Lighted Nook leaving Kindle in the dark?

In a nutshell: Yes and No.

Yes, we know that doesn’t help. Let us explain.

Please Note: This post is a collaboration between Rajesh and Switch. Rajesh is one of 4 (yes, 4) new bloggers who’ll be joining Meaghan and Switch in writing for the blog.

Yes, Lighted Nook is leaving Kindle in the Dark

People who clamored about how you can’t read on a Kindle in the dark (while waxing poetic about how paper books are so perfect for reading) fell into three camps –

  1. Those who really did need an eReader with a light.
  2. Those who would never ever buy an eReader (because People magazine is so much better in Color LCD with EyeDeath technology).
  3. Those who had no idea what an eReader was but were inordinately afraid of the dark.

Nook with GlowLight AKA Lighted Nook suits the first group perfectly. The second group will now find something else to complain about (the textured back is not made of crocodile skin and the wireless ebook transfer process isn’t carbon neutral). The third group is trying to decide between a flashlight, a box of matches, a potassium crucifix dipped in garlic oil, and a lighted eReader (Please, go with the crucifix – it can double as a bookmark).

Lighted Nook has a Real, Tangible Benefit

Dark Double Retina Display Technology (Trademarked) lets you see in the Dark. It’s amazing. It’s as if someone went back in the past and invented the lightbulb – except it’s fit into an eReader screen. The technology is so forward-thinking it’s not a backlight. No Sir. It’s a front-light.

You can’t really argue that this isn’t an advantage. Dark Double Retina Display is the best thing since sliced bread and the wheel (except perhaps for fried ice cream).

On a more serious note, we are talking about a very illuminating and clearly thought out feature. Advantages of the GlowLight technology (for the Nook Simple Touch) include:

  1. Soft glow on the screen. Optimized for low-light/no-light reading.
  2. Can be switched on to read e-books during the night and switched off during the day.
  3. Brightness adjustment options.
  4. Even illumination of the screen.
  5. Warm feel to the eyes – Less tiring for the eyes.
  6. Even with GlowLight turned on, the battery is supposed to last for one month (when the Nook is used for half an hour everyday).
  7. Can also be used when there is insufficient light during the day, to improve the reading experience. Note: This is an underrated feature.
  8. The glow is created by using a front light, instead of the back-lit screens used in tablets/LCD monitors. This is better for extended reading sessions.

Of course, true hipsters will frown that there isn’t an actual 1918 light switch fixture on the side of the device and there is no animated lamp shade that flutters up the length of the screen when you turn the front light on. However, we’re sure our friends in Hipster Land are working hard and trying to start a Kickstarter Project for ‘Completely Useless, Perfectly Wonderlicious, Genuinely Vintage Light Switch Fixture for Things You can Pretend to Read Proust On’.

Too much meandering. The crux is that –

  1. Lighted Nook has a good, solid feature.
  2. Kindle does not have the aforementioned good, solid feature.

Amazon Damage Control

Taking a leaf from its last year’s ‘Library Book Support’ announcement i.e. the ‘Announce it Before You Have It’ strategy, Amazon has already announced (via its PR Department at Reuters) –

  1. Lighted Kindle will be arriving.
  2. It will be arriving in July.
  3. A New Kindle Fire Tablet will be arriving.

We’ll see why this is important later.

So, Amazon obviously recognizes this is an important feature. It actually had its extended PR department release a controlled leak to fight off the lighted Nook.

Coming Back to Tangible Benefits

Just think of the possible applications of this technology. You can not only use the Nook during bedtime (without disturbing your family members by switching on the lights), but you can also read your favorite books during power cuts. You can keep reading your books while sitting on the back seat of a car or taxi, even when there is no illumination. You can sit down in your balcony, terrace or garden and read your books while occasionally gazing at the moon. All paranormal romance fans – this is NOT going to turn you into an empath werewolf being courted by Alien Princes and Bodybuilding Shapeshifters who moonlight on General Hospital. Just an FYI.

Amazon’s equivalent is the lighted Kindle Cover. It’s a rather inelegant solution though it works very well if you aren’t fussy.

  1. You have to carry the case around.
  2. The Case costs a bit. $59 or so.
  3. The lighting isn’t even.
  4. There are no animated lamp shades (and no skeuomorphism either).
  5. Kindle+Cover doesn’t sound as cool as – My eReader glows in the dark, like the trees in Prypiat.

Crux: The in-built light is a very cool feature.

It’s a tangible benefit and it gives the Nook an edge over the Kindle.

Please Note: Clip-on lights are just a terrible solution.

Manufactures provide clip on lights for Kindle but there are certain limitations. The clip on lights need to be attached and detached frequently. They add additional weight and cost to the e-reader. They have their own batteries that need to be recharged/replaced and there may be some reflection on the screen and glare on the eyes. Given a choice, people will probably prefer to go with a reader that is optimized to be used during the dark.

No, Lighted Nook is not going to affect Kindle sales very much at all

If the lighted Nook has a clear, tangible advantage, then why will it not affect Kindle sales much?

Quite a few reasons:

  1. Amazon has already leaked news of a lighted Kindle arriving in July.
  2. Amazon has got its customers locked into its ecosystem. Who’s going to leave all those paid and free books behind?
  3. Kindle Lighted Covers and Clip-on lights are a decent workaround until the Glow in the Dark Kindle arrives.
  4. Lack of Awareness – Not very many people know about the lighted Nook. They should have named it Dark Double Retina Technology or something catchy and outrageous. GlowLight? That sounds like something the Care Bears use alongside scented Tibetan candles.
  5. Lack of Awareness of the Benefits – It’s very easy for users to misunderstand the benefits and convenience. Things like ‘even lighting’ and ‘built into the ereader’ are not very easy to explain.
  6. Higher Price. At $139, Nook with GlowLight is quite a bit more expensive than the $79 and $99 Kindles.

The Nook’s GlowLight technology has a few limitations as well. The battery life will be less. Reading in the dark will cause some eye strain (only way to avoid that is to read during the day). Small imperfections on the screen (like fingerprints, dust) will seem like ants and spiders crawling across your screen.

The advantages provided by the lighted Nook easily outweigh the disadvantages. With GlowLight, people can read on their eReaders any time. However, the fact that users know a lighted Kindle is around the corner and the fact that they are locked into the Kindle and/or the Amazon ecosystem means that the impact will not be as strong as it would otherwise have been.

Barnes & Noble has made a good, positive move and yet again Amazon has to counter. My prediction is that Amazon has quite a few tricks up its sleeve with the Kindle Lighted Touch – one of which will be bringing it in at a price much lower than $139.