Kindle vs Nook vs Sony (December 2010)

The Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony Reader are the Big 3 eReaders. If you want a dedicated reading device with an eInk screen you’ll probably end up having to make a Kindle vs Nook vs Sony decision.

This Kindle vs Nook vs Sony post will cover the strengths and weaknesses of each and help you decide which eReader suits you best.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Sony brings to the table

There are two new Sony Readers – the ultra-compact Sony Reader Pocket Edition (Sony 350) and the Sony Reader Touch Edition (Sony 650). Sony killed sales by introducing them at $180 and $230. However, these are now sporadically available for $150 and $200, sometimes even lower, and this makes them a lot more competitive with Kindle and Nook.

Sony Reader Strengths

Sony 350 and Sony 650 pack in some solid features -

  1. They both have touch. It’s touch enabled by using IR rays and in no way impedes readability.
  2. They have the new eInk Pearl screen.
  3. They support library books. 
  4. They support DRM’ed ePub which means ebooks from any store that sells books in DRM’ed ePub format can be read on the Sony Readers (except B&N as it adds its own proprietary DRM on top of Adobe’s DRM). In addition, Sony Store sells ebooks which can be read on any eReader that supports DRM’ed ePub – so you can switch to another eReader later without losing your books.
  5. Decent battery life of 2 weeks.
  6. The smaller Sony Reader (Pocket Edition) is incredibly light at 5.47 ounces and very compact at 5.71″ by 4.11″ by 0.33″. The Pocket Edition is also quite light at 7.58 ounces.
  7. They come with 10 built-in language translation dictionaries in addition to the standard English dictionary.
  8. They come with the ability to do freehand drawing in addition to scribbling notes.
  9. They have slightly better PDF support than Kindle and Nook.
  10. They are available in a variety of colors and are the best looking eReaders by far. Sony Reader Pocket Edition is available in silver and pink and Sony Reader Touch Edition is available in black and red.
  11. The Pocket Edition has a SD Card slot and a Memory Stick slot.
  12. The Pocket Edition lets you play MP3 and AAC files (Apple iTunes format).

The new Sony Reader Touch Edition is, arguably, the best eReader if you consider just the eReader itself. It’s let down by a poor ebook store and by poor infrastructure.

Sony Reader Weaknesses

The Sony Readers share a few weaknesses -

  1. The eBook store is painfully bad.
  2. There is very little in terms of infrastructure. For example: Sony reading apps for iPhone and Android are slated to arrive in December 2010 – That’s a long, long time after Kindle for iPhone and Nook for iPhone arrived.
  3. They don’t have wireless support – neither WiFi nor 3G.
  4. The user interface for taking notes and making highlights is awkward and wastes the touch capability.
  5. There’s no text to speech feature like the one Kindle has.
  6. There’s no ebook lending like Nook.
  7. No in-built browser.
  8. There’s no App Store on the horizon and no games.

Sony has, rather strangely, decided to forsake wireless support for the 350 and 650.

The Pocket Edition has some additional limitations -

  1. The Sony Reader Pocket Edition has a slightly smaller screen (5″).
  2. It’s also pretty fragile – more so than the other eReaders, which are quite fragile themselves.
  3. There is no SD card slot on the Pocket Edition.
  4. It doesn’t have audio support.

It’s a bit sad to see Sony limit the Sony Reader Pocket Edition so much. There really was no need to remove audio support and to get rid of the SD Card Slot.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Nook brings to the table

Nook is the only second generation eReader in the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony discussion. That means it doesn’t have the benefit of the eInk Pearl screen and is missing some of the newer technologies (such as Sony Reader’s touch screen and Kindle’s Voice Guide feature). It still manages to put up quite a fight.

We’ll consider only the Nook for our comparison since Nook and Nook WiFi are almost identical. The only difference is that Nook WiFi doesn’t have the 3G support the Nook has.

Nook Strengths

B&N has done a good job of supporting Nook with software updates, a good ebook store, and good wireless features.

  1. Nook is supported by a very good eBook store.
  2. Nook is also supported by good infrastructure – free Nook store browsing and free ebook downloads via AT&T wireless, lots of Nook reading apps for other platforms, and features like syncing your place in a book, and your notes and highlights, across devices.
  3. Nook has a LendMe feature that lets you lend a book once, to one person, for up to 14 days. Kindle is supposed to add this feature in 2010 but hasn’t yet.
  4. Nook gets some bonuses when you go into B&N stores – you can read any book for up to an hour per day, there are sometimes offers, and there’s B&N support staff to answer questions in person. 
  5. Nook supports library books.
  6. Nook supports DRM’ed ePub. We’ve already discussed how this means ePub books from any store can be read on Nook. Note that Nook’s own books aren’t readable on other eReaders – more on that in the Nook weaknesses section below.
  7. Nook comes with a microSD card slot.
  8. Nook has a pretty decent audio player. Kindle only lets you skip to the next track and pause.
  9. The Nook comes with a small 3.5″ color touchscreen that is used for navigation and flipping through book covers.
  10. Nook looks quite good. Not very pretty like the Sony Readers but passable.
  11. You can password protect your purchases.
  12. Nook is built on Android and there are hacks available for it.

Overall, the Nook has a lot of strengths and, despite being a second generation eReader, it stays within striking distance of the Kindle and the new Sony Readers.

