Have we reached the point of effective equality between all eReaders?


Is ‘Kindle vs Nook – Which Should I Get?’ now better written as ‘Kindle or Nook – It Doesn’t Matter’.

Seriously, let’s take a look at whether there’s any difference at all between getting a Kindle or a Nook 2. In particular, would you buy one and later regret it? If you wouldn’t regret either purchase – then it effectively implies that the two eReaders are now pretty much equal.

In the past Kindle vs Nook was not an easy choice

In Nov 2009, Kindle vs Nook was a tough decision

When Nook 1 was first announced, it had the following main advantages over the incumbent Kindle 2 – PDF support, ebook lending (even if it was/is just a token feature), library book support, replaceable battery, LCD touch-screen at the bottom, millions of free books from Google (although you could convert these for Kindle), ePub support, Chess and Sudoku, slightly better screen contrast, memory card slot, both WiFi and 3G.

Kindle 2 had significant advantages of its own – lower book prices, text to speech, free 3G Internet, faster speed, ease of use, better battery life (significantly better), second generation device (most of the bugs and issues had been worked out).

There were significant pros and cons to choosing Kindle over Nook (or vice versa).

In July 2010, Kindle 3 vs Nook tilted towards Kindle – but there were still consequences

In early 2010 the Agency Model eroded one of the Kindle’s biggest advantages. This made the Kindle vs Nook decision even tougher. But then Kindle 3 tilted things in favor of the Kindle.

When Kindle 3 was first announced it had the following main advantages over the Nook 1 – eInk Pearl screen, text to speech, free 3G internet browsing, slightly better PDF support, better browser, ease of use, light weight, compactness, battery life of a month, social features, being the third version of the Kindle (most issues were worked out). 

Because it was a third generation eReader, Kindle 3 easily outpaced Nook 1. However, you made significant sacrifices – no pretend-lending, no support for library books, no memory card, no replaceable battery, no ePub support, no color touchscreen at the bottom. 

In 2010, it was quite possible to pick one out of Kindle or Nook and later regret it.

In 2011, Nook 2 has made Kindle vs Nook a non-question

The features are so similar that, in combination with the Agency Model, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. All the biggest things – library book lending, pretend-lending (not a big feature but perceived as such, especially if you don’t have it), book prices, eInk Pearl screen, ease of use, speed, compactness, long battery life, light weight, availability of free books – are almost perfectly balanced.

Are you really going to regret it if you get a Kindle?

Let’s say you get a Kindle 3. The things you might possibly regret are now gone.

  1. Library Book Support – Arriving this year. 
  2. Pretend-Lending – Available. 
  3. WiFi support – Kindle 3 has it. 
  4. Replaceable battery – Nook 3 doesn’t have one. 
  5. Color touch-screen – Nook 3 doesn’t have it. It does have a touch screen, but seeing book covers in color is gone.

It’s hard to get upset about not having ePub support when the biggest reason for needing ePub support (library book support) is gone. Additionally, the Agency Model means that Amazon will have the same price as every other store for most books.

Are you really going to regret it if you get a Nook 2?

Nook 2 has closed the gap so well it’s in danger of becoming a clone.

  1. eInk Pearl screen – check.
  2. Great battery life – check.
  3. No color screen – check.
  4. Focus on ease of use – check.
  5. Light and Compact – check.
  6. Social features – check.
  7. Black Casing + WiFi – check.
  8. Faster processor so sluggishness is gone – check.

Kindle 3 and Nook 2 both have the same screen and a focus on reading. They both have the same books at the same prices. Kindle vs Nook is no longer a difficult decision. It isn’t even much of a decision any more.

Whether you get Kindle and get x months of battery life at x’ hours per day, or you get the Nook 2 and get y months of battery life at y’ hours per day – It’s still incredible battery life and it’s not really different.

