Kindle 2.5 vs Nook 1.5, odious eReader comparisons

As the Kindle 3 and its eInk Pearl screen march onwards B&N and Sony aren’t sitting still.

B&N has released the Nook Color and yesterday released the Nook 1.5 software upgrade. Sony has cut the prices on its ‘we compete on quality, not price’ Sony Readers and is adding apps to iPhone and Android in December.

What significance do these moves have?

Let’s start by reviewing Nook’s multi-faceted moves attacking the Kindle.

Color Nook, Nook 1.5, and $100 Nook 1 as Nook takes on Kindle

The three big moves are Nook Color, Nook 1.5 upgrade, and the $100 Black Friday Nook Deal.

Is Nook 1.5 a worthy competitor to Kindle 3 and Kindle 2.5?

Sort of. Here are the updates in the Nook 1.5 software upgrade with my comments in italics –

  1. Automatically sync last page read across Nooks and Nook Apps. Kindle has had this for a long time.   
  2. Create and organize ‘shelves’. Matches the Kindle’s Folders feature.  
  3. Password protect your Nook and password protect purchases. The former matches a Kindle 3 feature which is also present in Kindle 2.5. The latter isn’t available for any Kindle and is a great feature.
  4. Faster page turns. It’s about time – will have to check if page turns are as fast as on Kindle 2.5.  
  5. Search books and documents easily. Again, it’s about time.

So 5 out of the 6 additions (counting the two different password protection features as separate additions) translate into Nook adding features already present in Kindle 2.5 and Kindle 3 and closing the gap a bit. The 6th feature (password protecting purchases) is a very good feature and something Kindle needs desperately.

Nook 1.5 update doesn’t make Nook better than Kindle 3 or even Kindle 2 – However, it closes the gap a bit.

Kindle 2.5 vs Nook 1.5 – Not Much has Changed

Nook adds Folders, makes page turns faster, and improves search. That’s probably balanced by Amazon adding Lending by end 2010 and beginning to trickle out Kindle Apps.

Nook adds syncing for last page read but WhisperNet syncs highlights and notes.

Nook does close the gap with its password protect feature for purchases. Amazon’s probably just happy to not impede the purchase process in any way.

The net result of B&N’s big, huge 1.5 upgrade is that it’s managed to reduce the gap between Nook 1 and Kindle marginally.

People are still going to pick B&N’s Nook for ePub support, library book support, in-store browsing at B&N stores, and for the mini-screen at the bottom. People are still going to pick the Kindle for text to speech, Kindle Store book prices, free Internet, great customer service, and the other Kindle advantages. Kindle 3 has the eInk Pearl screen and is much faster and much lighter and has better battery life and is going to get picked a lot more often than Nook 1 or Kindle 2.

$100 Nook 1 trumped by $89 Kindle 2

Not much to say here. Amazon always does this – spoils B&N’s November and December parties.

Nook Color – Odious Comparisons and B&N’s surprise star Tablet

Nook Color is an entirely different and surprising beast – B&N has either managed to combine the worst of the eReader and Tablet worlds or it has managed to craft something that straddles these worlds perfectly.

The Nook Color reviews so far are split – The more tech-savvy the person the more they feel Nook Color won’t work out. Which matches almost exactly the reaction to the first Kindle – book purists and tech experts hated it. It should give B&N hope that Nook Color has polarized opinions so strongly – Apple people and the tech intelligentsia are attacking it only because they feel threatened.

Kindle and Nook Color aren’t really competing except for a tiny intersection/overlap between regular readers and casual readers. In the narrow intersection of those two groups is a thin slice of readers who can’t decide whether an Android Tablet with a LCD screen is better for them or a dedicated eReader with an eInk Pearl screen.

Nook Color vs (Kindle Reading Apps + iPad/iPhone/Android smartphones)

The real competition is between Nook Color and the device that casual readers currently read on. To be more precise Nook Color is primarily competing with the iPhone+Kindle for iPhone combination and the Android Smartphone+ Kindle for Android combination.