Nook Weaknesses

Nook has quite a few weaknesses -

  1. It doesn’t have the new eInk Pearl screen. If you were to place Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader side by side you would always pick one of the other two for reading. 
  2. It’s quite unwieldy as it weighs 12.1 ounces and measures 7.7″ by 4.9″ by 0.5″. 
  3. The color touchscreen for navigation doesn’t gel with the much slower eInk screen for reading. This problem is compounded by a user interface that is rather complicated.
  4. Nook has the slowest page turns out of the Big 3 eReaders (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader).
  5. There’s no text to speech feature. 
  6. The Nook App Store is only going to be for Nook Color in the beginning. Given that only a million or so Nooks have been sold, Apps for the eInk Nook might never really take off.
  7. It doesn’t have touch for the main reading screen.
  8. Battery life is relatively low when wireless is on. Total battery life is also a bit low at 10 days.
  9. It doesn’t support Audible audiobooks and only supports MP3s for music.
  10. It’s only available in one color.
  11. It doesn’t support text files.

Nook suffers, in comparison to Kindle and Sony, and my recommendation would be to pick one of those if you’re looking for a dedicated eReader. Buying a second generation eInk based eReader makes little sense when multiple third generation eInk based eReaders are available.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Kindle brings to the table

The Kindle is a third generation eReader and also has a good ebook store and good infrastructure to support it. Amazon’s desire to preserve its eBook revenue stream means the Kindle imposes some limitations which end up being its major disadvantages.

Kindle Strengths

The Kindle is solid across the board -

  1. It has the new eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading. It’s the exact same screen as the new Sony Readers. It’s also a much better eInk screen than the one the Nook has.
  2. Kindle has the best eBook Store, with the best range and the best ebook prices. Nook Store is close, while Sony Store is a distant third.
  3. Kindle is the simplest eReader to use. You don’t need a computer. You don’t have to figure out complicated menus. It just works.
  4. Kindle has amazing infrastructure to back it up. Not only does it have 3G for free store browsing and free downloads – It also offers free internet browsing to US Kindle owners.
  5. Kindle has the best international support – It’s available to be shipped to over 150 countries, WhisperNet is available in 100+ countries, and it’s begun to add books in non-English languages to the Kindle Store.
  6. Kindle is great for travel for US Kindle owners as they get free Internet Browsing and free store browsing in over 100 countries.
  7. Kindle has the best battery life – It’s up to a month with wireless off, 3 weeks when using WiFi for wireless, and 10 days when using 3G wireless.
  8. Kindle’s text to speech feature is great – It lets Kindle owners listen to books, and also makes the Kindle more “accessible” to blind and low vision readers.
  9. To enable full “accessibility” the Kindle has a Voice Guide feature that reads out menus and book listings.
  10. Kindle has a physical keyboard – While Amazon has tried its best to nullify this advantage by removing the number keys and making the keys tiny, it’s still good to have a physical keyboard.
  11. Kindle has an App Store that’s begun to churn out games. There haven’t really been any life-changing apps released but there’s a chance killer apps start appearing eventually.
  12. Excellent customer service from Amazon.

If you factor in the entire ‘eReader + eBook Store + Infrastructure’ ecosystem the Kindle comfortably edges Nook and Sony Reader.

The Kindle is clearly the best dedicated eReader available.

It does, however, have a few significant weaknesses because Amazon wants to make sure that it keeps the eBook revenue stream intact. This leads to strange decisions, such as not adding PDF support until a competitor adds it, and staying away from ePub.

Kindle Weaknesses

Here are some Kindle weaknesses -

  1. No support for library books.
  2. No support for ePub.
  3. No support for DRM’ed books other than ones from the Kindle Store. This means that the only stores from which you can get eBooks for the Kindle are the Kindle Store and stores that sell DRM-free ebooks.
  4. It doesn’t have a touch screen. 
  5. It doesn’t support Apple iTunes format music. Also, the music player is hilariously rudimentary – the only options are Next Track and Pause.
  6. It doesn’t allow custom screensavers – Nook does.
  7. Kindle isn’t the prettiest eReader around.
  8. There’s no SD card slot.
  9. The battery isn’t replaceable.
  10. There is no ebook lending yet – though it’s supposed to arrive by the end of 2010.
  11. It isn’t as compact and light as the Sony Reader Pocket Edition.

The significant disadvantages are the first 4, with the first 3 being a direct result of Amazon’s attempts to keep its ebook revenue stream intact.

The Kindle vs Nook vs Sony Decision

At the moment it’s a pretty clear-cut decision -

  1. Kindle wins Kindle vs Nook vs Sony unless you really need one or more of – library book support, ePub support, a touch screen, lending, a SD Card Slot. If you don’t need these then get the Kindle.
  2. If you need one or more of these features then the new Sony Reader Touch Edition is the best option. It’s a latest generation eReader with the new eInk Pearl screen, a touch screen, support for ePub, and library book support. It’s a better choice than Nook.
  3. Nook is the third choice. It’s still a decent option due to the Nook Store being quite good, and because B&N provides good infrastructure and frequent software updates.

Kindle is clearly the best eReader available, and Sony Reader Touch Edition is a very clear second. Nook loses out in the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony comparison. Depending on which features are most important to you, my recommendation would be to pick either Kindle or Sony.

Kindle, Nook Comparison (December 2010)

Have the Kindle 3 and the Nook, with software upgrade 1.5, in front of me and it’s time for a Kindle, Nook comparison to end off 2010.

Kindle, Nook Comparison – Kindle 3 vs Nook with software upgrade 1.5

The first thing to keep in mind is that Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader and Nook, even with the 1.5 upgrade, is a second generation eReader. While each has its strengths and weaknesses, the Kindle does have all the advantages that come with being a latest generation eReader – newer technology, more polished software, better resale value, and so forth.