That’s how ridiculous the contest has become – the companies are competing on something (battery life) that isn’t really a differentiator any more. Amazon can’t claim eInk Pearl, and B&N can’t claim support for library books, so it devolves into an argument over which device’s battery life is longer when measured in peculiar ways.

When it comes to reading on eReaders, we might be running out of genuine differentiators

Few of the participants in the eBook ecosystem have any interest in favoring Amazon over B&N or B&N over Amazon.

  1. eInk/PVI, the eInk Pearl screen maker, will sell both the same technology.
  2. Foxconn will make both Kindles and Nooks.
  3. Publishers will sell both the same books, and at the same prices, and with the Agency Model restrictions – effectively killing the biggest possible differentiator.
  4. Stores like WalMart and BestBuy will sell both.
  5. Google will offer up free books to both, as will Internet Archive and Gutenberg and Many Books. Not to mention – all public domain books are free for anyone to use, and hence can’t really be a differentiator.
  6. Indie Authors and Authors will, for the most part, sell to both. Example: Amanda Hocking declining a deal from Amazon because Amazon wanted a Kindle exclusive.
  7. Even some Kindle owners are buying Nook Colors (out of curiosity) and Nook 2s (because they want an ePub reader).

There is very, very little opportunity to differentiate. Amazon is left with its website and its Cloud. B&N is left with its stores and the fact that everyone is scared of Amazon. Those just don’t seem enough to get a clear lead.

18 thoughts on “Have we reached the point of effective equality between all eReaders?”

  1. But you can still get 3G with the Kindle which is important to some. Personally, I have a K3 and iPad2, so I can do the library books thru Bluefire Reader on my iPad2. I’m interested in what the Kindle tablet will offer! The grass is always greener…

  2. I agree with Pam’s response: the 3G is important. Also, the web browser is a key feature. Though it is limited, it is useful.

  3. I have no problem recommending the Kindle and I think the difference is customer service. Do a google search.

  4. What about purchasing books internationally? Has Nook changed its policy on that? My understanding is that only Kindle users can purchase books while overseas. This is a HUGE plus for those of us residing outside of the US.

    1. No – B&N is still US only. Agreed – if you’re outside the US getting books is a plus. However, you can still get ePub books from other stores like Kobo and read on Nook 2.

  5. So in the absence of a hardware differentiator, one possibility is that B&N and Amazon will devote more effort to competing on content. Author exclusivity? “Extra” features like author interviews? Bonus music tracks? Whatever the bait, I have to think this is another win for the customer.

    1. Definitely a win for readers. Yes, wonder how either can gain an advantage on the other in content – they both are Publishers already. Exclusives becomes one area.

  6. Kindle advantage: Most of the free books you link to here go straight to the Amazon book page. Perhaps there are Nook-centric blogs that do the same for the Nook, but make no mistake that your blog is an advantage for the Kindle.

  7. I love my Kindle 3! I wish that it had color for magazines and childrens books, but rather than go for a Nook Color, I’ll wait to see what Kindle comes up with. I like the Amazon connection, as we’re Prime customers and purchase just about everything we can thru Amazon.

  8. Andrys Basten on “A Kindle World Blog” lists these deficiencies in the Nook 2, here http://kindleworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/nook-vs-kindle-features-also-free.html :

    The new Nook Touch:

    Does not have’3G’ web access.
    Has no web browser at all, not even in WiFi mode.
    Has no music player.
    Doesn’t have text-to-speech.
    No buying possible outside the U.S.
    Can’t zoom any photo to full screen.
    Does not have Landscape mode. (Bad for PDFs).
    Has no PDF screen-contrast control.
    Must “sideload” other bookstores’ books because it has no web browser. It can’t directly download them like the Kindle.
    Does not support WORD doc files.
    Won’t save annotations for the library book borrower.

    I like how Amazon now wirelessly gathers ones notes and highlights and makes them visible in an organized way online. Very nice. There are other little touches that Amazon does right.

