Is Nook leaving PC and Mac to Kindle?

Courtesy of The Digital Reader (also covered by TechCrunch), we get the surprising news that B&N has stopped supporting its Nook for PC and Nook for Mac Reading Apps.

  1. B&N has ended support for Nook for PC and instead expects users to use Nook for Windows 8 and Nook for Web.
  2. B&N has ended support for Nook for Mac and instead expects users to use iPhone and iPad Apps and Nook for Web.

There are a few problems with this approach.

Nook for Windows 8 doesn’t cover Nook for PC, neither does Nook for Web

Windows 8 penetration is in single digits. The overwhelming majority of PC users are on Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. All those Windows 8 licenses sold are mostly just that – licenses. They aren’t yet actual machines running Windows 8.

This means that B&N has told the 90% or so of PC users using Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP to forget Nook.

What about Nook for Web?

Well, Nook for Web doesn’t support all books. It doesn’t even support most books. This means that users who are on Windows 7, Vista, or XP simply can’t read their books any more – unless they have a Nook device or have a smart phone that has a Nook reading app.

What are all these users going to do?

Switch to Kindle. Perhaps stop buying books from Nook. Perhaps go to Kobo.

Nook for Web doesn’t cover for Nook for Mac, nor do the iPhone Apps

B&N’s decision to end support for Nook for Mac is similarly strange.

Nook for Web doesn’t support a lot of books – so Nook for Mac users can’t just switch to that.

Mac users who don’t have, or don’t want to read on, an iPhone or iPad are stuck.

Again, all these users will switch to Kindle or Kobo.

Is B&N giving up?

That’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Combine all the signs -

  1. Heavy losses from Nook devices for B&N last quarter.
  2. Massive fire sales for Nook HD and HD+ this year.
  3. Ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac Reading Apps.

It seems that B&N is giving up.

Well, there is one other possibility.

Is B&N cutting off poor performing Apps & Devices?

Perhaps B&N decided to focus on the devices and reading apps that are doing well.

  1. Perhaps that means focusing on Nook for iPhone and Nook for Android and Nook Study. And to cut off Nook for PC and Nook for Mac.
  2. Perhaps it means focusing on Nook eInk eReaders or the next generation of Nook Tablets (perhaps built using Windows 8). Which would mean clearing out stock of Nook HD and Nook HD+.

That is a possibility. It’s certainly better than the alternative i.e. B&N leaving the ebook space completely, or perhaps just giving up.

Strange that B&N is ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac

There were strong rumors earlier this year that B&N was ending Nook Tablets and would focus on reading apps instead. Those rumors seemed to be validated by the fire sales going on for Nook HD and Nook HD+.

However, the end of the Nook for PC and Nook for Mac reading apps puts us in a quandary.

If B&N is ending Tablets and focusing on reading apps, then why is it ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac?

  1. Were these performing badly?
  2. Were users on these not buying books?
  3. Were these leading to piracy?
  4. Are there not enough resources to run these well?
  5. Is B&N just leaving ebooks entirely?

It’s hard to say what the reality is.

Why is Nook leaving PC and Mac to Kindle?

The crux is that B&N is leaving all these users to Kindle and Kobo.

Perhaps it’s just 5% or 10% of the market. However, it’s very strange to not even contest it.

Perhaps it’s just 1% or 2% of the market. Perhaps people just don’t read books on desktops and laptops. In that case, it’s understandable.

Would love to know the actual figures for both Kindle for PC/Mac and Nook for PC/Mac. Is it that there just isn’t a market there? Or is B&N running out of resources and/or the will to fight?

Quick Review of Kindle for PC, Kindle differences

While the Kindle 3 was going through a bunch of drama (shipping date for new Kindle 3 orders went from Sept 4th to Sept 8th, there was a glitch that showed wrong expected delivery dates to users) managed to read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood on the newly updated Kindle for PC.

It’s a very good book through a depressing one. The open ending, which is supposedly brought to closure in her new book, is painful. The reason it was so much fun was that Kindle for PC is quite well done. Actually prefer it over the iPad. Carrying a 22″ monitor around isn’t very convenient so iPhone still has its place.

Just wanted to review the differences in reading between Kindle for PC and Kindle.