Kindle’s advantage is that it is leading on nearly every platform. Nook Color’s advantage is that every casual reader who picks Nook Color gets locked into the Nook ecosystem.

It’s the strangest sort of war because it’s hard to pin down exactly who/which device is competing with what/which device.

Sony Reader tries to remind people it’s still around

Sony is making three moves of its own – Sony Reader Daily Edition ships November 26th, there are price cuts on Sony Reader 350 and 650, and Sony Reader apps for iPhone and Android launch in December.

Sony Reader Daily Edition – Did anyone know it was coming out?

There was a comment asking about it. That’s the only mention of the Daily Edition in the last 3-4 weeks.

Did you know it was available for preorder? That there’s a $50 price-cut and it’s $250 now?

Neither did I.

Sony hasn’t been paying attention to the US. It doesn’t take much effort to get the blogs and newspaper sites to write about an eReader – If eReaders that aren’t even in production can get buzz why not an eReader that is 3 days away from launch?

It’s disappointing because instead of forcing Amazon and B&N to innovate faster Sony is doing next to nothing.

Sony sticks to quality over price – Well, Actually

After a long speech on how its going to focus on quality over price Sony has cut the prices of the Sony Reader 650 and 350 by $30 each.

Why didn’t Sony release at these price points?

90% of people considering an eReader would have considered the touch-capable, eInk Pearl screen enriched, rather good-looking 350 and 650 if they had been $150 and $200 at launch.

Instead Sony priced itself out of the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony equation completely.

1 year and 9 months after Kindle for iPhone we get Sony Reader for iPhone

Kindle for iPhone was launched in March 2009 which itself was a bit late to tap into the iPhone casual reader market. Sony is going to launch Sony Reader apps for iPhone and Android in December 2010.

Think about it – We have the eReader Wars going on and Sony took 1 year and 9 months to tap into what is arguably the most important channel to reach casual readers.

It’s down to Kindle vs Nook

Sony can pretend it’s focusing on Europe or Atlantis or whatever market it likes – It’s doing nothing of consequence.

If you’re in love with the Sony Reader – it’s a good choice. It’s a beautiful eReader.

The only problem is that it’s made by a company that doesn’t seem to want to sell books or help people get books. Sony wants to get $150 for the Sony Reader 350 and then wash its hands off – No infrastructure like WhisperNet, no in-store features like B&N, and no reading apps for other platforms. On top of that Sony Reader Store’s book prices are terrible when compared to Kindle Store and Nook Store.

For all practical purposes Kindle vs Nook vs Sony Reader is down to Kindle vs Nook.

The twist is that by introducing Nook Color and not updating Nook 1 B&N has thrust Kindle vs Nook into some sort of strange space-time-eReader continuum where it’s unlikely you’ll ever be seriously considering more than one of Kindle and Nook Color and where the Nook 1 is trapped in the ‘previous generation eReader’ black hole.

Amazon needs a Color Kindle or a Kindle Tablet to compete with Nook Color and B&N needs to compete with the Kindle 3 by releasing a Nook 2 with an eInk Pearl screen.

What effect does the availability of larger font sizes have?

The new supersize fonts in Kindle 2.5 have completely thrown me off my choice of favorite font size setting. The first thing is that now it seems that the 3rd sized font (from the bottom) is way too small and the 4th sized font is too big – neither works perfectly. The second thing is having those two huge sized fonts makes you rethink what you thought of the earlier fonts.

Let me explain using two examples –

  1. My roommate in London used to read websites using a pretty large-sized font. After noticing that and using his laptop a few times my own choice of font went up by a size. It was almost as if my eyes and brain realized that larger fonts can be more comfortable or perhaps they just liked the change.
  2. Reading a long article on a site or blog using a larger font instantly makes the font on other blogs and sites seem miniscule and unreadable. The effect persists – it’s not just a 5 minutes to refocus the eyes thing. It makes you realize there are options and that it might be worth exercising them.

The bigger the font size the larger the impact on the small font sizes.

