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.

What is Amazon waiting for? Some deals

First, for your Kindle, some deals -

  1. The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson. Price: $2.99. Genre: Parenting & Families, Special Needs, Autism, Spirit Healing. Rated 4.5 stars on 55 reviews. 
  2. The Power of Half by Hannah Salwen and Kevin Salwen. Price: $4.77. Genre: Getting More out of Less, Giving Back, Sharing is Caring. Rated 4 stars on 71 reviews. 
  3. In Her Name (Omnibus Edition) by Michael R. Hicks. Price: $1. Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adventure, Science Fiction, Military Space Opera. Rated 4.5 stars on 58 reviews.

It’s quite interesting to see a book with so much promise (the third one) stuck outside the Top 1,000. How do you manage to get 4.5 stars on 58 reviews, be at $1, and still not be in the Top 1,000?

Anyways, this brings me to something even more perplexing.

What is Amazon waiting for? Why doesn’t it release a Kindle Tablet?

Nook Color is rumored to have sold 3 million units. It’s also rumored that B&N is taking delivery of 600,000 to 700,000 Nook Colors a month.

There are three big markets here -

  1. People looking for a dedicated reading device. Some portion of them are buying the argument that Nook Color is a Reading Tablet.
  2. People looking for a Tablet-eReader hybrid. Nook Color is almost perfect for this group of people.
  3. People looking for a cheap Tablet. Nook Color is almost perfect for this group too.

Amazon is losing out on some Kindle sales because of 1, i.e. Nook Color as reading tablet is competing with Kindle as dedicated reading device.

However, far more worrying are the two niches where Amazon isn’t even competing -

  1. Amazon doesn’t have a Tablet-eInk hybrid. Now that Apple has set up its patent defence with an eInk-LCD hybrid tablet patent, Amazon might never be able to create such a hybrid.
  2. Amazon doesn’t have a tablet. There is a huge market for a non-Apple tablet - No one is stepping up to the plate. The situation is so bad that Nook Color is selling millions of units just because it has ended up being the best non-iPad tablet-like device. Think about that for a second – the market demand for a cheap Android Tablet (or a cheap tablet, period) is so high that people are buying a reading tablet and trying to use it as a full tablet.

Amazon is literally spurning these two markets – Go, get a Nook Color. We have nothing for you.

Where is Amazon’s Kindle Tablet?

It’s been nearly 5 months since Nook Color was introduced. It’s been nearly 5 months since people began talking about the danger of Nook Color. It’s been 4 months since the main stream media realized that Nook Color is a huge threat.

Yet, nothing from Amazon.

  • Perhaps Amazon doesn’t realize that if Nook Color sales get to the 10 million mark, and the Nook App Store isn’t a total disaster, then B&N will be set for the next 10 years.
  • Perhaps Amazon feels that because it has set up its Android App Store it can delay the actual hardware. That Angry Birds Rio will make up for a 5-6 month delay in the hardware.
  • Perhaps B&N took Amazon by surprise. It certainly took everyone else by surprise.

Here’s the question – Would you rather have an Android App Store with 10,000 apps or would you rather have 3 million Reading Tablets in circulation?

I’d take the latter every single time. 3 million Nook Colors makes for a huge customer base. It means that B&N is getting data points it can use to build a stellar Nook Color 2. It means that Amazon’s Kindle Tablet will have the odds against it.

3 million is a huge number – especially in the first 5 months. If this were Apple we would be getting presentations about a revolutionary new category having been created and about Nook Color outselling the first version of Wrigley’s chewing gum.

How much more time does Amazon have before the game is lost?

Amazon probably thinks it can release a Kindle Tablet in Fall 2011 and still put up a fight.

Reality is that if Amazon doesn’t release a Kindle Tablet within the next 2 to 3 months it will have B&N as a rival in the Reading Tablet and Tablet markets for a very long time. If it delays beyond 5 to 6 months, it might never be able to catch up.