Review of Kindle for PC, Kindle differences

Here are the big ones -

  1. No cost of entry for Kindle for PC. Nearly everyone has a desktop PC or a laptop they can use.
  2. It wasn’t a bad experience. It was mostly during the day and no LCD headache – Perhaps it’s the iPhone and iPad’s reading distance or the fact that they are read on mostly at night that causes headaches.
  3. Highlights are much easier on Kindle for PC.  
  4. On Kindle for PC the smaller font sizes read well and the larger font sizes are grotesque. On Kindles nearly all font sizes look great.
  5. The color modes on Kindle for PC are really good – Sepia is beautiful and night mode (white text on black) looks pretty good too. It makes you wonder why Kindle doesn’t have a low light mode with white text on a black screen. It would look really good.
  6. There were multiple times that an urge to read on the Kindle almost made me switch to K2 – Especially later on in the book. Reading on the Kindle clearly feels better.
  7. One big advantage of Kindle for PC is getting so many words on one page. The full screen mode makes things even better.
  8. Book Cover View is something Amazon needs to get on to the Kindle 3. It looks really pretty and is especially useful when going through your Archive. It’s crazy how much easier going through the Archive is on Kindle for PC.
  9. There’s this neat little feature – After buying a Kindle Book at Amazon, if you send the book to Kindle for PC, Amazon will offer a button that opens up Kindle for PC for you (if it’s already open it’ll take you to the Home Page).  
  10. Really missed the malleability of the Kindle. With Kindle for PC you have to contort your posture and neck to suit the screen. The Kindle, on the other hand, can be moved and twisted and turned freely. Missed reading in bed too.

The three things that really stood out were the much larger screen area and having more words per page, that it was quite a decent reading experience, and that Kindle for PC is free (zero barrier to entry).

Users who are starting off with Kindle for PC are getting to experience a lot of the Kindle ecosystem and the reading experience is good enough to hook them into reading more. No wonder Amazon are finding that lots of people who start off with Kindle Apps go on to buy the Kindle.

It was also interesting to finally hit the device limit for a few books. Between testing on iPhone, iPad, PC, all the Kindles, and sharing books with my Mom, by the time the Kindle 3 arrives might not have any good books left to read on it.

Kindle, Kindle for PC Differences that weren’t a big deal

Here are some things that didn’t make much of a difference -

  1. Color. Kindle for PC has color and you realize that unless you’re reading textbooks or illustrated books color makes little difference. For Oryx and Crake there wasn’t a single page where there was an issue.  
  2. Animated Page Turns and being able to touch the screen. Some people like to put a lot of stock into being able to turn pages with your fingers. Not sure it’s such a big deal. The lazy part of me is glad to keep a finger on the page turn button and not have to do much. The PC has a touchscreen but the mouse (or the down arrow) was just less effort.
  3. Locations are just as annoying on Kindle for PC as on Kindle. Luckily the percentage complete gives some idea of progress. It’s also a little disconcerting that you have no idea how much of the current chapter is left.   
  4. Another downside of locations is you have zero idea of how long the book is compared to your mental map of book sizes.  
  5. Page Turn Speed. Yes, it’s faster – However, you have to either keep your hand on the mouse all the time (too much work) or grab the mouse and click it whenever you turn a page. It just seems like there is a very minor difference in page turn speed.
  6. Focus on Reading. Kindle for PC does a surprisingly good job of disappearing. You have to make sure it’s taking up the whole screen and after that the interface is designed to not interfere. There’s none of the ‘look how pretty my page turns are’ nonsense you see in iBooks.
  7. You’re getting the same books. It’s not like you miss out on feature X by reading it on Kindle for PC. Well, there is Text to Speech. However, apart from TTS there’s no big missing feature.

Just a day or two ago had tried out NookStudy and both Kindle for PC and NookStudy manage to avoid the temptation of doing too much. Even a few additional options or flourishes would ruin them. Kindle for PC is a little better as it presents fewer options (and they’re well-chosen ones).

Overall, Kindle for PC is very well done. Would never choose it over Kindle 3 but it’s a great add-on.

Amazon ramps up Kindle for PC adoption with an Asus deal

Amazon seems to have really taken the platform approach to heart. The latest move towards making the Kindle platform dominate every possible reading channel is Amazon’s partnership with Asus – starting today select Asus laptops and netbooks will come preloaded with Kindle for PC.

Gizmodo report on the Asus-Amazon Kindle tie-up and even like it -

Frankly, we’re not the biggest fans of pre-installed software cluttering up fresh screens, but this sort of partnership surely makes sense with certain devices — in particular, convertible tablets that you’d use to read.

You know what would also make sense? ASUS preloading some sort of Amazon application on its Eee Pad.

Asus sells millions of netbooks and millions of laptops and if the partnership goes well we might see Kindle for PC pre-installed on all of them.

What does Asus get out of this?