    There are also important intangibles that are in Amazon’s favor.
    Amazon can easily differentiate its Kindle by upgrading its software, where there is much room for improvement. Here’s a recent comment I made obvious this site that gave nutshell-descriptions of 10 such (mostly software) improvements:

    And here are six more, posted recently on Bufo’s site:

    1. The 3G web access is a big deal. The rest aren’t that important to reading. Perhaps people who love audiobooks or browsing the web love the Text to Speech and the Browser – however, Amazon isn’t specialized in either.

      We could compile a similar list for the Nook 2 – Just waiting to get it in my hands first.

  9. Since I can check emails on the kindle, I’ve done away with cellphone texting. Who needs a touch screen? It’s so easy to hold and change pages all with one hand.

  10. Competition drives parity, but it still leaves room for some standout features or at least small differences.

    Certainly the agency model is reducing store differenttion as far as price goes – though it seems like price fixing to me.

    I will continue to go with the Amazon store though since I can support the work of friends via affifliate links when I buy an ebook.

    Now if only we can get rid of the damn DRM so we aren’t weeded to a store. Music companies finally learned the lesson publishers need to learn.

  11. a) Replaceable battery – Nook 3 doesn’t have one. <–Typo.

    b) Or to put it another way, Nook 2 has finally caught up to Kindle 3. What will Kindle 4 be like? It seems to me like hardwarewise there's a leapfrogging schedule going on, and I expect Kindle 4 to have at least the touch aspect down, and probably get all the software upgrades of Nook 2, if Kindle 3 doesn't get them earlier. The real joker is, what will Amazon do to leapfrog *ahead* of Nook 2? 4th Generation eInk technology? With maybe an exclusive licence? Or Mirasol? Or Color eInk? I wouldn't be surprised by any of the above.

    Agency Model means competing on price becomes more or less impossible, but Kindle is ahead on sheer sales volume — that means it gets the indies first, if nothing else.

    You're missing out ease-of-use in your lists. Of the Store, in particular. When readers drop under $150, as they have, let alone under $100, which they will, having multiple eBook readers to reach both stores — even just to check out the competition, if you will — will seem like a no-brainer to the serious reader. Hell, it's always to good to have a spare book lying around in case the first one breaks, right?

    With more or less the same books available in each, these people will buy from whoever provides the best total experience. Whether that is reading, or buying, and which particular parts of each, will depend on the client, I guess, but it might well shake out a little over the coming years. And these people are the evangelists for your platform, and they also happen to be the people that get consulted by many before less voracious readers buy something new.

    1. JJ wrote:
      “You’re missing out ease-of-use in your lists. … these people will buy from whoever provides the best total experience. Whether that is reading, or buying, and which particular parts of each, will depend on the client … And these people are the evangelists for your platform, and they also happen to be the people that get consulted by many before less voracious readers buy something new.”

      Apple has done well by providing features that created product evangelists, even though those features appealed only to a minority (at first glance), and thus might have been rejected at another company because “our customers aren’t asking for them–and they’d just be annoyed if we offered them.”

      IMO, some of the sophisticated software enhancements I’ve advocated (see links above) would have the same “evangelizing” effect on opinion-leading Kindle owners.

      1. One of those things that Apple has done that doesn’t at first glance seem logical is VoiceOver, on OS X and later on the 3GS and newer iPhone. Price and compare the cost of a JAWS licence for windows (the most popular screenreader software for the blind, as well as braille line driver), which is around $1500 in addition to a complete windows PC, and which does *not* get free upgrades to new versions, versus the cost of a MacBook Pro, and similarly for phones.

        http://behindthecurtain.us/2010/06/12/my-first-week-with-the-iphone/ <- if you haven't seen that one, I highly recommend it.

  12. Jasper, I have an iPhone and iPad2 and had no idea of the VoiceOver software available on it as I didn’t need it. I have a newfound respect for Apple in providing this as a standard feature! I read the link you provided and watched a how to video on Apple.com and it would certainly be a blessing for the visually impaired! Thanks for sharing!

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