The iPad is eating up most of the high-end Tablet Market. Nook Color is eating up a lot of the low-end Tablet market. Despite its huge strengths, Amazon can’t afford to let Apple and B&N lock-up huge pieces of the Tablet market. There’s a huge difference between fighting for an undecided customer versus stealing away another company’s customers. Just ask all the people trying to compete with Windows and Google Search.

An Inflection Point of the strangest sort

What’s happened since Nook Color launched? Nothing.

What has Amazon done since Kindle 3 launched? Not much.

So, we have had a stretch of 5 to 8 months with very little happening. And that very nothingness might have been an inflection point. B&N has probably created the post-eReader reading device and Amazon has let it grow and prosper sans competition.

There is still time. Amazon should announce something within the next few weeks and it should get something out within the next few months. If it doesn’t, it might be left wondering how it was too blind to realize that the post-eReader reading device, the Reading Tablet, is a far bigger threat to the Kindle than Publishers and Apple and physical books.

iPad 2 and implications for Kindle

First, let’s take a look at the iPad 2 announcement call.

Interesting Things from the iPad 2 announcement

  1. Steve Jobs presented it.
  2. iBooks has hit over 100 million books downloaded. Random House coming to iBooks.
  3. 200 million Credit Card accounts across iTunes, App Store, and iBooks.
  4. 100 million iPhones sold.
  5. 15 million iPads sold. $9.5 billion in 2010. Greater than 90% market share. Samsung not doing well.
  6. iPod, iPhone, and iPad as the three pillars of Apple post-PC. Are Apple conceding they lost the PC wars? Why focus on post-PC?
  7. 65,000 apps for the iPad. 100 apps for Honeycomb Tablets.
  8. $2 billion paid out to developers selling apps in the App Store.

All very impressive. Just show iPad 2 already.

The iPad 2

  1. All new design. Completely new.
  2. New, faster chip. The A5. Same power usage as A4.
  3. Dual core processor. 9 times faster graphic performance. Apple does know how to explain things simply – surprising that very few other tech companies use language like this.
  4. Front and rear facing cameras.
  5. Built-in gyroscope.
  6. A third thinner than iPad 1. iPad 2 is 8.8 mm thin.
  7. Lighter at 1.3 pounds.
  8. Same 10 hour battery life.
  9. Available in black and white and for Verizon and AT&T.
  10. The same exact prices – starting at $499. That’s really, really disappointing. You have got to be joking – After selling 15 million iPads you still couldn’t cut prices. This pretty much means little to no threat to Kindle or Nook Color. The lighter weight makes things a bit difficult but the price is a huge barrier.
  11. Ships on March 11th. Wow, that’s quick. On March 25th it ships in 26 more countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and UK.

It’s not really all that much of an improvement. It’s better than the iPad, and it will definitely be hard for rival companies to catch up with the iPad 2. However, the price is the same. The dual-core processor and the dual cameras are the only things that scream out at you as big additions.

iPad 2 Software and more 

  1. Accessories – HDMI video out with up to 1080p for $39.
  2. Smart covers that bend and fold around iPad 2 and use magnets and can be used as a stand. They cover just the front. The cover is $39 for polyurethane and $69 for leather. For covers that only cover the front. Strange.
  3. iOS 4.3 comes with faster Safari performance. Some things I have no idea about – iTunes home sharing, AirPlay improvements, mute switch can now be used for orientation.
  4. PhotoBooth for iPad 2. It’s like one of those apps that lets you make funny faces. Don’t really know what to say.
  5. FaceTime. I guess we’ll be seeing millions of ads for this soon enough.
  6. iMovie. Share your videos in HD and it has multitrack audio recording. The rear facing camera has HD video recording at 30 fps.

Implications for Kindle

At $499 for the cheapest iPad 2, there aren’t very many implications.

Size is now lighter at 1.3 pounds, but the Kindle is still much lighter at 8.7 ounces. iPad 2 is thinner at 8.8 mm but it’s the largeness of it that was the issue, not the thickness. iBooks getting Random House is a bit of a threat but Random House is moving to the Agency Model and committing mini-suicide - So, again it’s not as big an issue as it might have been.