Companies usually pay good money to get pre-installed on machines. Some examples include -

  1. Anti-virus companies paying $40 to $50 per Anti-Virus subscription purchased (after the free trial).
  2. Toolbar companies paying $1 or more per toolbar install.  
  3. Companies paying extra to get featured – For example via a page during the Install Process or via an icon on the Desktop.

Amazon are probably paying one of -

  1. 25 cents to $1 per laptop on which Kindle for PC goes out.
  2. $5 to $10 per Kindle for PC install on which user buys a book. 

In addition to this nice bonus from Amazon Asus need to have Kindle for PC on their soon-to-be launched Eee Pad tablet. There are a non-trivial number of people buying the iPad for its reading abilities and most of that stems from Kindle for iPad. If the Eee Pad comes with Kindle for PC in-built, and perhaps even some bonuses, Asus balance out that iPad advantage.

Asus and Amazon’s take on the deal

The Press Release (at the Gizmodo link) has the usual Mutual Admiration Society membership pledge -

Asus:

Kindle is something our customers have been asking for and by p copre-installing Kindle for PC on select long battery life products, we believe we are providing our customers an even richer PC experience.

Actually, Amazon don’t really praise Asus in the Press Release which is rather surprising. You’d think they’d mention that Asus started the whole netbook threat and scared the living daylights out of every laptop manufacturer in the world. The reason why every laptop company is now selling $1000 laptops in the $500 to $700 range.

The Asus models that will include Kindle for PC are -

  1. Asus Seashell Netbook 1005PE-U27 in Black, White, and 2 other colors. This retails for $372 and promises up to 14 hours of battery life.
  2. Asus ultra thin and light notebooks – Asus UL-30A-X5K and Asus UL30VT-X1K. The first retails for $649 and has up to 12 hours of battery life and a 13.3″ HD display. The second is $749 and includes a NVidia G210M graphics card with 512 MB graphics memory.

Asus and Amazon say that there will be more laptops and netbooks added to the list.

What impact could this have on Amazon?

There’s actually a huge difference in the use of software that is pre-installed and software that has to be downloaded separately. Anti-Virus companies are not stupid to be paying manufacturers like HP $50 per activation.

The power of the default dictates that people usually choose the default option. If Kindle for PC is the default ebook reading software on Asus computers then Asus laptop/netbook owners who want to read an ebook get to choose between two options -

  1. Spend 10 minutes to find a good reading software, another 5 minutes to install it, and if everything goes according to plan they have an eReader software on their PC. It’s a lot of time and uncertainty and making decisions and quite a bit of effort.
  2. Start off Kindle for PC and start reading in 15 seconds.

It doesn’t matter how much prettier another ebook reading software is or how well animated the page turns are – 15 seconds is going to beat 15 minutes every single time.

What moves might the Amazon-Asus deal trigger?

Well, actually this is a reactive move and not exactly a proactive one.

  1. Sony and Google have been in bed so long they’re beginning to find each other’s lovable quirks annoying. Google supplies Sony with free books. Sony promises laptops with Google Chrome. Google Editions is definitely going to be on Sony laptops.
  2. HP and Barnes & Noble signed up a deal where B&N now have a store on the HP site and it wouldn’t be a surprise if HP computers soon came pre-installed with B&N eReader software.
  3. Apple obviously has its various offerings which it can use to promote iBooks. iPhone actually gets iBooks very soon – in iPhone OS 4.0. Mac may get it soon after that.

What this move will do is get all these partnerships and Apple to move faster on their plans.

Is PC reading of ebooks finally becoming important?

It certainly seems so. There are a few very good reasons for ebook companies to take note of the PC -

  1. eReader software for the PC is the gateway drug to the eReader+eBook eco-system. Whether a user buys their first ebook to read on Kindle for PC or on B&N eReader is likely to determine whether that user buys a Kindle or Nook.
  2. Every ebook sale is an ebook sale.
  3. Apple’s arrival means soon Macs will come with iBooks preloaded making it imperative for Kindle and Nook to make inroads into PCs and offset that Apple advantage.
  4. Google’s arrival in ebooks will mean Google diverts as much book related traffic as they can to Google Editions.
  5. It’s possible that Kindle for PC is seeing lots of usage and Amazon wants to build on that.

Basically, the first eReading software that captures a reader has the best chance of locking that reader into its ecosystem and capturing all of that reader’s book purchases for the rest of her/his life.

It might seem like dramatization – However, the power of the default and early mover advantage are hard to overcome. Take even the biggest companies – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple. The areas they’ve struck an early lead in and dominated are mostly out of reach for everyone else (including other behemoths).  

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the War is on and that it’s for the entire future of Publishing and Books.

