Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi (an early look)

Let’s look at Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi. Sony Reader WiFi is now available for preorder and comes in at a very competitive price. Sony finally decided to try to win the eReader Wars.

The Kindle WiFi version without ads is $139. The Sony Reader WiFi is $149.99. For this comparison we’ll compare the plain vanilla WiFi eReaders – Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi. No 3G. No Ads. Just Reading on eInk.

Please Note: Sony Reader WiFi isn’t out yet. This is an early look and based on data Sony has made available.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Sony Reader WiFi’s 5 Big Strengths

Sony Reader WiFi will have some big advantages over Kindle WiFi –

  1. ePub Support. That means you can buy books from pretty much any store except Amazon. 
  2. Touch including pinch to zoom. Take notes with a stylus or with your finger. Touch does make things faster and being able to use a stylus to jot down notes is a good feature. 
  3. Library support including wireless library downloads. Amazon has promised library book support in 2011 – Until that happens (December 27th?) this is a major advantage for Sony Reader WiFi. Not sure whether wireless library downloads is a killer feature or just a very useful one.
  4. Very compact and extremely light. Sony Reader WiFi will be 6 and 7/8 inches tall, 4 and 3/8 inches wide, and 3/8 inches thick. It will weigh just 5.9 ounces. The combination of the compact size and the light weight is very compelling.
  5. Adjustable Contrast and Brightness. If Sony really has a sidelight, or some other solution for reading at night, then it gains a big advantage.

Note: Some of these details are from this Sony Reader WiFi preview post at This is My Next (Ridiculous Name for a Tech Blog). Sony Reader WiFi comes with an eInk Pearl V220 screen. To the best of my knowledge this is identical to eInk Pearl.

Sony’s new eReader has some additional advantages over Kindle WiFi –

  1. A better looking device (at least in my opinion, despite my love for my Kindles) and a choice of three colors.
  2. MicroSD card slot to expand storage capacity.
  3. There are 12 included dictionaries. Kindle has dictionaries and language apps available – but they aren’t free.
  4. 7 different font choices – Original (whatever that is), Amasis, Frutiger Neue, Palatino nova, Really No 2 (really?), Univers Next, Verdana. Kindle WiFi offers just three and they are all variants of Caecilia (triple the chances of breaking your heart).
  5. There’s a decent range of in-built features – integration with Google Books, a Browser, a Handwriting section, and Text Memos.
  6. It supports both MP3 and AAC formats for music. Kindle supports only MP3.

It’s remarkable that Sony has distilled its eReader line to a single model and come in at $150. Low Price. Easy Choice. What has gotten into Sony? Next thing you know they’ll start offering wireless library book downloads.

Kindle’s 5 Big Strengths

The Kindle WiFi is the incumbent champion and has several big advantages –

  1. The Kindle Store. There are just a lot of dimensions to this – the biggest range of new books, the lowest prices, the largest number of free offers on new books, the easiest buying experience.
  2. Kindle Whispernet Infrastructure and Kindle Reading Apps. Perhaps Amazon’s biggest advantage is its ability to create an entire ecosystem around the Kindle. The Kindle WiFi doesn’t come with free 3G so you miss out on free Internet around the world. However, you still get the numerous reading apps and the good support infrastructure.
  3. Lower Lifetime Cost of Ownership. Combine factors like lower Kindle book prices, a larger number of new free books on offer, and the great resale price amd the Kindle wins the battle for lowest cost of lifetime ownership. There’s a section below that goes into this in more detail.
  4. Text to Speech. If you like having books read to you by R2D2 then Kindle wins hands down.
  5. Ease of Use. Sony’s new Reader might change this – However, Amazon has consistently delivered the easiest-to-use eReaders. 

Kindle WiFi also has other advantages over Sony Reader WiFi –

  1. Excellent Customer Service.
  2. Kindle Apps that cover everything from time wasting to time saving.
  3. Larger in-built memory. If all you’re going to use the Kindle WiFi for is reading, then the 3.3 GB of available in-built memory dwarfs the 1.3 GB of available in-built memory on the Sony Reader WiFi.
  4. Possibly longer battery life. All the measuring sticks are so confusing (half an hour of reading per day while standing on your head) that this might not be an advantage.
  5. Possibly a better web browser.
  6. Kindle Book Lending – Doesn’t seem like Sony will have this.
  7. Kindle and Kindle Books are available in more countries.

Kindle is still a better choice for a lot of people. However, Sony has closed the gap and might even pull ahead a bit. It’s strange how Amazon is sitting back and letting first Nook Touch, then Kobo Touch, and now Sony Reader WiFi become very competitive.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Price, Value for Money, and Lifetime Cost of Ownership

One very interesting aspect is how the two eReaders stack up in value for money and total cost of ownership.

