Kindle vs Nook in 2011

Please Note: This is a Kindle vs Nook strategy review + predictions post. For a device comparison, check out my Kindle vs Nook Review.

The Kindle dominated most of 2010 due to Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi being an entire generation ahead of the Nook 1. It also helped that Kindle WiFi was at a ridiculously low $139.

Nook Color dominated two emerging markets in 2010 – Reading Tablets, low-price and high-quality non-iPad Tablets. It had no competitors – it still doesn’t.

2011 promises to be different.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Context & Thoughts

With Nook 2 and Nook 2 WiFi probably arriving on May 24th, and with Kindle Tablet rumored to be arriving in the second half of 2011, we suddenly have Kindle vs Nook take on a very different complexion.

  • Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi will finally get a worthy competitor. If Nook 2 is as good at attacking Kindle weak-points as Nook 1, we’ll have a really exciting 2011.
  • Kindle Tablet will challenge Nook Color. It’s probably not lost on Amazon that if B&N keeps selling 800,000 Nook Colors a month the Nook Color might single-handedly resuscitate B&N.
  • Nook Color’s status as the absolute best reading device for reading at night will probably be threatened.
  • The iPad will become far less relevant for people looking for a reading device. A $249 Nook Color was compelling. Add on a decently priced Kindle Tablet and we might find that noticeably fewer people are buying iPad for reading.
  • A good rivalry will reinvigorate eReaders. Kindle 3 came out a year ago – There haven’t been any hugely significant advances since then. Nook 2 will force Amazon to evolve.
  • Prices will get cut further – increasing the number of people buying reading devices, increasing the percentage share of ebooks.
  • Kindle vs Nook (as opposed to Kindle vs iPad or Nook Color vs iPad) will become the major storyline for readers in 2011.

May 24th might mark the beginning of the Age of Reading Devices. A time when eReaders and Reading Tablets start selling tens of millions of units a year and begin to dominate all of Publishing. 

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle Tablet vs Nook Color

Kindle Tablet vs Nook Color will be the battle for casual readers. Not an ‘empty as a Politician’s Speech’ + ‘make animated page turns and forget to get books in the store’ pretend-battle. This will be a real battle.

The most amusing part of it is that both sides will probably be using closed ecosystems built on Google’s ‘open’ Android ecosystem. B&N already uses Android. Amazon’s focus on building its own Android App Store suggests it’s thinking of using Android for its Kindle Tablet.

Here are some things that will define this battle -

  1. Will Amazon release a Tablet or a Reading Tablet? My guess is that Amazon will try an Apple-style ‘it’s great for reading and for 1,000 other things’ strategy. A general Tablet from Amazon would fail to effectively counter Nook Color.
  2. What price will the Kindle Tablet be at? Nook Color’s $249 price is a big part of its appeal and competitive power.
  3. What does B&N have planned for the Nook Color? It already has email, a social network, and an App Store. If B&N keeps adding more high-value features, or if the Nook App Store takes off, then the Nook Color might become the story of 2011. 
  4. The Nook App Store has got off to an interesting start. There’s no way it can compete with Amazon’s Android App Store in a broad sense – However, it might be able to compete effectively when it comes to ‘Apps for Reading Tablets’ and Apps built to help readers.
  5. Can Amazon channel Android Apps into a powerful App Store? In some ways it seems almost too easy – Just take all the good apps from the Android Market and make your own store. Will it work?
  6. What will casual readers think of the Kindle Tablet?
  7. Will Nook Color end up being a Reading Tablet for readers, a cheap and hackable General Tablet for techies, or a mix of both?

The two App Stores really are the wild cards. It’s a tough exercise – both Amazon and B&N are trying to ensure quality and quantity.

Prediction: Amazon misses the mark and releases a general Tablet. It has little impact on the Reading Tablet market and very little impact on reading in general.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle 3 vs Nook 2

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 is the battle of the full-featured eReaders.

A battle for hardcore readers willing and able to pay for a full-featured eReader. This is the single most important battle. The lower priced versions might get more device sales – but it’s these main-line eReaders that will capture far more book sales.