Supersize Fonts make the Smaller Fonts seem too small

The supersize fonts have turned the two smallest font sizes on the Kindle into miniscule ones. The 2nd and 3rd font sizes used to be my favorite settings and now both seem too small. That should have translated into the 4th size font seeming the perfect fit but it doesn’t – the 4th setting still seems to be on the big side.

It’s great for people with low vision that there are now 2 super size fonts. Yet those two fonts do have an effect on the other fonts – it’s the law of unintended consequences.

The knee jerk reaction would be to add new font sizes between font sizes 3 and 4 and between font sizes 4 and 5 – That would probably cause other problems. Perhaps a sliding scale is the solution – However, then you wouldn’t know exactly where on the scale you were.

The 3 largest font sizes are much more readable in low light conditions

It’s probably the combination of the larger sizes, the darker font, the better screen contrast, and whatever new smoothing Amazon does – The 3 largest font sizes are quite readable in low light conditions. Much more so than the largest Kindle font sizes were before Kindle 2.5. Combine it with the slightly faster screen refreshes and the 3rd largest font size becomes a very viable low-light reading font.

Of course, it isn’t a backlit screen. However, it does increase the range of lighting conditions in which you can read on your Kindle.

Is more choice a good thing?

Let’s forget about low vision people for a moment. For them this change is obviously a great one.

What about someone who can read on all settings – Is it better to have 8 font size options (as compared to the earlier 6)?

Don’t really think so. It almost makes you wish the font size setting was on a separate page or was a sliding scale so that those two huge fonts didn’t tower over everything else. It also makes the Aa button dialog huge and hide most of the screen. A few more options and it’ll be taking over the entire Kindle screen.

We also have lots and lots of things to choose from – 8 font sizes, 3 words per line settings, and 4 screen rotation settings. Add-on 10 line spacing settings and it becomes very – well, very un-Kindle like.

How about a Simple Mode?

Could Amazon just add a ‘Simple Mode’ button that hid most of this stuff?

4 font sizes instead of 8. No words per line settings. Only a keyboard short-cut for Text to Speech and no options. None of the screen rotation options – if you must have them then add-on an accelerometer and a rotation-off button.

The fancy new super size fonts should be chosen on a special page – Why muddle up the choosing process and simplicity for 95% of users to cater to the 5% that need super size fonts?

Basically this is how Kindle 2.5 is shaping up for me –

  1. Folders/Collections – Good to have feature. Still have only ‘currently reading’ books on my Kindle but they’re neatly organized into Folders.
  2. Supersize Fonts – Appreciate that they help people. They just bother me and threw me off my favorite font settings.  
  3. Twitter and Facebook – Who cares. Thankfully they are very non-intrusive.
  4. Popular Highlights – A bit intrusive but interesting to see what people liked.
  5. Sharper Fonts and darker fonts (better contrast) – Excellent and the best part of the update.
  6. Slightly faster screen refreshes – Good. 
  7. PDF pan and zoom – Don’t read PDFs so don’t care. It does prove very valuable with PDFs so it’s good for all the PDF lovers.

After all is said and done Kindle 2.5 is a pretty good update and the surprising downside is that it takes away from the simplicity of the Kindle. We really do need a simple mode that just nukes all the newer options and removes all the social sharing stuff.

Kindle 2.5 – Tips + Guide for Kindle 2.5

Please check our Tips for Kindle App for 133 Kindle 2 tips (also tips for other Kindles). It’s just $1 and has lots of neat features like a slideshow mode and option to add your own tip.

My Kindle 2 and Kindle DX finally got the Kindle 2.5 update today. This post will go through all the additions and provide you tips and a guide to get the most out of Kindle 2.5.

Kindle 2.5 Fonts – Larger Font Sizes, Better Contrast, and Sharper Fonts

The most visually striking change in Kindle 2.5 is the new font sharpness and contrast and the addition of two supersize fonts.