Kindle WiFi is $10 cheaper than Sony Reader WiFi. That advantage gets flipped on its head when you consider that Sony Reader WiFi offers a touchscreen, arguably better construction, and definitely better looks. It might even offer some sort of side-lighting.

Sony Reader WiFi is better value for money for the amount of eReader you get in your hands. Note: We’re not considering the $114 ad-supported version of the Kindle WiFi.

From that point on Amazon’s Store and Infrastructure start becoming major factors. Things gets especially tricky when we try to compare Lifetime Cost of Ownership.

For the moment we have wireless library downloads on Sony Reader WiFi and a million+ free public domain books from Google. Amazon offers more free offers on new books, better prices on books in general, and a million+ downloads from sites like Internet Archive. That makes it a tie.

By the end of the year, when Amazon will add free library book support, Kindle will become the better eReader in terms of total cost of ownership. New books are cheaper in the Kindle Store and there are more free offers on new books. Add in the excellent resale value of the Kindle WiFi and by end of 2011 Kindle will be the clear winner when it comes to total cost of ownership.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Waiting for the Actual Device to Deliver a Verdict

Sony is offering lots of interesting things – touch with some semblance of multi-touch, possibly lighting of some sort, changeable screen contrast, a low price (finally), an ultra-compact eReader.

Once it’s out, and the reviews start coming in, we’ll get a good idea of which is the better eReader. There’s also the wildcard of a possible Kindle 4 release or a drop in the price of the Kindle WiFi to $99.

Sony Reader WiFi promises the be the eReader that re-establishes Sony Reader as a major player in the eReader Wars. If Sony can drop the price to $125 it would be enough to carve out a decent portion of Holiday 2011 sales. Wonder if Sony realizes that it absolutely must undercut Kindle on price.

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

AKA

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.

Kindle vs Nook 2011

With Nook 2, B&N has left the Kindle behind and temporarily won the Kindle vs Nook contest.

Please Note: This Kindle vs Nook review will be updated when the Nook 2 actually ships and I get my hands on it.

There are basically two Kindle vs Nook comparisons now –

  1. Kindle 3 vs Nook 1 in the Dedicated eReader with 3G category. Kindle 3 wins this easily. Please check my Kindle vs Nook Review for a Kindle 3 vs Nook 1 comparison.
  2. Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 in the $139 Dedicated eReader category. Nook 2 easily beats Kindle WiFi here. This post looks at Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Areas Nook Clearly Wins

  1. Value for Money – For the same $139 price, you get nearly all the features of the Kindle WiFi plus a touch screen.
  2. Touchscreen – While Sony made a hash of how it used touchscreen in an eReader, B&N has focused on making things simple. It seems to have worked.
  3. Compactness – Nook 2 is just 6.5″ by 5″ by 0.47″ which makes it small enough to fit in your pocket. Kindle WiFi is 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″ which makes it less compact (it’ll fit a jacket pocket but not a pant pocket).
  4. Better Battery Life – Battery life for Nook 2 is supposedly two months with WiFi off. Kindle WiFi has 1 month battery life with WiFi off. B&N uses the criteria of half an hour of reading per day – not sure what criteria Amazon uses. Note: With wireless on, both have the same battery life of 3 weeks.
  5. Memory Expansion – Memory Card Slot that takes up to 32 GB memory cards.
  6. Smoothness & Less Flashing – Screen flashing happens only every 5th or 6th page when turning pages. If the screen flash bothers you then this is a definite plus. B&N also claims smoother page turns. Note: This might be all software and Amazon might be able to match this quite quickly.
  7. Faster Page Turns – Waiting to see how it is in person. It sounds very promising.
  8. Library Book Support – Amazon has promised to add this later in 2011. For now, B&N’s Nook 2 has a clear advantage as it supports library books.
  9. Personalized Screensavers – A nice personalization touch.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Nook is slightly ahead

  1. Weight – Nook 2 at 7.48 ounces is slightly lighter than Kindle WiFi at 8.5 ounces.
  2. In-Store Extras – Free WiFi and some special offers when you go to B&N Stores. You can also browse through books for free (for up to an hour per day per book). B&N staff to help answer questions.
  3. ePub support – Lets you read books bought at other stores that use ePub with Adobe DRM.
  4. Possibly Better PDF Support – The scrolling in PDFs is really quite good. Waiting to try it out in person and see what else is supported. This might end up being a big Nook 2 advantage.
  5. Social Aspect – Nook Friends in-built social network with ‘Liking’, recommendations, contact lists, and more. Kindle WiFi is limited to Facebook and Twitter updates.
  6. FastPage – Apparently this feature lets you hold down the page turn button and quickly get to anywhere in the book. Will have to test this – it sounds really good.
  7. Simplicity – The touchscreen makes things like highlighting easier on Nook 2. Never thought Nook would become simpler to use than Kindle.
  8. Cover View – Organize your books into shelves that show book covers, browse using cover view.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle WiFi & Nook 2 are in a tie