Big improvements to Kindle for PC, promise of more

Amazon is applying its kaizen philosophy to Kindle for PC - It added some pretty big improvements and is promising even more improvements.

Kindle for PC Improvements Now Available

There’s a new version of Kindle for PC out and the improvements are -

  1. Ability to create and edit notes and highlights. A huge addition and a much-needed one.
  2. Brightness Controls. An obvious and very useful feature. 
  3. Full Screen Reading. This is surprisingly good.
  4. Background Color Setting. This lets you choose between white on black (night mode), black on white, and sepia. 

The Notes and Highlights are a huge feature and the brightness control works very well. The Night Mode is great for night reading on the PC and the Sepia is preferable to black text on a white background (well, for lots of people, it is – your mileage may vary).

It’s interesting that Amazon is keeping features almost the same across Kindle for iPad, Kindle for PC, and Kindle for iPhone. It’s a good idea as you have a certain level of comfort and familiarity and that stays no matter what platform/device you use the Kindle service on.

More Kindle for PC improvements on the Horizon

In addition to adding features Amazon have also hinted at future features. There are some pretty cool features that might make it to Kindle for PC -

  1. Search – search a book or search across your Kindle library. 
  2. Two Page Reading Mode.  
  3. Zoom and rotate images. 
  4. Folders – though Amazon keeps referring to them as Collections.

Note that Amazon says it is ‘thinking about bringing’ these features so nothing’s guaranteed.

Folders would be an obvious good addition. Search is long overdue. The two page reading mode is interesting – Would people really want that?

Amazon probably keeps referring to Folders as collections because with Folders people expect lots of things like sub-folders and physically moving files/books around. Guessing the Collections feature is more of a ‘linking’ feature where each book can be linked to any number of collections.

Kindle for Mac also slated to get improvements

Kindle for Mac is slated to get some improvements including -

  1. Create Notes and Highlights. 
  2. Search.
  3. Zoom. 

Mac users will be happy to know they haven’t been forgotten. Wonder how Kindle for Mac and iBooks for Mac will stack up once the latter is released.

Why are Amazon improving Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac?

You’ve got to wonder how well these Apps are doing for Amazon to focus all this energy on them.

There are actually two facets to it -

  1. Kindle owners reading on their PCs and Macs when their Kindle is not on them. Improving the apps makes it better for Kindle owners and also makes a Kindle purchase more compelling.  
  2. Kindle for PC users who wouldn’t buy an eReader and are instead reading on their PCs.

Amazon thinks the above are good enough reasons to put consistent effort into Kindle for PC.

There have got to be a pretty significant number of Kindle for PC users – Otherwise it doesn’t make sense to devote resources.

As Kindle for PC gets better what happens to the appeal of the Kindle?

The funnel theory i.e. Kindle for PC is just meant to train people to buy a Kindle, starts falling apart as Kindle for PC gets more and more features.

The addition of lots of cool features makes it more and more likely that readers will find that Kindle for PC is good enough for their needs and that they don’t really need a Kindle. It suggests one of two things -

  1. Amazon really are serious about treating the Kindle books business and the Kindle device business as two separate, independent businesses. 
  2. Kindle for PC user are buying enough ebooks for Amazon to have to take them seriously.

My money’s mostly on the second option. Kindle for PC was a rather limited feature – cool but limited and it was likely to make readers get into the Kindle ecosystem and then jump to a Kindle.

Now, with the improvements, what happens is that even after people get into reading they find that Kindle for PC meets most of their needs. If they have an iPhone they can supplement Kindle for PC with Kindle for iPhone. There might soon be a Kindle for Android.

Amazon seem to have decided that the ebook business is more important than the Kindle device. It’s probably the right decision.

Kindle Vs Kindle for PC Vs Kindle for iPhone

Kindle Vs Kindle for PC Vs Kindle for iPhone becomes a really interesting choice if you’re not sure you want to spend $259 on a dedicated eReader like Kindle 2.

Here’s a video contrasting the three options -

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each -

Where does the Kindle shine?

The Kindle does great at reading – exactly what you’d expect in an eReader. It also has a lot of benefits that the PC and iPhone offerings don’t i.e. Read To Me, Free Internet Access, etc.

Kindle – Pros

  1. The Screen is great for reading and works in all lighting conditions.
  2. The Screen does not hurt your eyes.
  3. There are zero distractions.
  4. In-built dictionary and Search.
  5. Free Wikipedia access and Free Internet access for reference.
  6. Good sized screen i.e. 6″.

