Reason why Kindle is winning and Nook isn’t

Mike Cane at iPad Test has been a vocal detractor of the Kindle. More in the vein of the super intelligent Nicholson Baker than the brain-dead Press that cobble together ingredients like a cook at a cheap diner. 

He has, however, recently conceded that Amazon is pretty likely to win the eBook war – thanks in part to Kindle Apps. It’s a bit surprising since it doesn’t seem that clear-cut to me – especially since we’re waiting for The Settlement and for Google Editions.

Well, Mike Cane recently wrote a very interesting post about why Kindle is winning and Nook will lose. He based this on his experience with Kindle for PC. In particular he was very impressed by –

  1. Amazon letting users download a free book without entering credit card information.
  2. Amazon’s free copy of a Sherlock Holmes book having the sole italicized word in the entire series correctly italicized.

The first point is the one that’s critical since B&N demands credit card information before they will let a user download a free book.

Which brings us to the topic of this post – Is this an isolated incident or is there a pattern of Amazon consistently outpacing the Nook?

Reason Kindle is winning

Most of what we discuss here can be found in a past post covering Nook owners’ most requested features.

Consider some of the painfully obvious things Nook misses out on and Kindle doesn’t – Folders (though to be fair Kindle only got this recently), Landscape Mode, PDF resizing options, screen refresh to remove ghosting, there’s no way to move highlights and notes to your PC with Nook, store purchased documents and personal documents are in separate folders and have separate capabilities on Nook (no cover flow for personal documents, search is limited).

There are other things which highlight that B&N haven’t put in as much thought – Nook has page turns that are noticeably slower than the Kindle (it adds up when you have 400 page turns per book), there are no Nook owner reviews on the Nook product page, the synchronization across apps isn’t fully baked.

It’s not all Kindle – Nook does have some solid advantages over the Kindle. However, there’s a strong pattern in the disadvantages. B&N did not make an effort to make things easier for the user.

Nook doesn’t make things easy for users

This pattern is even more pronounced when you consider day-to-day usability – highlighting and taking notes on the Nook is torture, the Menus require too many steps for every function, page turns using the touchscreen are hard to do, and it’s easy to accidentally press the home button or the wrong button on the touchscreen.

There seems to be very little thought put into how users would actually use the Nook.

A single disadvantage by itself doesn’t seem much. However, add them all together and add on the occasional bug and the rare case of freezing and suddenly your experience with Nook is full of frustration.

Amazon makes the Kindle Store and the Kindle the path of least resistance

Consider what Mike Cane writes –

I can totally understand why new eBook users would turn to Amazon over everyone else now.

Amazon doesn’t throw up any speed bumps. The entire process is smooth and anxiety-free,

And when I found out I didn’t have to give up financial information for a free book, that turned the smooth experience into one that was outright delightful.

We’ve stumbled upon the reason Kindle is winning. Amazon has made the Kindle and the Kindle Store the path of least resistance. Customers get maximum value/satisfaction with minimum effort and close to zero friction. There is no ‘give us your credit card for the free book’ malarchy. There is no ‘press 27 buttons to change font size’ torture. There is no ‘buy our device or you can’t read the book you bought’ myopia.   

Amazon are making things so simple for users that it’s delightful and that makes for an unbeatable competitive advantage.

You can’t beat Easy + Valuable by piling up Features

A LCD screen sounds delightful. However, what use is it if it makes the interface and the device slow?

Would customers rather have an extra LCD screen or would they rather have an easier to use device? The correct answer is probably both – However, Nook’s LCD screen becomes a disadvantage because it makes everything slow.

B&N is thinking too much from the angle of – ‘What will sell more Nooks?’ without considering the perspective of – ‘What will create the easiest and most delightful experience for users?’

Kindle vs Nook is a study in contrasting philosophies

The philosophy on which Kindle seems to be built is – Add lots of value to users, build lots of channels, make things super easy for users.

The philosophy on which Nook seems to be built is – Add lots of features that will sell Nook, target gaps in the Kindle.

Yet, B&N is missing the fact that lots of the gaps in the Kindle are by design. It’s not that Amazon didn’t think of a LCD screen – its patent shows it did. Amazon probably realized that mixing an eInk screen with a LCD screen would be a disaster. It’s not that Kindle couldn’t have had an on-screen keyboard – it’s that it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that taking notes on a tiny on-screen keyboard is immensely painful.

At some level it’s easy to understand why the Kindle is so much easier to use – Amazon has put a lot of thought into the Kindle. It started working on the Kindle in 2004. Nook simply reacted to the Kindle and released the Nook in around a year. While the Nook is remarkably good for something cobbled together in a year the extra years of thought and effort put in to the Kindle are clearly apparent.


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