A quick 2-sentence Kindle, Nook comparison would be -

  1. Kindle 3 is the better eReader when it comes to screen quality, ebook range, ebook prices, speed of doing things, simplicity, and focus on reading.
  2. Nook’s strengths include support for library books, ePub support, having a memory card slot and a replaceable battery, and having a color touchscreen at the bottom.

If you prefer the Nook’s strengths over the Kindle’s strengths and don’t mind reading on a LCD screen it’s well worth taking a look at Nook Color.

Kindle, Nook Comparison – 4 Critical Nook Advantages

Despite being a second generation eReader the Nook has some critical advantages – 

  1. Support for Library Books. This is a big advantage as you can supplement the books you buy, and the free public domain books available online, with books from your local library. 
  2. Support for ePub. This means that DRM’ed ePub books from other stores, such as Google’s new eBook store and Sony Store, can be read on the Nook. This wasn’t a very significant advantage – but the arrival of Google eBooks threatens to make it one.
  3. It has several things Kindle is missing. Nook comes with a microSD card slot, a replaceable battery, and custom screensavers. It also has a serviceable audio player. Nook has three different fonts while Kindle only has 3 variations of a single font. These are all features missing from the Kindle and one or more might be important to you. 
  4. B&N Store Support and Lending. You can read any ebook for free for up to an hour a day at any B&N Store. You can lend a book once, for up to 14 days, to one other person. The latter is a feature the Kindle is going to add but the former will, for obvious reasons, remain a Nook-only feature. 

Those are the Nook’s critical advantages over the Kindle. The remaining Nook advantages are discussed in the ‘Remaining Kindle, Nook Features’ section below and are worth a look.

Kindle, Nook Comparison – 7 Critical Kindle Advantages

Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader and has some critical advantages over the Nook -

  1. eInk Pearl screen. This is an eInk screen with around 50% more contrast than the Kindle 2 screen and around 35% more contrast than the Nook 1’s eInk screen. If you have them side by side you’ll always pick the Kindle to read from – the screen is just a lot clearer 
  2. Kindle Store. The Kindle Store is the best ebook store. It has more new books than any other ebook store and also the lowest prices. It’s backed up by excellent customer service.
  3. Speed and simplicity. Kindle 3 has slightly faster page turns and everything seems a little faster on it. The Nook’s navigation touchscreen makes things a bit awkward as the LCD screen has to synchronize with the slower eInk screen. Kindle is much more intuitive. 
  4. Text to Speech. The Kindle will read out books to you – provided publishers haven’t disabled the feature. It will also read out your personal documents and all public domain books. 
  5. Free 3G based Internet Browsing and Wikipedia Access. If you’re a Kindle owner in the US you get free Internet browsing from your Kindle 3. You also get free Internet browsing in 100+ countries that have WhisperNet (AT&T network coverage). Nook offers free store browsing and downloads – Kindle offers that plus Free Internet.
  6. Kindle App Store. The Nook App Store will initially be only for Nook Color, which leaves out Nook. The Kindle App Store is already here and is slowly adding apps – there are now 15 or so games. Of course, if you don’t want apps on your eReader then this advantage means nothing.
  7. Lighter, More Portable, Better Battery Life. Kindle 3 is just 8.7 ounces while Nook is 12.1 ounces. That makes a difference when you’re holding it and carrying it. Kindle 3 is also more compact at 7.5″ by 4.8″ by 0.335″ – the Nook is 7.7″ by 4.9″ by 0.5″. Perhaps most importantly, the Kindle has much better battery life (up to 1 month with wireless off, 2 weeks with wireless on) than Nook (up to 10 days with wireless off).

There are also two cases where Kindle might be a clearly better choice – If you live outside the US (only Kindle ships outside the US and only Kindle offers 3G wireless support outside US), if you need an “accessible” eReader (Kindle has a Voice Guide feature for menus and book listings that goes very well with the text to speech feature).

Kindle being a 3rd generation eReader makes a difference

There’s a reason why Kindle has 7 critical advantages and Nook has only 4 – Kindle is a newer-generation device.

Unless you need Library Book Support or ePub support or a memory card slot it’s a very good idea to get the Kindle.

For around the same price you get a lot more value for money and you get a latest-generation device. Amazon will probably add new software updates to take advantage of Kindle 3’s faster speed and various capabilities such as the currently disabled microphone. There is also a chance the Kindle App Store takes off and starts adding valuable apps in addition to games.

If Kindle vs Nook still isn’t clear, the next section should help you decide. My recommendation is to either get a Kindle or take a look at the Nook Color – There’s no point in buying a second generation Nook when third generation Kindles and Sony Readers with the new eInk Pearl screen are available.

Kindle, Nook comparison – Remaining Kindle, Nook Features

Areas where Kindle, Nook cancel each other out

First, let’s take a quick look at features which both eReaders have – areas where they effectively cancel each other out.

  1. Both have an eInk screen, which is better suited to reading than LCD screens. 
  2. Folders feature to organize books. B&N calls it Shelves while Amazon calls it Collections. Both allow for single level folders and are closer to tagging than actual folders. 
  3. Decentish PDF support. Note that a 6″ screen isn’t ideal for PDFs and there’ll be a lot of zooming and panning involved. Kindle 3’s PDF note-taking support is very spotty while Nook doesn’t allow notes for PDFs.
  4. Free Store Browsing over 3G and 60 second ebook downloads. Kindle, Nook both support this.
  5. eBook Lending – Amazon has said it will add ebook lending to Kindle by the end of 2010 so both Kindle, Nook will have lending by year-end.
  6. Password protection for Kindle, Nook – You can lock them so no one else can access them.
  7. Price – They’re close enough in price for it to be a non-issue.
  8. 3G and WiFi – Both offer 3G and WiFi support.
  9. Reading Apps for your other devices – Kindle and Nook are both supported by reading apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  10. Free AT&T WiFi Hotspot Access – Both use AT&T’s network and thus get the bonus of being able to use AT&T WiFi hotspots for free.
  11. Decent Browsers. Nook probably has a slightly better browser but the gap isn’t big.
  12. Lots of font options. The font the Kindle uses, Caecilia, is better in my opinion. You might, however, prefer the Nook’s fonts – Amasis, Helvetica Neue, Light Classic.
  13. Multiple devices on one account – You can add any number of devices to one account.
  14. One Book shared across 5 to 6 devices – You can read a single book across 5 to 6 devices.
  15. Screen Rotation – Both Kindle and Nook have screen rotation.