Screen Contrast is Much Better (for some Kindles a Little Better)

The text is darker and the contrast with the background is much better. On the Kindle 2 Global it’s absolutely striking – it seems as if the text has been bolded and the darkest dark chosen for text color. On the Kindle 2 US it’s better – However, it doesn’t seem as if the text is bolded and the background isn’t as clear. This might be due to the Kindle 2 US being from Feb 2009 and the Kindle 2 Global from March of this year.

What’s puzzling is that on the Kindle DX global the change is not as good on the Kindle 2 Global although that’s been bought this year too. Perhaps its differences in individual Kindles which would explain why some people aren’t finding a huge difference.

The net result of Kindle 2.5 font improvements on the Kindle 2 (International) is that the screen contrast is now marvellous.

Great font smoothing leading to very sharp fonts

To go with the better screen contrast we have much sharper fonts with some sort of font smoothing being used to make the Font really sharp and smooth. To see just how much work the font sharpening does change from the largest font size to the next largest – you’ll see that first the rougher font is displayed and then it’s made smooth – it all happens in a fraction of a second but you can clearly see the huge difference due to font smoothing.

30 and 40 Size SuperSize Fonts

To go with this excellent screen contrast and sharpness we have two supersized fonts. This isn’t just marketing – these fonts really are ‘supersized’. The largest font displays just 5 to 7 words per page and corresponds to Size 40 Arial in Microsoft Word. The second largest font is huge too with 8-12 words per page and is about the same as Size 30 Arial Font in Word.

Earlier the Kindle’s largest Font Size corresponded to around 20 to 22 Arial Font in Word. So this is a huge improvement and great for low vision readers.

Folders – Kindle 2.5 Collections

The star of the Kindle 2.5 update is Folders. Let’s start with the 10 key things and then drill into various Folders tips.

Top 10 Folders Tips

  1. To add a book to a Collection (Folder) press right on the 5-way when you are on the book. You’ll arrive at a page that has the book’s cover and some options. The first option will be ‘Add to Collection’. Click on it and you will be shown a page with all existing Collections and a link to Create a New Collection. You can add the book to any of the existing folders or create a new collection for it.
  2. A book can be in multiple collections. As can PDFs, documents, and audiobooks.
  3. Periodicals cannot be put into a collection. Neither can the link to your Archive. The Dictionary and the My Clippings file can be put into Collections.
  4. On the Kindle Home Page you can scroll up all the way to the top and Choose to Sort Items by a new criteria – Collections. This will show all collections you have created first and all books and documents that have not been put into a collection afterwards.
  5. When you click on a Collection you get a list of all Books and documents in the Collection. You can sort them by Title, Author, or Most Recent First. Pressing Left on the 5-way when on a book lets you delete the book from this collection. This will NOT delete the book. Pressing right shows you all the details including the ‘Add to Collection’ option.
  6. On the main page Collections are always sorted by Most Recent First.
  7. You can create a Collection on the Kindle Home Page by pressing Menu and choosing ‘Create New Collection’ from the Menu.
  8. If you move your Cursor to a collection and then press right on the 5-way you get the Collection Details Page. You can rename and delete the collection on this page. You can also add/remove items.
  9. It’s much easier to add and remove items from a collection from the Collection Details page – You can get to this page by scrolling to the Collection and pressing right on the 5-way.
  10. You can transfer Collections across Kindles. To do this from the Kindle (let’s call it the new Kindle) you want to transfer the Collections to – First go to the Archive, then click on ‘Add Collections from Other Devices’ and then click on the Kindle or Device whose Collections you want to transfer (old Kindle). Your Collections will be synchronized. Only items that are on this new Kindle will be organized. However, other items that are associated with those collections on the old Kindle will be automatically associated with the correct Collection if they are added to the new Kindle.
  11. If you associate a book with a Collection, delete it from the Kindle, then add it back – It’ll magically be associated with the same Collection.
  12. If there is a new, unread book in a collection the collection will have ‘new’ next to it.

Folders is a pretty cool feature. You can find out more about it by exploring the official Kindle forum and the Kindle Help Pages.

