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.