It should be clear from this long list that Kindle, Nook have closed the gap between their feature sets over time.

Next, let’s take a quick look at Nook’s remaining advantages.

Areas where Nook wins over the Kindle

This is in addition to the Nook’s 4 critical advantages over the Kindle – Library Books, ePub support,  B&N Stores, absence of several Kindle weaknesses.

  1. 3.5″ color touchscreen for navigation. This lets you browse your books and the Nook eBook Store using cover view.
  2. You could make a case that it looks better than Kindle 3.
  3. Being able to check out the Nook at a lot of stores – WalMart and B&N Stores are two stores in particular that carry Nook but not Kindle.
  4. You can migrate over your Sony Reader library, your Google eBooks, and any ePub books you might have.
  5. Nook is built on Android and you can hack it to run various apps.
  6. Nook 1.5 upgrade added the ability to password protect your purchases.

There might be a few Nook advantages missing from this list – However, we have the important ones covered.

Let’s end by looking at the Kindle 3’s remaining advantages.

Areas Kindle beats Nook

This is in addition to the 7 critical advantages of the Kindle – eInk Pearl screen, Kindle Store, Free 3G Internet, speed and simplicity, portability and battery life, Kindle App Store, text to speech.

  1. Choice of graphite or white Kindle 3. 
  2. The largest font size on Kindle is bigger.
  3. Support for Audible audiobooks.
  4. You can get a Kindle Lighted Case for $60 that draws power from the Kindle itself to power a reading light built into the case.
  5. Physical keyboard. Unfortunately, the keys are tiny and there is no row for number keys.
  6. Support for .txt files. It’s extremely strange that Nook doesn’t support text files.
  7. Stereo speakers.
  8. Amazon is in much better financial condition than B&N. It is a factor worth considering – you’ll want your eReader company to be around to offer you support and to keep the bookstore and infrastructure intact.

Given that the Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader it should not be a surprise that it has a longer list of advantages.

The Kindle and the Nook each have certain critical and non-critical advantages over the other. The Kindle pulls ahead due to being newer, having better technology, and getting excellent support from Amazon and the Kindle Store. However, you should weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of Kindle and Nook yourself and figure out which is a better fit for your reading needs.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color, incremental Nook improvements

The Kindle now faces off against both the eInk based Nook 1 and the LCD based Nook Color. Not only does Amazon have to worry about Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color, it has to worry about the fact that B&N is stealing Amazon’s incremental improvement concept (kaizen).

In this post we’ll look at different facets of Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color and also at the multitude of ways in which Nook Color improves on Nook 1. It’s almost as if B&N sat down for a Kaizen training session with Mr. Bezos and then started working on Nook Color.

Nook vs Kindle – The gap is narrower

A few weeks ago the Nook 1.5 software upgrade was announced. It might not seem like much but it addresses some areas in which Kindle was hammering Nook -

  1. Now you can sync your place in a book across Nooks and Nook reading apps. This adds a lot of convenience and now Nook has a feature that a lot of Kindle owners love. 
  2. The ‘My Shelves’ feature is the equivalent of the Kindle’s Folders feature. This is another big Kindle advantage that B&N has negated.
  3. Password protect your Nook. Yet another Kindle feature that Nook was missing and isn’t any more. 
  4. Faster Page Turns – Still not as fast as Kindle but noticeably less slow than before. 
  5. B&N also mentions Improved Search but it’s still not very good.

While B&N has been doing this Amazon has started sending out games from the Kindle App Store and has announced that it will add the lending feature. The lending feature is a bit of a big deal when it comes to selling Kindles and Nooks.

However, the real impact would be adding ePub support and/or support for library books. That’s still missing and that’s still Nook’s main advantage over the Kindle.

B&N has also added two pluses in the recent months -

  1. It’s done a lot in terms of increasing retail availability and making sure Nooks are actually available – it’s even available at WalMart now. Kindles are available at Target, Staples, and Best Buy but only in theory – multiple stores are claiming they get only 2 Kindles a day and lots of users have complained about not being able to find Kindles in stock.
  2. In the Nook 1.5 upgrade B&N added the ability to password protect your purchases. This is a feature the Kindle is missing.

B&N has improved the Nook more since Kindle 3 came out than Amazon has improved the Kindle 3. That should be very worrying to Amazon because two of its strengths are constant incremental improvements and reacting very quickly to rival’s improvements.

Is Kindle 3 better than Nook 1? Yes, it’s got the eInk screen and lots of improvements and a faster processor and an easier user interface and faster page turns. However, the gap is a lot less than when Kindle 3 first came out and Nook 1’s retail availability is a lot better.

You can’t let a last generation product compete with you – Amazon has the opportunity to blow away Nook 1 and it ought to go all-out.

Where’s the Kindle 3.5 upgrade with better PDF support and support for library books? Where’s the next killer Kindle WhisperNet feature? What is Amazon waiting for – Has it assumed the battle is already won?

