N – over a million free, somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 new.
      Amazon – over 700,000 new, over 20,000 free. You can add on 1.8 million free titles from Internet Archive (which you can add on to B&N too).

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