Kindle – Cons

  1. You have to buy a Kindle for $259.
  2. No Color.
  3. No Touch.
  4. Not as compact as an iPhone.
  5. Screen isn’t as big as a laptop or PC.

Please check my Kindle 2 Review if you’re thinking of getting a Kindle.

Where does Kindle for PC shine?

Kindle for PC lets you read all your Kindle Books (or any book in the Kindle Store) on any PC, anywhere in the world.

Kindle for PC – Pros

  1. Very, very simple and easy to use.
  2. It’s free.
  3. Color (and on Windows 7 multi-touch).
  4. Lots of font sizes and lots of options for number of words per line.
  5. Works on almost every netbook and PC (Kindle for Mac is slated for release in a few months).
  6. Works on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.
  7. Windows 7 optimized i.e. multi-touch etc.
  8. Screen is as big as your monitor.
  9. Lets you shop the Kindle Store and buy books. Though the ‘Shop in Kindle Store’ button doesn’t seem to be working for me.

Kindle for PC – Cons

  1. Portability is limited to portability of your PC (none) or Laptop (good) or Netbook (much better than a PC).
  2. The Screen hurts your eyes – although if you disagree feel free to leave a comment.
  3. For the moment you can’t add notes and highlights.
  4. No Text To Speech.
  5. It’s more of an add-on than an independent offering.

Check my detailed review of Kindle for PC if you want more details.

Kindle for iPhone

Kindle for iPhone recently added support for notes and highlights and made it a better product.

Kindle for iPhone – Pros

  1. You have your phone with you nearly all the time.
  2. Fits in your pocket.
  3. Free.
  4. Color and Multi-touch.
  5. Bright LCD screen for reading without light at night.
  6. Sepia theme/color setting is great.
  7. 5 Font Sizes and 3 text color settings.

Kindle for iPhone – Cons

  1. Doesn’t work well in bright light (sunshine).
  2. Screen is too small.  
  3. Screen hurts your eyes – again, leave your comments if you feel compelled to disagree.
  4. Lots of distractions.
  5. Battery life doesn’t compare with the Kindle.  

Check my iPhone Reading App Reviews for more on iPhone reading.

The big takeaway after contrasting the three is -

Amazon is creating Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone as Starting Points (Add-On Services for Owners)

Amazon is making it a point to make the Kindle the focal point and create Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone as starting points from which you can graduate to buying a Kindle.

For Kindle owners, they become valuable add-ons. Think of the features -

  • The ability to sync your book location across the devices.
  • The ability to make notes and highlights on the Kindle and the iPhone (and soon on the PC).
  • Access notes and bookmarks across devices.
  • Buy books and access your books from all three.

These features combine to create a very compelling overall offering.

How do Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone rate as independent products?

By themselves, both Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone are starting points – they are good enough for reading. As you begin to read more you’ll probably want a Kindle.

There are going to be people who curse me for writing that a PC or an iPhone can not be as good for reading as a Kindle.

However, ‘good enough’ is not the same as ‘great’.

  1. Reading on the Kindle is 8.5 stars (8.75 stars if you’re generous).
  2. Reading using Kindle for iPhone is 7 stars – Amazon intentionally leave a few features out to not make it too good. There are other apps that hit 7.5 despite the eye-strain and small screen size.
  3. Reading using Kindle for PC is perhaps 7 to 7.5 – haven’t done enough of it to say for sure. Again, you get the feeling Amazon left out some features to ensure it’s a stepping stone to the Kindle and not a substitute.

If you love to read and can afford it, get a Kindle. If $259 is out of your reach, get Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPhone.

Where does that leave us?

  1. Well, lots of people will download and read on one or both of Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone.
  2. Some of them, especially the ones who read a lot, will end up deciding to buy a Kindle.
  3. The books they’ve bought already and the use of a Kindle offering ties them to Amazon.
  4. Even people who don’t buy a Kindle will associate ‘Kindle’ with ebooks and reading.

Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone are great for Amazon

Amazon is already doing great with eReaders.  

  • If the skeptics are right and eReaders disappear then Amazon still owns the main reading channels and can sell ebooks.
  • If the skeptics are wrong, then Amazon owns the main channel i.e. eReaders and also owns the other important channels (PCs, netbooks, iPhones).

Barnes and Noble have become a real threat to Amazon (something Sony never was). Kindle for PC is a necessary measure – expect a few more Kindle features and improvements before Christmas.

As far as Kindle Vs Kindle for PC Vs Kindle for iPhone – all of them are simple to use and great products. The range of books in the Kindle Store and the low prices make each a compelling option.

If you read a book a week (or more), the Kindle is worth the $259. If you read just one book a month, get Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone and enjoy the Kindle store.

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