Kindle vs Nook Color – Different devices with an intersecting market slice

Just finished a Kindle vs Nook Color Review and comparing the Kindle 3 and the Nook Color head to head was very revealing.

  1. Firstly, there are just as many improvements in Nook Color (over Nook 1) as there are in Kindle 3 (over Kindle 2). Amazon is the software magic company with its lead in Cloud services and its infinitely scalable website and all its optimization algorithms – How on Earth is B&N managing to keep up? Why is Amazon not able to pull away?
  2. Secondly, the Nook Color manages to be a better choice for people who read around a book a month. That’s very, very significant. It means that instead of having a market of 40 million people to itself the Kindle only has a market of 20 million people to itself.

The latter was a very stunning realization. The Kindle is undoubtedly the best option for people who read more than a book a month. However, Nook Color edges out the Kindle when it comes to people who read 1 book a month or less. It also edges out iPad.

If Nook Color takes off, and it might, that’ll give B&N the financial strength and morale boost it needs to make a really good Nook 2 and a really good Nook 3.

A Kindle Color or a Kindle Tablet is sorely needed. The whole Kindle Reading Apps strategy is a trap – It seemed like Amazon was getting something for nothing and then B&N came out with a reading tablet and started eating up the casual reader market. Kindle Reading Apps should be add-ons that go out alongside a Kindle Tablet and a Kindle Phone – not replacements.

Nook vs Nook Color – Kaizen at the level of Amazon

You could argue that B&N made a fundamental mistake by choosing LCD over eInk. However, it ends up with a device perfect for casual readers.

Apart from the LCD choice B&N doesn’t make very many mistakes – In fact it improves things across the board.

  1. In the main menu B&N gets rid of ‘The Daily’ and ‘Reading Now’ tabs and rolls the ‘Games’ and ‘Audio’ tabs into a section called Extras. It also puts the ‘WiFi’ tab into the Settings Tab. The result is that there are now 6 main tabs in the Nook Color Main Menu and it fits on the screen. It makes the most important menu on the Nook Color a lot easier to use.
  2. B&N went from having almost no search to devoting an entire tab to search and making the Search an ‘instant’ search. It’s really very good and uses the touchscreen very well.
  3. Instead of a ‘LCD-eInk marriage from hell’ we now have a very well done Touch Interface. It’s not silky smooth – it’s just easy to use.
  4. The keyboard is so much better it’s a pleasure to use compared to the Nook 1’s ‘type the wrong keys constantly’ keyboard.
  5. Nook Color replaces whatever super slow processor and buggy code the Nook 1 had with a 800 MHz processor and code that’s reasonably fast.
  6. Nook Color uses an IPS LCD screen. That’s ridiculously good for a $250 device. Using LCD instead of eInk hurts reading but not as much if it’s a very high quality LCD screen. It also has much better pixel density than the iPad and about the same pixel density as Kindle.
  7. The Design is a big improvement. It could have used a few more buttons but it does a lot of things right design-wise including getting rid of the all-white casing of the Nook 1.
  8. The browser is really very good and uses the touch screen well – It’s instantly much better than the original Nook’s decentish browser.
  9. It makes the home page customizable and gives users 3 home screens they can set-up any way they like. That’s a great touch because who wants a boring list of hard to arrange book titles like the Nook 1 had.
  10. Nook Color makes lending very easy by including a LendMe Network App. Nook 1 owners had to use Internet forums and keep track of things themselves. Now users can just use their Nook Color’s LendMe App – though they still have to find other Nook owners on the Internet.
  11. Sluggish page turns on Nook 1 versus instant page turns on Nook Color.
  12. Need for a reading light on Nook 1 versus back-lit screen on Nook Color.

Perhaps Kindle 3 had a similar or larger number of improvements – However, Nook Color was working from such a poor base (Nook 1’s software and usability were both terrible) that its improvements seem more impactful.

Please Note that someone who hasn’t used Nook 1 might find the Nook Color less impressive. It’s not as smooth as iPad and that’s actually OK as it’s half the price. Whether or not you’ve used Nook 1 you’ll find Nook Color impressive for the price. If you love reading, the Kindle is still the right choice – However, Nook Color is a better choice for people who ‘read once in a while’.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color – Amazon needs to move quickly and make BIG changes

Amazon is faced with a unique and unexpected challenge. Nook Color represents a threat that wasn’t supposed to materialize until the 7″ iPad 2 arrived in early 2011. It’s a 7″ LCD screen device that’s actually focused on reading and does a decent job. It also comes in at $250.

At the same time the Nook 1 has improved enough that the Kindle 3’s complete domination of the dedicated eReader market no longer seems guaranteed.