  1. Screen – eInk Pearl screen optimized for reading. 50% better screen contrast than previous generation eReaders (Kindle 2, Nook 1). Black/Graphite casing to further enrich contrast.
  2. WiFi – Both ship with WiFi connectivity. Both have free WiFi at AT&T hotspots.
  3. Focus on Reading – Both are dedicated reading devices (Thankfully).
  4. Font options – Kindle has 8 font sizes and 3 font types while Nook 2 has 7 font sizes and 6 font styles.
  5. Retail availability – Both are available at numerous retail chains including Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart.
  6. Price – Both are $139.
  7. Reading Apps – Reading Apps are available for both Kindle and Nook owners for a variety of platforms including iPad, iPhone, PC, and Mac.
  8. Accessories – Kindle has a lot more accessory choices but Nook has some pretty interesting options like Nook Totes.
  9. Easy to Hold – B&N touts its contoured back but the Kindle WiFi’s back is easy to hold too.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle is slightly ahead

  1. Software Dependability – Both Nook 1 and Nook Color have suffered massively from glitches. Until Nook 2 is in readers’ hands and working well (without lots of bugs) the Kindle is a safer bet.
  2. AdKindle Option – You can get AdKindle for $25 less. It’s a version of Kindle WiFi with sponsored screensavers and an ad on the Home Page. 
  3. Landscape Mode – Kindle WiFi offers reading in landscape mode which is very useful for web browsing and for PDFs.
  4. Physical Keyboard – While it increases the size, it also makes it easier to type notes.
  5. Looks – While Kindle WiFi looks sharp and svelte the Nook 2 looks a little boxy and chunky.
  6. WhisperNet – Kindle comes with lots of Cloud based services like seeing popular highlights for a book you’re reading and accessing your notes and highlights online. B&N has begun to catch up and has promised a MyNook portal.
  7. Amazon.com Site – Easier to navigate and use than B&N’s website.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle is clearly better

  1. Kindle has Text to Speech. While some Publishers disable this feature it’s still present in 40% to 60% of books. Plus you get text to speech for all documents and public domain books you add yourself. 
  2. Web Browser. A big feature especially as the browser is relatively decent.
  3. Book Range and Prices. Kindle Store has more books available. For books other than Agency Model books (which are the same price everywhere) Kindle Store tends to have slightly better prices. Note: B&N counts Google’s free public domain books and claims it has more books – That’s patently false as public domain books are available for Kindle too (Google Books PDFs work, as do Internet Archive’s 1.8 million free texts).
  4. Kindle App Store – You now have 70+ Kindle Apps for Kindle WiFi. Nook 2 does not have apps (they are only available on Nook Color).
  5. Kindle WiFi comes with 4 GB of memory of which approximately 3 GB is available to the Kindle owner. Nook 2 only has 2 GB memory of which only 1 GB is available to the Nook owner.
  6. Customer Service – Amazon really puts effort into providing great customer service.

Overall Conclusion – Kindle vs Nook goes to …

Nook 2.

  1. Nook 2 wins several key areas – value for money, touch screen, compactness, battery life, memory expansion, less flashing, faster page turning, personalized screensavers, and library book support.
  2. Nook also edges Kindle slightly in the following areas – weight, in-store extras, ePub support, possibly better PDF support, simplicity, Nook Friends social network, and Cover View.
  3. Kindle edges Nook 2 slightly in some areas – software dependability (might turn into a big advantage), cheaper AdKindle option, physical keyboard, landscape mode, looks, WhisperNet, and website.
  4. Kindle clearly wins some key areas – Text to Speech, web browser, Range and Price of books, Apps, more in-built memory, and customer service.

Nook 2’s touch screen, its compactness, its library book support, and its faster and smoother page turns are probably the four key differentiators. Amazon has to find a way to match or counter these. It has promised library book support but it only means something when it arrives.

Engadget has a Nook 2 video and some photos that very clearly show the Nook 2’s strengths.

Unless Amazon drops the price of the Kindle WiFi by $39, and adds some big software improvements, B&N is going to increase its market share in eReaders significantly. Nook 2 is the clear winner in the Kindle vs Nook comparison.