Note: The 30% tax is a big deal – However, that affects Kindle for iPhone, and not Kindle.

There really aren’t any big threats for the Kindle here. Rival Tablet makers and the Kindle Tablet now have a higher bar to meet. For the Kindle there’s no tangible threat here.

Implications for Nook Color

Again, the $499 price makes iPad 2 not much of a threat to Nook Color. At $249 (till tomorrow morning $200 at B&N’s eBay shop with a coupon code) the Nook Color is still much better value for money.

It’s a bit of a disappointment. If Apple had priced iPad 2 at $399 it would have forced Amazon and B&N to cut the prices of Kindle and Nook Color. Now we’ll have to wait for some other catalyst.

Apart from the dual core processor and the dual cameras, don’t really see anything worth calling a conference for. Here’s the screen (from the iPad 2 specs page) -

  • 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating

An improvement on the iPad, and not much of a threat to Kindle and Nook Color.

Comparing how Kindle, Nook Color are promoted

The Kindle and the Nook Color are both promoted heavily on Amazon and B&N’s websites. Let’s compare how the two are promoted and see if anything interesting pops up.

Comparing how Kindle, Nook color are promoted – the main pages

B&N’s main site has an image of the Nook Color right at the top taking up around a quarter of the page -

  1. Nook Color has Elle Magazine showing on the screen. An obvious focus on its color capabilities and strength with magazines.
  2. Nook Color is described as an ‘Award Winning and Best-selling Reader’s Tablet’. The use of the term ‘Reader’s Tablet’ is interesting.
  3. Nook Color gets a ‘Buy Now’ button which takes you to the Nook Color product page.
  4. There’s a ‘Best Dedicated eReader’ quote from The Associated Press shown. This is something that comes up repeatedly – a focus on showing what the Press thinks of Nook Color.
  5. There’s an option to start a ’360 degree view’ of the Nook Color. This is surprisingly helpful.

Amazon’s main site has Kindle right in the center and taking up around 30% or so of the page. It just seems to be getting a bit more focus than the Nook Color gets on B&N’s website.

  1. There’s a book shown on the Kindle’s screen. The angle makes it hard to tell which book.
  2. It’s described as ‘The #1 Bestselling Product on Amazon’. We see a lot of this in Amazon’s marketing – a focus on how well Kindle does amongst Amazon customers.
  3. There’s text saying ‘order now’ but no button. Instead there are links for the $139 Kindle WiFi and the $189 Kindle 3.
  4. No Press quotes or references. Amazon focuses primarily on customers for social proof.
  5. No option for a 360 degree view.

At this point the Nook Color has a bit of an advantage because it’s got the 360-degree view. However, Amazon.com gets a ton more traffic.

The Product Pages for Kindle, Nook Color

Amazon is all about details and logic and social proof

Let’s start with the Kindle 3 product page.

  1. In the name itself we get a lot of phrases highlighting Kindle strengths - wireless, reading device, free 3G, works globally, new eInk pearl technology. The name is far too long but the idea is good.
  2. Social Proof from customers – #1 bestseller, most 5 star reviews. It’s clearly shown that Kindle 3 has a 4.5 stars rating based on 16,179 reviews. Amazon is completely focused on showing how much other customers like the Kindle.
  3. There’s the added social proof that 3,343 people ‘Like’ the Kindle (there’s a little Like button on the top right).
  4. The choice of graphite or white.
  5. An indicator that it’s In Stock.
  6. A section on reviews from major publications. Example: ‘New Kindle leaves rivals farther back’ from The New York Times. This is the first and only place where Press Reviews are shown.

Those are the things visible before you scroll down. So Amazon’s focus seems to be – To show customers love the Kindle, and throw in the fact that the Press loves the Kindle too.