Here are 5 completely unsolicited suggestions Amazon should consider -

  1. Stop being complacent. A lot of people stopped thinking about the Nook once the Kindle 3 came out – think that extends to Amazon. In customers’ eyes things like support for library books and support for other book stores makes the Nook 1 a legitimate contender.
  2. Be proactive instead of reactive – Why isn’t Amazon the one coming out with a ‘reading tablet’? Why isn’t it bundling physical books with ebooks? Why is it not sending out software updates every 2 months?
  3. Focus on winning the eReader battle rather than winning the ‘who sells more ebooks’ battle. Ultimately, the company that wins the eReader battle will have the eBooks market to itself.
  4. Stop depending on Kindle Reading Apps. It’s lunacy to promote another device in TV ads and to start depending on devices that other companies control. Amazon should think about how tightly it runs its own platform and whether it would sell a B&N reading app and then wonder why it’s assuming other companies will keep giving it a free ride.
  5. Beat Nook and Sony Reader on device and software as thoroughly as Amazon beats them on book store and services. Sony Reader 350 is lighter, more compact, has touch, and looks better than Kindle WiFi – that should be unacceptable to Amazon. Kindle needs to be a better eReader than the Sony even when you strip away the book store and infrastructure supporting it.
  6. Make sure no one beats Amazon at its core strength i.e. incremental improvement. If Nook 1 manages to improve in 4 key areas Amazon should have a software update out within a month that improves Kindle 3 in 10 key areas.
  7. Add Revolutionary to its evolutionary (incremental improvements) greatness. B&N is taking a big chance with a ‘reading tablet’ that might end up in a big empty pit between Tablets and Dedicated eReaders – or it might create a new market. Amazon really should be taking chances like this. Sooner or later a reading device that has a fresh new approach is going to beat dedicated eReaders or carve up the market – might as well be a device from the Kindle family.

All of this brings to mind 2009 when Amazon sat on its Kindle lead and did nothing until Nook 1 arrived with PDF support and the fancy navigation touchscreen and jolted Amazon out of its slumber.

With rapid improvements to Kindle 2 (like adding PDF support within weeks of the Nook announcement) and by releasing a ‘better across the board’ Kindle 3 Amazon showed it can fight back. However, it’s gone back to sleep. This time, instead of being aware of the danger Nook Color and Nook 1.5 pose and waking up, it’s taking the easy way out and assuming that B&N has killed itself.

Nook Color is eating away at the casual reader market and Nook 1 is clipping at the Kindle 3’s heels. Both are very real threats and no amount of ‘We’re No. 1 and B&N is probably financially insolvent’ sentiment is going to change that. Add on the Press’ non-stop love-fest for a certain Tablet and you have a very hard next 9 months for the Kindle.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color is not a fight Amazon can win over the long term – It needs a Kindle Tablet, it needs a lot of software improvements, and it needs a color eInk Kindle 4. It also needs them yesterday – though within the next 6 months would probably work. The Kindle is under threat on all fronts and it’s time Amazon started acting like it.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review

The Kindle is an eInk based dedicated reading device and the Nook Color is a LCD based Reading Tablet – This makes a Kindle vs Nook Color Review a very tricky proposition.

If you read 2 or more books a month then the Kindle is the better choice. If you read less than 1 book a month then Nook Color is a better choice.

This Kindle vs Nook Color Review is relevant only to people who read around 1 book a month or those who don’t know whether they should get a device dedicated to reading (Kindle) or a device focused on reading (Nook Color).

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Reviewing Nook Color’s advantages

Nook Color comes in with a huge list of advantages over the Kindle (some of which don’t necessarily apply to reading) -

  1. It has a beautiful 7″ color screen which makes little difference for books but a lot of difference for children’s books and magazines. The screen also has slightly higher pixel density (169 ppi) than the Kindle’s screen (167 ppi). The screen is an IPS screen so it’s really good.
  2. Nook Color has touch which is a good feature to have for usability and for games and surfing. Web surfing in particular really benefits from the touchscreen.
  3. At $249 it provides better value for money than Kindle 3 ($189) – though not better value than Kindle WiFi ($139).
  4. Nook Color supports library books and ePub. A pretty significant advantage if you depend on Library books.
  5. It has a microSD card slot which lets you expand the memory (you can switch memory cards so in theory there’s unlimited memory). It also has larger on-board memory (8 GB) compared to the Kindle (4 GB).
  6. It has password protection on purchases. Kindle really needs this feature.
  7. Nook Color supports Word and Office files. This includes the old and new formats of Word (doc, docx), Powerpoint (ppt, pps, pptx, ppsx), and Excel.
  8. Nook Color has better PDF support.
  9. Nook Color has limited video format support – only MP4 video.
  10. It looks better than Kindle – a part of it is having a color screen, another part is a streamlined and unique design.
  11. Once B&N lets apps in there will be a lot to do – Apps will be able to use the color, touch, sound, accelerometer, and other features to great effect.
  12. Nook Color has an accelerometer so you can choose to have the orientation switch automatically.
  13. It lets you set up your own home screen and arrange objects on it and change their size. It also lets you set up your own custom wallpaper.
  14. There’s lending (one time only per book, for at most 14 days) if Publishers have enabled it for the book. It’s a limited feature but it does add value – Kindle will add it later this year.
  15. You can root the Nook Color i.e. strip away the B&N controls and layer. That means you can go to the underlying Android OS and use Nook Color as an Android Tablet with Android Apps. This does require technical savvy and voids your warranty so it’s not for everyone.
  16. Nook Color supports AAC and MP3 format music files while Kindle only supports MP3 format. Nook actually has a complete music player with support for playlists, shuffling, repeat, and more. Nook Color also has the Pandora music streaming app.
  17. B&N Store related features. You get free WiFi in B&N stores and can read any book for free for up to an hour a day. This is a feature that Publishers can disable.
  18. It has a back-light so you can read it in low-light conditions without needing a clip-on reading light. Please note that this affects some people’s sleep patterns so if you feel you aren’t sleeping as well once you start reading books on LCD screens at night it might a good idea to stop.
  19. Nook Color’s document organization section gives you more options in terms of separating books you buy from your own documents and in terms of letting you view books and magazines and newspapers separately. If you like book shelves the Nook Color has a Shelves feature that lets you arrange your books into shelves. 
  20. Nook Color has a choice of 6 different fonts and 6 different themes (night view, Sepia, etc.). Kindle only has 3 variants of Caecilia font and doesn’t really have themes.
  21. Nook Color just lets you do a lot more things – Touch and Color make Web surfing much better than on Kindle, the DRM’ed ePub support lets you buy books from other stores and get books from libraries, the games look better with color and are easier to play because of touch, photos obviously looks better, some video formats are supported.