Various Folders related Tricks and Tips

These are all from the official Kindle forum.

First, we have Edward Boyhan’s trick for seeing Collections Alphabetically –

From anywhere you have a list of book titles displayed, use the 5-way to select one and push the five way to the right. This will bring up a detail page for that title with a book cover (if avail) on the right, and some menu options on the left. The first menu item is add to collection; select that. This will take you to a page displaying all your collections with check marks on the right which tell you which collections that particular book is a member of. You can scroll up and down; for any collection in which the book is a member, you are offered the option to remove it; for any collection in which the book is not a member, you are offered the option to add it to that collection.

Now if you look at the top line on this page, it will show something like: “Showing all 7 collections” on the left, and “By Most recent First” on the right. Scroll your 5-way to this top line, and then move the 5-way cursor to the right. You will be presented with the option to display your collections by Title as well as most recent first. If you select title, the collections will be displayed sorted by title.

You can also use the page Edward talks about to add a book to Multiple Collections in one go.

Next, we have Patti D and Fool for Books suggesting a way to see a list of Collections sorted according to your personal preference –

Put AAA, AAB, AAC, etc. at the front of Collections based on which Collections are most important to you.

You can also use special symbols like { and so forth.

~SERIES: Authors L-Z
AAA Queue
AAB Mystery
AAC Fiction

A simpler version is courtesy BobLenx –

I used only one symbol – asterisk. I start the Collection name with *** for ones I want at the top, ** for the next level down and * for the bottom level. Then sort the Kindle by TITLE and voila – Collections appear before all the books and in the order you want.

And it is very simple to edit the name of a collection and change the number of asterisks in the front to change its order in the list. As you indicated, much easier than trying to remember which symbol sorts in what order in relation to the other symbols.

Another trick (this has been mentioned before) is that you can categorize books in your archive. Download them, classify them into collections, and then delete them. Whenever you re-download them they will automatically get associated with the Collection you had chosen earlier.

Password Protection in Kindle 2.5

Kindle 2.5 takes a step in the right direction by adding password protection.

Turn on Password Protection and Set Your Password

It’s quite straightforward to turn on the feature –

  1. On your Kindle home page press Menu to bring up the Menu and then choose Settings.
  2. On the Settings Page scroll down to the bottom and click ‘turn on’ next to Device Password.
  3. You will have to enter your password twice and also have to enter a reminder clue.
  4. Please choose a password that you will not forget. Write it down somewhere and email it to yourself if possible.
  5. Now the feature is enabled.

How the feature works

Whenever your Kindle goes into screensaver mode you have to enter your password to unlock it.

When the screensaver is on the screen slide the power switch to wake the Kindle. Instead of waking the Kindle you’ll get an Enter Password message. Type in your password and press Enter to unlock your Kindle.

If you forget your password press down direction on the 5-way to bring up your password hint and the Kindle Customer Service number. If the hint reminds you of your password – Great. If not, Kindle customer service will help you to reset your Kindle. Restarting the Kindle doesn’t work – it still asks for your password.

Pros and Cons of Password Protection on the Kindle

There are some obvious advantages – No one can access your Kindle unless they figure out the password. They can’t buy any books using your account. They can’t resell your Kindle unless they get it reset through customer service – which would be pretty difficult. They would have to figure out a way to hack your Kindle to resell it or use it themselves.

It’s also cool that you can’t disable the feature unless you enter the password – It means that even if someone finds or steals your kindle when it’s in reading mode they will have to deal with the password issue sooner or later.

There are also some obvious disadvantages – People don’t really know how to contact you unless you set your password hint to your number and email. You have to enter in your password every single time you go into screensaver mode or turn off the Kindle or restart it – It gets a bit annoying.

This is definitely a good feature and hopefully it evolves over time.

PDF Pan and Zoom

Kindle 2.5 adds PDF panning and zooming to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX’s PDF Support.

How PDF Pan and Zoom works

When in a PDF press the Aa button to bring up the Font Size Menu. There will be a row at the top that will let you choose between – fit to screen, 150%, 200%, 300%, and actual size. The ‘actual size’ setting is surprisingly useful and a good setting to have.