As you scroll down you run into all the data you could possibly want to help make a decision (including user reviews) -

  1. A section on main features/selling points. It’s interesting how it’s a very data-oriented layout. It’s just a bunch of bullet points with photos to the side. The features Amazon highlights are – eInk screen, sunlight reading, new fonts, sleek design, 15% lighter, battery life of one month, double storage, books in 60 seconds, free 3G wireless, WiFi, faster page turns, enhanced PDF reader, new WebKit browser.
  2. Then there’s a section where each of these is explained, along with some other benefits like lending and ease of use.
  3. A section comparing eInk to LCD screens.
  4. A section comparing the various Kindles.
  5. A section on choosing between Kindle 3G and Kindle WiFi.
  6. A size comparison of the new Kindle 3 and the older Kindle 2.
  7. Charlie Rose interview with Jeff Bezos.
  8. A video on features. All Amazon videos focus on people reading on the Kindle. B&N focuses on the Nook Color.
  9. A detailed list of features and benefits. There are images on the right side throughout. The left side has a ton of detail – everything you would want to know about each feature.
  10. After a few pages the right side shows a list of bestsellers and new releases and highlights the $9.99 price of Kindle books and the savings over hardcovers.
  11. After quite a few pages detailing the various features there’s a section talking about Kindle reading apps.
  12. A section on technical details.
  13. A few sections on Accessories and then a video on what customers are saying.
  14. Finally, customer reviews. The focus is on ‘most helpful’ customer reviews, with ‘most recent’ customer reviews listed on the right side.

Those are the main sections. It’s 20 pages of details and writing and around 4 pages of accessories and forum links and such.

20 entire pages detailing Kindle’s features and benefits. Amazon is putting all the information customers could want right on the product page. The more you read, the more invested you get. The further down the page you go, the more reasons you get to buy the Kindle. It all culminates in the solid customer reviews.

It’s also interesting that apart from product details and social proof there isn’t very much else. It’s a very logical, data rich approach.

Here are 25 reasons to buy the Kindle. Every other Amazon customer is buying it. Just Buy It!

That brings us to the Nook Color Page.

B&N is all about visuals and promoting features Kindle doesn’t have

B&N seems to want to focus on showing how pretty and bright and colorful the Nook Color is. 

  1. The first thing that’s interesting is that B&N changes what’s shown on the screen of the Nook Color – the screen rotates through images of magazines, the bookshelf, Nook Store, the home page, and Elle magazine.
  2. It touts Nook Color as ‘The Ultimate Reading Experience’.
  3. The features it focuses on are – 7″ color touchscreen, magazines & newspapers in color, kids’ books coming alive, 2 million plus titles. It’s clearly focusing on things the Kindle can’t do that well.
  4. After that, there’s a section titled ‘Touch the Future of Reading’ which focuses on the color touchscreen, the WiFi, sharing, personalization, personalized recommendations, and Nook Extras (Nook Apps).
  5. There’s a small section that covers NookBooks, Nook NewsStand, and NookKids. Then accessories and a bunch of links.

The main Nook Color product page only lists the main selling points of the Nook Color. There are other pages that cover – Features, Specifications, Book Choice, Magazine Choice, Nook Kids, Extras, Reviews, Support, and Protection Plan. The features page has a sub page for each and every feature. Lots of images.

For reviews B&N only features reviews from the press. No user reviews at all.

B&N even has photos of famous people, such as George W. Bush, seen with the Nook Color. Have no idea what to make of B&N’s focus on what the Press thinks of Nook Color as opposed to what actual owners think.

B&N has a pretty different approach from Amazon.

Look how shiny and pretty Nook Color is. Look how the Press thinks you should get it. Look at all the things you can do on this you can’t do with the Kindle.

As opposed to Amazon, which focuses mostly on what customers think of the Kindle and on providing copious amount of information, B&N focuses most on showing lots of bright color images of the Nook Color, promoting the features heavily (especially the features Kindle doesn’t have, like the color screen), and showing that the Press loves Nook Color.

It’s almost as if B&N is aiming Nook Color at people in love with pictures and colors and shiny gadgets while Amazon is aiming Kindle at people in love with words and logic.

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.

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