The Nook Color is a very impressive Tablet and it does a decent job of focusing on reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Reviewing Kindle’s advantages

Kindle focuses on providing an uncompromised reading experience and it does a great job of it. It has lots of advantages over the Nook Color -

  1. The eInk screen is great for reading. It’s just like reading print on paper and doesn’t hurt your eyes and works in bright sunlight. If you are LCD-incompatible then there’s little doubt – You should get a Kindle.
  2. There’s a focus on reading and distractions are minimized. Kindle is terrible at everything other than reading – So the path of least resistance is to read books.
  3. It’s much easier to get lost in a book on the Kindle – This goes beyond the distractions aspect. In 2 weeks with Nook Color have only read Alice in Wonderland and that’s a small book.
  4. The Kindle Store is the best ebook store with the widest selection of new books and the best ebook prices. 
  5. Kindle WhisperNet provides a lot of great add-on services like synchronizing your place in a book and synchronizing notes and highlights.
  6. Kindle has incredible battery life (10 days with wireless on, a month with wireless off) while Nook Color battery life is just 8 hours with wireless off.
  7. Kindle is very light and compact. At 8.7 ounces it’s much lighter than Nook Color (15.8 ounces).
  8. Kindle 3 has both 3G and WiFi while Nook Color only has WiFi. 3G wireless is free in areas with AT&T network coverage and includes store browsing and Internet browsing.
  9. Kindle is available internationally and there are over 100 countries with Kindle WhisperNet coverage – For US Kindle owners this means free store browsing and free Internet over 3G in all these countries.
  10. Kindle has Text to Speech – this is a great feature. Publishers can turn it off and some do (40% to 50%) – However, the rest don’t. It also works on documents you add yourself but not on PDFs.
  11. Kindle supports Audible format for audiobooks – Nook Color doesn’t.
  12. Kindle has stereo speakers while Nook has a mono speaker.
  13. Kindle, thanks to the Kindle App store, has more games than Nook Color. Nook Color comes with Chess, Sudoku, and Crosswords while Kindle has Scrabble, Solitaire, Sudoku, Mahjong Solitaire, Texas Hold’em Poker, and a few more.
  14. Kindle is cheaper. You can get the Kindle WiFi for just $139 while Kindle 3 is $189.
  15. Kindle has a largest font size that is much larger than Nook Color’s largest font size. It also has more font size options (8 vs 6 for Nook Color).
  16. Kindle is simpler to use – things like searching the Kindle Store and purchasing Kindle books are very straightforward. Nook Color does have a nifty ‘instant’ search feature for on-Nook searches.
  17. Kindle works in bright sunlight and bright lighting conditions. Despite the ‘glare reducing layer’ the Nook Color isn’t readable in bright sunlight or under bright lights.

The Kindle is clearly better for reading and for focusing on reading. It is definitely not a Tablet and is not suited for anything other than reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – the Kindle is dedicated to reading

The most crucial thing about the Kindle is that it’s completely dedicated to reading – If you want to read more or if you read a lot already and want a device that’s completely dedicated to reading then Kindle is the right choice.

Here are a few key things about the Kindle -

  1. Everything revolves around reading. The eInk screen is perfect for reading. The free 3G Internet access and Wikipedia access is more tailored to reference than to browsing. All the add-on features are add-ons to reading.
  2. Amazon focuses on providing an excellent eBook Store which you can access over 3G. It provides reading related features like syncing your place in a book across Kindles and Kindle apps. There are Kindle Reading Apps for other platforms so you can read even when your Kindle is not with you.
  3. Amazon has stuck with eInk and stayed dedicated to reading.

If you like to read or would like to read more Kindle is a good choice. If you love to read it’s a great choice.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Nook Color is a Tablet focused on reading

The Nook Color is a reading Tablet – to be more precise it’s a Tablet that does a few things to keep the focus on reading.

  1. It uses Android as the underlying OS but has built a layer over Android which is focused on reading. The main focus is on your books and your Documents Library and on the B&N Nook Store.
  2. There’s a LCD screen but it has a special layer over it to reduce glare. It doesn’t really make much of a difference but it’s nice that B&N tried.
  3. There will be a Nook App Store but it seems that only reading focused apps will be allowed in.

B&N have kept a tight focus on the reading capability of the Nook Color. This, however, doesn’t change a few facts -

  1. Nook Color is fundamentally a Tablet and a very capable one.
  2. Things like browsing are great because you have a 7″ touchscreen in color.
  3. It’s just as good for games and photos and surfing as it is for reading.

In a sense B&N is taking a multi-purpose Tablet and doing minor hardware changes (special anti-glare layer) and some sizeable software and policy changes (reading oriented top software layer, focus on reading apps) to create a device that is focused on reading and better than iPad and Tablets for readers.

The $250 price is also a key part of this ‘reading tablet’ strategy.

If you think a device should do more than just read while also providing a decent reading experience the Nook Color is the perfect device for you.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Conclusion

The grey area was – Which is the better device for readers who read 1 book a month?

After doing this Kindle vs Nook Color review it seems that the Nook Color is.

Kindle is clearly the better choice if you read more than 1 book a month, if you want to read more, or if you want an uncompromised reading experience. It’s a device dedicated to reading and provides the absolute best reading experience.

Nook Color is perfect for casual readers. If you read 1 book or less a month or if you want a device that is good for reading and can also do other things well then Nook Color is a great choice.