Nook 2’s ability to compete with, and perhaps even beat, Kindle 3 depends on 5 factors -

  1. Will Nook 2 leap-frog Kindle 3 technologically? Adding in Mirasol displays would qualify. Adding in just touch would not.
  2. What price will Nook 2 be at? If B&N can come in at $150 for Nook 2, with a feature-set that matches Kindle 3, it’ll put Amazon in a tough spot. 
  3. Does B&N have some hidden trump card? At various times, and for varying lengths of time, Nook has had various advantages over the Kindle – PDF support (it wasn’t there in the Kindle when Nook 1 was announced), Library Book Support (Amazon has promised this will arrive in 2011), Lending (until end 2010, only Nook had Pretend-Lending), and so forth. If B&N can create a new advantage that is as significant as any of these, it will have a powerful new weapon.
  4. Can B&N distribute and sell Nook 2 as well as Amazon distributes and sells Kindle 3? B&N still doesn’t sell Nook internationally, and its advantage in retail has been whittled down as Amazon is now available at WalMart, Best Buy, Staples, and several other retail chains. If B&N can find a way to distribute Nook internationally, or if it can find some retail distribution advantages in the US, it can tilt the contest in its favor.
  5. Could B&N use Amazon’s enemies against it? The list of Amazon’s enemies seems to grow by the day – Google, WalMart, State Governments, Publishers. If B&N can get help from one or more of these parties it stands a better chance. By the way, it’s inexplicable that WalMart is selling Kindles – Isn’t Amazon the company that shot WalMart’s dog when it killed Amazon’s pet rabbit?

Nook 1 was a surprisingly strong contender to the Kindle when it came out. Nook Color was even more impressive (though not a direct Kindle competitor). If B&N meets the bar it has set with Nook 1 and Nook Color, Nook 2 will give Kindle 3 a real run for its money.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 WiFi

Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 WiFi is the battle of the low-priced eReaders.

A battle for readers at the intersection of casual and hard-core. A battle for readers at the intersection of ‘able to spend $189 on an eReader’ and ‘able to spend only $99 on an eReader’.

The main-stream media is fixated on this. But it isn’t really the battle that will define who wins the Publishing War. It’s more of a contest of who gets higher total eReader sales. Winning this and losing the Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 battle would be pretty painful.

A lot of the factors here are similar to what we discussed in the Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 section – technological advantages, price, hidden trump cards, distribution, using Amazon’s enemies as friends.

Price sensitivity is the main factor and B&N has a lot of places it can cut costs – the LCD being one obvious area. If Nook 2 WiFi can hit $99, B&N will win the lower end of the market. Given that the Nook Color comes in at $249, there’s no reason B&N can’t release a $99 Nook 2 WiFi. 

The other main factor is a strange one – promising more value for money by offering things that aren’t necessarily reading related. If B&N can bundle in a free email client, a few basic free tools, and one or two other value-add features – It will win. WiFi isn’t costing B&N anything. Neither are Apps.

Users would prefer a $99 eReader+eWriter+Email Device over a $99 eReader.

B&N could turn the ‘readers won’t pay more than $99 for an eReader’ theory on its head by providing a device for $99 that isn’t just a great eReader – It’s also a great email client and a great productivity tool and a great eWriter.

Kindle vs Nook Closing Thoughts

The success of the Nook Color has re-energized B&N. You see it in the moves it’s making – Adding an email client to Nook Color is a big deal. As is the Nook App Store. Flash support is pretty impressive too.

We’re dealing with a company that has suddenly discovered it can keep up with the technology big boys – perhaps even beat some of them. Nook Color proving itself to be the best Android Tablet (in terms of value for money and usefulness and perhaps even looks) has to have had some effect on B&N. An effect that ought to be evident in the feature-set for Nook 2.

2011 is going to be the Year of Kindle vs Nook and the beginning of the Age of Reading Devices. Not a year when iPad makes eReaders redundant but a year in which eReaders and Reading Tablets use technology to revitalize reading and further hasten the destruction of the existing Publishing hierarchy. The winner of Kindle vs Nook will be in prime position to take over all of Publishing. The loser will have to settle for billions of dollars a year in revenue from eBooks and eReaders.

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