Click on anything other than ‘fit to screen’ and the Kindle will show a block illustrating how much of the PDF you will be zooming into. Press the 5-way to zoom in. When you are zoomed in you can pan around using the 5-way. You can use the page turn buttons and they will take you to the next page with the zoom settings as they were. This is very useful.

There are two scales (on the bottom and right) showing where in the PDF page you are when zoomed in. There are little breaks along the scales indicating how much you would move if you pressed one of right/left/up/down on the 5-way. It’s very useful and a big help as you move around in the PDF – a well thought out feature. While the zoom setting is carried over during page turns your panning choices aren’t. This is a bit of a negative.

PDFs that are made to be read on huge computer screens or printed on A4 size paper will still be awkward. However, the Pan and Zoom feature, especially when combined with landscape mode, makes it possible to read small font PDFs and to view images and tables in detail.

Kindle 2.5 introduces Popular Highlights

A new feature Amazon has introduced is Popular Highlights.

  1. When in a book press Menu and the last option in the Menu will be ‘View Popular Highlights’. This will bring up a list of the most popular highlights in the book.
  2. Only highlights chosen by 3 or more readers will be shown. No personal information is revealed – so you can’t tell which three people these highlights are from and you can’t (as far as I’m aware) figure out what a person is highlighting.
  3. You can go to the Kindle’s Home Page, then press Menu, then choose Settings – On the Settings Page you could choose to turn off this feature (it’s called Popular Highlights). In case you have privacy worries or don’t find the feature useful just turn it off.

You can also view Most Popular Highlights online and see other things like most highlighted books, recently most highlighted books, and recently popular highlights. It’s an endlessly fascinating feature and it’s a lot of fun going through and seeing what books and passages people loved.

Facebook + Twitter Posts from your Kindle

Am totally the wrong person to be talking about this. Closed my Facebook account a month ago and Twitter to me is something birds do – usually way earlier in the morning than suits my sleeping habits.

Did try out Twitter and it’s sort of cool. There are currently lots of Kindle owners trying it out and sharing some rather interesting passages.

Setting up Sharing on Facebook and Twitter

From the Kindle Home Page go to the Menu and choose Settings. On the Settings Page scroll to the third option, Social Networks, and click on ‘Manage’. You’ll be taken to the browser and asked to enter user information for your Facebook account and to click on a link that takes you to a Twitter page where you enter your Twitter login information. You will then have to confirm that you do want to allow Kindle access to your account by pressing the ‘Allow’ button.

It’s a rather elaborate process – It’s just Twitter. Perhaps they should stop behaving as if we’re tweeting gold bars from Fort Knox. After you sign up you will be taken back to the browser page with Twitter and Facebook shown and you will have the option to ‘unlink’ your Kindle from your account.

It’s quite interesting that messages you share are linked back to – Free Marketing for Amazon.

Using the Social Sharing Feature

When you highlight a passage you get a tiny strip of text at the bottom that says –

Click to end highlight, Press Alt+Enter to tweet/share, Press Back to Cancel.

If you press Alt+Enter instead of pressing the 5-way you get the option to enter a message that along with a link to the highlight you chose makes up your tweet/shared message. It’s not a bad way to set things up. Once you press Submit the Kindle goes back to the text without any indication of whether the ‘Tweet/Facebook message’ went through or not.

It does show up though. The link to is there as is a #kindle tag.

The link in the tweet takes users to a page that shows the book cover, the passage you highlighted, your note/tweet, and links to your Twitter account and to the book on Amazon. Quite well done.

You can also tweet/share an existing highlight by going to it, placing the cursor on it, and then pressing Alt+Enter. You can also save and share a highlight+note combination. To do this choose ‘Save and Share’ after entering your note.

Anyways, that’s Kindle 2.5 in a giant nutshell. It’s a huge update – wonder why Amazon would add so many features all in one go and wonder what’s next.