If you have the Kindle and Nook Color side by side you’ll almost always prefer to read on the Kindle. The worrying thing for Amazon is that Nook Color is better or much better for pretty much everything other than reading books and buying books.

The Kindle wins out in this Kindle vs Nook Color Review when it comes to pure reading experience and suitability for reading. The minute you expand into reading plus anything else the Nook Color pulls ahead.

Kindle vs Nook thoughts 2010

It’s interesting that the Kindle now has to take on two different types of Nooks.

Here are some Kindle vs Nook thoughts keeping the whole Kindle vs Nook vs Nook Color context in mind.

Kindle vs Nook Thoughts 2010

  1. Kindle vs Nook is now the defining eReader comparison because Sony Readers are priced too high. Kindle 3 has to take on the Nook 1 which is more than a bit unfair.
  2. Nooks continue to sell because of ePub and library book support, more retail visibility and availability, and lending. Amazon is going to bring lending to Kindles by end 2010 but there’s little it can do about the other two factors.
  3. The theory that Nook might have stretched B&N too thin might have truth to it but it’s not like B&N had another option.
  4. Kindle vs Nook Color is an important comparison for casual and semi-casual readers.
  5. B&N is cutting sales in half (perhaps even by 75%) by painting Nook Color as just a reading tablet. The magicians at Nook Devs might save them by rooting it and allowing people to convert their Nook Color into an Android Tablet.
  6. For people who keep complaining about reading at night and the lack of a backlight on the Kindle the Nook Color is suddenly a great option.
  7. Nook Color’s price is very impressive. If iPad is really worth $499 then Nook Color is easily worth $399. Wonder how much of a loss B&N is taking on each Nook Color.
  8. B&N really needs a Nook 2 and Kindle really needs a Kindle Tablet.
  9. It’s strange that Amazon would add lending (which hardly anyone brings up) and leave out support for library books which always comes up.
  10. It might seem counter-intuitive but B&N would really, really benefit if they let in Kindle for Android. Perhaps they strike a deal with Amazon to get 10% of book revenue. It isn’t necessary though – even if they let Amazon keep the ebook revenue they will sell so many additional Nook Colors by providing an option of ebook readers that it’ll be well worth it.
  11. It’s interesting that the Kindle App has become a selling point for both iPad and Android tablets.

It’s so strange and at the same time it’s very true that adding Kindle for Android would increase Nook Color sales 50%. Open it up to be a Tablet and sales would double. Have to do a separate post about this. B&N is sitting on the largest reserve of tablet gold and instead it wants to mine for eReader silver.

Will the App Stores play a role?

Both the Kindle App Store and the Nook App Store (initially only for Nook Color) could play a vital role.

Indications are that neither will.

For Nook Color the App Store is the lifeline. Right now the Nook Color is the perfect tablet but it’s missing apps. You can read – However, having Netflix and some of the better apps would add so much to it.

For the Kindle there are two camps – Apps aren’t needed, Apps are needed. It seems the former camp is winning out so all we get are apps for in-between reading. Which is perfectly OK. People bought Kindles to read – not to see marvellous transformations – and they won’t mind if they miss out on some amazing things.

For the Nook Color – it’s not. There’s so much there that screams the device isn’t an eReader and B&N is curbing the device’s natural tendencies.

Here’s a snippet from Paul Graham’s essay on Tablets -

It has turned out to be a great thing that Apple tablets have accelerometers in them. Developers have used the accelerometer in ways Apple could never have imagined.

That’s the nature of platforms. The more versatile the tool, the less you can predict how people will use it. So tablet makers should be thinking: what else can we put in there? Not merely hardware, but software too. What else can we give developers access to? Give hackers an inch and they’ll take you a mile.

A perfect example of using the accelerometer in an amazingly impressive way is SleepCycle which uses the accelerometer to monitor your sleep cycles and wakes you up when you are in your light sleep phase.

It works – if you have an iPhone or iPad you really, really should try it. It’s actually magical – not marketing-magical.

There’s no way on earth Apple could have imagined that an app like SleepCycle could be conceived – let alone executed almost perfectly.

You have to give hackers that inch so they can create their masterpieces.

Kindle vs Nook – What will 2011 bring?

  1. If B&N can survive the burden its financial investments in Nook 1 and Nook Color have put on it, and make it through end 2011, it’ll be very well placed.
  2. Nook Color has the potential to sell 10 million units in 2011. It’s easily better value for money than iPad and if you are a casual reader it’s better value for money than Kindle 3 (though not Kindle WiFi).
  3. Amazon desperately needs a Color Kindle or a Kindle Tablet. This probably won’t be clear until B&N announces 3 million Nook Colors sold in mid 2011. At that point it might be too late.
  4. Nook Store continues to struggle – it’s just not as easy to use as the Kindle Store. B&N has done a decent job of reducing the book price difference between the two stores but the selection still needs to improve and the service and usability really, really needs to improve.
  5. Amazon has been complacent. It’s really hard to believe that if you look at all the improvements in Kindle 3. However, it’s 3 years since the Kindle 1 and we don’t have color or for that matter unbreakable screens or touchscreens. In its mastery of kaizen and incremental improvements it’s missing the big technological breakthrough that will transform Kindle into a must-have for every single person.
  6. Amazon’s dependency on eInk is probably its biggest weakness. If it doesn’t develop a Kindle using another technology soon it’ll be stuck.
  7. Amazon should try to buy B&N. It’s going to be a lot cheaper now – If Nook Color takes off the option might be gone.
  8. Is there something about almost-death that makes a company stronger? Is it just survivorship bias?

This post is getting too long and what I really want to write about is Nook Color. So that’s it for now.

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